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The following is an overview of events in 1981 in film, including the highest-grossing films, award ceremonies and festivals, a list of films released and notable deaths.

Highest-grossing films (U.S.)

See also: List of 1981 box office number-one films in the United States

The top ten 1981 released films by box office gross in North America are as follows:

Highest-grossing films of 1981[1]
Rank Title Distributor Domestic gross
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark Paramount $212,222,025
2. On Golden Pond Universal $119,285,432
3. Superman II Warner Bros. $108,185,706
4. Arthur Orion Pictures / Warner Bros. $95,461,682
5. Stripes Columbia $85,297,000
6. The Cannonball Run 20th Century Fox $72,179,579
7. Chariots of Fire Warner Bros. $58,972,904
8. For Your Eyes Only United Artists $54,812,802
9. The Four Seasons Universal $50,427,646
10. Time Bandits Embassy Pictures $42,365,581

Events

  • January 19 – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer acquires beleaguered concurrent United Artists. UA was humiliated by the astronomical losses on the $40,000,000 movie Heaven's Gate, a major factor in the decision of owner Transamerica to sell it.
  • November 29 – Off Santa Catalina Island, 43-year-old actress Natalie Wood drowns during a boating accident.
  • Kathleen Turner makes her acting debut.
  • Tom Cruise makes his acting debut.
  • June 12 – Raiders of the Lost Ark is released. It set a major standard for many action-adventure films to date.

Awards

Academy Awards:

Best Picture: Chariots of Fire – Enigma, The Ladd Company/Warner Bros.
Best Director: Warren BeattyReds
Best Actor: Henry FondaOn Golden Pond
Best Actress: Katharine HepburnOn Golden Pond
Best Supporting Actor: John GielgudArthur
Best Supporting Actress: Maureen StapletonReds
Best Foreign Language Film: Mephisto, directed by Istvan Szabo, Hungary

Golden Globe Awards:

Drama:
Best Picture: On Golden Pond
Best Actor: Henry FondaOn Golden Pond
Best Actress: Meryl StreepThe French Lieutenant's Woman
Musical or comedy:
Best Picture: Arthur
Best Actor: Dudley MooreArthur
Best Actress: Bernadette PetersPennies from Heaven
Other
Best Director: Warren BeattyReds
Best Foreign Film: Chariots of Fire, United Kingdom

Golden Raspberry Awards:

Worst Picture: Mommie Dearest
Worst Director: Michael CiminoHeaven's Gate
Worst Actor: Klinton SpilsburyThe Legend of the Lone Ranger
Worst Actress: Bo DerekTarzan, the Ape Man; Faye DunawayMommie Dearest
Worst Supporting Actor: Steve ForrestMommie Dearest
Worst Supporting Actress: Diana ScarwidMommie Dearest

Palme d'Or (Cannes Film Festival):

Man of Iron (Człowiek z żelaza), directed by Andrzej Wajda, Poland

Golden Lion (Venice Film Festival):

Marianne and Juliane (Die Bleierne Zeit), directed by Margarethe von Trotta, W. Germany

Golden Bear (Berlin Film Festival):

Faster, Faster (Deprisa, deprisa / Vivre vite), directed by Carlos Saura, Spain / France

