1981: Movies Sorted By Tier

  • Loved

  • Das Boot

    ... Terrific war movie told from the perspective of one German U-boat's crew. Terrific evocation of claustrophobia and tension, and I couldn't help rooting for the crew.
  • Gallipoli

    ... I remember loving this, but I remember almost nothing about it except the central tragedy. Really must see again someday.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark

    ... Perhaps the best opening sequence of all time, and amazingly there is no letdown as the film progresses.
  • Really Liked

  • Body Heat

    ... A worthy contender for the "sweatiest movie" crown. As I started this movie, I really didn't think the approach was going to work for me, as it basically shoots a 50s noir in the 80s, right down to the acting style. Kathleen Turner even gives William Hurt a fedora as a gift, just in case there was any doubt as to the filmmaker's intent. The big change would be the addition of more explicit sex, color, and language, but everything else is straight out of the past, and it works great. Hurt plays just dim enough, but not too dim, and Turner puts plenty of "femme" and "fatale" into her femme fatale here. And who knew Ted Dansen could steal scenes?
  • Glad I Saw

  • Chariots of Fire

    ... My brother-in-law has never forgiven this movie for stealing the music Oscar from Raiders. His ire is well-placed. While the theme remains distinctive, boy does it date this movie in the worst way (whereas the Raiders theme is timeless). Otherwise the film holds up pretty well, making the theme all the more incongruous to modern audiences. Damn synthesizers.
  • The Evil Dead

  • The Road Warrior

  • Stripes

  • Guilty Pleasures (All Adolescent Nostalgia)

  • Clash of the Titans

  • Escape from New York

  • Time Bandits

  • Victory

  • Dragonslayer

  • Could Have Missed

  • None Yet
  • Should Have Missed

  • An American Werewolf in London

    ... This strikes me as one of those movies that you have to see pretty close to its original release to love (within 5 years, perhaps). That group of fans then drives the cult following for 20 years. The movie was passable, but I really don't think the humor or the horror stand the test of time. And while I don't know anything about David Naughton, it wouldn't surprise me if he were the David Schwimmer of his day. I probably would have liked this quite a bit more if Bruce Campbell were the lead. On the bright side, Jenny Agutter was good, as was the pre-CGI werewolf transformation.
  • The French Lieutenant's Woman

    ... The movie opens with a hand holding one of those clacky things (what's it called?) that somebody clacks shut just before the director says "action." Then we get a long shot of a woman walking along a seaside wall. So we immediately know we're watching a movie-within-a-movie. We periodically cut to the "outer movie" actors playing actors playing these characters (Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons), who are having a vaguely similar affair to those of their characters. So we have an infidelity tale within an infidelity tale. But we've already been told we don't need to care about the inner movie because it's just a movie (it's an interesting psychological effect, that I can care about a movie, but not a movie-within-a-movie - it's all just fiction so why should it matter?), and we don't care about the outer movie because there's not enough of it. I wonder if they filmed the "inner movie" straight, tested it, realized they had a stiff, mediocre, lackluster period piece romance on their hands, and tried to explain away those shortcomings by frantically shooting new modern day scenes, cutting them in, and then hoping that would solve everything. Maybe this mainstream meta-movie-making dazzled in '81, but these days it's old hat, and I ain't taking my eye off the ball: this is two stiffs for the price of one.
  • El Sucko Grande

  • The Cannonball Run

  • Modern Problems