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was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1981st year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 981st year of the 2nd millennium, the 81st year of the 20th century, and the 2nd year of the 1980s decade.
- January – The subterranean Sarawak Chamber is discovered in Borneo.
- January 1
- January 2 – One of the largest investigations by a British police force ends when serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, the "Yorkshire Ripper", is arrested in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
- January 10 – Salvadoran Civil War: The FMLN launches its first major offensive, gaining control of most of Morazán and Chalatenango departments.
- January 15 – Pope John Paul II receives a delegation led by Solidarity leader Lech Wasa at the Vatican.
- January 16 – Loyalists shoot and seriously wound Irish nationalist activist Bernadette Devlin McAliskey and her husband.
- January 17 – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos lifts martial law.
- January 19 – United States and Iranian officials sign an agreement to release 52 American hostages after 14 months of captivity.
- January 20 – Iran releases the 52 Americans held for 444 days minutes after Ronald Reagan is sworn in as the 40th President of the United States, ending the Iran hostage crisis.
- January 21 – The first DeLorean automobile, a stainless steel sports car with gull-wing doors, rolls off the production line in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland.
- January 23 – An earthquake of M 6.8 magnitude in Sichuan, China kills 150.
- January 25
- Jiang Qing ("Madame Mao") is sentenced to death in the People's Republic of China.
- In South Africa the largest part of the town Laingsburg is swept away within minutes by one of the strongest floods ever experienced in the Great Karoo.
- January 27 – The Indonesian passenger ship Tamponas 2 catches fire and capsizes in the Java Sea, killing 580.
- February 4 – Gro Harlem Brundtland becomes Prime Minister of Norway.
- February 8 – 20 fans of Olympiacos and one fan of AEK Athens die, while 54 are injured, after a stampede at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, possibly because Gate 7 does not open immediately after the end of the game.
- February 9 – Polish Prime Minister Józef Pi?kowski resigns and is replaced by General Wojciech Jaruzelski.
- February 14
- February 17–22 – Pope John Paul II visit to the Philippines.
- February 23 – Antonio Tejero, with members of the Guardia Civil, enters the Spanish Congress of Deputies and stops the session where Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo is about to be named president of the government. The coup d'état fails thanks to King Juan Carlos.
- February 24 – A powerful, M 6.7 magnitude earthquake hits Athens, killing 22 people, injuring 400 people and destroying several buildings and 4,000 houses, mostly in Corinth and the nearby towns of Loutraki, Kiato and Xylokastro.
- May - Daniel K. Ludwig abandons the Jari project in the Amazon basin.
- May 1 - The new Chilean pension system, based on private pension funds, begins.
- May 4 - The European Law Students' Association (ELSA) was founded in Vienna by law students from Austria, West Germany, Poland and Hungary.
- May 5 - Bobby Sands, Provisional Irish Republican Army volunteer and abstentionist Member of Parliament of the House of Commons, dies, aged 27, on hunger strike in prison.
- May 6 - A jury of architects and sculptors unanimously selects Maya Lin's design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial from 1,421 other entries.
- May 11 - Jamaican singer Bob Marley dies aged 36 from cancer.
- May 13 - Pope John Paul II is shot and nearly killed by Mehmet Ali A?ca, a Turkish gunman, as he enters St. Peter's Square in Vatican City to address a general audience. The Pope recovers.
- May 15 - Donna Payant is murdered by serial killer Lemuel Smith, the first time a female prison officer has been killed on-duty in the United States.
- May 21
- May 22 - Peter Sutcliffe is found guilty of being the Yorkshire Ripper. He is sentenced to life imprisonment on 13 counts of murder and 7 of attempted murder.
- May 25 - In Riyadh, the Gulf Cooperation Council is created between Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Alain Robert scales the Willis Tower in Chicago.
- May 26 - The Italian government resigns over its links to the fascist Masonic cell Propaganda Due.
- May 30 - Bangladesh President Ziaur Rahman is assassinated in Chittagong.
- May 31 - Burning of Jaffna library, one of the most violent examples of ethnic biblioclasm of the 20th century.
- July 2 – The Wonderland Gang is brutally murdered in a massacre involving Eddie Nash.
- July 3 – The Toxteth riots in Liverpool, UK start after a mob saves a youth from being arrested. Shortly afterward, the Chapeltown riots in Leeds start after increased racial tension.
- July 7 – United States President Ronald Reagan nominates the first woman, Sandra Day O'Connor, to the Supreme Court of the United States.
