The Best 80s Horror Movie Posters
They said never judge a book by its cover, but sometimes you need a visual image to help sell a form of media. For films before the advent of the internet and social media, poster art can make or break a film. And in the 1980s, horror films took full advantage of this form of marketing by crafting some of the genre’s best pieces of art. So much so these posters can even take a life on their own!
From gorgeous illustrations to taking advantage of an iconic scene, there’s simply magic that you can only get from posters of this decade. Today we wanted to look at the best 80s horror movie posters. Enjoy!
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise is well-known for having some of the best 80s horror movie posters of all time, but it’s the first poster that remains the most iconic. Here we see the film’s protagonist Nancy Thompson being tormented by an eldritch monstrosity that turns out to be everyone’s favorite wise-cracking slasher Freddy Krueger. The tagline reads “If Nancy doesn’t wake up screaming, she doesn’t wake up at all.”
Painted by Matthew Joseph Peak, Peak would end up defining the look of the Nightmare on Elm Street films as he would paint a poster for every sequel up until Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. The striking images of Nancy paralyzed in fear and the almost inhuman depiction of Freddy Krueger truly sells the terror of nightmares themselves. A great start in this showcase of 80s horror movie posters!
Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
For the 1989 kaiju classic Godzilla vs. Biollante, the poster depicts Godzilla being confronted by his adversary: the colossal plant hybrid Biollante! To showcase how much of a threat Biollante will be for Godzilla, she dwarfs over the Big G as her sheer mass almost takes up most of the poster space! Yet we see Godzilla determined to prove himself as the King of the Monsters!
The second entry in the Heisei era (1984-1995) of Godzilla films, Godzilla vs. Biollante’s is one of many entries in the series whose poster was painted by the late legendary artist Noriyoshi Ohrai. Ohrai’s career spanned three decades of work from Star Wars, The Goonies, and most notably Godzilla. To this day very few Japanese poster artists have rivaled the awesomeness that is Noriyoshi Ohrai.
Halloween II (1981)
A cool riff on the original Halloween poster, Halloween II has the skull and pumpkin become one and the same as it stands out in a black void. The film boasts itself as being a direct sequel for the 1978 classic as it has “More of the night he came home”. As such you know what you’re getting when you’re looking at this poster! It’s also the film to make Michael Myers and Laurie Strode relatives before that idea was eventually thrown out the window in Halloween (2018).
Despite the rollercoaster quality that is the Halloween franchise, Halloween II is still a very solid slasher and the poster shows why, simple yet effective. The cool image of the skull pumpkin is almost as iconic as Michael Myers himself and we even get a version of it in the opening sequence as a pumpkin opens up with a skull inside! A perfect spooky season image!
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
For this punk rock-fueled zom-com, the poster for The Return of the Living Dead honestly channels an album cover than a movie poster! We see several cartoonish zombies standing around a grave as one freshly risen zombie spraypaints the film’s title onto the tombstone! This could totally work for a cover for an album by say The Ramones or The Clash.
One of the best zombie movies of the 1980s, Return of the Living Dead has one kick-ass poster! This is mostly thanks to prolific artist Carl Ramsey. Ramsey is credited for dozens of different great posters such as Beetlejuice, The Secret of NIHM, and Motel Hell to name a few. With such a wide variety of films he has worked on, Ramsey was the right man to blend horror and comedy for this 1980s classic!
The Fly (1986)
In this 1986 remake of a 1950s classic, the poster for The Fly is simple yet effective. We see the teleporter pod is opened as one human arm is gripping the door as an insectoid lig steps out. The tagline fills us with dread by stating “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
Master of body horror David Cronenberg managed to reinvent 1958’s version of The Fly from a tragic beauty and the beast story to a tale of degeneration and disease. The horror of The Fly is that we see our hero slowly lose his humanity and become an inhuman monster. That sense of dreadful duality is captured perfectly with this poster!
The Evil Dead (1981)
The film that put Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell on the map, the poster for The Evil Dead is nothing short of a classic! The poster depicts a striking image of a young woman desperately reaching for help as a zombified hand grasps at her throat. Instead of a tagline, we get a quote from non-other than Stephen King as he states that the film is “…The most ferociously original horror film of the year…”
The Evil Dead is a prime example of how a small independent production can still create an incredible film. This poster helps sell the visceral horror of the deadites and how The Evil Dead would become one of the most infamous horror films of the 1980s. A defining example of 80s horror movie posters!
