50 movies from 1981 worth watching

by runefromnorway | created - 18 Sep 2011 | updated - 19 Jul 2016 | Public
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1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

PG | 115 min | Action, Adventure

8.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
85 Metascore

Archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, John Rhys-Davies

Votes: 738,090 | Gross: $248.16M

2. Chariots of Fire (1981)

PG | 125 min | Biography, Drama, Sport

7.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
78 Metascore

Two British track athletes, one a determined Jew, and the other a devout Christian, compete in the 1924 Olympics.

Director: Hugh Hudson | Stars: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nicholas Farrell, Nigel Havers

Votes: 45,171 | Gross: $58.97M

3. Reds (1981)

PG | 195 min | Biography, Drama, History

7.5
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76 Metascore

A radical American journalist becomes involved with the Communist revolution in Russia, and hopes to bring its spirit and idealism to the United States.

Director: Warren Beatty | Stars: Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Edward Herrmann, Jerzy Kosinski

Votes: 17,891 | Gross: $40.38M

4. Das Boot (1981)

R | 149 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller

8.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
86 Metascore

The claustrophobic world of a WWII German U-boat; boredom, filth, and sheer terror.

Director: Wolfgang Petersen | Stars: Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Klaus Wennemann, Hubertus Bengsch

Votes: 188,511 | Gross: $11.49M

5. Pixote (1981)

R | 128 min | Crime, Drama

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

The life of a boy in the streets of Sao Paulo, involved with crimes, prostitution and drugs.

Director: Hector Babenco | Stars: Fernando Ramos da Silva, Jorge Julião, Gilberto Moura, Edilson Lino

Votes: 5,269

6. Diva (1981)

R | 117 min | Thriller

7.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Two tapes, two Parisian mob killers, one corrupt policeman, an opera fan, a teenage thief, and the coolest philosopher ever filmed. All these characters twist their way through an intricate and stylish French language thriller.

Director: Jean-Jacques Beineix | Stars: Wilhelmenia Fernandez, Frédéric Andréi, Richard Bohringer, Thuy An Luu

Votes: 10,096 | Gross: $0.11M

7. The Road Warrior (1981)

R | 94 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

7.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
76 Metascore

In the post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, a cynical drifter agrees to help a small, gasoline rich, community escape a band of bandits.

Director: George Miller | Stars: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Michael Preston, Max Phipps

Votes: 145,838 | Gross: $12.47M

8. Gallipoli (1981)

PG | 110 min | Adventure, Drama, History

7.5
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65 Metascore

Two Australian sprinters face the brutal realities of war when they are sent to fight in the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey during World War I.

Director: Peter Weir | Stars: Mel Gibson, Mark Lee, Bill Kerr, Harold Hopkins

Votes: 32,100 | Gross: $5.73M

9. Mephisto (1981)

Unrated | 144 min | Drama

7.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A German stage actor finds unexpected success and mixed blessings in the popularity of his performance in a Faustian play as the Nazis take power in pre-WWII Germany. As his associates and ... See full summary »

Director: István Szabó | Stars: Klaus Maria Brandauer, Krystyna Janda, Ildikó Bánsági, Rolf Hoppe

Votes: 7,966

10. Man of Iron (1981)

PG | 156 min | Drama, History

7.5
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A worker becomes a "man of iron" forged by experience, a son comes to terms with his father, a couple fall in love, a reporter searches for courage, and a nation undergoes historic change. ... See full summary »

Director: Andrzej Wajda | Stars: Jerzy Radziwilowicz, Krystyna Janda, Marian Opania, Wieslawa Kosmalska

Votes: 2,453

11. Prince of the City (1981)

R | 167 min | Crime, Drama

7.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A New York City narcotics detective reluctantly agrees to cooperate with a special commission investigating police corruption. However, he soon discovers that he's in over his head, and nobody can be trusted.

Director: Sidney Lumet | Stars: Treat Williams, Jerry Orbach, Richard Foronjy, Don Billett

Votes: 5,790 | Gross: $8.12M

12. On Golden Pond (1981)

PG | 109 min | Drama

7.7
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Norman is a curmudgeon with an estranged relationship with his daughter Chelsea. At Golden Pond, he and his wife nevertheless agree to care for Billy, the son of Chelsea's new boyfriend, and a most unexpected relationship blooms.

Director: Mark Rydell | Stars: Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, Doug McKeon

Votes: 23,449 | Gross: $119.29M

13. Body Heat (1981)

R | 113 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

7.4
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77 Metascore

In the midst of a searing Florida heat wave, a woman persuades her lover, a small-town lawyer, to murder her rich husband.

