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80s Movies The Best Movies of 1981  

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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
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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
106 60
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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
77 30
Das Boot is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Uwe Ochsenknecht Das Boot is a 1981 German epic war film written and directed by Wolfgang Petersen, produced by Günter Rohrbach, and starring Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, and Klaus ...more

4
84 46
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Bill Murray, John Candy, Dennis Quaid Stripes is a 1981 American war-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

5
90 53
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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 crime-ridden United ...more

6
59 39
Excalibur is listed (or ranked) 6 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

7
81 46
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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

8
64 32
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
80 40
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
77 30
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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
63 40
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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

12
62 40
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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

13
61 45
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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

14
51 36
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Mickey Rourke, Kathleen Turner, William Hurt Body Heat is a 1981 American neo-noir erotic thriller film written and directed by Lawrence Kasdan. It stars William Hurt, Kathleen Turner and Richard Crenna, and features Ted Danson, J.A. ...more

15
70 50
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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

16
56 39
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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

17
69 44
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Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi The Evil Dead 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. The ...more

18
53 27
The Fox and the Hound is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Kurt Russell, Mickey Rooney, Corey Feldman The 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
39 25
Gallipoli is listed (or ranked) 19 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

20
50 33
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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

21
52 34
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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

22
42 30
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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
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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

24
59 44
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Jamie Lee Curtis, Dana Carvey, Kyle Richards Halloween II is a 1981 slasher horror film directed by Rick Rosenthal, and written and produced by John Carpenter and Debra Hill. It is the second installment in the Halloween series and is a ...more

25
53 39
Porky's is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Kim Cattrall, Alex Karras, Art Hindle Porky's is a 1981 Canadian-American sex comedy film about the escapades of teenagers at the fictional Angel Beach High School in Florida in 1954. Released in the United States in 1982 with an R ...more

26
46 40
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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

27
37 23
Scanners is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Michael Ironside, Patrick McGoohan, Jennifer O'Neill Scanners is a 1981 Canadian science-fiction horror film written and directed by David Cronenberg and starring Jennifer O'Neill, Steven Lack, Michael Ironside, and Patrick McGoohan. In the film, ...more

28
24 10
Eye of the Needle is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Dimos Dicoudis added Donald Sutherland, Bill Nighy, Kate Nelligan Eye of the Needle is a 1981 American spy film directed by Richard Marquand and starring Donald Sutherland and Kate Nelligan. Based on the novel of the same title by Ken Follett, the film is ...more

29
28 15
The Howling is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Dee Wallace, John Sayles, Slim Pickens The Howling is a 1981 werewolf-themed horror film directed by Joe Dante. Based on the novel of the same name by Gary Brandner, the screenplay is written by John Sayles and Terence H. Winkless. ...more

30
50 47
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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, where a new murderer ...more

31
40 33
The Gods Must Be Crazy is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Marius Weyers, Jamie Uys, Ken Gampu The Gods Must Be Crazy is a 1980 South African comedy film written and directed by Jamie Uys. Financed only from local sources, it is the most commercially successful release in the history of ...more

32
40 27
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Mel Blanc, Frank Welker, June Foray The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie is a 1981 Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies film with a compilation of classic Warner Bros. cartoon shorts and animated bridging sequences produced by Friz ...more

33
30 25
Reds is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Gene Hackman Reds is a 1981 epic film that was co-written, produced, and directed by Warren Beatty. The picture centers on the life and career of John Reed, the journalist and writer who chronicled the ...more

34
18 10
True Confessions is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Dimos Dicoudis added Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Burgess Meredith True Confessions is a 1981 crime film directed by Ulu Grosbard, loosely based on the Black Dahlia murder case of 1947. The film stars Robert De Niro and Robert Duvall as the brothers Spellacy, ...more

35
18 11
The Postman Always Rings Twice is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Dimos Dicoudis added Jack Nicholson, Jessica Lange, Anjelica Huston The Postman Always Rings Twice is a 1981 film adaptation of the 1934 novel by the same name by James M. Cain. The film was produced by Lorimar in association with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and ...more

