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10 Best Horror Movies of 1988

These ten films are all celebrating thirty years of terror!
By  · Published on October 30th, 2018

As we near Halloween — it’s tomorrow so if you haven’t stocked up on candy yet you better get to it — #TheBooCrew decided to look back at the films that were frightening audiences thirty years ago. This was no easy task either. 1988 was a stellar year for horror, but we did our best. We locked ourselves in a room with no windows, we shouted at one another, tears were shed, hugs were shared, and against all the odds we were finally able to settle on a top ten that we know everyone will agree with. In the event that your favorite film from the year was somehow left off the list please feel free to kindly let us know via Twitter.

Without further adieu, I present to you the top ten horror films from 1988 as voted on by Rob Hunter, Kieran Fisher, Brad Gullickson, Meg Shields, Jacob Trussell, and myself.


10. The Lair of the White Worm (1988)

The Lair Of The White Worm

Ken Russell’s films aren’t typically my bag for various reasons (although I have yet to see The Devils). The sole exception is this campy, sexy, effects-happy romp through rural England that sees the rise of pagan goddess turning a small village upside down. Amanda Donohoe is terrific as the head of the snake cult, and both Hugh Grant and Peter Capaldi shine as unlikely, socially opposite heroes. It’s both a fun and funny movie with memorable lines, ridiculous set-pieces, and some of the floppiest hair you’ve ever seen. – Rob Hunter

9. Pin (1988)


Anyone who’s lived with a sibling or grew up under in a parentless household with a creepy therapeutic doll will relate to Pin. The story follows a pair of orphans living alone with the titular puppet, but things gets weird when the sister of the pairing starts dating and makes her bro jealous. The premise is silly, but the film itself is an effective psychological mindfuck with creepy incestuous undertones. Maybe if Pin was an inflatable sex puppet instead the brother wouldn’t be so angry that his sister doesn’t want him in that way. — Kieran Fisher

8. Phantasm II (1988)

Phantasm Ii

The ball is back. But it’s nine years later with Michael Baldwin getting the boot and James LeGros swinging in with the Hollywood thumbs up. Despite a little adjustment for the fan base, the sequel jumps right into the nefarious ruckus as The Tall Man get blasted back to his planetary hell by Reggie Bannister, the raddest ice cream man on the planet. Seven years later, escaped loony Mike reveals to Reggie that his parents have been exhumed from their graves as part of the alien harvesting. Mike and Reggie hit the road in pursuit of The Tall Man, packing one mean BFG with the quadruple barreled shotgun. Along the quest for revenge they encounter several ghost towns, the apparent result of The Tall Man’s evil work. Despite a few extra pennies (not many), Phantasm II still has the DIY spirit of the original. Don Coscarelli clearly loves his creations, and tormenting the hell out of them. Who wants a happy ending when Angus Scrimm is so darnn delightfully snarly with his peekaboo climactic assaults? — Brad Gullickson

7. Maniac Cop (1988)

Maniac Cop

A cop imprisoned for police brutality is mutilated and killed in the shower. During his autopsy he shows signs of life and eventually ends up back on the streets to carry on with his murderous ways. Bruce Campbell, after being framed as the renegade cop, works with Tom Atkins to bring the real killer to justice. The least plausible plot point in this cult classic from William Lustig is a cop being arrested for police brutality. — Chris Coffel

6. Child’s Play (1988)

Child's Play

I’ve always had a connection to Chucky. It could be because I was born in 1988. It could also be because one of my earliest memories is burying my face in my seat because the film my parents took me to (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, if I’m not mistaken) had a trailer for Child’s Play 2. It wasn’t until perhaps a decade ago that I finally started to shake the hypnotic fear the doll gave me. It would take studying the franchise for me to find not the root cause for my fears, but rather the reason for my continued fascination: it’s impeccable commentary on sexuality in post Reagan-era America. Chucky is a toxic masculine voice raging in a sea of powerful women while being arrested in an anatomically incorrect body. Child’s Play strength not only as a film, but a franchise, is the continued steadied hand of creator Don Mancini who has crafted, pound for pound, the strongest series of our modern horror canon. — Jacob Trussell

5. Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)


The first Hellraiser is a masterpiece, and quite possibly the most fucked up family drama ever told. The Cenobites and the Lemarchand’s Box feature, sure, but they’re not the stars of the show. It’s all about humanity. The first time I watched that movie, I left wanting to know more about this mythology. The sequel answers those questions, and takes us into Hell quite literally. The film’s vision of Hell is truly special, and the grotesque demons that populate it are the cherry on top. — Kieran Fisher

4. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

Killer Klowns From Outer Space

A space ship crashes just outside a small town and from the wreckage a circus tent appears. As if that alone isn’t scary enough we soon find out that the space ship carried clown-like aliens, we know them as klowns, with a thirst for human blood. This darkly amusing cult classic from the Chiodo Brothers rightly showcases clowns as the true killers we know they are and does so with a number of clever circus related deaths and wonderful practical props. — Chris Coffel

3. The Blob (1988)

The Blob

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: the through-line of 80s horror is that it was great time for goop. Consequently: The Blob had to happen. And in all its gushing glory, the eponymous Blob slumped into late-80s theaters and into our hearts. Featuring some truly gnarly practical effects, The Blob re-tells an old story with a fresh voice, cementing the film not only as a worthy horror remake, but as truly great genre satire. Terror has no shape! — Meg Shields

2. Dead Ringers (1988)

Dead Ringers

Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Elliot and Beverly Mantle are twin gynecologists who easily lose themselves in the pleasures of their daily routine. They’ve got a system, often rotating patients into lovers. The assertive Beverly tires of women quickly, but meek Elliot waits in the wings to service his scraps. They are deplorable, despicable, disgusting brutes not capable of looking beyond the mirror of each other. That is until actress Claire Niveau enters their waiting room, distraught over her infertility. Once in his stirrups, Claire’s trifurcated cervix becomes a demented preoccupation for Beverly, but when their relationship fails to fall into his usual practice, the aborted romance leads to delusions involving mutant genitalia. Orders are placed for special gynecological instruments, and their use is as horrifying as any body horror David Cronenberg has previously conceived. Dead Ringers is a vile peek into fractured masculinity. Jeremy Irons juggling twins is a magnificent watch from a performance point of view, and once experienced, you’ll find yourself shivering every time the actor dares appear in another film. Irons, how dare you cater to Bruce Wayne’s desires? Get out of Assassins Creed, sir! Uh… Red Sparrow still tracks. — Brad Gullickson

1. Pumpkinhead (1988)


Now I don’t know about you, but when my insanely adorable son gets accidentally mowed down by dirt biking teens my first reaction is always to seek out the services of the closest swamp witch. Sure, exacting revenge requires unearthing a horrible burlap-wrapped corpse from a very cursed pumpkin patch and performing a flagrantly evil blood ritual but the witch said it was the only way! In a directorial debut from Stan Winston, Pumpkinhead is the crème de la crème of the exquisitely niche sub-genre of “exploiting the naturally spooky curvature of Lance Henriksen’s face.” On paper, the avenging gourd monster should not fucking work but wouldn’t you know it exquisite visual storytelling is more than half the battle. Throw in a touching turn by Henriksen, creative monster mechanics, and above and beyond cinematography and you’ve got yourself a Halloween classic. — Meg Shields

Don’t wait for 1988 to roll around again before reading more entries in our 31 Days of Horror Lists!

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Chris Coffel is a contributor at Film School Rejects. He’s a connoisseur of Christmas horror, a Nic Cage fanatic, and bad at Rocket League. He can be found on Twitter here: @Chris_Coffel. (He/Him)