James Cameron's "Avatar" is one of the most successful box office smashes in movie history, but unlike a lot of popular movies it hasn't inspired an army of knock-offs. It must be because the unique blend of cutting-edge 3D visuals and old-time (some would say hackneyed) story traditions found in "Avatar" was sort of like catching lightning in a bottle-at least until the sequel comes out. So here are 6 movies that have SOMETHING in common with Cameron's weird-ass love story/adventure/environmental fable...and they're actually good.



Of course, "Avatar" wasn't the first time director James Cameron blended science fiction and action/adventure. He did it more than 20 years earlier with "Aliens"-a movie with enough action and violence to make "Avatar" look like "Pocahontas" (and it already looks quite a bit like "Pocahontas" on its own). It's a sequel to the scifi classic "Alien," but Cameron made the ingenious decision to trade that movie's horror vibe for all-out action, and the result is one of the most entertaining movies of all time.


"The Matrix"

See if this sounds familiar: Character A, through no fault of his own, is "chosen" to enter a strange new world with the aid of a machine that transports his mind from his body and he goes on a huge adventure, fights bad guys, and falls in love with a highly-competent female member of the same resistance he's been enlisted in. "The Matrix" differs from "Avatar" in huge ways, but the basic mechanics of the respective titular technologies are fairly similar, not to mention the "hero's journey" of the plots.


"Star Wars"

Speaking of a hero's journey, "Star Wars" was heavily influenced by a lot of the same stories that inspired James Cameron in crafting "Avatar." And George Lucas' penchant for telling well-worn stories with state-of-the-art special effects should ring familiar to fans of "Avatar." Of course, Lucas might be a little better at coming up with titles-if he'd followed the same rationale Cameron did in naming "Avatar," "Star Wars" would probably have been called "Lightsaber."



It may sound like a joke, but the "green" aspects of "Avatar" probably seem pretty familiar to fans of "FernGully," which had a similar respect and reverence for the Earth's rainforests. One key difference is that while "Avatar" takes place on a distant planet, the adventure in "FernGully" is right here on Earth. Oh, and Robin Williams voices a wacky comic relief bat.


"The Lord of the Rings"

Peter Jackson is yet another filmmaker who employs high-tech visual effects to tell stories as old as time. And he reaches the peak of that form with the  "Lord of the Rings" movies, surely without which Cameron would have had a rougher time selling "Avatar" to a studio. Fans of serious-toned adventure and fantasy will find a lot to admire in both "The Lord of the Rings" and "Avatar."


"The Abyss"

We go back to James Cameron himself for "The Abyss," a movie that in our opinion is vastly superior to "Avatar." Fans of "Avatar" will love the way Cameron evokes an alien world-in this case, the bottom of the ocean. And yes, there are space aliens and like the ones in "Avatar" they're benign, friendly creatures. Also they can control water, which is pretty cool.