T

here is little debate that James Cameron is most definitely not lacking in confidence and determination – indeed, that, um, determination has resulted in Cameron rarely working with the same actor more than once – but Cameron is also one of the most unfairly maligned people in Hollywood, and all because he quoted a line from his last movie. "I'm the king of the world!" he exclaimed after winning the Academy Award for Best Director for his work on "Titanic." And to be fair, Cameron had every right to be exultant. He had spent the last three years getting pummeled in the press for making what was then the most expensive movie of all time, one that had people predicting a bomb of "Heaven's Gate" proportions. Finally, after missing numerous deadlines and going ridiculously over budget, he finishes the movie…and it goes on to become the top grossing movie of all time. If anyone was entitled to revel in the moment, it was Cameron. All he was really saying was that he felt as though he was on top of the world, not king of it.

Now that we've spent all this time humanizing Cameron, it's time to make a deity out of him.

Between 1984 and 1997, James Cameron made six movies, five of which are considered classics and the sixth ("The Abyss") is considered an unheralded classic. His movies are smart, thrilling, nerve-wracking (no movie has a higher quirm-in-your-seat factor than "Aliens"), gorgeously shot, and well acted, a rarity for the action genre at the time. He may make studios crazy with his fastidiousness, but they put up with it because they know he will give them something that is both highly acclaimed and highly profitable. (The next closest movie to "Titanic" in worldwide box office, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," made $700 million less than the champ.) While his filmography may be short, every one of his movies is a must-see, and arguably a must-own ("Piranha Two: The Spawning" excepted, of course.) There are precious few directors with records as unblemished as Cameron's, and it is that track record that merits his induction here.

At long last, nearly a decade after "Titanic," Cameron has announced that he will start work on "Avatar," an all-CGI film about a war veteran on a humanoid planet. In typical Cameron fashion, he'll first build a multi-player online game for it, and shoot the movie inside the game. One estimate has the movie costing more than $350 million. No matter how much it costs, you can bet that it will look like nothing you've ever seen before.

Fun fact: Cameron, like fellow inductee Martin Scorsese, got his start by working for Roger Corman, first as a production assistant on "Rock & Roll High School" and later as a unit director on "Galaxy of Terror" (Erin Moran, Ray Walston, Robert Englund…how was this not a huge hit?).

The Best of the Best

"The Terminator" (1984)

The TerminatorCameron's unofficial directorial debut (more on that later), "The Terminator" is a mean little movie from the supposedly empty-headed '80s. Schwarzenegger has never been more believable as an actor than when he was playing a machine.

"Aliens" (1986)

Often referred to as Cameron's Vietnam movie in space, "Aliens" is actually more of a psychological thriller than sci-fi shoot-'em-up. It also gave the genre some long-overdue respect, thanks to Sigourney Weaver's Oscar nomination for Best Actress.

"Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991)

The stunts in this movie were so good that they caused the late, great Bill Hicks to muse that the only way to top them would be to use terminally ill people as stuntmen. Action movies would never be the same after this.

"True Lies" (1994)

TitanicHere is one movie that will never, ever be made into a sequel. A romantic comedy/action thriller about a spy who deals with a group of Islamic terrorists? Yeah, they're not making that movie twice. Despite the subject matter, this is Cameron's lightest movie to date. And yes, that is future vampire slayer Eliza Dushku playing Schwarzenegger's daughter Dana.

"Titanic" (1997)

Screw the backlash. "Titanic" deserves every accolade is has ever received, and then some. A technical marvel with a deeply touching love story at its core, Cameron's "$190 million chick flick" is the kind of movie that only he could have made.

The Most Underrated

"The Abyss" (1989)

The AbyssThe theatrical ending to Cameron's aliens-of-the-deep epic (not to be confused with Cameron's 2005 documentary "Aliens of the Deep") is death, rushing through the climax (and, as it happens, its moral) in a race to the credits. The director's cut is far superior, featuring a spectacular tidal wave sequence that predates "Deep Impact" by nearly a decade. The resuscitation scene between Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio is the most emotionally powerful thing Cameron's ever done.

What Were You Thinking?

"Piranha 2: The Spawning" (1981)

Hey, it's a job. Everybody's gotta start somewhere.

Memorable Quotes

Let's be honest: as a screenwriter, James Cameron is a heck of a storyteller. His dialogue, however, is painfully stilted towards the one-liner.

Aliens

"Game over, man!"

True Lies

"I got a little dick, it's pathetic!"

"It happened to me with wife number two, remember? I had no idea, nothing's going on, right? I come home one day, and the house is completely empty, and I mean completely empty. She even took the ice cube trays out of the freezer. What kind of a sick bitch takes the ice cube trays out of the freezer?"

Gib: "All right, twinkle toes, what's your exit strategy?"
Harry: "I'm going to walk right out of the front gate."
Gib: "Ballsy. Stupid, but ballsy."

"You know what? I'm sick of being in the van. You guys get to be in the van next time. I've been in the van for 15 years, Harry."

The Terminator

"I'll be back."

"Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with, it can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!"

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Hasta la vista, baby."

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