36
29 26
Thief is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Willie Nelson, James Caan, Tuesday Weld Thief is a 1981 neo-noir film written and directed by Michael Mann and based on the 1975 novel The Home Invaders: Confessions of a Cat Burglar by "Frank Hohimer". The film stars James ...more

37
18 11
Hard Country is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Dimos Dicoudis added Kim Basinger, Daryl Hannah, Jan-Michael Vincent Hard Country is a 1981 American drama film directed by David Greene and starring Jan-Michael Vincent, Kim Basinger, and Michael Parks. Written by Michael Kane and Michael Martin Murphey, the ...more

38
25 24
Outland is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, John Ratzenberger Outland is a 1981 British science fiction thriller film written and directed by Peter Hyams. The film stars Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, and Frances Sternhagen. Set on Jupiter's moon Io, it has ...more

39
26 15
Southern Comfort is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, Peter Coyote Southern Comfort is an American action/thriller film directed by Walter Hill and written by Michael Kane, and Hill and his longtime collaborator David Giler. It stars Keith Carradine, Powers ...more

40
25 29
My Dinner with Andre is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory, Jean Lenauer My Dinner with Andre is a 1981 film starring Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, written by Gregory and Shawn, and directed by Louis Malle. The film depicts a conversation between Gregory and Shawn ...more

41
26 23
My Bloody Valentine is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Don Francks, Cynthia Dale, Helene Udy My Bloody Valentine is a 1981 slasher film directed by George Mihalka and written by John Beaird. The film tells the story of a group of teenagers who decide to throw a Valentine's Day party ...more

42
33 31
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Sylvester Stallone, Billy Dee Williams, Rutger Hauer Nighthawks is a 1981 American thriller film directed by Bruce Malmuth and starring Sylvester Stallone, Rutger Hauer, Billy Dee Williams, Lindsay Wagner, Persis Khambatta and Nigel Davenport. The ...more

43
16 15
Omen III: The Final Conflict is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Dimos Dicoudis added Sam Neill, Rossano Brazzi, Mason Adams Omen III: The Final Conflict is a 1981 American horror film directed by Graham Baker. It is the third installment in The Omen series. Starring Sam Neill, Lisa Harrow and Rossano Brazzi, the film ...more

44
29 34
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Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Cathy Moriarty Neighbors is a 1981 film based on the novel by Thomas Berger. It was released through Columbia Pictures, was directed by John G. Avildsen, and starred John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Cathy Moriarty, ...more

45
17 18
Ghost Story is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Dimos Dicoudis added Fred Astaire, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Ghost Story is a 1981 American horror film directed by John Irvin and based on the 1979 book of the same name by Peter Straub. It stars Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., John ...more

46
21 9
Ragtime is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Dimos Dicoudis added Jack Nicholson, Samuel L. Jackson, Fran Drescher Ragtime is a 1981 American drama film, directed by Miloš Forman, based on 1975 historical novel Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow. The action takes place in and around New York City, New Rochelle, and ...more

47
17 16
Endless Love is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Dimos Dicoudis added Tom Cruise, Brooke Shields, James Spader Endless Love is a 1981 romantic drama film directed by Franco Zeffirelli starring Brooke Shields, Martin Hewitt, Tom Cruise in his film debut, and James Spader in his second film role. The ...more

48
3 1
Atlantic City is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
thebengal2 added Susan Sarandon, Burt Lancaster, Wallace Shawn Atlantic City is a 1980 French-Canadian romantic crime film directed by Louis Malle. Filmed in late 1979, it was released in France and Germany in 1980 and in the United States in 1981. The ...more

49
22 11
Tarzan, the Ape Man is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Dimos Dicoudis added Bo Derek, Richard Harris, John Phillip Law Tarzan, the Ape Man is a 1981 adventure film directed by John Derek and starring his wife Bo Derek, Miles O'Keeffe, Richard Harris, and John Phillip Law. The screenplay by Tom Rowe and Gary ...more

50
23 23
Absence of Malice is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Movies of 1981
Paul Newman, Sally Field, Bob Balaban Absence of Malice is a 1981 American drama film starring Paul Newman, Sally Field, and Bob Balaban, directed by Sydney Pollack. The title refers to the legal definition of libel defamation, and ...more