Director: Lawrence Kasdan | Stars: William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Richard Crenna, Ted Danson

Votes: 25,544 | Gross: $24.06M

14. Lola (1981)

R | 115 min | Drama, Romance

7.7
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In post-war West Germany, the charming Von Bohm is appointed a city's new Building Commissioner. His morality is tested when he unknowingly falls in love with a brothel worker, Lola, the paid mistress of a corrupt property developer.

Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder | Stars: Barbara Sukowa, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Mario Adorf, Matthias Fuchs

Votes: 4,160

15. Gregory's Girl (1980)

PG | 91 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

7.1
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Gregory is a normal teen who is infatuated with a classmate. He must work to win her affection.

Director: Bill Forsyth | Stars: John Gordon Sinclair, Dee Hepburn, Jake D'Arcy, Clare Grogan

Votes: 6,405

16. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

R | 97 min | Comedy, Horror

7.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
60 Metascore

Two American college students on a walking tour of Britain are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will admit exists.

Director: John Landis | Stars: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Joe Belcher, Griffin Dunne

Votes: 74,930 | Gross: $30.57M

17. My Dinner with Andre (1981)

PG | 110 min | Biography, Comedy, Drama

7.8
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Two old friends meet for dinner; as one tells anecdotes detailing his experiences, the other notices their differing worldviews.

Director: Louis Malle | Stars: Andre Gregory, Wallace Shawn, Jean Lenauer, Roy Butler

Votes: 13,797 | Gross: $5.25M

18. Cutter's Way (1981)

R | 109 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

6.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Richard spots a man dumping a body, and decides to expose the man he thinks is the culprit with his friend Alex Cutter.

Director: Ivan Passer | Stars: Jeff Bridges, John Heard, Lisa Eichhorn, Ann Dusenberry

Votes: 4,081 | Gross: $1.73M

19. The Evil Dead (1981)

NC-17 | 85 min | Horror

7.5
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70 Metascore

Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.

Director: Sam Raimi | Stars: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker

Votes: 157,144 | Gross: $2.40M

20. The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

R | 124 min | Drama, Romance

7.0
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64 Metascore

A film is being made of a story, set in 19th century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married, but who falls in love with outcast Sarah, whose melancholy makes her ... See full summary »

Director: Karel Reisz | Stars: Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Hilton McRae, Emily Morgan

Votes: 10,082 | Gross: $22.60M

21. Three Brothers (1981)

PG | 113 min | Drama

7.3
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Three men face their mother's death.

Director: Francesco Rosi | Stars: Philippe Noiret, Michele Placido, Vittorio Mezzogiorno, Andréa Ferréol

Votes: 1,163

22. Arthur (1981)

PG | 97 min | Comedy, Romance

6.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
69 Metascore

Arthur is a happy drunk with no pretensions at any ambition. He is also the heir to a vast fortune which he is told will only be his if he marries Susan. He does not love Susan, but she ... See full summary »

Director: Steve Gordon | Stars: Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, John Gielgud, Geraldine Fitzgerald

Votes: 22,836 | Gross: $95.46M

23. Time Bandits (1981)

PG | 110 min | Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy

7.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  
79 Metascore

A young boy accidentally joins a band of time travelling dwarves, as they jump from era to era looking for treasure to steal.

Director: Terry Gilliam | Stars: Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall, John Cleese, Katherine Helmond

Votes: 49,751 | Gross: $42.37M

24. Quest for Fire (1981)

R | 100 min | Adventure, Drama, History

7.4
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This story takes place in prehistoric time when three tribesmen search for a new fire source.

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud | Stars: Everett McGill, Ron Perlman, Nicholas Kadi, Rae Dawn Chong

Votes: 17,805 | Gross: $20.96M

25. Coup de torchon (1981)

Not Rated | 128 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

7.7
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A worn-out, ineffective police chief humiliated by everyone around him decides one day to improve his life, by any means.

Director: Bertrand Tavernier | Stars: Philippe Noiret, Isabelle Huppert, Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Marielle

Votes: 3,993

26. Absence of Malice (1981)

PG | 116 min | Drama, Romance, Thriller

6.9
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64 Metascore

When a prosecutor leaks a false story that a liquor warehouse owner is involved in the murder of a union head, the man's life begins to unravel.

