Photo: via Pinterest

80s The Best Movies of 1981  

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
7.5k votes 534 voters 10.8k views

List Rules Only films that played in theaters in 1981

A list of the best movies of 1981, from action films like "Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark" to comedies like "The Great Muppet Caper." The '80s were a decade where Hollywood thrived. In were new stars and big blockbusters and 1981 was no exception. Some the best movies of this year are some of the best teen, coming of age, adventure, comedies, and dramas in history. The films on here are very memorable and had audiences on the edges of their seats, and still pack a punch so many years after they were first released. You shouldn't be too surprised by the movies listed on this list of top 1981 films.
list ordered by

1
239 37
Ranker Video
Harrison Ford, Alfred Molina, Karen Allen
Raiders of the Lost Ark is a 1981 American adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. The screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan was from a story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman. It was produced by ...more

2
122 71
Ranker Video
Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Vernon Wells
Mad Max 2 is a 1981 Australian post-apocalyptic action film directed by George Miller. The film is the second installment in the Mad Max film series, with Mel Gibson starring as Max Rockatansky. ...more

3
117 55
Ranker Video
Bill Murray, John Candy, Dennis Quaid
Stripes is a 1981 American comedy film directed by Ivan Reitman, starring Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, P. J. Soles, and John Candy. It also featured several actors in their first ...more

4
122 65
Ranker Video
Jamie Lee Curtis, Kurt Russell, Ernest Borgnine
Escape from New York is a 1981 American science fiction action film co-written, co-scored, and directed by John Carpenter. The film is set in a then near-future 1997 in a distopian United States ...more

5
92 39
Das Boot is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Uwe Ochsenknecht
Das Boot is a 1981 German epic film written and directed by Wolfgang Petersen, produced by Günter Rohrbach, and starring Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, and Klaus Wennemann. ...more

6
112 57
Ranker Video
Jenny Agutter, Frank Oz, Rik Mayall
An American Werewolf in London is a 1981 horror comedy film written and directed by John Landis, and starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, and Griffin Dunne. The film starts with two young ...more

7
74 48
Excalibur is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Liam Neeson, Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart
Excalibur is a 1981 dramatic fantasy film directed, produced and co-written by John Boorman that retells the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. Based solely on the 15th ...more

8
88 38
On Golden Pond is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Jane Fonda, Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda
On Golden Pond is a 1981 American drama film directed by Mark Rydell. The screenplay by Ernest Thompson was adapted from his 1979 play of the same title. Henry Fonda won the Academy Award for ...more

9
101 53
Chariots of Fire is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Stephen Fry, Kenneth Branagh, Ian Holm
Chariots of Fire is a 1981 British historical drama film. It tells the fact-based story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of ...more

10
100 41
Ranker Video
Farrah Fawcett, Terry Bradshaw, Burt Reynolds
The Cannonball Run is a 1981 comedy film starring Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett, and an all-star supporting cast. It was directed by Hal Needham, produced by Hong ...more

11
93 58
Ranker Video
Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Terence Stamp
Superman II is a 1980 British-American superhero film directed by Richard Lester. It is a sequel to the 1978 film Superman and stars Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Terence Stamp, Ned Beatty, ...more

12
76 45
Ranker Video
Liza Minnelli, Dudley Moore, John Gielgud
Arthur is a 1981 comedy film written and directed by Steve Gordon. The film stars Dudley Moore as the eponymous Arthur Bach, a drunken New York City millionaire who is on the brink of an ...more

13
96 51
Ranker Video
Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi
This film is a 1981 American horror film written and directed by Sam Raimi and executive produced by Raimi and Bruce Campbell, who also stars alongside Ellen Sandweiss and Betsy Baker. This film ...more

14
73 54
Ranker Video
Sean Connery, John Cleese, Ian Holm
Time Bandits is a 1981 British fantasy film co-written, produced, and directed by Terry Gilliam, and starring Sean Connery, John Cleese, Shelley Duvall, Ralph Richardson, Katherine Helmond, Ian ...more

15
71 50
Ranker Video
Ursula Andress, Maggie Smith, Laurence Olivier
Clash of the Titans is an 1981 British-American fantasy adventure film involving the Greek hero Perseus, and features the final work of stop motion visual effects artist, Ray Harryhausen. It was ...more

16
72 47
Ranker Video
Mel Brooks, Orson Welles, Hugh Hefner
History of the World, Part I is a 1981 comedy film written, produced, and directed by Mel Brooks. Brooks also stars in the film, playing five roles: Moses, Comicus the stand-up philosopher, ...more

17
63 44
Ranker Video
Mickey Rourke, Kathleen Turner, William Hurt
Body Heat is a 1981 American neo-noir thriller film written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan. It stars William Hurt, Kathleen Turner and Richard Crenna, and features Ted Danson, J.A. Preston, and ...more

18
76 35
The Fox and the Hound is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Kurt Russell, Mickey Rooney, Corey Feldman
he Fox and the Hound is a 1981 American animated drama film based on the Daniel P. Mannix novel of the same name, produced by Walt Disney Productions and released in the United States on July ...more

19
68 39
Ranker Video
Roger Moore, Sheena Easton, Charles Dance
For Your Eyes Only is the twelfth spy film in the James Bond series, and the fifth to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. It marked the directorial debut of John Glen, who ...more

20
47 32
Gallipoli is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Mel Gibson, Bill Hunter, Robert Grubb
Gallipoli is a 1981 Australian film directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson and Mark Lee, about several young men from rural Western Australia who enlist in the Australian Army during the ...more

21
61 41
Ranker Video
John Cleese, Diana Rigg, Jim Henson
The Great Muppet Caper is a 1981 mystery musical comedy film directed by Jim Henson. It is the second of a series of live-action musical feature films, starring Jim Henson's Muppets. This film ...more

22
51 39
Ranker Video
John Travolta, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz
Blow Out is a 1981 thriller film, written and directed by Brian De Palma. The film stars John Travolta as Jack Terry, a movie sound effects technician from Philadelphia who, while recording ...more

23
74 56
Ranker Video
Betsy Palmer, Lauren-Marie Taylor, Warrington Gillette
Friday the 13th Part 2 is a 1981 American horror film directed by Steve Miner. It is a direct sequel to Friday the 13th, picking up five years after that film's conclusion. The film marks the ...more

24
64 41
Ranker Video
Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, George C. Scott
Taps is a 1981 drama film starring George C. Scott and Timothy Hutton, with Ronny Cox, Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, and Evan Handler in supporting roles. Hutton was nominated for a Golden Globe award ...more

25
55 46
Ranker Video
John Candy, Harold Ramis, Eugene Levy
Heavy Metal is a 1981 Canadian adult animated anthology science fiction fantasy film directed by Gerald Potterton and produced by Ivan Reitman and Leonard Mogel, who also was the publisher of ...more