- July 8 – Irish republican volunteer Joe McDonnell dies at the Long Kesh Internment Camp after a 61-day hunger strike.
- July 9 – Donkey Kong is released, marking the first Donkey Kong title and Mario title arcade smash hit game developed by Nintendo.
- July 10
- July 16–21 – England become the first team this century to win a Test match after following on when they beat Australia by 18 runs at Headingley cricket ground, Leeds, England.
- July 17
- July 19 – The 1981 Springbok Tour commences in New Zealand, amid controversy over the support of apartheid.
- July 21 – Tohui The Panda is born in Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City, the first panda to ever be born and survive in captivity outside of China.
- July 29 – A worldwide television audience of over 750 million people watch the Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer at St Paul's Cathedral in London.
- July 30 – As many as 50,000 demonstrators, mostly women and children, took to the streets in ?ód? to protest food ration shortages in Communist Poland.
- September 1 – Gregorio Conrado Álvarez is inaugurated as a military de facto President of Uruguay.
- September 4 – An explosion at a mine in Zálu?í, Czechoslovakia, kills 65 people.
- September 8 – The first episode of the extremely popular British sitcom Only Fools and Horses, Big Brother is shown on BBC One.
- September 10 – Picasso's painting Guernica is moved from New York to Madrid.
- September 15 – Our Lady of Akita cries for the last time, on the "Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows".
- September 15 – The John Bull becomes the oldest operable steam locomotive in the world, at 150 years old, when it operates under its own power outside Washington, D.C.
- September 16 – Postman Pat is first aired on BBC One.
- September 17 – Ric Flair defeats Dusty Rhodes to win his first World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship in Kansas City.
- September 18 – France abolishes capital punishment.
- September 19
- September 20 – The Brazilian river boat Sobral Santos capsizes in the Amazon River, Óbidos, Brazil, killing at least 300.
- September 21 – Belize, formerly British Honduras, gains its independence from the United Kingdom.
- September 25
- September 26
- September 27 – TGV high-speed rail service between Paris and Lyon, France begins.
- September 27–29 – Iran-Iraq War – Iranian forces break the Siege of Abadan in Operation Samen-ol-A'emeh.
- September 28 – The classic animated comedy espionage TV series Danger Mouse debuts on ITV in the U.K.
- December 1 - An Inex-Adria Aviopromet McDonnell Douglas MD-80 strikes a mountain peak and crashes while approaching Ajaccio Airport in Corsica, killing all 180 people on board.
- December 4 - South Africa grants Ciskei independence, not recognized outside South Africa.
- December 7 - Rotary International charters the Rotary Club of Grand Baie, Mauritius.
- December 8
- December 10 - During the Ministerial Session of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels, Spain signs the Protocol of Accession to NATO.
- December 11
- December 13 - Wojciech Jaruzelski declares martial law in Poland, to prevent the dismantling of the communist system by Solidarity.
- December 15 - A car bomb destroys the Iraqi Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 61 people; Syrian intelligence is blamed.
- December 17 - American Brigadier General James L. Dozier is kidnapped in Verona by the Italian Red Brigades.
- December 20 - The Penlee lifeboat disaster occurs off the coast of South-West Cornwall.
- December 21 - Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa (PTA).
- December 28 - The first American test-tube baby, Elizabeth Jordan Carr, is born in Norfolk, Virginia.
- December 31 - A coup d'état in Ghana removes President Hilla Limann's PNP government and replaces it with the PNDC led by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings.
- January to March - Heavy snow causes many houses and buildings to collapse in northwestern Japan; 152 are killed.
- Cuba suffers a major outbreak of Dengue fever, with 344,203 cases.
- Use of crack cocaine, a smokeable form of the drug, first reported in the United States and Caribbean.
- Luxor AB presents the ABC 800 computer.
- Polybius, an urban legend game, is said to have been released in Portland, Oregon; there is no evidence for its existence.
- The State Council of the People's Republic of China lists the cities of Beijing, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Guilin as those where the protection of historical and cultural heritage, as well as natural scenery, should be treated as a priority project.
- Pepsi enters China.
- The Millennium translation of Saint Edward the Martyr's relics from Wareham to Shaftesbury in England is observed in a reenactment.
