Cult Fantasy & Sci Fi Films of the 80s

by mirrorballs | created - 07 Sep 2015 | updated - 19 Jan 2021 | Public

They don't make em like they used to!! List of fantasy films from the 80s IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER of preference. Hope you enjoy and are reminded of some hitherto overlooked gems.

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1. Aliens (1986)

R | 137 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

84 Metascore

Fifty-seven years after surviving an apocalyptic attack aboard her space vessel by merciless space creatures, Officer Ripley awakens from hyper-sleep and tries to warn anyone who will listen about the predators.

Director: James Cameron | Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn, Paul Reiser

Votes: 711,633 | Gross: $85.16M

2. Brazil (1985)

R | 132 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

84 Metascore

A bureaucrat in a dystopic society becomes an enemy of the state as he pursues the woman of his dreams.

Director: Terry Gilliam | Stars: Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond

Votes: 200,694 | Gross: $9.93M

Strong stuff. One of the greatest films of the decade that sat on the distributors shelf because the studio had no idea how to market or promote it and found its powerful anti-establishment message dangerous and potentially explosive. Like 1984 on Mescaline.

3. Legend (1985)

PG | 94 min | Adventure, Fantasy, Romance

30 Metascore

A young man must stop the Lord of Darkness from destroying daylight and marrying the woman he loves.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry, David Bennent

Votes: 66,498 | Gross: $15.50M

Visually gorgeous to look at. The entire soundstage burned down half way through filming which could explain it's choppy narrative

4. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

R | 97 min | Comedy, Horror

55 Metascore

Two American college students on a walking tour of Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists.

Director: John Landis | Stars: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Joe Belcher, Griffin Dunne

Votes: 106,385 | Gross: $30.57M

John Landis did a wicked job and the film thoroughly stands the test of time. The dream within a dream sequence is still a shocker. Comedy was never so finely paired with horror.

5. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

PG | 82 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Romance

75 Metascore

In 1935 New Jersey, a movie character walks off the screen and into the real world.

Director: Woody Allen | Stars: Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello, Irving Metzman

Votes: 51,804 | Gross: $10.63M

Well scripted romantic genre buster about the nature of escapism to the cinema

6. Dreamchild (1985)

PG | 94 min | Biography, Comedy, Drama

Ian Holm is children's author Lewis Carroll in this poignant fantasy-drama set in 1930s New York and populated by the fabulous special effects creatures of Muppet master Jim Henson. In HD.

Director: Gavin Millar | Stars: Coral Browne, Ian Holm, Peter Gallagher, Caris Corfman

Votes: 1,618 | Gross: $1.22M

7. Society (1989)

R | 99 min | Comedy, Horror

An ordinary teenage boy discovers his family is part of a gruesome orgy cult for the social elite.

Director: Brian Yuzna | Stars: Billy Warlock, Concetta D'Agnese, Ben Slack, Evan Richards

Votes: 18,921

8. Blade Runner (1982)

R | 117 min | Action, Drama, Sci-Fi

84 Metascore

A blade runner must pursue and terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space, and have returned to Earth to find their creator.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos

Votes: 762,657 | Gross: $32.87M

So what's this about a unicorn?

9. Darkman (1990)

R | 96 min | Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller

65 Metascore

A brilliant scientist left for dead returns to exact revenge on the people who burned him alive.

Director: Sam Raimi | Stars: Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, Colin Friels, Larry Drake

Votes: 64,999 | Gross: $33.88M

Sam Raimi at his best, told in the style of a dark comic strip. You can see why the studios approached him for the Spiderman series years later.

10. They Live (1988)

R | 94 min | Action, Horror, Sci-Fi

55 Metascore

They influence our decisions without us knowing it. They numb our senses without us feeling it. They control our lives without us realizing it. They live.

Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster, George 'Buck' Flower

Votes: 129,620 | Gross: $13.01M

John Carpenter gets it right. Politically accurate paranoid B Movie with the longest fist fight caught on celluloid.

11. The Hidden (1987)

R | 97 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

69 Metascore

A cop and an FBI agent race for answers after law abiding people suddenly become violent criminals.

