Fans of James Cameron’s The Abyss will enjoy these high-concept sci-fi thrillers as much as we did.
Despite being an intriguing science fiction mystery, The Abyssseems to be the most forgotten of James Cameron’s films. It’s safe to say that the special effects in The Abyss were inspiration for those in Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
To put it another way, the film is notable for its visual effects as well as its unique story (for which it won the Academy Award). But there are other films with the same concept or atmosphere for those who enjoyed this underrated gem.
Mark Birrell updated this article on July 10th, 2021. Thanks, Mark!
James Cameron, a writer and director, was responsible for some of the best sci-fi films of the 1980s, and the success of The Abyss capped off a remarkable decade. Despite the fact that his first two films, The Terminator and Aliens, remain essential viewing for fans of his work, there are numerous other similar films that should be streamed by fans, some of which have slipped into obscurity or are essential classics in their own right.
1. Sphere (1998)
At first, this adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel Jurassic Park failed miserably with critics, but it has since gained a devoted following thanks to its unique story.
Much like The Abyss, the story follows a group of scientists as they descend to the ocean’s depths to investigate a strange craft. Fans of The Abyss’ more intense moments will find their attention piqued throughout their journey as they begin to encounter horrifyingly bizarre events as they try to comprehend the magnitude of the ship’s power.
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
It’s safe to say that Stanley Kubrick’s seminal sci-fi masterpiece served as an inspiration for virtually every subsequent space movie, if not every science-fiction film.
There is a more loose narrative structure in the film, with a focus on the mysterious monoliths that humanity unearths in the near future (in the late 1960s), with a covert mission to explore deep space in search of answers only for the ship’s AI to turn against the crew. HAL 9000 and their deadly descent into paranoia will not disappoint fans of the darker aspects of The Abyss, and many of the film’s groundbreaking effects are still impressive today.
3. Interstellar (2014)
Director Christopher Nolan evidently drew inspiration from 2001: A Space Odyssey when creating his own space opera film with a similar–if less original–plot. According to the plot, an alien team wants to move humanity away from the dying Earth and into a habitable galaxy.
Despite the fact that their perilous journey will put them in many apocalyptically stressful situations, The Abyss stays on the upbeat side when it comes to making contact with extraterrestrial life.
Moviegoers familiar with James Cameron’s epic style will be delighted by the film’s emphasis on massive IMAX shots.
4. Super 8 (2011)
According to the director, Super 8 pays homage to classic ’80s kid-centric films like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Goonies. However, Super 8 is more concerned with the film’s suspense and mystery elements while still incorporating action and horror elements.
The story takes place in a fictional Ohio town in 1979, and it centers on a group of young people who are making a Super 8 film. They see a train derailing and an alien escaping from it while filming a scene at a train station. Unlike The Abyss, this one takes a completely different approach to first contact.
5. Cube (1997)
Fans of The Abyss will enjoy the darker, horror-like elements in Cube as a follow-up. Like Saw, this science fiction story revolves around the mystery of what’s going on and why the characters are in their current situation.
People wake up to find that they’ve been trapped in a strange structure, which appears to be a cube filled with cells that are also in the shape of cubes, all connected to one another. This is how the story unfolds. It’s a brilliant use of the confined metal spaces popularized by films like The Abyss to get the characters out by getting them around the numerous traps that are hidden almost everywhere they go.
6. Alien (1979)
Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi horror film pioneered not only the claustrophobic settings that later films like The Abyss would make use of, but also the types of characters that would inhabit those environments. The crew of the Nostromo changed the way the general public viewed sci-fi characters, removing the requirement that they be aloof professionals with cold personalities and instead accepting them as relatable employees with flaws like everyone else.
In trying to figure out what they’ve brought aboard when an alien organism begins killing them one by one and how to kill it first, the film makes its narrow corridors feel like a real spaceship just as, a decade later, The Abysswould use similarly detailed production design to convince the audience that the main characters were really in ocean depths, as well.
7. Prometheus (2012)
Ridley Scott returned to the Alien universe after thirty years to tell a different kind of horror story with some of the same elements as the film that changed the sci-fi genre forever.
Despite their superior scientific knowledge, the crews of the Prometheus and the Nostromo share a gruesome end. Even if the results of their exploration are not as positive, fans of The Abyss will enjoy their more thoughtful approach to finding extraterrestrial life as they investigate what appears to be an ancient invitation handed to humanity by aliens.
8. Contact (1997)
Contact, a film starring Jodie Foster, has a lot in common with The Abyss in terms of mood. While relying heavily on sci-fi framing, it doesn’t rush its events and takes its time to unravel one mystery after another.
This actor portrays a SETI scientist who is fascinated by space exploration and finds evidence of extraterrestrial life on the show. After making a significant discovery, she is chosen to be the first human to contact them. Despite this, it still managed to be an emotionally and intellectually stimulating experience like The Abyss.
9. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)
Since it deals with first contact and has Steven Spielberg’s signature atmosphere, Close Encounters of the Third Kind has often been compared to Spielberg’s later filmE.T., which also stars Harrison Ford.
To some extent, the film keeps the aliens’ identities hidden; but The Abyss’ sense of wonder at first contact is the most striking likeness to this film. While the release of Star Wars that same year overshadowed its importance in the development of science-fiction films, films like Super 8 and The Abyss would not exist without it.
10. The Thing (1982)
The Thing, directed by John Carpenter, is a horror/sci-fi hybrid that revolves around a central mystery. It’s also a visual treat for fans of practical effects, as the movie features some of the best-looking alien creatures to date.
As a result of their work in Antarctica, a team of American scientists encounters an alien parasite known as the “Thing,” which imitates living organisms. Tensions are high because no one knows who is human and who is a convincing replica waiting to eat them. It’s a must-see for fans of The Abyss’ paranoid elements.