May the Force be with you as we look back at the very best JJ Abrams movies and TV shows!
Depending upon who you ask, JJ Abrams is either the man who saved Star Trek, or the man who killed the higher ideals of Star Trek and transformed the franchise into something that it was never intended to be. Either way, the two JJ Abrams movies helped turn the Star Trek franchise’s fortunes around, and now Lucasfilm and Disney are counting on Abrams to pull off the same trick with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Even after the mixed response to the Star Wars prequels, following up on the first true Star Wars sequels would have been a daunting task for anyone. And yet Abrams seems to have been the right choice. Abrams learned most of his craft as a director on genre TV series including “Alias” and “Lost” before bringing that experience to the big screen. Abrams may be mocked for his overuse of lens flare, but the man clearly knows what he’s doing, as the below list of JJ Abrams movies will attest.
Nobody has seen the finished version of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and at the time of this post, it’s not even done! And yet, The Force Awakens is poised to destroy Jurassic World’s record for the biggest opening weekend only a few months after the record was set!
Before Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18, ComingSoon.net is taking a retrospective of the ten most memorable JJ Abrams movies TV projects from his 25 year career in Hollywood.
JJ Abrams Movies and TV Spotlight: Regarding Henry (1991)
Although Regarding Henry was Abrams’ second screenplay to be produced as a movie, it was his first collaboration with Harrison Ford… and Abrams’ onscreen debut as a delivery boy. Ford played the title character, Henry Turner, a narcissistic attorney who has a major change in his personality after surviving a bullet wound to his head. Henry essentially decides that he doesn’t like the man he used to be as he rebuilds his life with wife, Sarah (Annette Bening), and their daughter, Rachel (Mikki Allen).
JJ Abrams Movies and TV Spotlight: Felicity (1998)
Before Keri Russell was a kickass Russian spy on The Americans, she was the title character of “Felicity.” This was also back when The CW was known as The WB, and “Felicity” quickly became one of the network’s signature hits. Abrams co-created “Felicity” with Matt Reeves, and the series ran for four seasons. The premise of the show was that Felicity was inspired by her classmate’s yearbook message to follow him to a New York university as a way to discover her true self.
At one point, “Felicity” was such a cultural phenomena that the new hairstyle of Russell’s character was actually a major entertainment news story!
JJ Abrams Movies and TV Spotlight: Armageddon (1998)
Witness the unholy union of J.J. Abrams and director Michael Bay! All kidding aside, Armageddon isn’t that bad.. .but it is relentlessly stupid at times. Abrams earned his first Razzie Award nomination for his Armageddon script, which was helmed by Bay. Although Bay was also Razzie-nominated, the only person from Armageddon who “won” was Bruce Willis for Worst Actor.
The film starred Willis and Ben Affleck as part of a team of deep oil drillers who were recruited by NASA to take a nuclear bomb into space and blow apart an asteroid before it collides with Earth. Sure… it was dumb, but it was also a huge box office hit.
JJ Abrams Movies and TV Spotlight: Alias (2001)
Abrams’ second TV series was the spy-fi drama Alias, starring Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow, a black ops secret agent who discovered that she had been duped into working for SD-6, an organization that presented itself as a branch of the CIA. Alongside the real CIA and fellow undercover agent (and her father), Jack Bristow (Victor Garber), Sydney worked to bring down SD-6. Bradley Cooper co-starred as Sydney’s best friend, Will Tippin, as he inadvertently became drawn into her double life.
“Alias” also featured the deep mythology that Abrams later used to great effect in “Lost.” Some spy fans objected to the genre and sci-fi elements that showed up in “Alias,” but that rarely stopped Abrams from pushing it further. However, “Alias” never became a huge ratings hit, despite a very well-produced, post-Super Bowl episode that served as a major turning point for the series.
JJ Abrams Movies and TV Spotlight: Lost (2004)
Screenwriter Damon Lindelof was reportedly only trying to land a gig on “Alias” when he was roped into joining Abrams on “Lost,” an ambitious attempt to turn a Survivor-like show into a TV drama. Nobody involved with “Lost” expected it to be a breakout hit, but it became one of the last true TV blockbusters before cable’s original programming fragmented the audience.
Abrams co-created ‘Lost,” composed the theme music, directed and co-wrote the pilot episode. But “Lost” was primarily Lindelof’s playground with co-showrunner, Carlton Cuse. Between “Lost” and “Alias,” Abrams refined his approach to “mystery box” storytelling, which he still uses when directing his films. Basically, that involves keeping the audience in the dark for as long as possible and using any answers as a way to pose even more questions.
JJ Abrams Movies and TV Spotlight: Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Abrams’ feature film debut as a director came on Mission: Impossible III, which reunited him with his “Felicity” star, Keri Russell, as Lindsey Farris, an IMF agent trained by Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt.
Mission: Impossible III also featured an electrifying turn by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as Owen Davian, who is still the best villain that the franchise has ever had.
JJ Abrams Movies and TV Spotlight: Star Trek (2009)
The Trekkers (or Trekkies) who hate Abrams’ Star Trek need to remember the state of the franchise just a few years ago. The previous Star Trek film, Star Trek: Nemesis, failed so badly that it took seven years for another movie to be made. And by 2009, there wasn’t even a new “Star Trek” series on TV. The franchise clearly needed a shot in the arm, and that’s what it got.
Abrams and his screenwriters, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, were also very fortunate to secure the cooperation of Leonard Nimoy, who reprised his role as the original Spock as a way to link the new timeline and the new cast to the original series without negating the Star Trek that fans knew and loved.
JJ Abrams Movies and TV Spotlight: Super 8 (2011)
Abrams’ first movie directing gig after Star Trek came in Super 8, as he wrote and directed a very Steven Spielberg-like tale about a young boy and his friends who discovered an alien presence in their small town. Spielberg even executive produced Super 8 with Abrams, which seemed fitting, given the subject matter.
Despite its relatively meager $50 million budget, Super 8 grossed $260 million worldwide and further cemented Abrams’ status as one of the top directors in Hollywood.
JJ Abrams Movies and TV Spotlight: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
Whatever goodwill that Abrams had achieved from his first Star Trek film was nearly squandered with Star Trek Into Darkness. It’s not even a bad movie, but Star Trek Into Darkness used so many story beats from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that it almost became self-parody… especially when Zachary Quinto’s Spock aped William Shatner’s epic “KHAAAAAAAAN!” scream.
Star Trek Into Darkness also represents the downside of Abrams’ Mystery Box approach, as he had to spend months denying that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing Khan… in the hopes of preserving the film’s dramatic reveal. Despite the problems that fans raised with Star Trek Into Darkness (including Khan’s problematic, death-curing superblood), it still became the second-highest grossing Star Trek movie of all time.
JJ Abrams Movies and TV Spotlight: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Everyone wants to love Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Abrams seemed like the “logical” choice to take over as the director. He certainly brought a Star Wars flavor to his Star Trek films. Abrams also brought back The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi screenwriter, Lawrence Kasdan to help him co-write the final draft of the script.
Abrams also reunited most of the original Star Wars cast, including Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, while also paving the way for a new generation of characters played by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, and Lupita Nyong’o.
(Photo credit: Brian To / WENN.com)