Director: Sydney Pollack | Stars: Paul Newman, Sally Field, Bob Balaban, Melinda Dillon

Votes: 10,032 | Gross: $40.72M

27. Mommie Dearest (1981)

R | 129 min | Biography, Drama

6.7
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55 Metascore

The abusive and traumatic adoptive upbringing of Christina Crawford at the hands of her mother, screen queen Joan Crawford, is depicted.

Director: Frank Perry | Stars: Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid, Steve Forrest, Howard Da Silva

Votes: 12,126 | Gross: $19.03M

28. The Chosen (1981)

PG | 108 min | Drama

7.1
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In 1944, in Brooklyn, two Jewish kids become friends. One is from a very conservative family, and the other is more liberal. The issues of importance of tradition, parental expectations and the formation of Israel cause constant friction.

Director: Jeremy Kagan | Stars: Maximilian Schell, Rod Steiger, Robby Benson, Barry Miller

Votes: 1,589

29. Blow Out (1981)

R | 107 min | Mystery, Thriller

7.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
85 Metascore

A movie sound recordist accidentally records the evidence that proves that a car accident was actually murder and consequently finds himself in danger.

Director: Brian De Palma | Stars: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz

Votes: 32,508 | Gross: $13.75M

30. The Weavers: Wasn't That a Time (1981)

PG | 78 min | Documentary, Music

8.3
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Documentary about the blacklisted folk group, "The Weavers," and the events leading up to their triumphant return to Carnegie Hall.

Director: Jim Brown | Stars: Lee Hays, Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, Arlo Guthrie

Votes: 180

31. Circle of Deceit (1981)

R | 108 min | Drama, War

7.2
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Laschen, a German journalist, travels to the city of Beirut during the fights between Christians and Palestinians to produce an essay about the situation. Together with his photographer, he... See full summary »

Director: Volker Schlöndorff | Stars: Bruno Ganz, Hanna Schygulla, Jean Carmet, Jerzy Skolimowski

Votes: 617

32. True Confessions (1981)

R | 108 min | Crime, Drama

6.4
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A worldly ambitious monsignor clashes with his older brother, a cynical Los Angeles homicide detective who is investigating the brutal murder of a young prostitute.

Director: Ulu Grosbard | Stars: Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Charles Durning, Kenneth McMillan

Votes: 5,948 | Gross: $10.20M

33. Excalibur (1981)

PG | 140 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

7.4
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56 Metascore

Merlin the magician helps Arthur Pendragon unite the Britons around the Round Table of Camelot, even as dark forces conspire to tear it apart.

Director: John Boorman | Stars: Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, Nicholas Clay, Cherie Lunghi

Votes: 50,279 | Gross: $34.97M

34. Southern Comfort (1981)

R | 106 min | Action, Thriller

7.2
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During a routine exercise, a team of National Guards are threatened by angry and violent locals.

Director: Walter Hill | Stars: Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, Fred Ward, Franklyn Seales

Votes: 13,207 | Gross: $5.00M

35. Whose Life Is It Anyway? (1981)

R | 119 min | Drama

7.4
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Ken Harrison is an artist who makes sculptures. One day he is involved in a car accident, and is paralyzed from his neck down. All he can do is talk, and he wants to die. In hospital he ... See full summary »

Director: John Badham | Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, John Cassavetes, Christine Lahti, Bob Balaban

Votes: 2,319 | Gross: $8.21M

36. Pennies from Heaven (1981)

R | 108 min | Drama, Musical, Romance

6.5
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During the Great Depression, a sheet music salesman seeks to escape his dreary life through popular music and a love affair with an innocent school teacher.

Director: Herbert Ross | Stars: Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Jessica Harper, Vernel Bagneris

Votes: 4,551 | Gross: $9.18M

37. Ragtime (1981)

PG | 155 min | Drama

7.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
57 Metascore

A young black pianist becomes embroiled in the lives of an upper-class white family set among the racial tensions, infidelity, violence, and other nostalgic events in early 1900s New York City.

Director: Milos Forman | Stars: James Cagney, Elizabeth McGovern, Howard E. Rollins Jr., Brad Dourif

Votes: 7,201 | Gross: $21.02M

38. Modern Romance (1981)

R | 93 min | Comedy, Romance

7.0
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Albert Brooks directs himself as a successful film editor with far too many issues that affects the relationship between him and his remarkably patient girlfriend.