- April 1
- April 2
- April 3 - Arfius Arf, British artist
- April 5 - Michael A. Monsoor, American Medal of Honor recipient (d. 2006)
- April 6
- April 7
- April 8
- April 9
- April 10
- April 11 - Alessandra Ambrosio, Brazilian model
- April 12 - Paul Rust, American actor and comedian
- April 13 - Courtney Peldon, American actress
- April 17 - Hanna Pakarinen, Finnish singer
- April 18
- April 19
- April 21
- April 22 - Ken Dorsey, American football player
- April 23 – Michelle Knight, American author and kidnap survivor
- April 25
- April 26
- April 27 - Sandy Mölling, German pop singer
- April 28 - Jessica Alba, American actress and businesswoman
- April 29
- April 30 - Emma Pierson, American Television Actress
- May 1
- May 2
- May 3
- May 4
- May 5
- May 8
- May 11
- May 12
- May 13
- May 15
- May 16 - Joseph Morgan, English actor
- May 17 - Shiri Maimon, Israeli pop/R&B singer, TV show host and actress
- May 18 - Adam Green, American singer-songwriter
- May 19
- May 20
- May 21
- May 22
- May 23 - Tim Robinson, American actor and comedian
- May 24 - Penny Taylor, Australian baseball player
- May 25 - Logan Tom, American volleyball player.
- May 26 - Isaac Slade, American singer-songwriter and pianist
- May 27 - Alina Cojocaru, Romanian ballerina
- May 28
- May 29
- May 30 - Remy Ma, American rapper
- May 31 - Jake Peavy, American baseball player
- June 1
- June 3 - Mike Adam, Canadian curler
- June 4
- June 5 - Jade Goody, British reality show star (d. 2009)
- June 6 - Johnny Pacar, American actor
- June 7
- June 8
- June 9
- June 10
- June 12
- June 13 - Chris Evans, American actor
- June 14 - Lonneke Engel, Dutch model
- June 15
- June 16
- June 17 - Amrita Rao, Indian actress
- June 18
- Ella Chen, Taiwanese singer
- Yurin, Japanese actress, voice actress and singer
- June 20 - Alisan Porter, American singer and actress
- June 21
- June 22
- June 23
- June 24
- June 25
- June 27
- June 28
- June 29
- June 30 – Tom Burke, English actor
- August 1
- August 3
- August 4
- August 5
- August 6
- August 8
- August 9 - Li Jiawei, Singaporean Olympic table tennis player
- August 10
- August 11 - Sandi Thom, Scottish singer & songwriter
- August 12
- August 14
- August 15
- August 18 - Jan Frodeno, German triathlete
- August 20 - Ben Barnes, English actor (Prince Caspian)
- August 21
- August 22 - Ross Marquand, American actor
- August 23 - Carmen Luvana, Puerto Rican adult actress
- August 24
- August 25
- August 26 - Nico Muhly, American contemporary classical composer
- August 27 - Patrick J. Adams, Canadian actor and director
- August 28
- Charlie Frye, American National Football League quarterback
- Jake Owen, American country music singer-songwriter
- August 29
- September 1
- September 2 - Chris Tremlett, English cricketer
- September 3 - Fearne Cotton, British television presenter
- September 4
- September 6 - Yumiko Cheng, Hong Kong singer
- September 7 - Natalie McGarry, Scottish National Party politician and Member of Parliament convicted of embezzlement
- September 8
- September 9
- September 10 - Marco Chiudinelli, Swiss tennis player
- September 11
- September 12
- September 13 - Angelina Love, Canadian professional wrestler
- September 14
- September 15 - Ben Schwartz, American actor
- September 16
- September 18 - Jennifer Tisdale, American actress
- September 21
- September 22
- September 23
- September 25
- September 26
- September 28 - Melissa Claire Egan, American actress
- September 29 - Suzanne Shaw, British singer (Hear'Say) and actress
- September 30
- October 1
- October 3
- October 4 - Paulien van Deutekom, Dutch speed skater (d. 2019)
- October 5 - Enrico Fabris, Italian speed skater
- October 7 - Austin Eubanks, American motivational speaker (d. 2019)
- October 8
- October 9
- October 10 - Una Healy, Irish singer (The Saturdays)
- October 11 - Beau Brady, Australian actor
- October 12
- October 13
- October 14 - Ruslan Alekhno, Russian-Belarusian singer
- October 15
- October 16
- October 17 - Tsubasa Imai, Japanese actor, singer and dancer (Tackey & Tsubasa)
- October 19 - Christian Bautista, Filipino singer, actor, host, and model
