James Cameron’s Many Imitators

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then James Cameron must be one of the most beloved directors in Hollywood. Every one of his films has been aped at least once, sometimes before they even came out. Here are some of the most blatant ripoffs.

The Terminator

1984’s The Terminator influenced practically every low-budget action film for the next decade, but there are two films that rip off that film’s plot so blatantly that they deserve special note. 1989’s Lady Terminator is a bizarrely edited retread with mysticism and an ancient curse thrown in while 1997’s Future War has the novelty of adding dinosaurs to the mix. Neither is very good, but they’re made infinitely better by listening to professional comedians’ commentary on them.

Lady Terminator is an obvious ripoff of The Terminator.Future War is The Terminator with dinosaurs.


Ever heard of Carnosaur 2 or Xtro II: The Second Encounter? Don’t worry, neither has any other sane human being. I, on the other hand, keep up with blatant ripoffs of Aliens as a hobby. Not really, but these two films have the distinction of being the follow-ups to decent creature features, and it’s hilarious that they copied and pasted the plot of another sequel to an amazing creature feature, Aliens. I guess you can’t improve on perfection, so the best you can hope to do is emulate it.

Carnosaur 2 is a blatant retread of Aliens.Xtro 2: The Second Encounter follows the same path as Aliens.

The Abyss

DeepStar Six, Leviathan, and even Lords of the Deep managed to beat The Abyss to theaters in 1989. That’s mainly because Cameron was such a perfectionist that he fell behind schedule pushing his actors and the limited digital effects of the era to their limits to get his vision on screen. The imitators all tanked at the box office, and The Abyss even underperformed. That year was packed with big blockbusters, so it’s not hard to see why The Abyss fell by the wayside. I see it as Cameron’s masterpiece. While it has gone on to receive the praise it deserves, all of its ripoffs have been forgotten.

DeepStar Six is rather reminiscent of The Abyss.Leviathan tried to emulate The Abyss.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Again, in this case another film beat Cameron to the punch. In 1989, an Italian film known as either Terminator 2 or Shocking Dark debuted. It continues the story of the first Terminator by rehashing the story of Aliens. It’s a surreal combination. Needless to say, this unauthorized sequel has been blissfully forgotten by most of the world, thanks to the far superior Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

This Terminator 2 wasn't made by James Cameron.

True Lies

True Lies is based on the French film La Totale! But let’s face it, when you’ve got an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle directed by James Cameron, whatever came before it is going to pale in comparison. Honestly, I’ve never heard of any direct ripoffs of True Lies, though Mr. and Mrs. Smith comes the closest. In that 2005 film, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie both play secret agents who keep their double lives hidden from each other. It’s a clever concept, but it’s nowhere near as fun as True Lies.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith has a similar premise as True Lies, but it's not an obvious remake.


Most filmmakers wisely avoided trying to capture lightning in a bottle the way Cameron did when he made Titanic in 1997. Only Michael Bay attempted to pull off the same formula with Pearl Harbor in 2001. It made plenty of money, but it’s not particularly well-remembered. As far as animated atrocities based on Titanic, there are two that I know of: 1999’s The Legend of the Titanic and 2000’s Titanic: The Legend Goes on. Wow. To be able to not only reference the first ripoff but also the famous song from the original is an incredible feat, and that second film managed to do it. Thankfully, the only legend those films left behind is one of cringe-induced laughs at their expense.

2001's Pearl Harbor tried to achieve the same level of success as 1997's Titanic.Titanic: The Legend Goes On bears a strong resemblance to another movie.


It has been stated many times that Avatar is little more than a flashy version of Ferngully: The Last Rainforest and Dances with Wolves. The only other film that has managed to reuse the same formula as Avatar is How to Train Your Dragon, which did it far better, in my opinion. But beyond simple plot similarities, the film’s groundbreaking 3D special effects had the biggest impact. For a few years after 2009, it seemed like every movie not directed by Christopher Nolan or Quentin Tarantino got repackaged into a 3D version in theaters. The technology still exists today, but it’s not as hyped as it was a decade ago. That doesn’t change the fact that Cameron was the trailblazer of a major trend in cinema.

How to Train Your Dragon is a beautiful film that is superior to Avatar.


James Cameron will always be one of my favorite filmmakers because even when he had limited budgets to work with, he always made top-tier films. This is highlighted by all of his imitators. Even when others try to do what he did with bigger budgets and a ready-made template to follow, the results rarely match what Cameron already accomplished. Now that’s talent.

This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.

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About Robert Lockard, the Deja Reviewer

Robert Lockard has been a lover of writing since he was very young. He studied public relations in college, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in 2006. His skills and knowledge have helped him to become a sought-after copywriter in the business world. He has written blogs, articles, and Web content on subjects such as real estate, online marketing and inventory management. His talent for making even boring topics interesting to read about has come in handy. But what he really loves to write about is movies. His favorite movies include: Fiddler on the Roof, Superman: The Movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Back to the Future, Beauty and the Beast, The Fugitive, The Incredibles, and The Dark Knight. Check out his website: Deja Reviewer. Robert lives in Utah with his wife and four children. He loves running, biking, reading, and watching movies with his family.
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