Director: Jack Sholder | Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri, Claudia Christian, Clarence Felder

Votes: 19,539 | Gross: $9.75M

Superb subversion on the whole parasitical alien host genre. Fast paced with a cracking good sense of humour

12. Brainstorm (1983)

PG | 106 min | Sci-Fi, Thriller

57 Metascore

Researchers develop a system where they can jump into people's minds. But when people involved bring their personal problems into the equation, it becomes dangerous - perhaps deadly.

Director: Douglas Trumbull | Stars: Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood, Louise Fletcher, Cliff Robertson

Votes: 12,042 | Gross: $8.90M

Natalie Wood, did she jump or was she pushed?

13. Superman II (1980)

PG | 127 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

83 Metascore

Superman agrees to sacrifice his powers to start a relationship with Lois Lane, unaware that three Kryptonian criminals he inadvertently released are conquering Earth.

Directors: Richard Lester, Richard Donner | Stars: Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Ned Beatty

Votes: 107,676 | Gross: $108.19M

Most effective of the series but who really directed it?

14. Night of the Comet (1984)

PG-13 | 95 min | Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi

59 Metascore

A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls fighting against cannibal zombies and a sinister group of scientists.

Director: Thom Eberhardt | Stars: Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Robert Beltran, Sharon Farrell

Votes: 21,240 | Gross: $14.42M

Classic feminist protagonist saves the world after a freak comet has wiped out most of the population.

15. Saturn 3 (1980)

R | 88 min | Adventure, Horror, Sci-Fi

9 Metascore

Two lovers stationed at a remote base in the asteroid fields of Saturn are intruded upon by a retentive technocrat from Earth and his charge: a malevolent eight foot robot.

Directors: Stanley Donen, John Barry | Stars: Farrah Fawcett, Kirk Douglas, Harvey Keitel, Ed Bishop

Votes: 9,601

I don't know why but I'm always defending this film. Beautiful set designs & oppressive atmosphere. Would be interesting to see what could have been if Alpha-male Kirk Douglas hadn't thrown his weight around & had John Barry replaced from his writing & directing job by the aging Stanley Donen, not so used to the material or genre. There's a 107 minute version out there somewhere I'd love to see.

16. The Fly (1986)

R | 96 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

79 Metascore

A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong.

Director: David Cronenberg | Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Joy Boushel

Votes: 181,292 | Gross: $40.46M

David Cronenberg goes even further than the original. Was perceived as an allegory of Aids at the time of release by some critics.

17. The Dead Zone (1983)

R | 103 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

69 Metascore

A man awakens from a coma to discover he has a psychic ability.

Director: David Cronenberg | Stars: Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom

Votes: 70,276 | Gross: $20.77M

A Clairvoyant becomes aware that a politician will bring about a devastating nuclear war

18. Time After Time (1979)

PG | 112 min | Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi

69 Metascore

H.G. Wells pursues Jack the Ripper to the 20th Century when the serial murderer uses the future writer's time machine to escape his time period.

Director: Nicholas Meyer | Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen, David Warner, Charles Cioffi

Votes: 18,769

An absolute classic. What if HG Wells had made a Time Machine and Jack the Ripper used it to escape arrest and travelled to the 20th Century?

19. Possession (1981)

R | 124 min | Drama, Horror

75 Metascore

A woman starts exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior after asking her husband for a divorce. Suspicions of infidelity soon give way to something much more sinister.

Director: Andrzej Zulawski | Stars: Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Margit Carstensen, Heinz Bennent

Votes: 32,290 | Gross: $1.11M

Over the top, Superb otherworldly pyscho-sexual horror about divorce. Isabelle Adjani gives a deserved award winning performance

20. Altered States (1980)

R | 102 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

58 Metascore

A psycho-physiologist experiments with drugs and a sensory-deprivation tank and has visions he believes are genetic memories.

Director: Ken Russell | Stars: William Hurt, Blair Brown, Bob Balaban, Charles Haid

Votes: 35,639 | Gross: $19.85M

Excellent film about hallucinogenic drug experimentation in a floatation tank. Things go awry when William Hurt travels back to the big bang and emerges as a primeval man

21. Opera (1987)

R | 107 min | Crime, Horror, Mystery

68 Metascore

A young opera singer is stalked by a deranged fan bent on killing the people associated with her to claim her for himself.

Director: Dario Argento | Stars: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini, Daria Nicolodi

Votes: 17,339

22. The Philadelphia Experiment (1984)

PG | 102 min | Adventure, Drama, Romance

44 Metascore

A United States Navy destroyer escort participates in a Navy "invisibility" experiment that inadvertently sends two sailors forty years into the future.

