40 Movies For 40 Years: 1981

I started kindergarten in 1981. That’s about the biggest accomplishment that I can think of. I started going to a place where I had a regular diet of cookies, Kool-Aid, and crayons.

Yes, I ate crayons.

Chariots Of Fire got the Academy Award for best picture. Mommie Dearest got the Razzie for worst picture. Christopher Reeve was back in the tights in Superman II, 007 was drinking another shaken martini in For Your Eyes Only, and Terry Gilliam directed the cult classic Time Bandits.

I am, as I’ve said before, a huge Superman film. I have the tattoo to prove it. And I absolutely love Superman II. I think that in a lot of ways it is superior to the first film. But this list is about more than just nostalgia. I have to determine what my favorites more. And if I’m being honest there is one movie that came out in 1981 that would definitely get more rewatchability. I’m, of course, talking about Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

After The Empire Strikes Back came out Harrison Ford was officially a big star. The ending of Empire had left his character’s fate up in the air. He kind of wanted to have Han killed off so he could move on to something else. He got together with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to make a movie that was something completely different than Star Wars.

Raiders Of The Lost Ark has Ford playing an archeologist by the name of Indiana Jones. He travels the world collecting artifacts that have been lost and taking them to the university where he teaches. He is given the opportunity to search for the lost ark of the covenant, a biblical object said to contain the original stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. The film also stars Paul Freeman, Karen Allen, and John Rhys-Davies.

Most fans of Star Wars know that when Lucas made that movie he was trying to make a modern day version of the old Flash Gordon serials that he had watched as a kid. Raiders was no different. There used to be a lot of serials that contained adventurers looking for lost artifacts and getting into fights with smugglers and pirates and things like that. The famous character Alan Quatermaine had several stories and films with comparable adventures.

I saw this movie a bunch of times when I was a kid, but the images are not as spectacular and flashy as Star Wars so a lot of it washed over me. I remember that it came on television a lot and I would get sent out of the room before the “face melting” scene at the end. I didn’t really have a context for the whole thing. I just knew that Indiana Jones had a whip and ran from a boulder.

I was in my late teens when The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles came on TV. I really enjoyed that show and it made me want to go and watch the trilogy all over again. So, I went to the video store and got a couple of strange looks because I rented all three movies. I went home and had a movie marathon. For a short while I became obsessed with Indiana Jones. I read some novels and devoured the TV show when I could.

Up until then most of my movie watching had been dedicated to science fiction and superhero stuff. When I saw this I realized that there were all kinds of adventure stories out there that were a lot of fun. It led me to the classic movies channel to watch some of the movies that had inspired it. Thanks to Raiders I was introduced to Erol Flynn and I watched Bogart in Treasure Of The Sierra Madre for the first time.

Raiders is definitely my favorite of the original three. I’m not a huge fan of Temple Of Doom but I really enjoyed The Last Crusade. But over and above all of that, the first is always going to be the best.

I’m not even going to talk about Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.

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