Best 80s Japanese Horror Movies, Ranked

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The fact that horror is a global genre has contributed to its success and evolution. Every society has a unique folklore or phantom thread meant to scare and terrify all who dare to hear it. Japanese horror, sometimes known as J-horror, has been around for many years and has contributed to the world’s many timeless works and very good international horror films, such as Onibaba and Ring. American reboots of each of these legendary Japanese horror films have followed their debut. Although there’s a big debate about which is better – the classic or the remake – J-horror is undeniably horrifying. J-Horrors seem to be done in a drastically different style, putting more emphasis on aesthetics that horrify audiences, and probably the reason for many underrated horror films as well.


Japanese horror films cover a wide spectrum, from absurd horror parodies to terrifying tales of haunting illnesses. Additionally, it attempts to depict the prevalence of terror in Japan, closely tied to a sophisticated folk story that includes ghosts, demons, and beasts. However, nothing beats throwing back to 80s horror movies if you want to have a nostalgic day. Let’s rank the best horror movies of the decade and rate them.

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8/8 Cyclops (1987)

A Picture of Cyclops (1987)
Art Supreme Production (1991) (Hong Kong) (all media) (Laserdisc cover “The Unborn”) / Nikkatsu Video Films KK (1987) (Japan) (VHS)

This film, directed by Joji Iida, was his first film, and it was released when horror films were not very popular in Japan. Although it was virtually ignored at the time, it is now considered one of the best horror films of the decade. The plot of the film centers on the shocking news of abnormal babies conceived in Japan. They are called cyclops and they barely live. The majority of doctors don’t even try to save them, except one who thinks the deformities aren’t defects but rather the next stage of existence. They developed methods of treating infants by modifying healthy tissues and cells to mask mutants. However, damaged cells can come back to life after a shock or a powerful reaction. Cyclops hits a powerful impact despite its short 50-minute run time.

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7/8 Powder of Death (1986)

A still from Death Powder (1986)
Essen Communications and Media Mix Japan Company (MMJ)

powder of death is often considered the premier example of the cyberpunk category in Japan, and that’s totally understandable. The image frequently incorporates aspects of bodily fear and gloomy dystopian settings. Combined with the erratic cinematic technique, they capture much of the vibe that emanates from the creations of Yoshihiro Nishimura or Tsukamoto. However, powder of death is an entirely separate species when it comes to storytelling. Despite the fact that there is a plot at the center of the film, it is extremely difficult to understand, if not downright impossible. Without a doubt, the aesthetics of the film are among the best aspects.

6/8 Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis (1988)

A scene from Tokyo The Last Megalopolis (1988)
Toho

The 1988 movie Tokyo: the last megalopolis depicts the story of a villainous commander from 10th century Japan who returns to early 20th century Tokyo to destroy the growing metropolis. Although some people may find the plot confusing, as it involves an old ghost upset with the urban structure and trying to sort things out in a way he deems right. A hidden conspiracy involving city officials also exists in the confused plot. However, the film features stunning visuals. It’s a good movie that audiences will enjoy.

5/8 Evil Trap (1988)

A still from Evil Dead Trap (1988)
Movie Joy Pack

Evil death trap is a brutal 1980s thriller that is probably Ikeda’s craziest and finest, and which later served as the model for countless acclaimed horror films and games to emerge from Japan over the following decades. The film follows Nami as she hosts a video streaming party. A recording that looks like a real horror movie is sent to him. As Nami and her team explore the area and get closer to uncovering the truth, they are faced with a gruesome scenario. It showcases all of Kojima’s gore and inventiveness.

Related: The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Every Major Character, Ranked

4/8 Samurai Reincarnation (1981)

A picture from Samurai Reincarnation (1981)
Toei Company

There are many Japanese horror movies based on books and this one makes the list. Japan’s most evil swordsmith has resurrected a sacrificed Christian warrior as an evil force, and Sonny Chiba, equipped with a blade made by him, can foil the demon’s plan. The 1981 movie samurai reincarnation becomes a modest kitsch jewel. Futaro Yamada’s book Makai Tensho, which inspired the film, is arguably one of the best historical pieces ever written. This is undoubtedly one of the best examples of when this specific subgenre started to become less common in Japanese films.

3/8 Wicked City (1987)

wicked city
Movie Joy Pack

The theme of wicked city is that a man and a demon will work together to save a pact that unites their two kingdoms. wicked city, inspired by the works of Kawajiri, revolves around the secret police The Black Guard and their fight to save the world. While it builds recognizable characters to give audiences a base through several gorgeous portrayals, the film doesn’t go much further. The film never ceases to depict a universe filled with vibrant art style and relentless nightmarish mayhem. One of the Kikuchi and the best of the Japanese horror subgenre is still today wicked city.

2/8 Sweet Home (1989)

sweet home
Toho

Kiyoshi Kurosawa is the director of the 1989 horror film sweet homealso known as The Mamiya House. In order to revive the artworks left behind and create a film about the painter, Mamiya, and his career, a film crew visits the artist’s dilapidated house in the story. sweet home is full of weird visuals and very horrifying thrills. It begins with a stunning depiction of captivity in which a member of the documentary crew is taken by Mamiya’s wife and continues with several unsettling and eerie moments. A computer game was also released with it, and the graphics are outstanding.

1/8 Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

An image from Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)
Kaijyu Theaters

A gory, elevated horror film that emphasizes ambiance rather than a predetermined plot would be perfect for those who love blood and guts. Tetsuo: The Iron Man follows the life of an employee troubled by visions of his body pierced by pieces of metal. The man’s world merges with that of a steel fetishist, allowing these gruesome notions to seep into reality. Even though the film was made in monochrome, the gruesome violence is just as horrifying.

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