Notable films released in 1981

Romance films released in 1981

  1. Modern Romance

Births

  • January 6 – Jérémie Renier, Belgian actor
  • January 8 – Genevieve Cortese, American actress
  • January 21 – Izabella Miko, Polish actress and dancer
  • January 22 – Beverley Mitchell, American actress
  • January 28 – Elijah Wood, American actor
  • January 31 – Justin Timberlake, American singer and actor
  • February 9 – Tom Hiddleston, English actor
  • February 11 – Kelly Rowland, American singer and actress
  • February 12 - Lauri Lagle, Estonian actor, director and screenwriter
  • February 17 – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, American actor
  • February 19 – Beth Ditto, American singer-songwriter
  • February 23 – Josh Gad, American actor and comedian
  • March 2 – Bryce Dallas Howard, American actress
  • March 6 – Ellen Muth, American actress
  • March 11 – David Anders, American actor
  • March 28 – Julia Stiles, American actress
  • April 10
    • Laura Bell Bundy, American actress
    • Michael Pitt, American actor
  • April 13 – Courtney Peldon, American actress
  • April 19
    • Hayden Christensen, Canadian actor
    • Catalina Sandino Moreno, Colombian actress
  • April 28 – Jessica Alba, American actress
  • May 5
    • Danielle Fishel, American actress
    • Farid Kamil, Malaysian actor and film director
  • May 11 – Austin O'Brien, American actor
  • May 12 – Rami Malek, American actor
  • May 15 – Jamie-Lynn Sigler, American actress
  • May 28 – Laura Bailey, American voice actress
  • June 1 – Amy Schumer, American actress and comedian
  • June 7 – Larisa Oleynik, American actress
  • June 9 – Natalie Portman, Israeli-American actress
  • June 10 – Jonathan Bennett, American actor
  • June 13 – Chris Evans, American actor
  • June 14 – Chauncey Leopardi, American actor
  • June 20 – Alisan Porter, former American actress
  • July 24 – Summer Glau, American actress
  • July 30 – Lisa Wilhoit, American actress
  • August 1 – Taylor Fry, former American child actress
  • August 3 – Travis Willingham, American voice actor
  • August 4
    • Marques Houston, American singer and actor
    • Meghan Markle, American actress and model
    • Abigail Spencer, American actress
  • August 8 – Meagan Good, American actress
  • August 20 – Ben Barnes, English actor
  • August 24 – Chad Michael Murray, American actor
  • August 25 – Rachel Bilson, American actress
  • August 27 – Patrick J. Adams, Canadian actor
  • September 4 – Beyoncé Knowles, American singer and actress
  • September 8 – Jonathan Taylor Thomas, American actor
  • September 12 – Jennifer Hudson, American singer and actress
  • September 16 – Alexis Bledel, American actress
  • September 23 – Misti Traya, American actress
  • September 26 – Christina Milian, American singer and actress
  • September 29 – Shay Astar, American singer and actress
  • September 30 – Ashleigh Aston Moore, former Canadian child actress (d. 2007)
  • October 1 – Rupert Friend, English actor
  • October 3 – Seth Gabel, American actor
  • October 9 – Zachery Ty Bryan, American actor
  • October 12 – Tom Guiry, American actor
  • October 22 – Michael Fishman, American actor
  • November 9 – Scottie Thompson, American actress
  • November 16 – Caitlin Glass, American voice actress
  • November 18 – Nasim Pedrad, Iranian-American actress and comedian
  • November 20 – Andrea Riseborough, English actress
  • December 2 – Britney Spears, American singer and actress
  • December 3 – Liza Lapira, American actress
  • December 13 – Amy Lee, American singer-songwriter (Evanescence)
  • December 16 – Krysten Ritter, American actress
  • December 18 – Josh Dallas, American actor
  • December 27 – Emilie de Ravin, Australian actress
  • December 28 – Sienna Miller, English actress

