All 13 James Cameron Movies Ranked From Worst To Best

By Layana Reghunath

James Cameron entered the film industry by doing visual effects for low-budget sci-fi movies like Battle Beyond The Stars and Galaxy Of Terror. But no one can conceal a talented artist like him for longer. It took only a few months for him to take hold of the camera and take up the role of director. After a few films, the audience understood his calibre and crowned him the King of Blockbuster. He kicked off by directing sci-fi movies on a reasonable budget and then moved on to heavy-budget films, which were well-received by the audience, and he made a huge chunk of money out of it. Here we have ranked his movies from worst to best, which includes his initial low-budget movies and underwater documentary trilogies. Even though they may be different in content, you can find his lifelong passions in every film. From his initial movies, Cameron has given the viewers and critics what they can expect from him in the coming years. And his every film was proof of this statement. So now let’s unveil all the James Cameron movies ranked from worst to best. 

Expedition: Bismarck (2002)

The second film by James Cameron was shot in the deep sea. But it failed to bring the usual Cameron magic in it. This film is about the infamous Nazi Battleship Bismarck, wrecked by a British ship. Cameron travelled to the bottom of the ocean this time, along with the feedback he collected from the survivors of the wrecked ship and the ship that sank it. Unfortunately, the film, co-directed by Gary Johnstone, didn’t fascinate the audience much as it downplayed the many horror stories associated with it. Besides some impressive footage, Expedition: Bismarck didn’t have much to offer its viewers. 

Piranha II: The Spawning (1982)

Cameron has denied the credit for his debut directorial documentary, Piranha II: The Spawning. It is the sequel to the 1978 Joe Dante comedy horror classic and tells the story of a mutated man-eating fish. Even though the officials state that James Cameron didn’t work much in this film, one cannot deny that he has left his imprint all over the film. Its entire underwater sequences, working-class family drama and untrustworthy government officials are all part of a James Cameron movie. But the film has failed to impress the audience as the film is full of confusion. The script is out of place in most places, and a confused person seems to have done the editing. Only Lance Henriksen did an excellent job as investigating officer, and the monsters were decent. 

True Lies (1994)

True lies can be counted as one of the best remakes by James Cameron and is a big-budget movie based on Claude Zidi’s 1991 French action movie, La Totale. Arnold Schwarzenegger shines as an American James Bond. He plays the super spy role, maintaining a low profile and hiding his identity even from his play Jamie Lee Curtis and his daughter Eliza Dushku. The movie is filled with action-packed sequences, which makes it worth watching. But the moment when the characters stop talking, the film becomes a bit bland with the disturbing sexist and xenophobic stories. In addition, most of the jokes in the movie seemed wildly cruel and out of place. Curtis has given justice to her role, but the film doesn’t deserve her. 

Ghosts of the Abyss (2003)

James Cameron has given us a never seen underwater experience through this movie which competes with his masterpiece Titanic. Bill Paxton plays the lead role in the film and narrates the story through his eyes. The technology Cameron and his crew use to capture the footage is commendable. But the narration of Paxtron drags the movie and makes it more of a travelogue. Even though the film is only 61 minutes, you won’t get that movie-like feeling, and it appears more like a documentary. 

Avatar (2009)

The 2009 James Cameron, Avatar was a visual treat for our eyes. But the script seemed to fall out of place from time to time. It is the story of a disabled American marine who goes to a distant planet and gets into the genetic form of its indigenous inhabitants. He, later on, becomes their saviour and protects the earth. It will take you to a fantasy world, but the script seems half-written, and certain parts remain unaddressed. Some viewers may think differently than the film’s imaginative imagery stands out; hence, its other shortcomings can be neglected. But, of course, if we look at it that way, it is a visual extravaganza that lags in the story.

