James Cameron’s Best Action Movies, Ranked

“Please. Call me Jim.” Oscar-winning Canadian filmmaker James Cameron continues to outdo himself behind the camera, even in the years following his cameo on HBO’s Entourage. we’re looking at you, Avatar, whose highly anticipated sequels we eagerly await. As we count down the days until The Way of Water‘s release, which is guaranteed to be an action-packed thrill ride, here’s a closer look at some of Cameron’s other action flicks from over the years. The filmmaker’s visual and technical achievements are highlighted in all of his films, but it’s particularly thrilling to see them showcased in his car chases, shootouts, and other essential components of action flicks.


5 True Lies (1994)

Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger collaborated several times. One highlight that comes to mind — besides the obvious Terminator stunners — is a clever little action-comedy that hit the masses in 1994: True Lies. Schwarzenegger plays a US government agent as he struggles to balance his double life as a spy and family man. Co-starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Arnold in career-defining roles, the movie was praised for its production, directing, and performances. The witty action flick featured a much lighter tone than the director’s past projects and helped shine a light on Schwarzenegger’s comedic chops. He’s also a total action hero here — and his “You’re fired” one-liner scene is reason enough to see this thrilling popcorn flick.

Related: Avatar: James Cameron’s Dedication to the Franchise Should Be Respected

4 Avatar (2009)

Avatar is, quite simply, an epic, sci-fi phenomenon. It introduced revolutionary visual effects, including new motion capture filming techniques. The storyline follows a paraplegic marine who is sent to the moon Pandora on a colonizing mission, but later finds himself questioning his loyalties when he becomes captivated by the new world and its inhabitants. Avatar rightfully won three Oscars, including Best Visual Effects. In addition to its technical achievements, the plotline alludes to landmark moments from our history on this planet. Therefore, it combines different film genres to thrilling effect.

“The Iraq stuff and the Vietnam stuff is there by design — and references to the colonial period are there by design,” Cameron once told NPR. “At a very generalized level, it’s saying our attitude about indigenous people and our entitlement about what is rightfully theirs is the same sense of entitlement that lets us bulldoze a forest and not blink an eye. It’s just human nature that if we can take it , we will. And sometimes we do it in a very naked and imperialistic way, and other times we do it in a very sophisticated way with lots of rationalization — but it’s basically the same thing. just go on in this unsustainable way, just taking what we want and not giving back.”

3 The Terminator (1984)

His own sequel may have surpassed the original, but Cameron’s 1984 groundbreaking The Terminator is still iconic in many ways. We all know the deal — the unique plotline kicks off with Schwarzenegger’s killer cyborg making his first appearance in present-day society, having been sent from the year 2029 in order to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). Sarah is destined to give birth to a son, John Connor, who will go on to be the leader of the Human Resistance against Skynet. Also traveling back in time is Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), hoping to defend Connor from the Terminator, who relentlessly pursues her. “The first Terminator is historical,” claims one student during that comedic film-class scene in scream 2 (1997). There’s no denying that The Terminator laid the groundwork for future action films to come.

Related: Terminator: Dark Fate Director Tim Miller Says His Franchise Revival Attempt Was ‘Wrong’

2 Aliens (1986)

How do you top Ridley Scott’s masterpiece? Cameron might know how. His 1986 sci-fi action flick again follows Ripley (Sigourney Weaver in a career-defining role), the sole survivor of an alien attack on her ship who must try to warn as many as she can about the malevolent predators. aliens was a hit with critics and moviegoers, with praise going towards Weaver’s performance, the special effects, humor and — of course — its well-executed action sequences. The sci-fi stunner is considered to be one of the greatest films of the 1980s and helped expand the franchise’s overall scope. Its success led to Cameron’s status as a certified blockbuster director.

1 Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

T2‘s visual effects saw breakthroughs in computer-generated imagery, including the first use of natural human motion for a computer-generated character and the first partially computer-generated main character. At the time of its release, Terminator 2: Judgment Day was the most expensive movie ever made. Fortunately, it was a critical and commercial success upon release, with praise for the acting, action scenes, and visual effects. Other movies followed: two sequels, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) and Terminator Salvation (2009); a reboot, Terminator Genisys (2015); and the Cameron-produced movie Terminator: Dark Fate (2019), which was intended to be an alternate sequel to T2. Speaking of sequels — Cameron certainly knows how to make them, so let’s count down until his Avatar sequel.

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