40 Favorite Films of 1981

by Blue_Leaf | created - 13 Dec 2014 | updated - 16 May 2015 | Public

This was a tough year for me to come up with 40 films. Even the films on my WATCHLIST from 1981 are not at the top of the list.

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1. 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: 86,254 | Gross: $30.57M

2. 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: 2,400

3. 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: 40,303 | Gross: $13.75M

4. 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: 29,113 | Gross: $24.06M

Top 1000

5. 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: 20,361

6. The Chosen (1981)

PG | 108 min | Drama

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: 1,763

7. Cutter's Way (1981)

R | 109 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

70 Metascore

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: 4,639 | Gross: $1.73M

8. Das Boot (1981)

R | 149 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller

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: 219,132 | Gross: $11.49M

Top 1000

9. Diva (1981)

R | 117 min | Thriller

Two tapes, two Parisian mob killers, one corrupt policeman, an opera fan, a teenage thief, and the coolest philosopher ever filmed all 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: 11,244 | Gross: $0.11M

Top 1000

10. 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: 117,179 | Gross: $25.24M

11. The Evil Dead (1981)

NC-17 | 85 min | Horror

71 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: 177,015 | Gross: $2.40M

12. Eye of the Needle (1981)

R | 112 min | Romance, Thriller, War

61 Metascore

A ruthless German spy, trying to get out of Britain with vital information about D-Day, must spend time with a young woman and her crippled husband.

Director: Richard Marquand | Stars: Donald Sutherland, Kate Nelligan, Stephen MacKenna, Philip Martin Brown

Votes: 8,923 | Gross: $17.58M

13. The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

R | 124 min | Drama, Romance

64 Metascore

Wife and husband, both actors, play a couple in love from the Victorian era. Soon they begin to feel that fiction interweaves into reality.

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

Votes: 11,352 | Gross: $22.60M

14. Gallipoli (1981)

PG | 110 min | Adventure, Drama, History

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: 35,058 | Gross: $5.73M

15. Gregory's Girl (1980)

PG | 91 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

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: 7,136

16. Lola (1981)

R | 115 min | Drama, Romance

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: 4,789

17. 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: 159,237 | Gross: $12.47M

18. Man of Iron (1981)

PG | 156 min | Drama, History

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: 2,852

19. Mephisto (1981)

Unrated | 144 min | Drama

In early-1930s Germany, a passionate stage actor finds himself before a dilemma: renounce his apolitical stance and comply with the Reich's doctrine, or face oblivion. But, Faustian bargains never end well. What is the price of success?

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

Votes: 8,881

20. Modern Romance (1981)

R | 93 min | Comedy, Romance

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: 2,907 | Gross: $2.86M

21. My Dinner with Andre (1981)

PG | 110 min | Biography, Comedy, Drama

83 Metascore

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: 16,307 | Gross: $5.25M

Top 1000

22. Pennies from Heaven (1981)

R | 108 min | Drama, Musical, Romance

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: 4,965 | Gross: $9.18M

23. Pixote (1981)

R | 128 min | Crime, Drama

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: 6,178

Top 1000

24. 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: 20,481 | Gross: $12.38M

25. 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, and soon realises he's in over his head, and nobody can be trusted.

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

Votes: 6,710 | Gross: $8.12M

26. Raggedy Man (1981)

R | 94 min | Drama

It's 1944 in the small town of Gregory, Texas. Divorcée Nita Longley has been brought into the town by the telephone company to work as its switchboard operator, a job which requires her to... See full summary »

Director: Jack Fisk | Stars: Sissy Spacek, Eric Roberts, Sam Shepard, William Sanderson

Votes: 1,317 | Gross: $1.98M

27. Ragtime (1981)

PG | 155 min | Drama

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: 8,340 | Gross: $21.02M

28. 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 awesome powers.

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

Votes: 841,605 | Gross: $248.16M

29. Smash Palace (1981)

Not Rated | 108 min | Drama, Thriller

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: 836

30. 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: 61,602 | Gross: $85.30M

31. Ticket to Heaven (1981)

PG | 108 min | Drama

David is a young man seduced by a religious cult that uses starvation, exhaustion, and brainwashing to mold recruits into money hustling disciples of a messiah-like leader. Chronicles ... See full summary »

Director: Ralph L. Thomas | Stars: Nick Mancuso, Saul Rubinek, Meg Foster, Kim Cattrall

Votes: 695

32. Time Bandits (1981)

PG | 110 min | Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy

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: 55,400 | Gross: $42.37M

33. True Confessions (1981)

R | 108 min | Crime, Drama

68 Metascore

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: 6,854 | Gross: $10.20M

34. Vernon, Florida (1981)

Not Rated | 55 min | Documentary, Comedy

A documentary on the eccentric residents of Vernon, Florida.

Director: Errol Morris | Stars: Albert Bitterling, Roscoe Collins, George Harris, Joe Payne

Votes: 2,884

35. The Woman Next Door (1981)

R | 106 min | Drama, Romance

Two ex-lovers wind up living next door to each other with their respective spouses. Forbidden passions ensue.

Director: François Truffaut | Stars: Gérard Depardieu, Fanny Ardant, Henri Garcin, Michèle Baumgartner

Votes: 6,565

36. Whose Life Is It Anyway? (1981)

R | 119 min | Drama

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: 2,515 | Gross: $8.21M



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