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The Abyss Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 70

    out of 100


    A firstrate underwater suspenser with an otherworldly twist, The Abyss suffers from a payoff unworthy of its buildup.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly

    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.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    USA Today 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]

  • 75

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Dave Kehr

    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]

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 13+

Undersea UFO adventure is breathtaking but intense.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there's a fair amount of salty language in this ocean thriller. The camera exposes bare breasts in a medical-emergency context. Violent acts include death by drowning, hand-to-hand combat, and a threat of nuclear annihilation. Young viewers with fears of the water and/or claustrophobia might be uncomfortable with vivid portrayals of drowning and submersible environments. A scene -- not faked -- in which a domesticated rat is immersed in breathable liquid is a real don't-try-this-with-the-family-pet-at-home moment. The US military doesn't come off looking particularly good.

  • Families can talk about ocean exploration and living underwater, and how much of the astounding aquatic technology shown here is the real deal, shot by James Cameron in one of the largest underwater tank-sets ever built -- not sci-fi CGI. Dwelling for long periods beneath the surface of the sea poses many of the same challenges as setting up space colonies. Ask kids what they would prefer -- manning a space station or a submarine platform? How would they have dealt with the unstable Navy SEALS here in a more constructive manner?

The good stuff
  • message true1

    Messages: The U.S. military (in particular, an all-white group of overconfident Navy SEALS) are more or less the villains here, arrogant and paranoid and fixated on weaponry and Cold-War destruction. The filmmakers' sympathies are with the (ethnically and sexually mixed) working-class oil-rig crew, shown as more sensible and concerned for each other's safety and well-being. The main characters are a feuding couple in the process of divorce, with lots of marital sniping woven into the adventure; the wife in particular is accused of being more interested in career advancement.

What to watch for
  • violence false4

    Violence: Blood shed in hand-to-hand combat and near-strangulation. Freshly-drowned bodies shown. A knife and a gun brandished. A montage of real-life atrocity footage from Vietnam, the Holocaust, and other infamies. A psycho character slashes his arm in a masochistic "cutting" ritual.

  • sex false3

    Sex: Quick glimpse of bare breasts as a female character in cardiac arrest is defibrillated.

  • language false3

    Language: "Damn," "hell," "dick," "SOB," and "s--t," all several time; "goddamn"/"oh my God"; the heroine referred to as a "bitch" more than once.

  • consumerism false1

    Consumerism: Somehow a Coca-Cola machine found its way on board the base.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not an issue