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80s The Best Movies of 1981  

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Originally by Ranker Community
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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
252 39
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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
128 78
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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
123 60
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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
129 68
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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 distopian United States ...more
5
97 44
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
80 52
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
116 60
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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
94 41
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
103 60
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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
10
104 51
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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
11
106 58
Chariots of Fire is listed (or ranked) 11 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
12
104 44
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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
13
79 57
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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
69 45
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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
15
80 49
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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
16
75 54
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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
17
83 37
The Fox and the Hound is listed (or ranked) 17 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
18
75 51
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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
19
74 40
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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
20
51 34
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
59 40
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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
22
67 43
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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
23
78 58
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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. The film marks the ...more
24
49 23
The Howling is listed (or ranked) 24 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
25
81 59
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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