A Pictorial History of the Movies: 1981 – Raiders of the Lost Ark
It’s Raiders. It can’t really be anything other than Raiders for 1981.
To run down my alternatives, briefly… On Golden Pond is a big movie of the year, but… Raiders. Chariots of Fire? No. Reds? No. Arthur? I’d love it, but no. Clash of the Titans? No. Escape from New York? Possibly, but I don’t see it. Mommie Dearest, I feel, actually becomes a strong contender for this. But not over Raiders.
I honestly can’t see anything that you can possibly say deserves the title of “Film Most Representative of 1982” than Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Unless you want to say Zorro, the Gay Blade. In which case, I’m willing to listen.
So Steven Spielberg is on top of the world with Jaws in 1975. He then goes off and makes Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Major hit number two. He then does 1941, which bombs. Just completely and utterly bombs. So what does he do? Decides to go back to basics. Strip down the movie and just tell an adventure. Like the 30s serials he and his buddy George grew up watching.
He thought about doing a James Bond movie, but Lucas told him he had a character that was better than James Bond. No studio wanted to make the film. But eventually Lucas signs a five-picture deal with Paramount and they agree to make this.
They made it on a tight budget. Spielberg said that if he had more money, the finished product would have turned out to be more pretentious. They wanted it to be “quick and dirty.”
The end result is one of the greatest action movies ever made, with one of the most iconic American characters of all time, and one of the highest grossing franchises of all time.
Raiders is pretty much the only choice for 1981.
It’s impressive that this was nominated for nine Oscars, considering it’s based on B movies and serials. It still won five, but was never really considered a major contender at the time. It still was the highest grossing movie of the year, and was another home run for Spielberg and Lucas, who basically traded off highest grossing movies from 1975-1985, with Jaws, Star Wars, Close Encounters, Empire, Raiders, E.T., Jedi, etc.
These movies are the 80s, as they are cultural touchstones for everyone, and also laid the foundations for what the movie business is today.
I’m not going to go too much more into this, because it’s Raiders, and we know why this is here.
Plus (foreshadowing), I’ll be doing a lot of talking about this movie in a few months. And I’m already looking ahead to that, rather than trying to rationalize why this movie is here, which should already be obvious.