RANKED! J.J. Abrams Movies (In Anticipation of ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’)
There’s no doubt that J.J. Abrams is one of the foremost Hollywood filmmakers working today. He has the ability to appeal to broad audience demographics while also telling specific genre stories. From his early television and screenwriting to his producing and directing work with his production company Bad Robot, Abrams has had a massive footprint in the entertainment industry over the past three decades. With Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on the horizon, here are some of the best J.J. Abrams movies.
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10. ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’
Out of all the movies that J.J. Abrams had directed, Star Trek Into Darkness is easily his most misguided effort. Aside from being very problematic on many levels, the movie is ultimately a gimmick that pales in comparison to the film that it’s trying to remake. In the grand scheme of things, Star Trek Into Darkness isn’t necessarily a bad movie, but merely a confused one.
While Abrams is mostly known for his directing and producing work, he is also an established writer. It may seem impossible, but Abrams is actually one of the five credited writers on this classic Bruce Willis science fiction disaster film. While Armageddon may be one of director Michael Bay’s best movies, the heart, sentimentality, and emotional impact no doubt come from the Abrams wheelhouse.
8. ‘Super 8’
Let’s be honest, Super 8 is essentially a giant love letter to the influence of Steven Spielberg. At the same time, it’s also deeply flawed in myriad ways. While Abrams’ trademark mystery box storytelling is supremely intriguing for the first two acts, the finale is undoubtedly a letdown. Regardless of this, Super 8 still manages to have a big beating heart, one that is fueled by nostalgia and sentimentality.
Although he only produced Overlord, Abrams and screenwriter Billy Ray conceived the premise of the movie. This WWII horror film follows a small group of American soldiers who are abandoned behind enemy lines on the eve of D-Day and eventually discover secret Nazi experiments. In other words, it’s a B movie that also serves as a revisionist war drama. Ultimately, Overlord is a clever little film that will satisfy genre fans of all types.
6. ‘Mission: Impossible III’
As the feature directorial debut of Abrams, Mission: Impossible III is easily the most enjoyable of the original trilogy. Even though it has a rushed third act, Abrams created an all-time great villain and a riveting performance from Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Owen Davian. Simply put, Mission Impossible III is a robust feature film debut that would eventually propel Abrams into the household-name director that he would eventually become.
5. ‘Joy Ride’
Even by early 2001 standards, Joy Ride is a bit of an oddity. Written by Abrams and Chris Moore, the movie not only falls within the distinct subgenre of the road horror film, but it also manages to be a genuinely great entry into it. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, and yet it’s also the perfect encapsulation of Abrams' storytelling sensibilities, at least on the page. Ultimately, two words sum up the awesomeness that is Joy Ride: "Candy Cane!"
Although Cloverfield served as the directorial debut of Matt Reeves, the idea behind it is undoubtedly the brainchild of Abrams. For a movie that wasn’t directed by the man himself, it happens to feature many trademarks from the filmmaker’s wheelhouse. While the handheld cinema verite style of shooting may be too much for some to handle, it’s a supremely useful tool in creating tension and mystery. Even to this day, it’s a miracle that people went to see the movie knowing absolutely nothing about it.
3. ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’
While Star Wars: The Force Awakens is easily Abrams’ most popular movie, it’s also his most divisive. Although the film is certainly not as complicated or interesting as its follow-up, it’s a great return to form for the franchise after the prequels. It may not be the movie that some sects of the Star Wars fandom wanted, but it’s also precisely the jump-start that the franchise needed to return to the limelight of the original trilogy successfully. Sure, it’s a flawed movie. But so is A New Hope and that’s also a classic. When all is said and done, The Force Awakens is the type of film that checks all the right boxes while also striking the right chords.
2. ‘Lost’ Pilot
Even though J.J. Abrams’ TV pilot for Lost isn’t technically considered a movie, the two-part pilot for the hit 2000s series mostly plays out like a feature film. While Lost as a whole eventually came with its own machinations, the show would not have been what it was without the guiding hand of Abrams at the helm of the pilot episode. It went on to become a cultural phenomenon that won a bevy of awards – and for good reasons. We’re still not sure if Abrams can successfully finish something that he starts, but he sure knows how to kick things off with a bang.
1. ‘Star Trek’
Whereas its sequel is the most misguided of his directorial efforts, Abrams’ 2009 reboot of Star Trek is easily the most complete experience of all his movies. The fantastic thing about his Star Trek reboot is that it can appeal to hardcore fans and casual viewers alike. It’s a four-quadrant movie where Abrams is actually able to craft a satisfying conclusion. More importantly, it modernized the feature film arm of the Trek franchise in a way that made it fresh and exciting again. In essence, Star Trek is the best Star Wars movie that Abrams has made (at least so far), one that would ironically get Abrams the job directing the latter itself. In the end, Star Trek provides a fun, satisfying experience that is as rewatchable as it is engaging.