Top 20 Movies Of 1981 (Nos. 1-5)

For this week's Ranked!, we compiled the twenty greatest movies from 1981. Tell us what you think when you get down to #1. And let us know if you would've ordered them differently.

Here are numbers 1-5:

5. The Road Warrior

A remote post-apocalyptic wasteland, ruthless gangs of petrol-crazy lunatics, and a man called Max: that's all it took to cook up a movie so good that it would cause legions of fans to watch it over and over and over. Think back to a time when Mel Gibson was a lovable ruffian rogue from the land down under and not a rant-spewing, unhinged outcast.

Okay, it's 1981 and this lean, gorgeous and somewhat dangerous Australian export comes blazing across the screen as the reluctant anti-hero of the Mad Max movies. The bleak future his only landscape, this lone wolf found himself thrust into situations he didn't care for one whit but inevitably became entangled with after much back and forth with his conscience. He wasn't always a stone cold survivalist drifter, he was once a family man who had to endure the brutal deaths of his kin and he's been moving ever since running from the past. I count this as one of Mel's best performances and I still get a little swoony when he marches onto the burning hot landscape in that tight leather ensemble. Pity the wardrobe person responsible for getting that smell out.--Dufmanno

4. Escape From New York

Post-apocalyptic action movies were all the rage in the '80s, and there were a lot of good ones. Although an argument could be made that this John Carpenter romp was one of the cheesier ones--what with the likes of Ernest Borgnine and Adrienne Barbeau sharing the spotlight with an eyepatch-sporting, leather-clad Kurt Russell--I've always found it to be one of the most fun of the bunch. If post-apocalyptic can be fun.

I was really paranoid of cities back in my teens, probably a product of being allowed to wander 42nd Street in New York at 1:00 AM on my first visit there on a school trip. (Our teacher wasn't a very good chaperone.) Given that, I thought the idea of simply blowing the bridges and walling off New York to create a prison where the worst criminals in the world could simply fight it out amongst themselves was pretty cool. Since 1999 came and went without that happening, I can only assume that Escape From New York scared everybody straight.

Anyway, there's really very little not to like if you are willing to check your logic at the door and just go with it. Everybody gives an equally over-the-top performance, making the movie larger than life, funny, and just a whole lot of fun to watch. Unlike Escape From LAM, which never quite captured the magic again. I think it was because Ernest Borgnine and Adrienne Barbeau weren't around in the sequel.--Dave

3. Stripes

Stripes was one of those movies that always seemed to be on cable in the '80s. Thus, I have watched it many, many times. But nothing compares to the first time I saw it. I didn't know much about Saturday Night Live. I only knew Bill Murray from Meatballs. And while his smug demeanor was similar, Stripes was different. It was grown up. It was cool. It was hilarious. I would later go back and watch SNL, filling in the blanks in my comedy database and realize that not only did it have Murray, but hilarious turns from Harold Ramis, John Candy and John Laroquette. It's not just a great '80s movie, but it's a great comedy. And that's a fact, Jack!--Daddy Geek Boy

2. Clash Of The Titans

Some say the original Clash Of The Titans hasn't aged well. To them I say, "How dare you speak ill of such a classic film! A momentous cinematic experience of epic grandeur! The clash of swords! The clap of lightning! The slithering creatures from the Underworld that threaten the young hero Perseus, played by Harry Hamlin who wore no pants! How could anyone possibly claim that this great, great film is anything less than an epic spectacular of mythic proportions and... and..."

Ok. It's a pretty cheesy flick. I know. The effects are dorky by today's CGI standards. The dialogue is ridiculous. But when I was eleven, I was completely enraptured by the bombastic scope of the story, as well as Ray Harryhausen's fantastic mythological creatures. The young and dashing Hamlin rode a winged horse, fought giant pre-CGI scorpions, slashed off the head of Medusa, and destroyed a gargantuan sea monster rendered in classic stop-motion artisanship.

It was the movie that made me start reading about Greek myths. It also made me run around the house in a bedsheet toga, brandish a plastic sword, and occasionally bellow, "Release the Kraken!" for no apparent reason.

I'm not going to say the movie doesn't falter. But I will say it's way awesomer than the remake that came out a few years ago. Watch the original with your Kid Goggles on and tell me I'm wrong.--Didactic Pirate

1. Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Obviously. Raiders Of The Lost Ark, like the Ark of the Covenant itself, is a holy relic--a perfect film. The same rush of wide-eyed amazement I felt as an 11-year-old boy watching it for the first time is felt every single time I watch it again. And I continue to watch it over, and over, and over again. It's the template for every adventure movie since, and makes both its predecessors and its followers (and even its sequels) look like high school film projects. Raiders has never aged, a testament to both Spielberg's craft and the timelessness of an adventure yarn set against the backdrop of World War II. I don't even know how to describe it without hyperbole, a non-stop roller coaster of witty, breathtaking adventure careening from one edge-of-your-seat set piece to the next. And is Indiana Jones not the personification of every boy's hero? A little bit nerdy, a little bit scrappy, brave but vulnerable, awkward with the ladies, and a bad ass with a bullwhip. A bullwhip! Where is Harrison Ford's Oscar, Academy? Where? But you don't need me to tell you any of this. You all know it in your hearts. Raiders Of The Lost Ark defined summer movies, and gave form to the dreams of every adolescent boy who has ever dreamed of seeking adventure in mysterious far off lands. I wouldn't change a single frame.--CroutonBoy

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