J.J. Abrams’ Movies, Ranked
J.J. Abrams is a giant in mass-market cinema—in spite of only directing five films in his career. Through his production company Bad Robot, he has many irons in the fire. Bad Robot co-produces such franchises as Star Wars, Star Trek and Mission: Impossible—each of which has at least one entry which Abrams has directed. He was also the co-screenwriter of Michael Bay’s 1998 film Armageddon and directed the Spielberg-inspired 2011 film Super 8.
In general, he has built a reputation as a director breathing life back into aging or forgotten franchises. Mission: Impossible III came six years after its predecessor. Star Trek had gone seven years without a sequel—and even longer without a successful one. The most recent live-action Star Wars feature film was a decade prior to Abram’s first entry—the second of which, Star Wars: Episode IX, is forthcoming. Risky films they are not—Abrams tends not to deviate too far from the source material—but entertaining films they indeed are. Abrams is a student of Spielberg. As such, he likes to make science fiction films with a heart at their center—and he probably always will.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Abrams sought to heal the wounds left by disappointment in George Lucas’s prequel trilogy. He turned to the screenwriter of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi to help him recapture the energy that drew fans to the Star Wars franchise in its heyday. Together they helped jumpstart the beloved series once again—and while it feels like somewhat of a retread, it too is a purely fun, beautifully-shot space fantasy.
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Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Without Abrams, there would probably have been no more Mission: Impossible films. Tom Cruise would never have climbed the Burj Khalifa or strapped himself the side of a plane or HALO jumped out of a plane in one unbroken shot. Abrams’s entry—his directorial debut—is more modest. Exciting action sequences, but on a smaller scale. Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is trying to stay out of the world-saving game until his loved ones are put at risk. With Philip Seymour Hoffman as his antagonist—Abrams churns out an unforgettable addition to the franchise.
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Star Trek (2009)
Like an adrenaline needle, Abrams was to the Star Trek franchise. For his turn, he made Captain Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise into action heroes. Star Trek is made in his unmistakable style of fast-paced, dizzying action. The colors are bright and everything is very shiny—in stark contrast to the grimy feel of his entry in the Star Wars universe. With Chris Pine in the lead role, it all makes for a really exciting film.
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Super 8 (2011)
Abrams made Super 8 as a blatant love letter to Spielberg and his cohorts like Stephen King and Chris Columbus who helped define a genre of heartwarming coming-of-age adventure. Somewhere between Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Goonies is where Super 8 lies. Set in 1979, a young teenager and his outcast friends witness something strange in their small town while shooting a homemade film. They take it upon themselves to unravel the otherworldly mystery. Like its predecessors, it is a sweet and funny science fiction film.
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Star Trek Into Darkness (2012)
Abrams’s follow-up to his Star Trek reboot is indeed a nice space adventure—if not his best film. Markedly darker than the previous film, Star Trek Into Darkness is a roller coaster of quick action sequences interspersed with slow, dragging exposition. However, Abrams’s particular style is unmistakable and with his frequent collaborator Simon Pegg nearer to the forefront in this film, it is a breezy, mostly-enjoyable watch.
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