Director: Stewart Raffill | Stars: Michael Paré, Nancy Allen, Eric Christmas, Bobby Di Cicco

Votes: 15,644 | Gross: $8.10M

23. Strange Invaders (1983)

PG | 94 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi

Alien beings, whose settlement in a small midwestern town, are disturbed by a young professor determined to rescue his daughter from their clutches.

Director: Michael Laughlin | Stars: Paul Le Mat, Nancy Allen, Diana Scarwid, Michael Lerner

Votes: 3,077 | Gross: $1.36M

Subversive spin on the alien body snatcher conformity film with a sly knowing tongue in its cheek

24. Dead & Buried (1981)

R | 94 min | Horror, Mystery

71 Metascore

A suspense horror film set in a small coastal town where, after a series of gory murders commited by mobs of townspeople against visiting tourists, the corpses begin to come back to life.

Director: Gary Sherman | Stars: James Farentino, Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson, Dennis Redfield

Votes: 12,862 | Gross: $0.22M

Dan O Bannon gets a crack at directing an identity theft bloodbath

25. Scanners (1981)

R | 103 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

60 Metascore

A scientist trains a man with an advanced telepathic ability called "scanning", to stop a dangerous Scanner with extraordinary psychic powers from waging war against non scanners.

Director: David Cronenberg | Stars: Jennifer O'Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane

Votes: 55,524 | Gross: $14.23M

26. V (1983)

Unrated | 197 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

When aliens come to Earth to ask for our help, a few suspicious humans discover their horrific true intentions and prepare to resist.

Stars: Jane Badler, Michael Durrell, Faye Grant, Peter Nelson

Votes: 15,586

David Icke would say it's the Freemasons official secrets act about the establishment exposed....Reptilian overlords using mind control to influence the humans to stay unconscious, but filmed in a schlock soap B movie corny style

27. The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Not Rated | 86 min | Horror

A New England home is terrorized by a series of murders, unbeknownst to the guests that a gruesome secret is hiding in the basement.

Director: Lucio Fulci | Stars: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni, Giovanni Frezza

Votes: 14,593

All of Lucio Fulci's films are so heavily censored but this has a nerve wrecking tense ending to satisfy

28. Willow (1988)

PG | 126 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

47 Metascore

A young farmer is chosen to undertake a perilous journey in order to protect a special baby from an evil queen.

Director: Ron Howard | Stars: Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Warwick Davis, Jean Marsh

Votes: 114,647 | Gross: $57.27M

29. Time Bandits (1981)

PG | 110 min | Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy

79 Metascore

A young boy accidentally joins a band of time travelling dwarves, as they jump from era to era looking for treasure to steal.

Director: Terry Gilliam | Stars: Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall, John Cleese, Katherine Helmond

Votes: 63,937 | Gross: $42.37M

30. Invaders from Mars (1986)

PG | 100 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

56 Metascore

A boy tries to stop aliens who have taken over his town and are attempting to brainwash its inhabitants.

Director: Tobe Hooper | Stars: Karen Black, Hunter Carson, Timothy Bottoms, Laraine Newman

Votes: 9,365 | Gross: $4.88M

Tobe Hooper remakes a classic. Oscar winners Karen Black and Louise Fletcher can't save it. Slow paced but an interesting curio nevertheless

31. Videodrome (1983)

R | 87 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

60 Metascore

A programmer at a TV station that specializes in adult entertainment searches for the producers of a dangerous and bizarre broadcast.

Director: David Cronenberg | Stars: James Woods, Debbie Harry, Sonja Smits, Peter Dvorsky

Votes: 93,465 | Gross: $2.12M

32. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981)

TV-PG | 152 min | Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi

Arthur Dent and his friend Ford Prefect escape the destruction of Earth only to face incredible trials, tribulations and adventures in space and time.

Stars: Simon Jones, David Dixon, Peter Jones, Sandra Dickinson

Votes: 11,085

33. Android (1982)

PG | 80 min | Sci-Fi

A strange doctor secretly experiments with androids on his space station. His assistant is Max, a curious android who wants to see the world and meet a girl. Criminals hide on their station and soon violence erupts.

