J.J. Abrams' Forgotten $260 Million Sci-Fi Gem Was Way Ahead of the Curve

J.J. Abrams' Forgotten $260 Million Sci-Fi Gem Was Way Ahead of the Curve
Image credit: Paramount Pictures, Legion-Media

It got lost in the shuffle of some big releases, but this movie stands as a success, even if it was ahead of its time.


  • It was overshadowed by other big movies released in the same year.
  • The film grossed $260 million against a budget of $50 million.
  • It has all the hallmarks of a Spielberg classic.

The result of a collaboration between J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, this 2011 sci-fi thriller has been largely forgotten - but that's no reflection on how good it is. Released in the same year as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and The Hangover Part II, among others, it still made it into the top 20 movies of the year.

But its vibe is arguably more suited to recent years, so it's worth revisiting – or watching for the first time – if you're a fan of 80s coming-of-age shows like Stranger Things.

It has an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes

RT is a pretty good source for determining how well movies have been received by critics and fans. In the case of J.J. Abrams' Super 8, they're largely in agreement. The critics gave it an 81%, while the audience rated it at 75%.

The critics' consensus on the site reads: 'It may evoke memories of classic summer blockbusters a little too eagerly for some, but Super 8 has thrills, visual dazzle and emotional depth to spare.'

All true. But it's the retro feel of this movie that makes it likely to appeal to modern audiences in ways that may not have been appreciated when it was first released.

What's it about?

Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney play Joe and Alice, two 'friends' whose fathers disapprove of them being so close. The two get involved in helping their mutual friend Charles (played by Riley Griffiths) make a zombie movie for a Super 8 competition. One night, while filming at the train station, they witness a collision between a train and a pickup truck. Strange events occur in the town after the crash, catching the attention of Joe's father, Jack, a local deputy sheriff. Things take a significant turn when Joe and Charles review the footage of the accident and see an alien creature escape from the wreckage.

A multi-award-winning movie

The film won several awards, including Best Director and Best Performance by a Young Actor at the Saturn Awards. The latter went to Joel Courtney, with Elle Fanning also nominated.

Courtney also won Best Newcomer at the 4th Annual Coming of Age Awards, while the film won Best Cinematography and Best Special Soundtrack. In all, Super 8 received 74 award nominations, 17 of which resulted in wins.

But perhaps one of its greatest successes was not in the awards it won, but in the story it told (and I'm not talking about the sci-fi element here - although that does make for a great plot). It was a modern day love letter to the Super 8 era and the art of filmmaking itself.

It may never reach the same heights as Running Up That Hill scene from Stranger Things, but if that was one of the aspects of the Netflix hit you enjoyed, give Super 8 a try.

Source: Rotten Tomatoes.