I went and seen Terminator: Dark Fate yesterday. It’s already been reviewed on Noise Pollution, but it really got me thinking. The film, while not directed by James Cameron, has been touted as his return to the franchise, albeit in the guise of producer – yet, it still has his stamp all over it. It felt like a James Cameron film, definitely not on the over the top scale of a Titanic or an Avatar, but certainly the two original Terminator movies, and even The Abyss and Aliens to a degree.
I started thinking about the films of Cameron, and decided to rank his top ten directorial efforts…
10: Piranha II: Flying Killers
Honestly, not a great movie. James Cameron doesn’t even consider this his, let alone his directorial debut.
There is so much about this movie that bores me to death, until the massive ship starts sinking, and then it becomes an entirely different movie. The first 2 thirds are based around a forbidden romance, with the last third being the ultimate disaster film. It is a very well executed movie, but I would t be upset if I never seen it again.
8: Ghosts of the Abyss
After Titanic, Cameron took a break from cinema, directing one episode of television series, Dark Angel, and a TV documentary, 2002’s Exhibition Bismarck. Ghosts of the Abyss was also a documentary, but on a larger scale. Here, Cameron and frequent collaborator, Bill Paxton head to the final resting place of the Titanic itself. This is fascinating viewing.
7: Aliens of the Deep
Following Ghosts of the Abyss, James Cameron opts for another documentary, this time to teaming up with NASA scientists to explore the Mid-Ocean Ridge, a submerged chain of mountains that band the Earth and are home to some of the planet’s most unique life forms. Stunning underwater footage makes for captivating viewing.
Until recently, this was the biggest grossing film of all time. In 2009, this was quite literally a marvel of new and visionary special effects technology. It is a little too long, and the story itself is nothing new, but I’ve rated it this highly amongst Cameron’s directorial efforts for the effects alone. I just watched it last night, and I honestly think the effects are now dated.
5: The Terminator
This is the first ever James Cameron film I watched as a kid. While it looks dated these days (it has been 35 years since its release), it is still a great example of visionary story telling. It’s simplicity is its greatest feature. If you think about it, this is a sci fi cousin to Halloween. The relentless killer letting nothing stand in his way, as he voicelessly hunts his target. Brilliant.
4: True Lies
Re-teaming with Schwarzenegger, this time for a comedic foray into spy thrillers. This is so well done, and to this day, it still works brilliantly well. I barely remember this as a James Cameron movie, as he sheds the sci fi elements, and effects driven cinematography in favour of dialogue and comedy. A different outing for the director, but no less fabulous.
3: The Abyss
This 1989 deep sea, alien encounter film is one that I truly love. An exceptional cast helps bring the story of the dive crew to life, and the visual effects gave us the first look at what Cameron had in store for the future. This is such a memorable film, and I still watch it at least once a year.
Taking the horror/haunted house feel of Ridley Scott’s impeccable original, and turning it into a science fiction war movie was a master stroke. This is a timeless film, and for some (myself included) it’s the high water mark of the Alien franchise. Michael Biehn is fantastic, and Sigourney Weaver really embodies the character of Ellen Ripley. If you have never seen this movie, correct your mistake ASAP!
1: Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Nearly a decade after the original, Cameron continued his Terminator franchise, and the results were amazing. Schwarzenegger was brilliant in a bit of role reversal from the first, but this was really Linda Hamilton’s time to shine. For its time, the effects were brilliant, and hold up very well – particularly the liquid metal parts. Great script, great effects, solid cast, near perfect film.