Best Films Of 1981

by TheAnimalMother | created - 07 Jan 2011 | updated - 5 days ago | Public

Every list of this nature is obviously a work in progress...

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1. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

R | 96 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

77 Metascore

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

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

Votes: 157,982 | Gross: $12.47M

One of the best chase scenes ever, and flat out one of the most interesting action films ever. 9/10

2. Thief (1981)

R | 123 min | Action, Crime, Drama

78 Metascore

Coming closer to his dream of leading a normal life, a professional safecracker agrees to do a job for the Mafia, who has other plans for him.

Director: Michael Mann | Stars: James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Willie Nelson, Jim Belushi

Votes: 22,536 | Gross: $11.49M

One of the best heist films around. 8/10

See my list - 'Let's Rob A Bank'

3. Body Heat (1981)

R | 113 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

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: 28,765 | Gross: $24.06M

8/10

4. Beau Pere (1981)

123 min | Comedy, Drama

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: 2,377

Basically a reversion of Lolita, and a pretty decent one at that. Definitely not as good as Kubrick's film or Nabokov's original work, but a good bit better than the 1997 film version in my view. The story is well written as to pull you into it. The acting doesn't let down the script either. 7.5/10

5. Prince of the City (1981)

R | 167 min | Crime, Drama

80 Metascore

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: 6,622 | Gross: $8.12M

7.5/10

6. Christiane F. (1981)

R | 138 min | Biography, Drama

A teen girl in 1970's Berlin becomes addicted to heroin. Everything in her life slowly begins to distort and disappear as she befriends a small crew of junkies and falls in love with a drug-abusing male prostitute.

Director: Uli Edel | Stars: Natja Brunckhorst, Eberhard Auriga, Peggy Bussieck, Lothar Chamski

Votes: 20,112

A great film to show 13 year old kids to be honest, (Depending upon their maturity level that is.). If you get them to watch this, that'll almost guarantee that they never touch hard drugs. Raw and gritty, this film shows young drug abuse as it really is, (Or at least was in the late 70's, which isn't too much different from today in terms of hard drugs use.).

7. The Hand (1981)

R | 104 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

59 Metascore

A comic book artist loses his hand, which in turn takes on a murderous life of its own.

Director: Oliver Stone | Stars: Michael Caine, Andrea Marcovicci, Annie McEnroe, Bruce McGill

Votes: 5,247 | Gross: $2.45M

This film starring Michael Caine seems like it might be ridiculously dumb due to its name and cover art, however it is actually quite thought provoking, and very entertaining. 7.5/10

8. Stripes (1981)

R | 106 min | Comedy, War

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: 60,770 | Gross: $85.30M

The best comedy of the year. 7.5/10

9. Blow Out (1981)

R | 108 min | Mystery, Thriller

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: 39,374 | Gross: $13.75M

10. Southern Comfort (1981)

R | 106 min | Action, Thriller

63 Metascore

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: 14,969 | Gross: $5.00M

A pretty cool flick that I've loved since I was a little kid. 7.5/10

11. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

PG | 115 min | Action, Adventure

85 Metascore

In 1936, archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before Adolf Hitler's Nazis can obtain its deadly powers.

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

Votes: 832,915 | Gross: $248.16M

The beginning of a franchise from George and Steven. 7.5/10

12. Halloween II (1981)

R | 92 min | Horror

40 Metascore

While Sheriff Brackett and Dr. Loomis hunt for Michael Myers, a traumatized Laurie is rushed to hospital, and the serial killer is not far behind her.

Director: Rick Rosenthal | Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Charles Cyphers, Jeffrey Kramer

Votes: 69,515 | Gross: $25.53M

In my estimation this is one of the very best horror sequels ever. Sure, the ending is not as good as the original film, but here the overall pace is faster, the kills are more creatively done, and there's a decent dose of humor in the film as well. 7.5/10

13. The Four Seasons (1981)

PG | 107 min | Comedy, Drama

55 Metascore

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: 3,773 | Gross: $50.43M

14. No Mercy, No Future (1981)

110 min | Drama

Doctors say that Veronika, a woman in her 20s, is schizophrenic. She is compliant, which makes her an easy target for men. She's religious, believing she is God's favorite child; she ... See full summary »

Director: Helma Sanders-Brahms | Stars: Elisabeth Stepanek, Nguyen Chi Danh, Karl Heinz Reimann, Jorge Reis

Votes: 76

A pretty challenging film, definitely not for most people. I did however find it to be a very effective film. A gritty and uncompromising look at schizophrenia, far from pretty. 7/10

15. Taps (I) (1981)

PG | 126 min | Drama

49 Metascore

Military cadets take extreme measures to insure the future of their academy when its existence is threatened by local condo developers.

Director: Harold Becker | Stars: George C. Scott, Timothy Hutton, Ronny Cox, Sean Penn

Votes: 15,753 | Gross: $35.86M

A tense situation and some good performances gives Taps its life. 7/10

16. The Great Muppet Caper (1981)

G | 97 min | Adventure, Comedy, Crime

70 Metascore

Kermit the Frog, The Great Gonzo, and Fozzie Bear are reporters who travel to Britain to interview a rich victim of jewel thieves and help her along with her secretary, Miss Piggy.

