Top Five Favorite Films From 1981

Back again with another top 5 list, this time 1981. Before I get started I wanted to point out something about these lists. The years for each movie is determined by the US theatrical release. I’m using a website called The Numbers – www.the-numbers.com. This issue came to light after I posted my Top 5 Films From 1980 list. If you look at IMDB for say, Superman II it lists it as a 1980 movie. However, if you look at the US release date, it was June 19, 1981. That may give you a little insight into this year’s list, but wanted to get that out of the way. A similar situation occurred with my Top Five Horror Films From 1981. Thanks to my buddy Rik for pointing it out. With that item out of the way, let’s start in with 81!

Chewie’s Top 5 Films From 1981

All of these films received their US theatrical release within calendar year 1981.

This is only my second list but it’s already getting really difficult. I’ve taken a peak at some upcoming years and it’s not going to get any easier any time soon. Keep in mind, these are my “favorite” movies not necessarily what I’d consider the “best” movies.

Clash Of The Titans (1981)Honorable Mentions

  • Clash of the Titans – Harry Hamlin as Perseus, Laurence Olivier as Zeus, Ursula Andress, Burgess Meredith, stop motion and… The Kraken.
  • Friday the 13th Part 2 –  You know I’m a horror nerd so this should come as no surprise. This is the first time Jason Voorhees is the killer in the franchise.
  • The Great Muppet Caper – Kermit, Fozzie and all the gang are here complete with a human cast including Charles Grodin and John Cleese. I can’t tell you how many times I watched this flick growing up. I also recall a set of commemorative Burger King glasses from this movie.
  • For Your Eyes Only – Not a great Bond film, but a Bond film nonetheless and that immediately jumps it pretty high on any list I’ll put together.
  • Body Heat – Before she was Chandler Bing’s Dad on Friends, Kathleen Turner had a super steamy affair with William Hurt of all people in Body Heat. In retrospect pretty weird, but at the time an adolescent boy’s dream.

The Top Five

Attempting to rank these was no easy task. I thought long and hard about all the movies on this list and I’m confident in this as my top five.

The Cannonball Run (1981)#5 – The Cannonball Run

A wide variety of eccentric competitors participate in a wild and illegal cross-country car race. The all star casts includes greats such as Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore (2nd time on this list), Farrah Fawcett, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and many more. I’ve not seen this one in quite some time and I’ve got a feeling that if I were to watch it now it’d be really dated, but I don’t think that would cut down on my enjoyment of it at all.

#4 – Enter the Ninja

After just completing his training at a ninja school, an army vet travels to the Philippines and finds himself battling a land grabber who wants his war-buddy’s property. He must also fight his rival. This is definitely one of those that’s on the list for nostalgia purposes alone. It stars Franco Nero, Susan George and just like virtually every other 80’s Ninja movie… Sho Kosugi.

The top three was where things really took a turn from difficult to damn near impossible.

Stripes (1981)#3 – Stripes

Two friends who are dissatisfied with their jobs decide to join the army for a bit of fun. When you put Bill Murray (in what I consider his definitive role), Harold Ramis and John Candy together in a movie directed by Ivan Reitman you’re in for some comedic genius. Throw in incredible performances by Warren Oates, P.J. Soles, John Larroquette and Judge Reinhold and this becomes an instant classic. I re-watch this whenever it’s on TV and every once in a while when I’m just in the mood to laugh. One of the most quotable movies of all time (that’s a list I REALLY need to put together) and one that I’d hope everyone has seen.

#2 – Superman II

Superman agrees to sacrifice his powers to marry Lois, unaware that three Kryptonian criminals he inadvertently released are conquering Earth. Regardless of what year this one came out in, it was going to be near the top of the list. This is one of my favorite sequels of all time (another list I should put together) whether you watch the theatrical cut or the 2006 “Richard Donner Cut” which was apparently the director’s original vision. Starring Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Margot Kidde and the awesome trio of Sarah Douglas, Jack O’Halloran and Terence Stamp as the criminals who give Supe more than he bargained for, Superman II is quite possibly nearly a perfect sequel.

Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)#1 – Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the US government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. Written by George Lucas, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Harrison Ford. I don’t need to say much more, but I could go on for days. This film starts with action before we are even introduced to Indy and doesn’t let up until the face-melting climax. Karen Allen plays the love interest in a story that doesn’t need one but also doesn’t suffer from it. When you add a John Williams score on top of an already awesome movie it’s taken to epic proportions. The role of Indiana Jones was originally offered to Tom Sellek and while I love him as an actor I’m thrilled that it ultimately went to Harrison Ford. If there was any character that could knock the Man of Steel out of the top spot wouldn’t you know it would be a 1930’s professor. A whip and a fedora never looked so cool. 

Did I leave off your favorite film from 1981? Leave me a comment with your thoughts!

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2 Comments

  1. You must hate Mel Gibson. No Gallipoli (which is not well known, but very good so i understand), but No Mad Max 2 , the Road Warrior ?? at the very least it inspired a generation of pro wrestlers. I think Clash of the Titans seemed dated by 1984, the Road Warrior is timeless.

    • Mad Max 2 is another film that falls prey to the “US release date” issue. It got its US release on May 21, 1982. Stay tuned for my ’82 list. Working on it now 😉

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