- October 20
- October 21 - Nemanja Vidi?, Serbian football player
- October 22 - Michael Fishman, American actor
- October 23
- October 24
- October 25
- October 26
- October 28
- October 29
- October 30
- October 31
- December 1 - Kathryn Drysdale, English actress
- December 2 - Britney Spears, American singer and entertainer
- December 3
- December 4
- December 6 - Lior Suchard, Israeli mentalist
- December 8 - Philip Rivers, NFL quarterback of the San Diego Chargers
- December 9 - Dia Mirza, Bollywood actress
- December 11
- December 12 - Spencer Johnson, NFL player
- December 13
- December 14 - Amber Chia, Malaysian model and actress
- December 15
- December 16
- December 17 - Houari Manar, Algerian raï singer (d. 2019)
- December 21
- December 24 - Dima Bilan, Russian pop-singer
- December 26 - Nikolai Nikolaeff, Australian actor
- December 27
- December 28
- December 29
- December 30
- December 31
- January 1
- January 3
- January 5
- January 6 - A. J. Cronin, Scottish novelist (b. 1896)
- January 7 - John Pascal, American playwright, screenwriter, author and journalist (b. 1932)
- January 8 - Matthew Beard, American actor (b. 1925)
- January 10
- January 11 - Beulah Bondi, American actress (b. 1889)
- January 12 - Sir John Nicoll, British colonial governor (b. 1899)
- January 13 - Robert Kellard, American actor (b. 1915)
- January 16 - Bernard Lee, English actor (b. 1908)
- January 19 - Francesca Woodman, American photographer (b. 1958)
- January 21 - Allyn Joslyn, American actor (b. 1901)
- January 23
- January 25 - Adele Astaire, American actress (b. 1896)
- January 27 - Léo Collard, Belgian Socialist politician (b. 1902)
- January 29 - Lajos Korányi, Hungarian footballer (b. 1907)
- January 30 - John Gordon, Irish Roman Catholic bishop (b. 1912)
- January 31 - Cozy Cole, American jazz drummer (b. 1909)
- February 1
- February 2 - Hugh Joseph Addonizio, Italian-born American politician and Mayor of Newark (b. 1914)
- February 3 - Normand Poirier, French-born American newspaper editor, journalist and essayist (b. 1928)
- February 4 - Mario Camerini, Italian film director and screenwriter (b. 1895)
- February 6 - Frederica of Hanover, Queen Consort of the Hellenes and wife of King Paul of Greece (b. 1917)
- February 7 - Hermann Esser, German journalist and editor of the Nazi newspaper Völkischer Beobachter (b. 1900)
- February 9
- February 10 - Hubert Shirley-Smith, British civil engineer (b. 1901)
- February 12 - Bruce Fraser, 1st Baron Fraser of North Cape, British admiral (b. 1888)
- February 15 - Karl Richter, German conductor (b. 1926)
- February 17 - David Garnett, British writer (b. 1892)
- February 18
- February 20 - Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg, French magazine editor and playboy (b. 1904)
- February 22
- February 25
- February 26
- February 27 - Jacob H. Gilbert, American politician (b. 1920)
- March 1 - Roberto Francisco Chiari Remón, 14th President of Panama (b. 1903)
- March 4 - Torin Thatcher, American actor (b. 1905)
- March 5 - Yip Harburg, American lyricist (b. 1896)
- March 6 - George Geary, English cricketer (b. 1893)
- March 7
- March 8 - Joseph Henry Woodger, British theoretical biologist (b. 1894)
- March 9 - Max Delbrück, German biologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1906)
- March 10 - Flavio Calzavara, Italian director and screenwriter (b. 1900)
- March 14 - Paolo Grassi, Italian actor (b. 1919)
- March 15 - René Clair, French film director (b. 1898)
- March 20 - Gerry Bertier, American college football player (b. 1953)
- March 21 - Mark Donskoy, Russian Soviet film director (b. 1901)
- March 22
- March 23
- March 26 - Cyril Dean Darlington, English biologist, geneticist and eugenicist, (b. 1903)
- March 29 - Eric Williams, 1st Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago (b. 1911)
- March 30
- March 31 - Frank Tieri, American gangster (b. 1904)
- April 3 - Juan Trippe, Airline entrepreneur (b. 1899)
- April 4 - Brad Johnson, American actor (b. 1924)
- April 5
- April 6 - Alfredo Guarini, Italian director, producer and screenwriter (b. 1901)
