List of American films of 1981

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A list of American films released in 1981.

The Academy Award winner of Best Picture of 1981 was Chariots of Fire. The highest grossing film of 1981 was Raiders of the Lost Ark.



A–C[edit]

Title Director Cast Genre Note
Absence of Malice Sydney Pollack Paul Newman, Sally Field, Bob Balaban, Melinda Dillon, Wilford Brimley Drama 3 Oscar nominations
All Night Long Jean-Claude Tramont Gene Hackman, Barbra Streisand, Diane Ladd, Dennis Quaid Comedy Universal
...All the Marbles Robert Aldrich Peter Falk Comedy, Drama Aldrich's final film
The Amateur Charles Jarrott John Savage, Christopher Plummer Spy 20th Century Fox
American Pop Ralph Bakshi Lisa Jane Persky, Ron Thompson Drama, Animated Columbia
An American Werewolf in London John Landis David Naughton, Griffin Dunne Horror, Comedy won Saturn Award
Amy Vincent McEveety Jenny Agutter, Barry Newman Family
Arthur Steve Gordon Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, John Gielgud, Geraldine Fitzgerald Romantic comedy Oscar for Gielgud
Back Roads Martin Ritt Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones Romantic comedy Warner Bros.
Blow Out Brian De Palma John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz Thriller Filmways
Body Heat Lawrence Kasdan William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Richard Crenna, Ted Danson, J.A. Preston, Mickey Rourke Suspense first film for Kasdan, Turner
Body and Soul George Bowers Leon Isaac Kennedy, Jayne Kennedy, Michael V. Gazzo Sports drama remake of 1947 film
Buddy Buddy Billy Wilder Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Paula Prentiss, Klaus Kinski Comedy Wilder's final film
The Burning Tony Maylam Brian Matthews, Holly Hunter, Jason Alexander Horror
Bustin' Loose Oz Scott Richard Pryor, Cicely Tyson Comedy
The Cannonball Run Hal Needham Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Roger Moore, Jackie Chan Comedy, Action 20th Century Fox; followed by Cannonball Run II
Carbon Copy Michael Schultz George Segal, Susan Saint James, Denzel Washington Comedy RKO
Cattle Annie and Little Britches Lamont Johnson Burt Lancaster, Amanda Plummer, Diane Lane Drama Universal
Caveman Carl Gottlieb Ringo Starr, Dennis Quaid, Shelley Long Comedy United Artists
Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen Clive Donner Peter Ustinov, Angie Dickinson Mystery
The Chosen Jeremy Kagan Maximilian Schell, Rod Steiger, Robby Benson Drama 20th Century Fox
Circle of Two Jules Dassin Richard Burton, Tatum O'Neal Drama Troma
Chu Chu and the Philly Flash David Lowell Rich Alan Arkin, Carol Burnett, Jack Warden Comedy 20th Century Fox
Clash of the Titans Desmond Davis Laurence Olivier, Harry Hamlin, Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress, Judi Bowker, Claire Bloom Fantasy remade in 2010
Condorman Charles Jarrott Michael Crawford, Oliver Reed, Barbara Carrera Adventure Disney
Continental Divide Michael Apted John Belushi, Blair Brown Romantic comedy Belushi's next-to-last film
Cutter's Way Ivan Passer Jeff Bridges, John Heard, Lisa Eichhorn Mystery, Drama aka Cutter and Bone

D–G[edit]