The Stuff (1985)
If there is one thing to describe the poster to The Stuff, it’s definitely eye-catching! First, it’s the horrific image of a man screaming in agony as white slime ooze from every orifice on his face. Then is all the text almost warning people that “The Stuff” is a real product that must be destroyed or it will kill them.
That kind of social satire perfectly reflects the work of the late genre maestro Larry Cohen. Cohen’s work is always socially conscience and The Stuff is no exception as it is a brutal satire of America’s obsession with junk food. That mix of horror and satire continues to make The Stuff a cult classic decades later.
Friday the 13th (1980)
The heavyweight champion of the slasher genre, Friday the 13th is another iconic example of 80s horror movie posters! The poster shows the outline of the killer (who is not Jason Voorhees in the first film but is in fact his mother) as the interior of the silhouette shows the campgrounds of Camp Crystal Lake and the cast of victims. Plus we get the great tagline “They were warned…they are doomed…and on Friday the 13th, nothing will save them.”
This iconic poster was created by Alex Ebel, an accomplished artist who worked on other projects such as Heavy Metal Magazine and Fantastic Stories Magazine. Ebel’s creative use of silhouettes and negative space sells the first Friday the 13th as a mysterious slasher film with the killer as a threatening presence. Easily one of the best slasher posters ever made!
One of the most controversial horror films of all time, Maniac’s poster seels it as such. It depicts the torso down of the film’s killer Frank Zito as he holds the scalp of one of his victims in one hand and a bloody knife in the other as he stands in blood. The film’s text for the title and tagline almost seems to be written by the killer himself as it reads “I warned you not to go out tonight!”
A disturbing character study of a serial killer, Maniac is a prime example of the “video nasties” of the 1980s. Banned in the UK and protested upon its US release, Maniac has garnered a reputation far beyond the film itself. There is a reason why this is one of the most infamous 80s horror movie posters.
The Blob (1988)
The 1980s were filled with remakes of 1950s classics that were horror gems in their own right, and the 1988 remake of The Blob is no exception. The poster perfectly reflects that as most of the poster is filled with the semi-liquid creature as one of its victims is trapped in its mass, trying to escape. The tagline reads “Scream now, as there will be no room to breathe.”
While there 1950s version of The Blob is a campy B-Movie classic, the 1988 remake is a lean, mean monster movie. The Blob itself is an aggressive force of raw hunger as it mercilessly devours anything in its path. And that overwhelming force taking up most of the poster is a great way to show off your monster.
The Fog (1980)
A classic from horror master John Carpenter, The Fog’s poster greatly shows the terror within the titular mist. We see scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis holding down a door as a decaying hand tries to reach in along with the fog itself. The tagline reads “Bolt your doors. Lock your windows. There’s something in the fog!”
A classic seaside ghost story, The Fog is a film that is simply another example of how Carpenter can craft a dreadful atmosphere. The ghosts in The Fog are up there a cinema’s creepiest specters and the poster reflects their unrelenting rage. Plus we get more of the greatness that is Jamie Lee Curtis!
Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986)
Sometimes a parody of a poster can be just as iconic as the original. The poster for Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is clearly a parody of the iconic poster for the coming of age classic The Breakfast Club, but in this case, the Sawyer family takes the place of the Breakfast Club teens. We get Leatherface, The Cook, Choptop, Grampa, and the corpse of the Hitchhike from the first film together in an almost family photo set up!
While a divisive entry among horror fans, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is clearly more interested as a tongue-in-cheek slasher comedy than the disturbing horror of the first film. That playfulness is perfectly emulated in the poster as it’s almost akin to the dark horror comedies of the 1980s such as The Burbs or Beetlejuice. Easily one of the funniest 80s horror movie posters.
An homage to classic EC Comics of the 1950s, Creepshow is one of the most iconic horror anthologies of all time. One of its best posters reflects that as it resembles the covers of those comics, enticing them with five unique horror stories. Plus some cheeky references to the director and writer of the film: George A. Romero and Stephen King.
This poster to Creepshow (which was also used for the actual comic adaptation of the film) is illustrated by legendary horror comic artist Bernie Wrightson. Wrightson has worked with Stephen King before such as providing the illustrations for Cycle of the Werewolf and has worked for comic companies such as Marvel and DC. So his style was perfect to emulate the art style of 1950s horror comics.