Aliens of the Deep (2005)

During one of the interviews, James Cameron stated that at the beginning of his career, he was so immersed in underwater documentaries that he somewhat forgot to include science in them. This film seems to compensate for this claim, as Cameron consists of a group of marine biologists and NASA scientists assigned to discover the radical sea creatures and find the theory behind them. The film, co-directed by Stephen Quale, engages from start to end and satisfies our quest for underworld curiosity. 

Xenogenesis (1978)

Have you ever wondered what James Cameron would do if asked to direct a movie on a low budget? Still, he will create a masterpiece out of it. It is a 12-minute short film which stars William Wisher Jr, who plays an excerpt from an imaginative 1970s sci-fi show. It is about the collaboration of a robot and a human trying to find a new race to relocate the human race. Several other TV series related to this theme has been released, but none could steal the charisma of xenogenesis. Admittedly, there were flaws in the script and acting, but one can easily downplay it because it was shot on a minimal budget. 

The Abyss (1989)

Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio are a deep sea salvagers couple who are on the verge of divorce. They are asked to work together when a nuclear submarine sinks under mysterious circumstances. On their way, they are hit by a hurricane, and the leader of the Navy SEAL team loses his mind. He threatens his crew members with nuclear annihilation, and they accidentally discover extraterrestrial life. Abyss discusses all the relevant matters of society, including Cold War paranoia, working-class character drama, epic disaster schlock, nerdy tech talk and first contact. But even for a second, you won’t feel bored while watching this epic drama. That is the magic of James Cameron. But he failed to deliver a heartwarming climax in the end. Otherwise, Abyss is one of the best movies by James Cameron.

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)

Cameron again gave wings to his imagination with the sequel of his 2009 movie Avatar. This time it is Avatar: The way of water. Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana return to the roles of Jake and Neytiri, who have now become parents to a bunch of kiddie Na’vi. They are again under the same threat of human colonisation and decide to fight back with all their force. But at some point, they had to give up and take refuge in an aquatic tribe. There, their children learn some of the most valuable lessons of life, love and about giant super whales on a beautiful beach. In the beginning, this film struggles to connect with the audience, but in the end, it mesmerises us with its outstanding climax. All our doubts are answered in the end. James Cameron has poured all his creativity into it. 

The terminator (1984)

The movie, The Terminator, which brought fame and recognition to James Cameron, still rules the audience’s hearts. The film is horror cum sci-fi and was shot on a low budget. It is about an ordinary waitress, played by Linda Hamilton, who is targeted for termination by a time-travelling killer robot, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Only Michael Biehn, who is a human time traveller, can save her. But everyone thinks that he is mad. The script is well-sewed and well-executed, making the movie a classic. It is the perfect example of how to make a low-budget film look big. 

Aliens (1986)

This movie is the sequel to Ridley Scott’s famous film Alien. Cameron has kept the character Ripley alive in this film but has changed the theme. Aliens is a war saga movie in which Ripley is assigned on a mission to kill a specific species of killer monsters who have already started wiping off humans. Even though the film has some flaws here and there, it stands out with its mindblowing sci-fi subgenre. It has inspired many video games, outer-space action movies and other media. 

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

The big-budget movie Terminator 2 is the sequel to its original and is, in many ways, the duplicate of it. It has the same story beats, dialogue deliveries and action sequences. If James Cameron weren’t its director, the whole franchise would have been doomed, as the entire repetition may backfire. Its visual effects were way ahead of time, and it had action sequences which were just amazing. The characters are introduced in different directions, but they all fall into place in the end. It is one of the biggest blockbusters that Hollywood has ever seen.

Titanic (1997)

To date, it is one of James Cameron’s best works. People may relate it to movies like A Night to Remember (1953) and Titanic (1953). But let me tell you, James Cameron’s Titanic is way ahead of all of them. The director has showcased the forbidden romance between a high-class lady, played by Kate Winslet, and a penniless ragamuffin, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Watching how their hot romance turns into a nightmare full of icy water and hubris is mindblowing. It is exciting, tragic and alluring to its every bite and has the ability to get the viewers glued to their chairs throughout. After all, that is what all classics do, right? 

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