- April 7 - Norman Taurog, American film director (b. 1899)
- April 8
- April 12
- April 13 - Prince Yasuhiko Asaka of Japan (b. 1887)
- April 15 - John Thach, American naval aviator and admiral (b. 1905)
- April 17 - Ludwik Sempoli?ski, Polish actor (b. 1899)
- April 18 - James H. Schmitz, German-born writer (b. 1911)
- April 22 - Marcia King, Murder victim (b. 1959)
- April 23 - Nietta Zocchi, Italian actress (b. 1909)
- April 26
- April 27 - John Aspinwall Roosevelt, American businessman and philanthropist (b. 1916)
- April 28 - Cliff Battles, American football player (Boston Redskins) and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (b. 1910)
- May 1 - Barry Jones, American actor (b. 1893)
- May 5 - Bobby Sands, Irish republican hunger striker (b. 1954)
- May 6 - Frank O'Grady, Australian public servant (b. 1900)
- May 7 - Hiromichi Yahara, Imperial Japanese Army officer (b. 1902)
- May 8
- May 9
- May 11
- May 12 - Benjamin Sheares, Singaporean politician and professor, 2nd President of Singapore (b. 1907)
- May 13 - Ben Andrews, American actor (b. 1942)
- May 17 - Hugo Friedhofer, German-American film composer (b. 1901)
- May 18
- May 20 - Dositej, Metropolitan of Skopje (b. 1906)
- May 21 - Yuki Shimoda, American actor (b. 1921)
- May 23 - George Jessel, American actor (b. 1898)
- May 24
- May 25
- May 28
- May 29 - Soong Ching-ling, Acting head of State of the People's Republic of China (b. 1893)
- May 30
- May 31 - Giuseppe Pella, Italian politician, 31st Prime Minister of Italy (b. 1902)
- June 1 - Carl Vinson, U.S. Congressman (b. 1883)
- June 2 - Rino Gaetano, Italian singer-songwriter (b. 1950)
- June 5 - Miguel Contreras Torres, Mexican actor, director, producer and screenwriter (b. 1899)
- June 9 - Allen Ludden, American television game show host (b. 1917)
- June 10
- June 12 - Mahmoud Fawzi, Egyptian diplomat and political figure, 35th Prime Minister of Egypt (b. 1900)
- June 13 - George Walsh, American actor (b. 1889)
- June 14 - Sir Ronald Holmes, British government official in Hong Kong (b. 1913)
- June 16 - Sir Thomas Playford, Australian politician, Premier of South Australia (b. 1891)
- June 17
- June 18 - Pamela Hansford Johnson, English poet, novelist, playwright, literary and social critic (b. 1912)
- June 19
- June 22
- June 23 - Zarah Leander, Swedish actress and singer (b. 1907)
- June 28
- July 1
- July 3 - Ross Martin, American actor (b. 1920)
- July 7 - Qahtan Muhammad al-Shaabi, South Yemenite socialist leader, 1st President of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) (b. 1920)
- July 8
- July 10
- July 16 - Harry Chapin, American singer and songwriter (b. 1942)
- July 22 - Manuela de Jesús Arias Espinosa, Mexican Roman Catholic religious professed and Blessed (b. 1904)
- July 27
- July 28 - Stanley Francis Rother, American priest, martyr, and Blessed (b. 1935)
- July 29 - Robert Moses, American urban planner (b. 1888)
- July 31 - Omar Torrijos, Panamanian leader (b. 1929)
- August 1 - Paddy Chayefsky, American screenwriter (b. 1923)
- August 2
- August 4 - Melvyn Douglas, American actor (b. 1901)
- August 14 - Karl Böhm, Austrian conductor (b. 1894)
- August 15
- August 18 - Anita Loos, American screenwriter (b. 1888)
- August 19 - Jessie Matthews, English dancer, singer and actress (b. 1907)
- August 26 - Kelly Keen, American coyote attack victim (b. 1978)
- August 27 - Valeri Kharlamov, Soviet ice hockey player (b. 1948)
- August 28 - Béla Guttmann, Hungarian-born Association football coach (b. 1899)
- August 29 - Lowell Thomas, American writer (b. 1892)
- August 30
- September 1
- September 2 - Enid Lyons, Australia politician (b. 1897)
- September 3 - Alec Waugh, British novelist (b. 1898)
- September 7
- Edwin Albert Link, American pioneer in aviation, underwater archaeology, and submersibles, and inventor of aeronautical, navigation, and oceanographic equipment (b. 1904)
- Christy Brown, Irish writer and painter (b. 1932)
- September 8
- September 9
- September 11 - Frank McHugh, American actor (b. 1898)
- September 12 - Eugenio Montale, Italian writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1896)