If a film has an iconic image, then you bet it’ll be used for the poster. And the poster for Poltergeist is no different where we see the younger Carol Anne ominously placing her hands on a TV as static is all that plays on the screen. The tagline “It knows what scares you” adds to that haunting image as well.
Tobe Hooper and Steven Speilberg help create one of the most iconic haunted house films of all time and the use of the TV helped modernize that to audiences of the 1980s. The idea of ghosts using our technology to communicate easily gives us shivers and this is another great poster from artist Carl Ramsey. And the late Heather O’Rourke’s iconic line “They’re here!” steals the show for sure!
The Thing (1982)
Another John Carpenter classic, The Thing’s poster is simply one of the very best 80s horror movie posters ever! The image of a man in heavy snow clothing as light emanates from his face really reflects the shapeless terror of the Thing itself. There’s also the very bold tagline “The ultimate in alien terror” that helps sell this as one of the best alien horror films!
Painted by legendary poster artist Drew Struzan, the poster for The Thing was inevitably going to be one of the best 80s horror movie posters. Struzan is one of the prolific poster artists and has worked on hundreds of posters for films and franchises such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Bladerunner to name a very few. His work for The Thing is no different as it’s definitely one of his best works!
Chopping Mall (1986)
Sometimes for 80s horror movie posters, some slight deception is needed to sell a film. For Chopping Mall, the poster sells a somewhat different film at first glance the poster itself we get a biomechanical severed hand holding a bag filled with body parts. Despite that slight deception, both the poster and the film are great 1980s cheese!
With the poster and title like Chopping Mall, you think it’ll be a slasher film with what looks like a demonic cyborg as the villain. In reality, this Roger Corman-produced cult classic has old-school sci-fi robots attack a group of teens. So while the antagonists are mechanical, the poster is still a white lie. An awesome white lie, but still.
Street Trash (1987)
With a title like Street Trash, the poster is not a surprise to see yet still visually striking. The poster depicts a man seemingly melting into a toilet in a neon explosion of goop. It is that crude madness is why both the poster and the film itself is a fun genre fair!
Another case of using the standout scene to sell a film, everyone who saw Street Trash will never forget a man literally melts into goo after drinking toxic liquor. The color used for the poster is also one of the best aspects. In a decade known for neon lights, the mix of purple, yellow, and blues makes this a standout among 80s horror movie posters.
The Burning (1981)
One of the most underrated slasher films, The Burning wisely uses one of the best shots as the basis for its poster. The poster depicts a young couple having a moment as in the background the shadow of the film’s killer Cropsey looms over as he is cast in shadow by the sun. The poster is almost akin to a murder mystery novel from the 1980s.
The Burning is one of the first major camping-themed horror films from the wake of Friday the 13th’s success, yet still holds itself as a genuinely great slasher film. The striking image of Cropsey holding the sheers over his head stuck with many and has become the defining image of the film. Which makes the decision of using the image for the poster a no-brainer.
Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Another classic 1980 summer camp slasher, Sleepaway Camp’s poster is almost like the cover for an R.L. Stine Fear Street book cover! The poster depicts a bloody knife rising from the water with someone’s shoe stabbed into it. In the background, we see the top of a letter of what we presumed to be one of the campers as they begged to be rescued from the camp.
Sleepaway Camp is one of those horror films that almost everyone who has seen it loves yet can’t describe why they love it. The poster itself was illustrated by David Schleinkofer, a prolific artist who has worked on dozens of sci-fi and horror works. The use of the letter, knife, and water sell the sense of dread at the campground and the perspective of the campers themselves.
The last of the 80s horror movie posters we’ll be showcasing is the amazing poster for the creature feature Alligator. The poster ominously depicts the titular reptile as it lies in wait for its prey in a city’s sewers. The tag line is a classic example of “praise the villain” as it reads “It lives 50 feet beneath the city. It’s 36 feet long. It weighs 2,000 pounds….and it’s about the breakout!”
Ever since the release of Jaws, there was a wave of eco and killer animal horror films. As such in times like the 1980s, you need to pitch yourself as a standout example. For Alligator it’s the combination of an amazingly illustrated poster and the hype around your film’s monster that helps you stand above the crowd. Alligator definitely succeeds in both departments!
What Are Your Favorite 80s Horror Movie Posters?
We hope you enjoyed our review of the best 80s horror movie posters. Did we miss any of your favorite posters? Let us know on social media!