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Three Classic James Cameron Movies from the 1980s



James Cameron is one of the most decorated directors of recent times. Among his most famous movies are Avatar and Titanic, two of the highest-grossing movies of all time. In this article, we’re going to travel back to the 1980s and see what movies gave Cameron his springboard to success.

Piranha II: The Spawning

Along with Ovidio Assonitis, Cameron directed this underwater thriller. His directorial debut, Piranha II, didn’t go quite as he imagined in production. It has been widely reported that Assonitis took so much control over the movie process that Cameron never even saw the edits. In any case, this sequel follows a killer piranha who has developed the ability to fly as it wreaks havoc on an American seaside town.

Unfortunately for Cameron, the film wasn’t a box-office success. However, this hasn’t meant the end of underwater-themed movies, shows, and even games, which have increased in popularity since the 80s. On the big screen, Jaws was a notable success, while fished-themed shows are widely available on television and streaming platforms. Casinos have even brought the underwater world to the digital world, offering titles like the Fishin’ Frenzy slot game, a fishing-themed online slot game. It adopts a standard 5×3 scheme to bring players gameplay they can wrap their heads around easily, with a colourful theme that draws on the popularity of fishing and the sea. Fishin’ Frenzy has arguably achieved its goals better than Cameron did with the film! Piranha II was an auspicious start for Cameron as a director, but things got better as he honed his craft.


Sticking to the theme of sequels, Cameron worked on this 80s classic. Aliens, a more successful movie than Piranha II, featured some Hollywood royalty, including Sigourney Weaver. The storyline had a familiar similar feel to Piranha though, except it was an alien terrorizing a group of Marines. Fortunately for Cameron, the film opened to a positive reaction from critics. The movie went on to win two Academy Awards in 1987, while Weaver was also nominated for Best Actress. Opinion was split on whether the sequel surpassed the original, but by all accounts, it was a success for Cameron.

The Terminator

The original Terminator was released in 1984. It ended up spawning five more movies in the franchise, but it is widely agreed that the original is the most iconic, if only for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous line, “I’ll be back”, parodied in an episode of The Simpsons some years later. The movie cemented the Austrian as a credible frontman and catapulted Cameron’s career, defying the low expectations on release. Coming from a dream he had, the plot surrounds a robot coming back from the future to kill Sarah Connor. It was with this movie that he first truly saw box office success, earning $78 million worldwide.

Source: Unsplash

Since the slow beginning with Piranha II, Cameron has become one of the highest-grossing directors of all time; his movies have made over $8 billion. It will come as no surprise to those who follow his career that Cameron is a deep-sea enthusiast and also is committed to environmental causes. In 2020, he moved to New Zealand and has since stated his desire to direct any future films in the country. For those looking forward to his next production, the New Zealand countryside, already made famous by the Lord of the Rings, will feature prominently.

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