Director: Jim Henson | Stars: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson

Votes: 12,540 | Gross: $31.21M

One of the best Muppet movies. 7/10

17. Fort Apache the Bronx (1981)

R | 125 min | Crime, Drama

49 Metascore

In New York, South Bronx's main police precinct is nicknamed Fort Apache by its employees who feel like troopers surrounded by hostiles in a wild west isolated outpost.

Director: Daniel Petrie | Stars: Paul Newman, Edward Asner, Ken Wahl, Danny Aiello

Votes: 5,271 | Gross: $29.20M

Some great performances highlight this flick. 7/10

18. Arthur (1981)

PG | 97 min | Comedy, Romance

69 Metascore

Arthur spends his time with booze and whores. His dad has a wife lined up for him that he keeps rejecting - until it's her or being cut off from $750,000,000. Then he goes shopping where he falls in love with a shoplifter.

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

Votes: 24,400 | Gross: $95.46M

The best of the series is the original. 7/10

19. Escape from New York (1981)

R | 99 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

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: 115,625 | Gross: $25.24M

Carpenter's futuristic action fantasy. 7/10

20. Bloody Birthday (1981)

R | 85 min | Horror, Thriller

49 Metascore

Three children are born at the height of an eclipse of the sun. Ten years later, they begin to murder the people around them - even their family members.

Director: Ed Hunt | Stars: Lori Lethin, Melinda Cordell, Julie Brown, Joe Penny

Votes: 3,748

A bizarre but good horror film. 7/10

21. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)

R | 122 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

61 Metascore

The sensuous wife of a lunch wagon proprietor and a rootless drifter begin a sordidly steamy affair and conspire to murder her Greek husband.

Director: Bob Rafelson | Stars: Jack Nicholson, Jessica Lange, John Colicos, Michael Lerner

Votes: 20,315 | Gross: $12.38M

Jack and Jessica! 7/10

22. Hell Night (1981)

R | 101 min | Horror, Thriller

Four college pledges are forced to spend the night in a deserted old mansion, where they are stalked by the monstrous survivor of a family massacre years earlier.

Director: Tom DeSimone | Stars: Linda Blair, Vincent Van Patten, Peter Barton, Kevin Brophy

Votes: 5,551

One of the more underrated 80's horror films in my view. 6.5/10

23. Ms .45 (1981)

R | 80 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

62 Metascore

A timid and mute seamstress goes insane after being attacked and raped twice in one day, in which she takes to the streets of New York City after dark and randomly shoots men with a .45 caliber pistol.

Director: Abel Ferrara | Stars: Zoë Lund, Bogey, Albert Sinkys, Darlene Stuto

Votes: 7,665

24. Heavy Metal (1981)

R | 86 min | Animation, Adventure, Fantasy

51 Metascore

A glowing green orb - which embodies ultimate evil - terrorizes a young girl with an anthology of bizarre and fantastic stories of dark fantasy, eroticism and horror.

Directors: Gerald Potterton, John Bruno, John Halas, Julian Harris, Jimmy T. Murakami, Barrie Nelson, Paul Sabella, Jack Stokes, Pino Van Lamsweerde, Harold Whitaker | Stars: Richard Romanus, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Don Francks

Votes: 29,206

A unique piece of animation in it's time mixed with some killer tunes. 6.5/10

25. Victory (1981)

PG | 116 min | Drama, Sport, War

57 Metascore

As allied P.O.W.s prepare for a soccer game against the German National Team to be played in Nazi-occupied Paris, the French Resistance and British officers are making plans for the team's escape.

Director: John Huston | Stars: Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Pelé, Bobby Moore

Votes: 25,723 | Gross: $10.85M

A pretty enjoyable sports war drama. 6.5/10

26. An American Werewolf in London (1981)

R | 97 min | Comedy, Horror

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: 85,204 | Gross: $30.57M

One of the very best werewolf films ever made, easily in the top 5 in my view. 6.5/10

27. The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper (1981)

PG | 100 min | Adventure, Crime, Thriller

A speculation on the fate of the famous hijacker who parachuted with his ransom and disappeared in the mountains, has Cooper following a meticulous plan to disappear into anonymity despite ... See full summary »

Directors: Roger Spottiswoode, Buzz Kulik | Stars: Robert Duvall, Treat Williams, Kathryn Harrold, Ed Flanders

Votes: 990 | Gross: $3.70M

A pretty fun look at a fictionalized blending of the real and somewhat unknown true story. 6.5/10

28. Mommie Dearest (1981)

R | 129 min | Biography, Drama

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: 13,416 | Gross: $19.03M

Mean people suck. 6.5/10

29. Bustin' Loose (1981)

R | 94 min | Comedy, Drama

55 Metascore

Joe Braxton is an ex-con who has been given a second chance to freedom after violating his probation. He has been hired by a school teacher named Vivian Perry to repair and drive an old ... See full summary »

Directors: Oz Scott, Michael Schultz | Stars: Richard Pryor, Cicely Tyson, Angel Ramirez Jr., Jimmy Hughes

Votes: 2,557 | Gross: $31.26M

Pryor rocks! 6.10

30. The Funhouse (1981)

R | 96 min | Horror

56 Metascore

Four teenage friends spend the night in a carnival funhouse and are stalked by a deformed man in a Frankenstein mask.

Director: Tobe Hooper | Stars: Elizabeth Berridge, Shawn Carson, Jeanne Austin, Jack McDermott

Votes: 11,336 | Gross: $7.89M

A pretty solid 80's creeper. 6/10



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