We Chose 10 Movies From 1981 To Highlight As Peak Nostalgia

We Chose 10 Movies From 1981 To Highlight As Peak Nostalgia
Best Movies Of 1981

Hey there, movie buffs! Welcome to Rewind Zone, where we're all about bringing back those nostalgic movie memories. In this latest segment, we're diving into specific years and highlighting the films that truly captured the essence of their era. From award-winning masterpieces to boundary-pushing gems and everything in between, we're here to celebrate the movies that left an unforgettable mark on our hearts and minds.

Why did we start with 1981, you ask? Well, that just happens to be the year yours truly entered this crazy world. So, what better place to kick things off than with the movies that defined my birth year? Get ready for a trip down memory lane as we revisit ten remarkable films from 1981.

Award Winners


  • Director: Warren Beatty
  • Cast: Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson
  • Genre: Historical drama, Romance
  • Awards: Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Best Supporting Actress (Maureen Stapleton)

Sweeping, ambitious, and utterly captivating, Reds is a towering achievement in filmmaking. This epic historical drama, centred around the life of American journalist John Reed and his love affair with Louise Bryant, is a tour de force of storytelling and performance. Diane Keaton and Warren Beatty's chemistry is electric, and the film's attention to detail is simply breathtaking. Reds also made it into our recent article about Films from the 1960s-2000s we should not forget about.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Cast: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman
  • Genre: Action, Adventure
  • Awards: Academy Awards for Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Visual Effects
Raiders of the Lost Ark

What can we say about Raiders of the Lost Ark that hasn't already been said? This quintessential adventure film from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas is a tour de force of escapism, featuring unforgettable set pieces, witty dialogue, and Harrison Ford's star-making turn as the dashing archaeologist Indiana Jones. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favour and experience the magic.

An American Werewolf in London

  • Director: John Landis
  • Cast: David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, Jenny Agutter
  • Genre: Horror, Comedy
  • Award: Academy Award for Best Makeup
An American Werewolf in London

Blending horror and comedy like never before, An American Werewolf in London is a true genre-bending masterpiece. With its iconic transformation scene and perfect balance of scares and laughs, this film left an enduring imprint on the horror landscape and remains a cult favourite to this day.

Critically Acclaimed

Body Heat

  • Director: Lawrence Kasdan
  • Cast: William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Richard Crenna
  • Genre: Neo-noir, Erotic thriller
Body Heat

If you're in the mood for a steamy, suspenseful thriller, look no further than Body Heat. With its sultry performances and masterful storytelling, this neo-noir gem will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Kathleen Turner's smouldering presence alone makes this film a must-watch.

Blow Out

  • Director: Brian De Palma
  • Cast: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow
  • Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Blow Out

Leave it to Brian De Palma to take a seemingly straightforward premise and elevate it into a pulse-pounding, stylish thriller. Blowout follows a sound effects technician who accidentally records evidence of a crime, leading him down a rabbit hole of conspiracy and danger. With its masterful camerawork and John Travolta's gripping performance, this underrated gem is a must-see for fans of intelligent, suspenseful cinema.

Boundary Pushing

The Evil Dead

  • Director: Sam Raimi
  • Cast: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor
  • Genre: Horror, Supernatural
The Evil Dead

If you're a fan of horror, you owe it to yourself to witness the cult classic that is The Evil Dead. Sam Raimi's low-budget masterpiece is a relentless assault of scares, gore, and dark humour, propelled by Bruce Campbell's iconic performance as the hapless Ash. This film kickstarted a franchise and cemented Raimi's status as a master of the macabre.

Check out our recent article below in which The Evil Dead appears!

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Nostalgic Classics


  • Director: Ivan Reitman
  • Cast: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates
  • Genre: Comedy

This hilarious comedy follows a group of misfits who join the army on a whim, only to find themselves in a series of outrageous situations. Stripes perfectly captures the irreverent spirit of the era, with Bill Murray and Harold Ramis delivering side-splitting performances that will have you rolling in the aisles.

The Cannonball Run

  • Director: Hal Needham
  • Cast: Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett
  • Genre: Comedy, Action
The Cannonball Run

Buckle up for a wild ride with The Cannonball Run, a madcap comedy about an illegal cross-country race that brings together a motley crew of characters. With a star-studded cast and high-octane action sequences, this film is a testament to the over-the-top fun that defined Hollywood in the '80s.

The Fox and the Hound

  • Director: Ted Berman, Richard Rich, Art Stevens
  • Cast: Mickey Rooney, Kurt Russell, Pearl Bailey
  • Genre: Animation, Drama, Family
The Fox and the Hound

Rounding out our list is the heartwarming and timeless The Fox and the Hound. This classic Disney tale of an unlikely friendship between a fox and a hound dog is a beautifully animated exploration of loyalty, prejudice, and the bonds that transcend boundaries. With its emotional resonance and endearing characters, this film is a surefire tear-jerker that will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

Underrated Gem


  • Director: Peter Hyams
  • Cast: Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, Frances Sternhagen
  • Genre: Science fiction, Action

In the vein of classic sci-fi thrillers, Outland transports us to a gritty, futuristic mining colony where Sean Connery's no-nonsense marshal must take a stand against corruption and greed. With its stunning visuals and taut pacing, this underrated gem is a must-watch for fans of intelligent, thought-provoking science fiction.

Honourable Mentions

While we could only highlight ten films in-depth, 1981 was an absolute treasure trove of cinematic brilliance. Here are a few more titles that deserve recognition:

  • Das Boot: This gripping German war film immerses viewers in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a WWII U-boat, showcasing masterful direction and powerful performances.
  • Quest for Fire: A unique and visually stunning prehistoric adventure that explores the origins of humanity's mastery over fire.
  • Thief: Michael Mann's gritty crime thriller featuring a career-defining performance from James Caan as a professional jewel thief.
  • Gallipoli: A powerful and poignant drama that follows two Australian sprinters whose dreams are shattered by the realities of World War I.
  • Chariots of Fire: This inspiring true story about two British athletes earned widespread acclaim and took home four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
  • Prince of the City: Sidney Lumet's intense crime drama offers a gritty look at police corruption in New York City, led by a phenomenal performance from Treat Williams.
  • Escape from New York: John Carpenter's cult classic sci-fi action flick stars Kurt Russell as the iconic Snake Plissken, navigating a dystopian future where Manhattan is a maximum-security prison.
  • My Dinner with Andre: This unconventional yet captivating film consists entirely of a conversation between two friends, exploring life, art, and the human condition.
  • For Your Eyes Only: Roger Moore's fifth outing as James Bond features thrilling action sequences and a grittier, more grounded take on the iconic spy franchise.
  • Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior: Mel Gibson's post-apocalyptic antihero returns in this groundbreaking sequel, setting the standard for high-octane, vehicular mayhem.

Well, there you have it, folks—our top picks from the cinematic treasure trove that was 1981. From laugh-out-loud comedies to heart-pounding thrillers and everything in between, these films remind us why we fell in love with the magic of movies in the first place.

Let us know in the comments if there are any films from this year you would have liked to have seen on the list.

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