- Mass marriage conducted by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon of 4,150 of his followers at Madison Square Garden.
- The Atomic Cafe is released.
- China's population is 1,016.54 million.
- January 7: Edwin Meese III, Counselor to President Ronald Reagan, reverses Reagan's opposition to registering young males for a potential military draft.
- Janurary 12: Pres. Ronald Reagan signs National Security Decision Directive-2: National Security Council Structure.
- January 21: Attorney General William French Smith announces that the FBI, instead of the DEA, will now direct anti-drug campaigns inside the U.S.
- February 1: Late Night with David Letterman debuts on NBC.
- February 12: Darwin Day
- February 28: President Ronald Reagan orders Iraq removed from the list of nations which are state-sponsors of terrorism, making Iraq eligible to purchase and receive U.S. technology.
- March: Kim Il Sung publishes "On Juche Ideology" treatise.
- March 1: Soviet space probe Venera 14 lands on Venus and sends back data.
- March 2: Philip K. Dick dies.
- March 5: John Belushi dies of a cocaine and herion drug overdose.
- March 13: Guatemalan government Xococ militia massacres 130 Achi Maya women and Children at the Massacre of Rio Negro.
- April 5: Justice Abe Fortas dies at age 71.
- April 6: Israel invades Lebanon in Operation Big Pines.
- June-August: Israel seige of Beirut.
- June 11: Syria and Israel agree to a ceasefire between their respective armies in Lebanon.
- June 17: Pres. Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II hold private meeting to discuss freeing Poland from political control of the Soviet Union and returning it to the Roman Catholic Church.
- July 18: Massacre of 226 people in the village of Plan de Sanchez by the Guatemalan Army.
- July 27: The term AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiecy Syndrome) is used for the first time.
- August 8: U.S. negotiates agreement for the PLO to withdraw from Beirut.
- August 23: The New York Times "Washington Talk" reports that Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger tells a Harvard undergrad that he believes the world will end by an act of God as foretold in the Book of Revelations.
- August 23: Maronite Bashir Gemayel elected President of Lebanon.
- September 3: PLO troops and high command evacuate Lebanon.
- September 14: Newly elected Maronite President of Lebanon and close friend of Israel Bashir Gemayel is assassinated.
- September 16-18: After PLO troops are withddrwn from Lebanon, Israeli troops stand aside on orders from Gen. Ariel Sharon to permit Maronite "Christian" militia to slaughter unarmed and undefended Palestinian women and children in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Beirut. Lebanon's Maronite dominated government is supported by the United States.
- September 20: Reagan administration sends U.S. Marines back into Lebanon.
- September 29: Congress authorizes U.S. military intervention in Lebanon via the Multinational Force in Lebanon Resolution (P.L. 98-119).
- October 9: Anna Freud dies at age 86.
- November 2: Midterm Congressional elections fail to follow the historic pattern of large numbers of seats lost by the party incumbent in the White House, in this instance the Republican Party. Instead the Republicans launch a successful countercyclical campaign by recuiting large numbers of challengers.
- November 11: German Red Army Faction leader Brigitte Mohnhaupt is arrested.
- November 12: U.S. Pres. Ronald Reagan signs National Security Decision Directive-66: Protracted Economic Warfare Against the Soviet Union.
- December 16: Republican Environmental Protection Agency chief Anne M. Gorsuch becomes first Cabinet-level officer to be cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to submit documents requested by a congressional committee.
- December 19: Bomb attack on South African nuclear power station in Johannesburg.