Notable deaths

Month Date Name Age Country Profession Notable films
January 10 Richard Boone 63 USA Actor
11 Beulah Bondi 91 USA Actress
16 Bernard Lee 73 UK Actor
February 1 Wanda Hendrix 52 USA Actress
  • Prince of Foxes
  • Captain Carey, U.S.A.
4 Mario Camerini 85 Italy Director, Screenwriter
  • Ulysses
  • Like the Leaves
21 Ron Grainer 58 Australia Composer
  • The Mouse on the Moon
  • To Sir, with Love
22 Curtis Bernhardt 81 Germany Director
  • A Stolen Life
  • Possessed
28 Virginia Huston 55 USA Actress
March 4 Torin Thatcher 76 UK Actor
  • Houdini
  • The Robe
5 Brenda de Banzie 71 UK Actress
14 Eleanor Perry 66 USA Screenwriter
  • Diary of a Mad Housewife
  • The Swimmer
15 René Clair 82 France Director, Screenwriter
  • It Happened Tomorrow
  • I Married a Witch
April 7 Norman Taurog 82 USA Director, Screenwriter
  • Skippy
  • Boys Town
14 Sergio Amidei 76 Italy Screenwriter
  • Shoeshine
  • Paisan
26 Herb Voland 62 USA Actor
  • Another Nice Mess
  • With Six You Get Eggroll
26 Jim Davis 71 USA Actor
  • The Big Sky
  • The Maverick Queen
May 9 Margaret Lindsay 70 USA Actress
  • The House of the Seven Gables
  • Jezebel
18 Arthur O'Connell 73 USA Actor
  • Anatomy of a Murder
  • Picnic
18 Richard Hale 88 USA Actor
22 Boris Sagal 57 Russia Director
  • The Omega Man
  • Girl Happy
23 George Jessel 83 USA Producer, Actor
  • The Dolly Sisters
  • Beau James
June 12 Evalyn Knapp 74 USA Actress
  • The Perils of Pauline
  • His Private Secretary
22 Lola Lane 75 USA Actress
  • Four Daughters
  • Four Wives
July 1 George Voskovec 76 Czech Republic Actor
  • 12 Angry Men
  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
3 Ross Martin 61 Poland Actor
27 William Wyler 79 Germany Director, Producer
August 1 Paddy Chayefsky 58 USA Screenwriter
4 Melvyn Douglas 80 USA Actor
12 Shirley Grey 79 USA Actress
  • Texas Cyclone
  • Girl in Danger
18 Anita Loos 93 USA Screenwriter
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
  • The Women
30 Vera-Ellen 60 USA Actress
September 1 Ann Harding 79 USA Actress
  • Holiday
  • It Happened on Fifth Avenue
11 Frank McHugh 83 USA Actor
  • Going My Way
  • Manpower
23 Chief Dan George 82 Canada Actor
  • Little Big Man
  • The Outlaw Josey Wales
24 Patsy Kelly 71 USA Actress
27 Robert Montgomery 77 USA Actor
  • Here Comes Mr. Jordan
  • Night Must Fall
October 5 Gloria Grahame 54 USA Actress
  • In a Lonely Place
  • The Bad and the Beautiful
24 Edith Head 83 USA Costume Designer
26 Glenn Anders 92 USA Actor
  • The Lady from Shanghai
  • M
November 12 William Holden 63 USA Actor
16 Morgan Conway 78 USA Actor
  • Dick Tracy
  • Dick Tracy vs. Cueball
21 Ejner Federspiel 85 Denmark Actor
  • Ordet
  • Story of Barbara
21 Harry von Zell 75 USA Actor
  • The Saxon Charm
  • Son of Paleface
25 Jack Albertson 74 USA Actor
27 Lotte Lenya 83 Austria Actress
29 Natalie Wood 43 USA Actress
December 5 Charles Barton 79 USA Director
  • Africa Screams
  • The Shaggy Dog
17 Ada Kramm 82 Norway Actress
  • The White God
  • Arven
27 Hoagy Carmichael 82 USA Actor
  • To Have and Have Not
  • The Best Years of Our Lives
28 Allan Dwan 96 Canada Director
  • Sands of Iwo Jima
  • Heidi

Film debuts

  • Ben AffleckThe Dark End of the Street
  • Jason AlexanderThe Burning
  • Kim BasingerHard Country
  • Bart the BearWindwalker
  • James BelushiThief
  • Gabriel ByrneExcalibur
  • James CameronPiranha II: The Spawning
  • Kevin CostnerMalibu Hot Summer
  • Tom CruiseEndless Love
  • Jeff DanielsRagtime
  • Rebecca De Mornay - One from the Heart
  • Dennis FarinaThief
  • Jami GertzEndless Love
  • Bob GuntonRollover
  • Glenne HeadlyFour Friends
  • Holly HunterThe Burning
  • Ciarán HindsExcalibur
  • Peter MacNicolDragonslayer
  • Alfred MolinaRaiders of the Lost Ark
  • Chris Noth - Waitress!
  • Demi MooreChoices
  • Sean PennTaps
  • Martha PlimptonRollover
  • Amanda PlummerCattle Annie and Little Britches
  • Geoffrey RushHoodwink
  • Meg RyanRich and Famous
  • Madeleine StoweGangster Wars
  • Henry ThomasRaggedy Man
  • Kathleen TurnerBody Heat

See also

  • List of American films of 1981
  • British films of 1981
  • French films of 1981
  • List of German films: 1980s
  • Bollywood films of 1981
  • Italian films of 1981
  • Japanese films of 1981
  • Swedish films of the 1980s

References

  1. "1981 Domestic Grosses". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 7 April 2014.

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