Generally favorable reviews - based on 14 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 14
  2. Negative: 1 out of 14
  1. 100
    Stupendously exciting and emotionally engulfing... With probing intelligence and passionate feeling, Cameron has raised the adventure film very close to the level of art.
  2. Both Mastrantonio and Harris are terrific, never missing a beat, always convincing, even when playing the most extreme emotions. [9 Aug 1989, Daily Datebook, p.E1]
  3. The Abyss' isn't abysmal, but it's a replay of hits we've already seen - a recycled "close encounters of the wet kind'' with far too few ideas of its own. [18 Aug 1989, Arts, p.10]
  4. Before this voyage plummets into Stevie Spielberg's locker, the human stuff is more than worth the descent.
  5. The attempt to extract the essences of several genres (cold-war submarine thriller, love story, Disney fantasy, pseudomystical SF in the Spielberg mode) and mix them together ultimately leads to giddy incoherence.
  6. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    If you end up cursing, try not to forget The Abyss' spectacular oil-rig collapse, a killer chase scene, two fine leads, and one Oscar-worthy "creature'' special effect midway through. Do forget the rest - unless you really dig Casper, the Friendly Ghost. [9 Aug 1989, Life, p.1D]
  7. 40
    How many times can we be awestruck by Day-Glo Gumbies? And why do these creatures always travel with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?
  8. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    Harris and Mastrantonio do have a strong death and resurrection sequence, but long before that, one is pining for a rubber shark or a plastic octopus -- anything, in fact, out of a good old low-tech thriller. [14 Aug 1989, p.79]
  9. Reviewed by: Kim Newman
    Weirdly, the film’s problem is that it revs up the tension so much that, like one character’s submersible sinking into the high pressure of the titular Abyss, it finally bursts. The climax – as Bud descends to defuse the nuke and meet the aliens – just doesn’t work.
  10. 75
    The Abyss is at its best during such moments of reverie-when the abstract metaphors and the unique physicality of the deep sea setting come together to produce powerful, unvoiced meanings. The film does have its beckoning depths; what it needs is a more polished surface. [9 Aug 1989, Tempo, p.1]
  11. But the climax of "Close Encounters" was breathtaking and the climax of The Abyss is downright embarrassing; in the light of day, its payoff effect looks like a glazed ceramic what's-it your 11-year-old made in crafts class. It's criminal. [9 Aug 1989, Calendar, p.6-1]
  12. Reviewed by: Barbara Cramer
    It lacks the emotional impact and suspense of its predecessors and is spoiled by a disappointingly inane ending. What ultimately saves the film are its extraordinary sets and phenomenal Oscar-winning visual effects.
  13. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    The Abyss ends with a whimper. But it starts out with a bang that lasts for an exciting hour and a half. And that's enough to make it worth taking the plunge.
  14. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    A firstrate underwater suspenser with an otherworldly twist, The Abyss suffers from a payoff unworthy of its buildup.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 51 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 14
  2. Negative: 0 out of 14
  1. Apr 7, 2013
    I absolutely loved this movie. Great effects, great story and some really memorable characters. Ed Harris in particular. Actually to go back, the effects in this were amazing back when it first came out. But even so, they only play a small part of the movie. Appearing at just the right moments.

    This was one of my favorite movies as a kid, still is today.
    Full Review »
  2. Dec 22, 2012
    The plot of James Cameron's fourth film shares many similarities with his third film, Aliens. Teams of armed forces with ultimately ulterior motives sent in to claustrophobic and isolated environments to investigate missing groups. Oh and those environments are occupied by aliens.

    Three-quarters of The Abyss are great as the ever-present dangers of deep sea isolation coupled with Michael Biehn's stir crazy SEAL ratchet up the tension to a decompression sickness-causing level . As the mission begins to fall apart, the greater fear factor is provided by the underwater drama, cut off from the surface in a damaged platform with decreasing oxygen levels rather than the alien presence. This is a little disappointing considering the film followed Aliens, in which there was no doubt what was responsible for the suspense. Cameron obviously felt like giving the Abyss aliens a more mysterious rather than menacing persona. This leads to a slightly disappointing finale as the alien presence is gradually revealed and all threat along with it. It all becomes a little unnecessarily enchanting.

    Ed Harris leads the cast and gives an another excellent performance. Has this guy ever turned in a dud one? Mary Elisabeth Mastrantonio gives an equally assured performance as Harris' estranged wife and platform designer. The rekindling affection between the two is key to the film's success and the scene following Harris' return to the platform with Mastrantonio's body is genuinely emotional and fantastically performed by Harris.

    For it's age, The Abyss still looks great and remains a good to great sci-fi thriller.
    Full Review »
  3. Dec 18, 2012
    Riding tall on its still-majestic production design and visuals, James Cameron's "The Abyss" also scores high for its cleverly high-brow story and impressively varied display of performances. Full Review »