Top up your watchlist… 23 cult films of the 1980s

Dark, twisted or just plain maverick, these are some of the 1980s’ most deliciously offbeat movies – all available with a free 14-day trial on BFI Player.

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Bad Timing (1980)

Director Nicolas Roeg

Bad Timing (1980)

Nic Roeg’s complex, elusive cult classic is a Vienna-set tale of all-consuming passion, starring Art Garfunkel, Theresa Russell and Harvey Keitel.

Betty Blue (1986)

Director Jean-Jacques Beineix

Betty Blue (1986)

Jean-Jacques Beineix’s story of a volatile, highly sexual relationship was one of the most successful French films of the 1980s.

Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire (1987)

Director Alan Clarke

Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire (1987)

Alan Clarke’s once derided feature is surely the only vampire snooker musical in cinema history and a genuine cult artefact ripe for rediscovery.

Burning an Illusion (1981)

Director Menelik Shabazz

Burning an Illusion (1981)

Menelik Shabazz’s pioneering first feature traces the emotional and political growth of a young black couple in Thatcher’s London.

City of the Living Dead (1981)

Director Lucio Fulci

City of the Living Dead (1980)

Lucio Fulci’s sensationally gory zombie horror finds undead hordes overtaking a sleepy New England town, with only a reporter and a local psychic to stop them.

The Company of Wolves (1984)

Director Neil Jordan

Teh Company of Wolves (1984)

Angela Carter and Neil Jordan’s magical, radical take on Little Red Riding Hood.

Crimes of Passion (1984)

Director Ken Russell

Crimes of Passion (1984)

Ken Russell’s second Hollywood film is a deliriously excessive erotic thriller with Kathleen Turner as an imperilled prostitute.

Dead Ringers (1988)

Director David Cronenberg

Dead Ringers (1988)

David Cronenberg’s multi award-winning psychological thriller explores the bizarre lives of identical twins Elliot and Beverly, both played by Jeremy Irons.

The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982)

Director Peter Greenaway

The Draughtsman's Contract (1982)

Peter Greenaway became a director of international status with this witty, stylised, erotic country-house murder mystery.

The Elephant Man (1980)

Director David Lynch

The Elephant Man (1980)

David Lynch’s moving true-life tale of the severely deformed Joseph Merrick and his rescue from the hell of a Victorian circus sideshow.

Fitzcarraldo (1982)

Director Werner Herzog

Fitzcarraldo (1982)

One of Werner Herzog’s most acclaimed and audacious films, Fitzcarraldo tells the incredible story of Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, an opera-loving fortune hunter who dreams of bringing opera to the heart of the Peruvian jungle.

Flight to Berlin (1984)

Director Chris Petit

Flight to Berlin (1984)

Chris Petit’s sparse moody thriller begins with a mysterious death. “They asked me the wrong question,” says murder suspect Susannah after being interrogated by the police.

Inferno (1980)

Director Dario Argento

Inferno (1980)

Dario Argento’s baroque, operatic horror follows a student who discovers a powerful witch living in a New York City apartment block.

Melancholia (1989)

Director Andi Engel

Melancholia (1989)

Cerebral thriller about a German art critic who reconnects with his radical past when he agrees to be involved with an assassination attempt.

Millennium (1989)

Director Michael Anderson

Millennium (1989)

Flight crash investigator Bill Smith (Kris Kristofferson) discovers that time travellers from the future are visiting the present day and stealing passengers from doomed aircraft to repopulate a future, infertile human race.

Night of the Hunted (1980)

Director Jean Rollin

Night of the Hunted (1980)

Jean Rollin’s stylish and futuristically surreal horror about patients at a mysterious clinic whose memories are disintegrating.

Paris, Texas (1984)

Director Wim Wenders

Paris, Texas (1984)

The late, great Harry Dean Stanton’s finest role came as the near-mute Travis, on a journey across America to reunite his family, in Wim Wenders’ moving tale of loss and redemption.

Saturn 3 (1980)

Director Stanley Donen

Saturn 3 (1980)

A pair of scientists’ idyllic life on Saturn’s moon is ruptured by the arrival of a sinister psychopath and his murderous robot.

Scanners (1981)

Director David Cronenberg

Scanners (1981)

From singularly talented Canadian director David Cronenberg comes this sci-fi/horror classic about people with powerfully violent telepathic powers.

Straight to Hell (1987)

Director Alex Cox

Straight to Hell (1987)

Alex Cox’s anarchic homage to the spaghetti western, with arguably cinema’s wildest cast: Dennis Hopper, Joe Strummer, Courtney Love, Grace Jones and Shane MacGowan.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Miss Osbourne (1981)

Director Walerian Borowczyk

Docteur Jekyll et les femmes (1981)

Udo Kier stars in Walerian Borowczyk’s delirious erotic fever dream, which re-imagines Robert Louis Stephenson’s moral tale as a deranged domestic sex farce.

White of the Eye (1986)

Director Donald Cammell

White of the Eye (1986)

British visionary Donald Cammell directs this kaleidoscopic, highly stylised thriller about a series of brutal murders in an isolated desert community.

A Zed and Two Noughts (1985)

Director Peter Greenaway

A Zed and Two Noughts (1985)

Following a fatal car crash involving a swan outside a zoo, twin-brother zoologists Oliver and Oswald become fascinated by the processes of decay.

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