Good James Cameron Movies

Monday, December 14, 2009 at 3:50 pm

To put together this list of good James Cameron movies, I considered every film the uber-successful director ever worked on, even if he was serving as a producer or production designer. Some of the films listed below were monster hits, while others have taken years to cultivate their cult status.

His latest film, Avatar, comes roaring into theaters on December 18th, and it’s all-but-guaranteed to break box office records left and right. From now on, the words Avatar and James Cameron will be forever linked, and the project should knock the socks off of sci-fi geeks around the globe.

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If you want to see a career dominated by science-fiction and testosterone-fueled action, then feast your eyes on these good James Cameron movies:

Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) – Cameron provided art direction for this sci-fi retread of The Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai, back when he was just getting started in the business. Richard Thomas in the lead role does little to inspire, but it’s the presence of George Peppard as the charismatic Space Cowboy that really saves the day. Sybil Danning as a busty Valkyrie warrior is also a welcome sight, and the screenplay was written by none other than the talented John Sayles (Lone Star, The Secret of Road Inish).

Escape from New York (1981) – Before anyone would let him behind the camera, James Cameron designed special effects for director John Carpenter’s look at a decidedly dark future. When Air Force One and the President of the United States (Donald Pleasance) crash somewhere inside the island prison of Manhattan, it’s up to soldier/criminal/all-around-badass Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to save the day. As the title character, Russell oozes anti-authority charm, and he’s backed up by a supporting cast that includes Ernest Borgnine, Adrienne Barbeau, Harry Dean Stanton, Isaac Hayes, and Lee Van Cleef.

Galaxy of Terror (1981) – What do you get when you combine a thinly-veiled rip-off of Alien with Eddie Albert, Ray Walston, Robert Englund, Sid Haig, and Erin Moran (Joanie Loves Chachi)? Answer: the so-bad-it’s-good Galaxy of Terror. The infamous worm attack scene is still remembered in certain circles, as is the fact that an unknown named James Cameron served as the film’s production designer.

Android (1982) – Under the name Jim Cameron, the future Avatar director would serve as design consultant on this film about a scientist (Klaus Kinski) and his artificial assistant who are working to create an illegal female android. Notorious for his temper, it’s a real shame that Cameron and the always-manic Kinski couldn’t have been locked in a room together for a little while. That in itself would’ve been a film worth seeing.

The Terminator (1984) – After writing the screenplay and selling it for $1, Cameron was finally able to convince someone to let him direct a feature film. The resulting project about a lethal robot from the future sent back in time to assassinate a seemingly unimportant woman would change the face of sci-fi/action and propel both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton to stardom. Its success was well-deserved, and The Terminator remains one of the best James Cameron movies ever made.

Aliens (1986) – Speaking of the sci-fi/action genre, Cameron struck gold once again with this energetic sequel to 1979’s Alien. Heroine Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) revives from hypersleep 57 years after the events of the first film, and she’s soon talked into accompanying a group of confident space marines onto the planetoid where she and her crew first ran afoul of the lethal, acid-bleeding Xenomorph. It doesn’t take long for the poop to hit the fan, and Ripley must stay alive, protect a young survivor, and still seek a small measure of revenge. A watershed moment for cinematic females, Ripley gets to kick all kinds of ass without having to endure a sappy romance angle or out-of-the-blue nude scene.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – No list of good James Cameron movies would be complete without this Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster. Once again sent back through time, this sequel sees Arnie play a kinder, gentler android bent on stopping the assassination of young John Connor (Edward Furlong) at the hands of the shape-shifting menace known as the T-1000 (Robert Patrick). Linda Hamilton drew all kinds of attention for her muscled bod, and the special effects set a new standard for Hollywood. I’ve had two friends who’ve installed high-priced entertainment systems, and both of them used this movie to show off the capabilities of their purchase.

True Lies (1994) – Another smash hit directorial effort from Cameron, True Lies revolves around counter-terrorist agent Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his efforts to repair his crumbling marriage while simultaneously battling a group of terrorists who’ve acquired a nuke. Tom Arnold adds the comic relief, Jamie Lee Curtis and Tia Carrere provide plenty of sex appeal, and a young Eliza Dushku co-stars as Tasker’s teen daughter. One of the best James Cameron films when it comes to delivering gunplay and over-the-top action scenes.

Solaris (2002) – Putting on his producer’s hat, Cameron was involved with this Steven Soderbergh remake of the classic-yet-boring Soviet film from Andrei Tarkovsky (which was based on the Polish novel by Stanislaw Lem). George Clooney stars as a widowed psychiatrist who heads to the planet Solaris to help an old scientist friend. Once there, he finds death and mystery, as well as an unexpected visit from his late wife. The author of the source material didn’t like it, but I’m betting that Clooney and Soderbergh fans might find it of interest.

Ghosts of the Abyss (2003) – When he’s not making blockbuster movies, James Cameron also dabbles in the realm of documentary filmmaking. In this particular film–the first produced by Disney in 3-D–Cameron and pal Bill Paxton use special cameras to give viewers an up-close-and-personal look at the wreckage of the doomed Titanic. CGI technology is used to recreate the interior of the famed ocean liner, and it’s far more fascinating than the melodramatic hit starring Winslet and DiCaprio.

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After you stumble out of the theatre in a daze over the brilliance of Avatar, you’ll no doubt want to explore additional good James Cameron movies. When you’re done, why not check out the following articles:

This entry was posted on Monday, December 14th, 2009 at 3:50 pm and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

11 Responses to “Good James Cameron Movies”

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October 26, 2010

I Love Andrei Tarkovsky

The correct name of Solaris’s director is Andrei Tarkovsky (and not Andrei Trotsky) : please correct the corresponding review. Also note: calling the Russian version “boring” is very subjective (might be true for those who grew up on Hollywood mainstream); FWIW, I personally think that Clooney is the most boring and insincere actor.

October 27, 2010

Shane

Thanks for the correction. I knew the proper name, but I suspect my spell checker or poor typing skills may have been the culprit. And you’re right, my opinon of the original Solaris is highly subjective. But that’s one of the great things about cinema: everyone comes away from a movie with their own opinions.

One of these days, I’ll go back and re-watch the original to give it another try. As I grow older, there are certain films that do take on a different meaning for me. Maybe Solaris will be one of those.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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