Title Director Cast Genre Note
Dead & Buried Gary Sherman Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson Horror Avco Embassy
Deadly Blessing Wes Craven Maren Jensen, Sharon Stone, Susan Buckner Horror
Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story Gabrielle Beaumont Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Weitz, Robert Reed Biography made for TV
Death Hunt Peter R. Hunt Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Andrew Stevens, Carl Weathers, Ed Lauter Adventure 20th Century Fox
The Decline of Western Civilization Penelope Spheeris Black Flag, Circle Jerks, X Documentary
The Devil and Max Devlin Steven Hilliard Stern Elliott Gould, Bill Cosby, Susan Anspach Comedy Disney
Don't Cry, It's Only Thunder Peter Werner Dennis Christopher, Susan Saint James Drama
Dragonslayer Matthew Robbins Peter MacNicol, Ralph Richardson Fantasy Paramount, Disney
Endless Love Franco Zeffirelli Brooke Shields, Martin Hewitt, Don Murray, Shirley Knight, Richard Kiley, Beatrice Straight, Penelope Milford, James Spader, Tom Cruise Drama from Scott Spencer novel; 6 Razzie nominations
Enter the Ninja Menahem Golan Franco Nero, Susan George, Sho Kosugi, Christopher George Action
Escape from New York John Carpenter Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Adrienne Barbeau, Isaac Hayes, Ernest Borgnine Thriller followed by Escape from L.A.
Escape to Victory John Huston Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, Max von Sydow P.O.W. aka Victory
The Evil Dead Sam Raimi Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss Horror followed by 2 sequels
An Eye for an Eye Steve Carver Chuck Norris, Christopher Reeve, Richard Roundtree Action Embassy
Eye of the Needle Richard Marquand Donald Sutherland, Kate Nelligan, Christopher Cazenove Spy film from Ken Follett novel
Eyewitness Peter Yates William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, James Woods, Christopher Plummer Mystery, Thriller written by Steve Tesich
The Fan Edward Bianchi Lauren Bacall, James Garner, Maureen Stapleton, Michael Biehn, Hector Elizondo Thriller Paramount
Fantasies John Derek Bo Derek Drama filmed in 1973
The Final Conflict Graham Baker Sam Neill, Rossano Brazzi, Don Gordon Horror 2nd sequel to The Omen
First Monday in October Ronald Neame Walter Matthau, Jill Clayburgh, Barnard Hughes Drama based on play; 2 Golden Globe nominations
Fort Apache, the Bronx Daniel Petrie Paul Newman, Edward Asner, Ken Wahl, Pam Grier Crime drama 20th Century Fox
Four Friends Arthur Penn Craig Wasson, Jodi Thelen Drama written by Steve Tesich
The Four Seasons Alan Alda Alan Alda, Carol Burnett, Rita Moreno, Len Cariou, Jack Weston, Sandy Dennis, Bess Armstrong Comedy, Drama 1st film directed by Alda; 4 Golden Globe nominations
The Fox and the Hound Richard Rich voices of Pearl Bailey, Mickey Rooney Animated film Disney
Friday the 13th Part 2 Steve Miner Adrienne King, Amy Steel Horror sequel to Friday the 13th
Full Moon High Larry Cohen Adam Arkin, Ed McMahon Comedy horror
The Funhouse Tobe Hooper Elizabeth Berridge, Jack McDermott Horror
Galaxy of Terror Bruce D. Clark Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Ray Walston Science-fiction New World Pictures
Gangster Wars Richard C. Sarafian Michael Nouri, Joe Penny, Madeleine Stowe Crime
Ghost Story John Irvin Fred Astaire, John Houseman, Melvyn Douglas Horror final film for Astaire, Douglas
Going Ape! Jeremy Joe Kronsberg Tony Danza, Jessica Walter, Danny DeVito Comedy Paramount
Graduation Day Herb Freed Christopher George, Michael Pataki Horror
The Great Muppet Caper Jim Henson Diana Rigg, Charles Grodin Comedy, Family Universal

H–M[edit]

