was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1981th 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 2 in the 1980s. The 1981 denomination for the year has been in use since the early Medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era (the Common Era) became the common method in Europe for naming years.
January 1 - Greece joins the European Economic Community.
27 January - KMP Tampomas sank in the Java Sea; 431 people died.
28 March - Garuda Indonesia's DC-9 Woyla Flight 206 to Bangkok was hijacked by the Islamic extremist group Komando Jihad in Malaysia; 57 passengers were taken hostage; 1 civilian casualty; 1 soldier casualty; 4 terrorists killed.
August 1 - The American music TV channel, MTV, is successfully launched and is owned by Viacom.
December 15 - A car bomb destroys the Iraqi embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 61 people. Syrian intelligence denounced.
July 1 - Mladen Petrić, Croatian footballer.
January 2 - Maximiliano Rodríguez, Argentine footballer.
January 9 - Euzebiusz Smolarek, Polish football player.
January 30 - Dimitar Berbatov, Bulgarian footballer.
January 31 - Justin Timberlake, singer and actor from the United States.
February 20 - Tony Hibbert, English footballer.
February 22 - Adrienne Pickering, Australian actress.
March 3 - Shatha Hassoun, Moroccan and Iraqi singer and actress.
April 8 - Mulyadi P. Tamsir, Indonesian politician and activist.
April 18 - Milan Jovanović, Serbian footballer.
May 15 - Zara Phillips, daughter of Princess Anne, who is also the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II of England.
May 17 - Leon Osman, English footballer.
May 18 - Mahamadou Diarra, Malian footballer.
May 29 - Andrei Arshavin, Russian football player.
31 May - Mega Carefansa, Indonesian actress.
June 20 - Brede Hangeland, Norwegian footballer.
July 9 - Synyster Gates, guitarist for Avenged Sevenfold.
July 28 – Michael Carrick, English footballer.
July 29 - Fernando Alonso, Spanish Formula One race car driver.
July 30 - Nicky Hayden, American racer.
July 31 - M. Shadows, vocalist for Avenged Sevenfold.
September 3 - Fearne Cotton, British host.
September 4 - Beyoncé Knowles, singer from the United States.
September 17 - Nazril Irham, vocalist for the band Noah.
November 8 - Joe Cole, English footballer.
December 2 - Britney Spears, singer and actress from the United States.
December 11 - Zacky Vengeance, guitarist and backup singer for Avenged Sevenfold.
December 12 - Stephen Warnock, English footballer.
May 11 - Bob Marley, a Jamaican reggae musician, dies of cancer.
June 21 - DR. Mustafa Chamran, an Iranian scientist, died in the Iraq-Iran war.
24 July - Buya Hamka, prominent Indonesian scholar and writer
National holidays in Indonesia
Indonesian national holidays for 1981: