kristen in A Nightmare Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

The Best Horror Sequels of the 1980s, Ranked

Horror has come far in the last few decades. Let’s face it, the ‘80s was known for a lot of shlock when it came to horror—with women being written as airheads, people being very problematic (making it hard to care about their survival), and the killers being cheered on for their kills. But they also could be very fun, and in the ’80s, we got some killer sequels—films that brought back some of our favorite villains and final girls of all time. In fact, when I thought of the best movie sequels, the ‘80s seemed to be where I was focusing, even though I’m a ‘90s baby. So, here are the best horror sequels the 1980s graced us with. Ranked by plot, worst to best.

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8. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

Ginny defending herself in Friday the 13th part 2

Don’t roast me, but I think this sequel is better than the original (I SAID DON’T ROAST ME). The first is a classic, but this particular group of shitty victims really works, Jason has arrived as the primary antagonist, and Ginny (Amy Steel) is the final girl we’re rooting for the entire movie. Revisiting this is mainly thrilling because of the above components. Without them, it wouldn’t be as good of a sequel! However, that said, it’s not reinventing the wheel here and the plot is pretty basic.

7. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

halloween III: season of the witch
(Universal Pictures)

Okay, admittedly, hearing that silver shamrock song on repeat is a literal nightmare. But this is an entry in the Halloween franchise that gets too much hate. It is, in fact, not the worst of the bunch, even if it doesn’t feature Michael. The plot is a bit weird—as it follows a very chaotic doctor and his mission to expose an evil mask maker. All while toting around a woman who could pass for his daughter, uncomfortable. But what can I say, this offering is very watchable, and therefore, worthy of the list!

6. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)

vicki in Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II
(Norstar Releasing)

Whether you like the original Prom Night (1980) or not is irrelevant in this case. This sequel has very little to do with its predecessor. Which probably confused every person who saw the original before this one came out. Helly Mary Lou: Prom Night II follows a girl who becomes possessed by the ghost of Mary Lou Maloney (Lisa Schrage), a girl who died at her prom in 1957. Mary Lou is absolutely a rebel and causes a lot of trouble in Vicki Carpenter (Wendy Lyon)’s life. Where plots are concerned, it’s not dull, though possession has been done time and time again. And this movie doesn’t offer much in the way of twists, nor is it trying to do anything new with the genre. But come on, Mary Lou’s speech to the priest in her flashback scene is iconic.

5. Halloween II (1981)

Michael getting ready to kill the nurse in Halloween II
(Universal Pictures)

There are people out there who cite this as their number one in the franchise. After all, Michael’s kills are very memorable, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is revealed to be his sister, Ben Tramer dies the stupidest death, and Dr. Loomis points a literal gun at a cop without consequence (don’t even get me started on what that’s an example of). The hospital setting is something I really love about the film. Personally, I just love horror that’s set in large buildings. Though the plot is basically just Michael killing a very small hospital staff in pursuit of Laurie—and she’s given very little to do as she’s not in the greatest of shape—it’s such an amazing chapter of the franchise.

4. Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives (1986)

jason in Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives
(Paramount Pictures Studios)

This entry is very much loved amongst fans and it deserves all the love it receives. In fact, it’s one of the best Friday the 13th entries across the board. Tommy Jarvis (Thom Matthews) returns and so does Jason, from the grave. There’s such a fun energy to this film and it’s not a chore to watch like other entries in the franchise. The film is very meta, and that wasn’t as common for ‘80s horror as it was for ‘90s horror. Essentially, there are plenty of reasons this sequel is one of the best. 

3. Evil Dead II (1987)

ash screaming in pain in Evil Dead II
(Rosebud Releasing Corporation)

To say Evil Dead II (1987) isn’t worthy of being on this list would be a garbage take. I’d even go so far as to say it’s better than the original. And Ash (Bruce Campbell) is at his best as a final boy here. Essentially, the movie serves as a retcon/requel. The plot seems like a repeat of the original, but things go left much quicker than the first go around. And this film leads us to Army of Darkness (1992) which fans of the franchise happen to love. 

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 

Stretch from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 screaming in terror
(Cannon Releasing)

Even though Leatherface isn’t remotely as frightening in this sequel, it’s still good. The more I rewatch it, the more I appreciate it. At first, it may be startling coming off the heels of the original. After all, the original is a classic. But if you’re looking for a more bloody and funny entry, this is your choice. Stretch (Caroline Williams) is a very interesting kind of final girl. She utilizes her objectification as a means of survival (which does get very problematic as Leatherface’s advances are nonconsensual), and she really is magnetic to watch on screen. I enjoy it for its own merits, not just because it’s continuing a previous story.

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

jennifer in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
(New Line Cinema)

If the original isn’t up for consideration, then this is the best film in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. The cast is top tier (Patricia Arquette’s acting debut, hello!) and they even brought back Heather Langenkamp for her last hurrah as Nancy (she deserved better). Freddy (Robert Englund) is also at his best with the perfect blend of camp and viciousness. Plus the kills are so cruel and original. The TV death alone is one of the best kills in the franchise. And there’s an otherness to the kids that can be read as queer. All in all, it’s not hyped up for no reason.

(featured image: New Line Cinema)

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Vanessa Maki
Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.