Title Director Cast Genre Note
Halloween II Rick Rosenthal Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence Horror sequel to Halloween
The Hand Oliver Stone Michael Caine, Andrea Marcovicci Horror Stone's second film
Hard Country David Greene Jan-Michael Vincent, Kim Basinger, Michael Parks Drama ITC
Hardly Working Jerry Lewis Jerry Lewis, Susan Oliver, Deanna Lund Comedy 20th Century Fox
Harry's War Kieth Merrill Edward Herrmann, Geraldine Page, Karen Grassle Comedy
Heartbeeps Allan Arkush Andy Kaufman, Bernadette Peters, Randy Quaid Sci-fi comedy Universal
Heavy Metal Gerald Potterton Voices of John Candy, Eugene Levy, Harold Ramis Animated Columbia
Hell Night Tom DeSimone Linda Blair, Vincent Van Patten, Peter Barton Horror Blair Razzie-nominated
History of the World: Part I Mel Brooks Mel Brooks, Gregory Hines, Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, Pamela Stephenson, Mary-Margaret Humes, Sid Caesar, Dom DeLuise, Ron Carey, Shecky Greene, Orson Welles Comedy, Anthology 20th Century Fox
Honky Tonk Freeway John Schlesinger Beverly D'Angelo, Beau Bridges, William Devane Comedy EMI Films
The Howling Joe Dante Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Christopher Stone, Belinda Balaski Horror from Gary Brandner novel
The Incredible Shrinking Woman Joel Schumacher Lily Tomlin, Charles Grodin, Ned Beatty, Henry Gibson Comedy spoof of 1957 film
Knightriders George A. Romero Ed Harris Action
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains Lou Adler Diane Lane, Laura Dern, Ray Winstone Comedy Paramount
The Last Chase Martyn Burke Lee Majors, Burgess Meredith Sci-fi
The Legend of the Lone Ranger William A. Fraker Klinton Spilsbury, Michael Horse, Christopher Lloyd, Jason Robards Western won 3 Razzie awards
Lion of the Desert Moustapha Akkad Anthony Quinn, Rod Steiger, John Gielgud Biography, War story of Omar Mukhtar
Looker Michael Crichton Albert Finney, James Coburn, Susan Dey Sci-fi Warner Bros.
The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie Friz Freleng Mel Blanc, June Foray Animation Compilation
The Man Who Saw Tomorrow Robert Guenette Orson Welles Documentary about Nostradamus
Modern Problems Ken Shapiro Chevy Chase, Dabney Coleman, Nell Carter Comedy 20th Century Fox
Modern Romance Albert Brooks Albert Brooks, Kathryn Harrold, Bruno Kirby Comedy Columbia
Mommie Dearest Frank Perry Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid, Mara Hobel, Steve Forrest, Rutanya Alda, Howard Da Silva Biography Joan Crawford story; 5 Razzie awards
Ms. 45 Abel Ferrara Zoe Tamerlis Lund, Abel Ferrara Action
My Dinner with Andre Louis Malle Andre Gregory, Wallace Shawn Documentary a two-man conversation

N–S[edit]

Title Director Cast Genre Note
Neighbors John G. Avildsen John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Cathy Moriarty Comedy Columbia; based on Thomas Berger novel
The Nesting Armand Weston Robin Groves, Christopher Loomis, John Carradine Horror
Nice Dreams Tommy Chong Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong Comedy Columbia
The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia Ronald F. Maxwell Kristy McNichol, Dennis Quaid, Mark Hamill Musical Embassy; based on 1973 song
Nighthawks Bruce Malmuth Sylvester Stallone, Rutger Hauer, Billy Dee Williams Crime drama Universal; Hauer's first U.S. film
Nobody's Perfekt Peter Bonerz Gabe Kaplan, Alex Karras, Susan Clark Comedy Columbia
On Golden Pond Mark Rydell Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn, Jane Fonda, Dabney Coleman, Doug McKeon Drama Oscars for H. Fonda, Hepburn, screenplay; 10 nominations
On the Right Track Lee Philips Gary Coleman, Michael Lembeck, Lisa Eilbacher Comedy
Only When I Laugh Glenn Jordan Marsha Mason, Joan Hackett, James Coco, David Dukes, Kristy McNichol Drama Neil Simon play; 3 Oscar nominations
Paternity David Steinberg Burt Reynolds, Beverly D'Angelo, Elizabeth Ashley Comedy Paramount
Pennies from Heaven Herbert Ross Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Jessica Harper Musical, Drama based on BBC series; 3 Oscar nominations
Piranha II: The Spawning James Cameron Tricia O'Neil, Lance Henriksen Horror sequel
Polyester John Waters Divine, Tab Hunter Comedy New Line Cinema
The Postman Always Rings Twice Bob Rafelson Jack Nicholson, Jessica Lange, John Colicos, Michael Lerner, John P. Ryan, Anjelica Huston Crime drama based on James M. Cain novel, remake of 1946 film
Prince of the City Sidney Lumet Treat Williams, Jerry Orbach, Lindsay Crouse, Bob Balaban, James Tolkan, Lane Smith, Lee Richardson Crime drama based on Robert Daley book; 3 Golden Globe nominations
Private Lessons Alan Myerson Sylvia Kristel, Howard Hesseman, Ed Begley, Jr. Comedy
The Prowler Joseph Zito Vicky Dawson, Christopher Goutman Horror
The Pursuit of D. B. Cooper Roger Spottiswoode Treat Williams, Robert Duvall, Kathryn Harrold True crime Universal
Raggedy Man Jack Fisk Sissy Spacek, Eric Roberts, Sam Shepard Drama Universal
Ragtime Miloš Forman Elizabeth McGovern, Howard Rollins, James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, Kenneth McMillan, Mary Steenburgen, James Olson, Mandy Patinkin, Brad Dourif, Moses Gunn, Robert Joy, Donald O'Connor, Norman Mailer Drama based on E.L. Doctorow novel; 8 Oscar nominations
Raiders of the Lost Ark Steven Spielberg Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Denholm Elliott, Paul Freeman, John Rhys-Davies, Ronald Lacey, Alfred Molina Adventure 1st Indiana Jones adventure; 8 Oscar nominations
Reds Warren Beatty Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Gene Hackman, Maureen Stapleton, Jerzy Kosinski, Paul Sorvino, Jack Nicholson Epic, Biography story of John Reed; 12 Oscar nominations
Rich and Famous George Cukor Jacqueline Bisset, Candice Bergen, Hart Bochner Drama Cukor's final film
Rollover Alan J. Pakula Jane Fonda, Kris Kristofferson, Hume Cronyn Thriller Orion
Ruckus Max Kleven Dirk Benedict, Linda Blair, Richard Farnsworth Action comedy
S.O.B. Blake Edwards Julie Andrews, William Holden, Richard Mulligan, Robert Preston, Robert Webber, Robert Vaughn, Larry Hagman Comedy 2 Razzie nominations; Holden's final film
The Salamander Peter Zinner Franco Nero, Anthony Quinn, Sybil Danning Thriller ITC
Saturday the 14th Howard R. Cohen Richard Benjamin, Paula Prentiss, Severn Darden Horror comedy New World
Second-Hand Hearts Hal Ashby Robert Blake, Barbara Harris Romance Paramount
Sharky's Machine Burt Reynolds Burt Reynolds, Rachel Ward, Vittorio Gassman, Henry Silva, Charles Durning, Earl Holliman Crime drama based on William Diehl novel
Shock Treatment Jim Sharman Cliff DeYoung, Jessica Harper Musical 20th Century Fox
Southern Comfort Walter Hill Powers Boothe, Keith Carradine, Fred Ward, Peter Coyote Thriller 20th Century Fox
Sphinx Franklin J. Schaffner Frank Langella, Lesley-Anne Down, John Gielgud Adventure based on book by Robin Cook
Stripes Ivan Reitman Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, John Candy, Sean Young, P.J. Soles, John Larroquette Comedy Columbia
Student Bodies Mickey Rose Kristen Riter, Matt Goldsby Comedy

