B-movies used to be the films shown before the main film in theaters, but over time that definition has changed as double features became a thing of the past. B-horror movies are the perfect films to put on when you’re looking for something cheesy and slightly scary with a hint of comedy. These films aren’t going to make you question your life choices or give you a new outlook on life, but they will make you laugh or give you a good scare from time to time.
The special effects aren’t as great as The Thing or Star Wars, which are also from the 80s, but you’d be amazed at what some directors are able to do with a limited budget. Here’s a look at 10 of the best B-horror movies from the 80s you need to watch.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
Are you looking for a movie about aliens that look like clowns killing people with popcorn guns and balloon animal dogs? Say no more! Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a cult classic from 1988 directed by the Chiodo brothers. The Chiodo brothers are a group of three brothers known for their special effects, creatures, and stop-motion animation. You’ve probably seen their work in other films like Critters, Team America: World Police, and Elf.
In Killer Klowns from Outer Space, the three brothers create a tale of aliens who looks like clowns that have descended upon a small town in their circus tent spaceship to feast on locals. The klowns themselves look absolutely amazing, and the crafty ways they go about capturing and killing townsfolk are simply hilarious. There are a few creepy moments, like when one of the clowns is trying to lure a little girl to her death, but you’ll be laughing more than terrified. When it comes to killer clown movies, this one easily makes the list.
The Evil Dead (1981)
On a budget of $375,000, director Sam Raimi upgrades his short film Within the Woods and crafts a new horror about an ancient book that brings back the dead. The Evil Dead is considered to be one of the most significant cult classic horror films and has spawned numerous sequels, a reboot, and even a television series. Bruce Campbell, as the main character Ash Williams, has become iconic over the years, especially with his sawed-off shotgun and chainsaw arm.
The gist of the story is that five young adults head to a cabin in the woods for a relaxing getaway when one of them discovers a tape and an ancient book in the cellar beneath the cabin. As they play the tape, an ancient spell is accidentally cast, and an evil is awoken. This movie features blood, a demonic spirit using a tree to sexually assault a woman, dismemberment, and demonic possession. While the next two in the series don’t follow the same exact formula, they’re just as good.
Chopping Mall (1986)
Talk about an original premise. While killer robots have been done before, you’d be hard-pressed to find a plot about a group of teenagers trapped in a mall with three security robot guards trying to kill them. The film has been praised for its subtext about consumption and capitalism, but if mindless horror is your thing, you can ignore all of that and still enjoy it.
Like most B-horror movies, Chopping Mall features sex, alcohol, cheesy special effects, and gore. It checks just about every box for B-horror movie lovers and has amassed a cult following since its release. If you enjoy it, the director, Jim Wynorski, has released a ton of other b-horror movies in his career, so be sure to check out his other work,s like Deathstalker II and The Return of the Swampthing.
They Live (1988)
With a slightly bigger budget than other films on this list, They Live is a decent sci-fi horror B-movie about a drifter who finds glasses that reveal something unsettling. In John Carpenter’s flick, the ruling class is comprised of aliens that disguise their appearances to continue ruling over humanity. Through subliminal messages and control of the mass media, they have controlled Earth for centuries, if not millennia.
Another film with subtext regarding Reagan’s economic plan, commercialization, and a ruling class that is at odds with the majority, They Live has garnered cult fame over the years since its release and continues to be one of the best b-horror movies ever released.
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Okay, we’ll be honest; this isn’t the best Stephen King movie out there. Misery, The Shining, and It are all amazing films that Maximum Overdrive can barely hold a candle to. That said, Maximum Overdrive has “B-horror movie” written all over it. You’re not going to walk away from this film like it was a life-changing experience, but boy, oh boy, is it the campiest film you’ll see all year.
I mean, come on, a movie about how a passing comet affects all electronics on Earth and causes a bunch of vehicles to try and kill the inhabitants of a small town in the West? A soundtrack composed entirely by AC/DC? A vending machine that kills a guy by firing a can of soda at him? It’s the only film Stephen King ever directed, and probably for good reason, but damn, did he make a great B-horror.
Basket Case (1982)
Basket Case is Frank Henenlotter’s directorial debut and is an excellent one at that. Shot on a $35,000 budget, Basket Case is a story about a young man that checks into a hotel with a locked wicker basket. Sinister secrets lie within, and as the film progresses, it gets creepier and creepier. You probably won’t be able to guess what’s in the basket if you go into the film completely blind. If you enjoy Basket Case, you’ll be pleased to hear that it spawned two sequels, both with similar ratings and reviews.
Brain Damage (1988)
Another film from Frank Hennelotter, Brain Damage has a larger budget and more production value than Basket Case but still holds onto that B-horror movie feel. The film itself is about a young man that comes into contact with a parasite that causes euphoric hallucinations. As he becomes more and more addicted to the liquid the parasite secretes, people start going missing, and his family begins to worry.
Night of the Creeps (1986)
Night of the Creeps combines it all: zombies, aliens, parasites, and a bit of slasher. This 1986 film is about an alien experiment that crash lands on Earth, where it’s found by a college student. A slug leaves the canister and jumps into his mouth, crawling inside of him. Years later, university students thaw a cryogenically frozen body and unknowingly unleash havoc on their campus.
Fright Night (1985)
The first vampire B-horror movie on this list, Fright Night is about a teenager that discovers his next-door neighbor is a vampire. When no one believes him, he has to enlist the help of a TV show host who played the role of various vampire hunters in films. The film has been praised for its humor and terror; that said, it’s more of a comedic horror movie than a horror movie.
Class of Nuke ’em High (1986)
Ah, the classic “nuclear runoff starts affecting students at a nearby high school, making them horny, aggressive, and causing one to give birth to a radiation monster” movie trope. Jokes aside, Class of Nuke ’em High is your classic B-horror movie. It’s got a low budget, questionable directorial choices, a weird plot that would never have been picked up by a big-budget studio, and sex.
The film itself is decent if you go in expecting to laugh and not be terrified, but it does still have a few good scares lying in wait. The production company, Troma Entertainment, is well-known for producing B-horror movies. You might remember them from The Toxic Avenger, one of their best hits. All-in-all, don’t go in expecting to love it, and you’ll have a good time with this one.
When it comes to B-horror movies, there are plenty to pick from. Whether you’re looking for an alien horror movie about killer clowns or your standard slasher, the 80s has it all. The 80s might just have been the most creative time for B-horror, and this list shows it.
While B-movies have been in decline since theaters did away with double features, there is a gem released every once in a while. Hopefully, you found a new movie to watch on this list, but if we missed one of your favorite B-horror movies, let us know in the comments, and we’ll see if we can add it to our list.