Director: Aaron Lipstadt | Stars: Klaus Kinski, Don Keith Opper, Brie Howard, Norbert Weisser

Votes: 2,452

34. Escape from New York (1981)

R | 99 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

76 Metascore

In 1997, when the U.S. president crashes into Manhattan, now a giant maximum security prison, a convicted bank robber is sent in to rescue him.

Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence

Votes: 142,385 | Gross: $25.24M

Snake Plisskin played as Clint Eastwood's Western persona. Great concept idea done on a modest indie budget. Hasn't really aged that well but a genre favourite with some.

35. Crimewave (1985)

PG-13 | 86 min | Comedy, Crime, Horror

34 Metascore

A pair of whacked-out cartoon-like exterminator/hitmen kill the owner of a burglar-alarm company, and stalk the partner who hired them, his wife, and a nerd framed for the murder, who tells the story in flashback from the electric chair.

Director: Sam Raimi | Stars: Louise Lasser, Brion James, Paul L. Smith, Sheree J. Wilson

Votes: 6,124 | Gross: $0.00M

Sam Raimi turns live action into a surreal comic. The well choreographed action pieces are technically breathtaking

36. The Beyond (1981)

R | 87 min | Horror

38 Metascore

A young woman inherits an old hotel in Louisiana where, following a series of supernatural "accidents", she learns that the building was built over one of the entrances to Hell.

Director: Lucio Fulci | Stars: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Antoine Saint-John

Votes: 22,891 | Gross: $0.12M

Lucio Fulci opens a portal to a hellish sphere of existence in the basement of a house

37. Dreamscape (1984)

PG-13 | 99 min | Action, Adventure, Horror

63 Metascore

A man who can enter and manipulate people's dreams is recruited by a government agency to help cure the President of the United States of his nightmares about nuclear war but stumbles upon an assassination plot.

Director: Joseph Ruben | Stars: Dennis Quaid, Max von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, Eddie Albert

Votes: 16,856 | Gross: $11.48M

Pyshics are able to penetrate troubled peoples dreamtimes to stop their disturbed nightmares. The president dreams of an apocolyptic nuclear war nightly. Feels more like a tv movie

38. Hardware (1990)

R | 94 min | Sci-Fi, Thriller

41 Metascore

The head of a cyborg reactivates, rebuilds itself, and goes on a violent rampage in a space marine's girlfriend's apartment.

Director: Richard Stanley | Stars: Dylan McDermott, Stacey Travis, John Lynch, Carl McCoy

Votes: 15,504 | Gross: $5.73M

Tense Indie flick that owes more than a passing nod to The Terminator

39. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)

PG | 126 min | Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy

69 Metascore

An account of Baron Munchausen's supposed travels and fantastical experiences across late 18th-century Europe with his band of misfits.

Director: Terry Gilliam | Stars: John Neville, Eric Idle, Sarah Polley, Oliver Reed

Votes: 53,728 | Gross: $8.08M

Bit of an incoherent disaster, frenetic & explosively loud, with occasional painterly beautiful other worldly moments. The 'humour' just doesn't work except for an interesting uncredited cameo by Robin Williams as The Man in the moon.

40. The Terminator (1984)

R | 107 min | Action, Sci-Fi

84 Metascore

A human soldier is sent from 2029 to 1984 to stop an almost indestructible cyborg killing machine, sent from the same year, which has been programmed to execute a young woman whose unborn son is the key to humanity's future salvation.

Director: James Cameron | Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Paul Winfield

Votes: 857,581 | Gross: $38.40M

41. Gothic (1986)

R | 87 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

The Shelleys visit Lord Byron and compete to write a horror story.

Director: Ken Russell | Stars: Gabriel Byrne, Julian Sands, Natasha Richardson, Myriam Cyr

Votes: 7,999 | Gross: $0.92M

42. The Dark Crystal (1982)

PG | 93 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy

66 Metascore

On another planet in the distant past, a Gelfling embarks on a quest to find the missing shard of a magical crystal, and to restore order to his world.

Directors: Jim Henson, Frank Oz | Stars: Jim Henson, Kathryn Mullen, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz

Votes: 67,128 | Gross: $40.58M

Works best when the film explores the beautiful imaginative world of nature that the Gelfins come from. The studio bound Skeksis stuff gets a bit samey

43. The Lair of the White Worm (1988)

R | 93 min | Comedy, Horror

5.9