- September 14 - Charles L. Melson, American admiral (b. 1904)
- September 15
- September 21 - Nigel Patrick, English actor (b. 1912)
- September 22 - Harry Warren, American songwriter (b. 1893)
- September 23 - Chief Dan George, Canadian actor and writer, tribal chief of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation (b. 1899)
- September 24 - Patsy Kelly, American actress (b. 1910)
- September 27 - Robert Montgomery, American actor and director (b. 1904)
- September 28
- September 29
- October 2
- October 3 - Chrysostom Blashkevich, Soviet Benedict monk (b. 1915)
- October 4 - Freddie Lindstrom, American baseball player (New York Giants) and a member of the MLB Hall of Fame (b. 1905)
- October 5 - Gloria Grahame, American actress (b. 1923)
- October 6 - Anwar Sadat, 37th Prime Minister of Egypt and 3rd President of Egypt, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (assassinated) (b. 1918)
- October 13
- October 16
- October 20 - Mary Coyle Chase, American playwright (b. 1906)
- October 22 - Michael Granger, American actor (b. 1923)
- October 23 - Reg Butler, English sculptor (b. 1913)
- October 24 - Edith Head, American costume designer (b. 1897)
- October 25 - Barbara Bedford, American actress (b. 1903)
- October 27 - John Warburton, British actor (b. 1899)
- October 29 - Georges Brassens, French singer and songwriter (b. 1921)
- November 2 - Wally Wood, American cartoonist (b. 1927)
- November 3
- November 7 - Will Durant, American philosopher and writer (b. 1885)
- November 10 - Abel Gance, French film director (b. 1889)
- November 12 - William Holden, American actor (b. 1918)
- November 13 - Gerhard Marcks, German sculptor (b. 1889)
- November 14 - Robert Bradford, Northern Irish footballer and politician (b. 1941)
- November 15
- November 17 - Wilhelm Pelikan, Austrian chemist (b. 1893)
- November 21
- November 22
- November 25 - Jack Albertson, American actor and comedian (b. 1907)
- November 26
- November 27 - Lotte Lenya, Austrian singer and actress (b. 1898)
- November 28 - Arthur Jensen, Danish actor (b. 1897)
- November 29 - Natalie Wood, American actress (b. 1938)
- December 2 - Wallace Harrison, American architect (b. 1895)
- December 3 - Walter Knott, American farmer and theme park creator (b. 1889)
- December 6 - Harry Harlow, American psychologist (b. 1905)
- December 7 - William Edmunds, Italian stage and screen character actor (b. 1886)
- December 8 - Ferruccio Parri, Italian partisan and politician, 29th Prime Minister of Italy (b. 1905)
- December 10 - Prince Christian Oscar of Hanover (b. 1919)
- December 13 - Cornelius Cardew, English composer (b. 1936)
- December 15
- December 17
- December 18 - Enrique Hertzog, Bolivian politician, 49th President of Bolivia (b. 1896)
- December 23
- December 26 - Suat Hayri Urguplu, Turkish politician, 11th Prime Minister of Turkey (b. 1903)
- December 27 - Hoagy Carmichael, American jazz composer (b. 1899)
- December 28
- December 30 - Alfie Anido, Filipino actor (b. 1959)
- ^ "China loses its allure".
- ^ "NAMM Exhibitor Manual-Summer 1981". namm.org. Retrieved 2018.
- ^ "The Bombing of Beirut". Journal of Palestine Studies. 11 (1): 218-225. 1981. doi:10.1525/jps.1981.11.1.00p0366x.
- ^ "MISSILE IS FIRED BY NORTH KOREANS AT U.S. SPY PLANE NEAR THE DMZ". The New York Times. August 27, 1981.
- ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 19, 2013. Retrieved 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 4, 2005. Retrieved 2005.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- ^ "DEA History Book, 1876-1990" (drug usage & enforcement), US Department of Justice, 1991, USDoJ.gov webpage: DoJ-DEA-History-1985-1990.
- ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 11, 2013. Retrieved 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- ^ Publishing, Bloomsbury (November 19, 2015). "Whitaker's Shorts 2016: Governance". Bloomsbury Publishing – via Google Books.
- ^ "Lover Of Music Life And Love on Instagram: "Ok @wikipedia my birthday isn't today wanting to set the record straight as I keep getting birthday messages... it's 21st September !!! And..."". Instagram.