Director: Albert Brooks | Stars: Albert Brooks, Kathryn Harrold, Tyann Means, Bruno Kirby

Votes: 2,401 | Gross: $2.86M

39. Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man (1981)

PG | 116 min | Comedy, Drama

6.8
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The son of the owner of a large Italian cheese factory is kidnapped, but as the factory is on the verge of bankruptcy the owner hatches a plan to use the ransom money as reinvestment in the... See full summary »

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci | Stars: Ugo Tognazzi, Anouk Aimée, Laura Morante, Victor Cavallo

Votes: 642

40. Beau Pere (1981)

123 min | Comedy, Drama

7.2
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After her mother dies, fourteen-year-old Marion falls in love with her stepfather, Remy.

Director: Bertrand Blier | Stars: Patrick Dewaere, Ariel Besse, Maurice Ronet, Geneviève Mnich

Votes: 2,100

41. Marianne & Juliane (1981)

106 min | Drama

7.6
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Two sisters both fight for women's rights. Juliane is a journalist and Marianne a terrorist. When Marianne is jailed, Juliane feels obligated to help her despite their differing views on how to live.

Director: Margarethe von Trotta | Stars: Jutta Lampe, Barbara Sukowa, Rüdiger Vogler, Doris Schade

Votes: 1,407

42. Smash Palace (1981)

108 min | Drama

7.2
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Al Shaw's life revolves around motor racing and his back country junkyard, the "Smash Palace". His French wife, Jacqui, doesn't appreciate the lack of attention due to Al's obsession with ... See full summary »

Director: Roger Donaldson | Stars: Bruno Lawrence, Anna Maria Monticelli, Greer Robson-Kirk, Keith Aberdein

Votes: 664

43. Porky's (1981)

R | 94 min | Comedy

6.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
40 Metascore

In 1954, a group of Florida high schoolers seek out to help their buddy lose his virginity, which leads them to seek revenge on a sleazy nightclub owner and his redneck sheriff brother for harassing them.

Director: Bob Clark | Stars: Dan Monahan, Mark Herrier, Wyatt Knight, Roger Wilson

Votes: 33,373 | Gross: $111.29M

44. The Four Seasons (1981)

PG | 107 min | Comedy, Drama

7.2
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Three middle-aged wealthy couples take vacations together in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Along the way we are treated to mid-life, marital, parental and other crises.

Director: Alan Alda | Stars: Alan Alda, Carol Burnett, Len Cariou, Sandy Dennis

Votes: 3,392 | Gross: $50.43M

45. Clash of the Titans (1981)

PG | 118 min | Action, Adventure, Family

6.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Perseus must battle both Medusa and the Kraken to save the Princess Andromeda.

Director: Desmond Davis | Stars: Laurence Olivier, Harry Hamlin, Claire Bloom, Maggie Smith

Votes: 35,523 | Gross: $41.09M

46. Stripes (1981)

R | 106 min | Comedy, War

6.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
68 Metascore

Two friends who are dissatisfied with their jobs decide to join the army for a bit of fun.

Director: Ivan Reitman | Stars: Bill Murray, John Candy, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates

Votes: 53,714 | Gross: $85.30M

47. Wolfen (1981)

R | 115 min | Horror, Thriller

6.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
64 Metascore

A New York cop investigates a series of brutal deaths that resemble animal attacks.

Director: Michael Wadleigh | Stars: Albert Finney, Diane Venora, Edward James Olmos, Gregory Hines

Votes: 7,443 | Gross: $10.63M

48. Escape from New York (1981)

R | 99 min | Action, Sci-Fi

7.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
76 Metascore

In 1997, when the U.S. president crashes into Manhattan, now a giant maximum security prison, a convicted bank robber is sent in to rescue him.

Director: John Carpenter | Stars: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence

Votes: 102,504 | Gross: $25.24M

49. Das Boot ist voll (1981)

PG | 101 min | Drama, War

7.2
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During World War II, Switzerland severely limited refugees: "Our boat is full." A train from Germany halts briefly in an isolated corner of Switzerland. Six people jump off seeking asylum: ... See full summary »

Director: Markus Imhoof | Stars: Tina Engel, Hans Diehl, Martin Walz, Curt Bois

Votes: 424

50. Eijanaika (1981)

151 min | Drama

7.0
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Near the turbulent end of the Edo era, a man returning to Japan after exile in America searches for his wife and becomes swept up in the current of revolution in this incisive period drama from the great Shohei Imamura.

Director: Shôhei Imamura | Stars: Shigeru Izumiya, Kaori Momoi, Masao Kusakari, Ken Ogata

Votes: 441