The Quick Report

The 15 Best Cult Films of the 1980s

The 80s is a decade full of some of the coolest movies ever made, ranging from excellent horror flicks to John Hughes’ oeuvre of classic teen dramadies. Beyond all the big-budget spectacle, though, some cult films really define the decade in retrospect. Here are the 15 best ’80s cult movies!

Teen Wolf

Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Michael J. Fox starred in two massive movies in 1985: Back to the Future and Teen Wolf. While Future was a smash hit, Teen Wolf was a bit more under the radar. It’s still a great ’80s cult movie and decades later inspired a truly perplexing 2010s revival TV series.

This is Spinal Tap

Image Credit: StudioCanal, Embassy Pictures

This early entry in the mockumentary genre parodies the excesses of 1980s rock bands with the fictional group “Spinal Tap.” They’re so outrageously loud that their amplifiers and guitars all go up to 11. Why not just make 10 louder? Because theirs go to 11!


Image Credit: New World Pictures

Clive Barker’s Hellraiser isn’t for the faint of heart. This chilling horror movie centers on a puzzle box that, when solved, opens a portal to an alternate dimension full of terror and demonic creatures. The costumes, sets, and scares are all top-notch.

Big Trouble in Little China

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

Big Trouble in Little China didn’t wow critics on release, but it’s a phenomenal Kurt Russel vehicle that takes place in and around San Francisco’s Chinatown. Some of the film’s plot points haven’t aged super well, but it’s still an extremely fun fantasy romp.


Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Spaceballs is delightfully weird. Rick Moranis and Mel Brooks deliver a genuinely hilarious parody of Star Wars a decade after the first movie in the franchise was released. The film is beloved by fans of the long-running sci-fi franchise precisely because it’s so uniquely strange and incongruous, though.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

It’s a bit weird to look at Mad Max as a cult movie, but the franchise has always been a bit niche. It’s just loomed large over pop culture because George Miller’s singular vision of a post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland has defined properties like Fallout and Borderlands for so long that it just seems like it’s always been there. The Road Warrior is truly an ’80s cult classic.


Image Credit: Universal Pictures

David Cronenberg’s films are truly bizarre. Videodrome, a nauseating and mind-bending horror movie, stars James Wood as the president of an exploitative TV station in search of new and shocking programming. Things go off the rails when he finds a guerilla TV program called, you guessed it, “Videodrome.”

Tetsuo: The Iron Man

Image Credit: Kaijyu Theatre

The ’80s were a good decade for out-there, low-budget cyberpunk horror movies. Case in point: the beautiful and terrible Japanese genre flick Tetsuo: The Iron Man. A salaryman awakens to find himself becoming part machine and doesn’t know what to do to stop it.

The Lost Boys

Image Credit: Warner Bros

Before he was Jack Bauer in 24, Kiefer Sutherland played alpha vampire David in The Lost Boys. This edgy, goth-friendly monster flick features some truly iconic scenes, including everyone’s favorite oiled-up saxophone guy. If that sounds unbelievable, go watch the movie right now and you’ll see what we mean.

Evil Dead II

A screenshot from Evil Dead 2

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

Bruce Campbell returns as Ash Williams in a “sequel” to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. The movie is part remake, part follow-up, and overall reinterprets the overall feel of the franchise while retelling its narrative. It’s just as gory, but Raimi’s love for slapstick comedy shines through here. And, in this one, Ash gets a freaking chainsaw for a hand. It rules.

The Toxic Avenger

Image Credit: Troma Entertainment

Perhaps the best-known film from B-movie experts Troma Entertainment, The Toxic Avenger follows the “heroic” exploits of janitor Melvin after he falls into a vat of toxic waste and becomes a mutated, superhuman monster. He chooses to use his newfound powers to fight crime in hilarious and often gruesome ways.

The Labyrinth

Image Credit: Warner Bros

“Jim Henson directing David Bowie in a dark fantasy movie” sounds like something that shouldn’t exist. But it does and it rules. There’s an impromptu musical number! Henson-made puppets! Terrible acting! It’s a blast and also fits in a funny subgenre of “weird 80s fantasy movies that shouldn’t have been marketed to kids”.

The Neverending Story

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Another entry in that “weird 80s fantasy movies that shouldn’t have been marketed to young children” subgenre, The Neverending Story is equal parts beautiful and perplexing. It’s a deeply moving tale that concerns impermanence, courage, and imagination. And that scene with Artax in the Swamp of Sadness? Is someone cutting onions?


Image Credit: Toho Co., Ltd.

Perhaps the most influential anime film of all time, Akira is an astonishing work of art that was animated so well that it’s still a benchmark for smooth action. If you have even a passing bit of interest in cyberpunk storytelling, the history of animation, or Japanese media, you have to watch this movie.

What are your favorite ’80s cult movies? Did we miss any?