1981 was another banner year at the movies. Many favorite stars from the past were making movies and many great new actors were appearing on the scene.

Some of the little known actors of 1981, such as Denzel Washington, have gone to become “Mega Stars”

Here’s a list of the top 25 box office stars of 1981, some of the top movies of 1981, and promising new actors from that year.

“On Golden Pond” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” are the two movies from 1981 that should be most remembered 27 years later.

So if you’re looking for a movie to rent or download, the movies and stars listed below can be a good place to find one you might have missed or would like to see again.

Top 25 Box Office Stars of 1981


1. Burt Reynolds   Burt Reynolds

“The Cannonball Run”

“Sharkey’s Machine”

2. Clint Eastwood

3. Dudley Moore

“Arthur”

4. Dolly Parton

5. Jane Fonda

“Rollover” Co-Starring Kris Kristofferson

Co Starred in “On Golden Pond” with Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn

6. Harrison Ford

“Raiders of the Lost Ark”

7. Alan Alda

“The Four Seasons”, Co-Starring Carol Burnett

8. Bo Derek

“Tarzan, The Ape Man”

9. Goldie Hawn

10. Bill Murray

“Stripes”

11. Cheech and Chong

“Nice Dreams”

12. Brooke Shields   Brook Shields

“Endless Love”

13. Richard Pryor

“Bustin’ Loose”

14. John Belushi

“Thief”

“Continental Divide”

“Neighbors” co-Starring Dan Aykroyd

15. Christopher Reeve

“Superman II” Co-Starring Gene Hackman, Ned Betty, Margot Kidder and Jackie Cooper

16. Sally Field

“Back Roads” Co-Starring Tommy Lee Jones

“Absence of Malice” Also Starring Paul Newman

17. Meryl Streep

18. Sissy Spacek

19. Robert Redford

20. Roger Moore

“For Your Eye’s Only”

“The Cannonball Run”

“The Sea Wolves” Also Starring Gregory Peck

21. Marsha Mason

22. Chuck Norris

23. Gene Wilder

24. Steve Martin

“Pennies from Heaven” Co-Starring Bernadette Peters and Christopher Walken (More Cowbell!)

25. Lily Tomlin

“The Incredible Shrinking Woman”

This list was tabulated by Quigley Publications in 1982. It is by no means the order I would place these actors in. These fine actors and many others not listed here helped to make 1981 an awesome year at the movies.

Jack Nicholson Starred in “The Postman Always Rings Twice”, co-Starring Jessica Lang and Christopher Lloyd

* Jill Clayburgh

* Barbra Streisand

“All Night Long”

* Woody Allen  Woody Allen

* Paul Newman


“Fort Apache, The Bronx”

*Sylvester Stallone
“Nighthawks”, Co-Starring Billy Dee Williams and Lindsay Wagner

“On Golden Pond”, Starring Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda, co-Starring Jane Fonda
1981 Oscars for Best Actor (Henry Fonda), Best Actress (Kate Hepburn) and Best Adapted Screenplay

“Eyewitness”, Starring William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, Christopher Plummer, James Woods and Morgan Freeman

“Thief”, Starring James Caan and Co-Starring Tuesday Weld, willie Nelson and John Belushi

“All Night Long”, Starring Gene Hackman and Co-Starring Barbra Streisand and Dennis Quaid

“Caveman”, Starring Ringo Star and Co-Starring Dennis Quaid and Shelly Long

“Escape from New York”, Starring Kurt Russell

“Atlantic City”, Starring Burt Lancaster and Co-Starring Susan Sarandon

“The Fan”, Starring Lauren Bacall and Co-Starring James Garner and Maureen Stapleton

“Death Hunt”, Starring Charles Bronson and Co-Starring Lee Marvin

“The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia”, Starring Kristy McNichol (Also Co-Starred in “Only when I Laugh”) and Co-Starring Dennis Quad and Mark Hamill

“True Confessions”, Starring Robert DeNiro and Co-Starring Robert Duvall

“Taps”, Starring George C. Scott and Timothy Hutton (also included in the supporting cast were Tom Cruise and Sean Penn)

“Ragtime” Starring the immortal James Cagney

“Reds”, Starring Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton

“Buddy Buddy”, Jack Lammon and Walter Matthau together again

Heaven’s Gate”

“Private Eyes”, Starring Tim Conway and Don Knotts

“This is Elvis”

“Halloween 2”

“Friday the 13th, Part 2”

“Modern Problems”, Starring Chevy Chase and Nell Carter

“The Great Muppet Caper”, Starring Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy

“Clash of the Titans”, Starring Sir Laurence Olivier

“An American Werewolf in London”

“The Howling”

“Time Bandits”, Starring John Cleese and Co-Starring Sean Connery and Sheeley Duvall

Promising New Actors of 1991

*Hart Bochner

*Blair Brown

*Janet Eilber

*Peter MacNicol

“Dragonslayer”

*Mara Hobel

*Doug McKeon

*Howard E. Rollins

*Christine Lahti

*Elizabeth McGovern

*Ken Wahl

*Denzel Washington

*Rachel Ticotin

Academy Awards of 1981

1981 Academy Award for Best Picture – Chariots of Fire. Also awarded the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, Best Score, and Best Costume Design

1981 Academy Award for Best Actress – Katherine Hepburn in “On Golden Pond”

1981 Academy Award for Best Actor – Henry Fonda in “On Golden Pond”

1981 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor – John Gielgud in “Arthur”

1981 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress – Maureen Stapleton in “Reds”

1981 Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary – “Genocide”

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” Starring Harrison Ford won the Oscar for Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, Best Art and Set Direction, and Best sound Effects Editing. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” remains one of those movies one can watch over and over again. It’s just good fun!

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