- Robert Redford makes his directorial debut with Ordinary People.
- Raging Bull, directed by Martin Scorsese, stars Robert de Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci.
- Ronald Reagan is the first movie actor elected President of the United States
- Sherry Lansing becomes the first female to head a major studio, 20th Century Fox.
- Pioneer begin marketing its videodisc (laserdisc) machines.
- Actor Robert Redford begins the Sundance Institute.
- Heaven's Gate is the biggest financial disaster since Cleopatra and marks the beginning of the end for United Artists
- Mentally-ill stalker, John Hinckley tries to impress actress Jodie Foster by attempting to assassinate President Ronald Regan.
- Body Heat, is Directorial debut of Lawrence Kasdan, stars William Hurt and debut of Kathleen Turner. One of the first erotic thriller, a sub-genre which will become immensely popular.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark is a collaboration of Steven Speilberg and George Lucas.
- On Golden Pond, stars Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, and Katherine Hepburn.
- Francis Coppola sponsors restoration of Abel Gance's Napoleon, setting off an interest in film preservation
- United Artists is bought and merges with MGM to form MGM/UA.
- Oil tycoon Marvin Davis buys 20th Century Fox.
- Diner, acclaimed directorial debut of Barry Levinson
- The World According to Garp, directed by George Roy Hill, debuts Glenn Close, Robin Williams and John Lithgow.
- E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, directed by Steven Speilberg, becomes highest grossing film in history.
- In Sweden, Ingmar Bergman directs final film, Fanny and Alexander.
- Dustin Hoffman becomes a woman in Tootsie.
- Ridley Scott's Blade Runner.
- Disney's Tron makes extensive use of computer-generated graphics
- Columbia Pictures is bought by the Coca-Cola company.
- Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger collaborate on Terms of Endearment.
- Woody Allen's Zelig suggests the technical possibilities of combining characters with historical footage
- 20th Century Fox begins to openly solicit deals to display brand names in their films.
- Sixteen Candles marks big screen directorial debut for John Hughes.
- A biography on Mozart, Amadeus becomes a surprise success
- Terminator begins the rise to prominence of Arnold Schwarzenegger and director James Cameron
- The IFP Independent Spirit Awards, honoring independent films, is founded.
- Disney sets up Touchstone Pictures to make more adult oriented films.
- American Movie Classics (AMC) cable station begins.
- Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey debut in Steven Speilberg's The Color Purple.
- Steven Speilberg produced Back to the Future, directed by Robert Zemeckis.
- Colorization technique is introduced causing an outcry as black and white films are changed
- Redford's Sundance Institute takes over the U.S. Film Festival and later renames it the Sundance Film Festival.
- Rock Hudson's homosexuality is revealed when he becomes the first major film industry figure to die of AIDS.
- Parting Glances becomes the first important film on AIDS. It is director Bill Sherwood's only movie, as he succumbed to the disease in 1990.
- Debuts of directors Penny Marshall in Jumpin Jack Flash and Spike Lee in She's Gotta Have It.
- Oliver Stone directs realistic view of Vietnam in Platoon.
- Ted Turner buys the MGM/UA film library for his TBS cable station.
- Cry Freedom brings Aparthied in South Africa to the forefront around the world.
- Fatal Attraction begins a new series of paranoid fantasies
- Lethal Weapon and Predator marks the Action movie as the dominant genre for the next few years
- Premiere magazine begins publishing.
- Born on the Fourth of July is director Oliver Stone's second Vietnam movie, stars Tom Cruise.
- Sex, Lies, and Videotapes, is directorial debut of Steven Soderbergh. A winner of many awards, it was filmed on a budget of less than $3 million.
- Spike Lee directs Do the Right Thing.
- Tim Burton directs Batman and starts a new superhero series.
- Kenneth Branagh makes his debut with Henry V establishes himself as the Spakespearean director of his generation
- Jessica Tandy becomes the oldest performer at 81 to win a best acting Oscar for Driving Miss Daisy.