T–Z[edit]

Title Director Cast Genre Note
Take This Job and Shove It Gus Trikonis Robert Hays, Art Carney, Barbara Hershey Comedy based on the song
Taps Harold Becker George C. Scott, Timothy Hutton, Ronny Cox, Sean Penn, Tom Cruise Drama 20th Century Fox; Penn's first film
Tarzan, the Ape Man John Derek Bo Derek, Richard Harris, John Phillip Law, Miles O'Keeffe Adventure Razzie for Bo Derek
Tattoo Bob Brooks Bruce Dern, Maud Adams, Leonard Frey Thriller 20th Century Fox
They All Laughed Peter Bogdanovich Audrey Hepburn, Ben Gazzara, Patti Hansen, Dorothy Stratten, John Ritter Romantic comedy final leading film role for Hepburn
Thief Michael Mann James Caan, Tuesday Weld, James Belushi, Robert Prosky, Willie Nelson Crime drama United Artists; Mann's first film
This Is Elvis Malcolm Leo Elvis Presley Documentary
True Confessions Ulu Grosbard Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Charles Durning, Kenneth McMillan, Cyril Cusack, Ed Flanders, Burgess Meredith Crime drama United Artists; based on John Gregory Dunne novel
Tuck Everlasting Frederick King Keller Margaret Chamberlain, Paul Fleesa Fantasy
Under the Rainbow Steve Rash Chevy Chase, Carrie Fisher, Eve Arden Comedy based on Wizard of Oz; 2 Razzie nominations
Vernon, Florida Errol Morris Snake Reynolds Documentary
Whose Life Is It Anyway? John Badham Richard Dreyfuss, John Cassavetes, Christine Lahti, Thomas Carter, Kenneth McMillan Drama based on 1972 teleplay
Wolfen Michael Wadleigh Albert Finney, Gregory Hines Horror Orion
The Woman Inside Joseph Van Winkle Dane Clark, Joan Blondell Drama Blondell's final film
Zoot Suit Luis Valdez Edward James Olmos, Daniel Valdez, Tyne Daly Drama based on the play
Zorro, the Gay Blade Peter Medak George Hamilton, Lauren Hutton Comedy spoof of Zorro

See also[edit]

External links[edit]