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The Movie Like Super 8 That Sci-Fi Fans Need To See

In the years since JJ Abrams made "Super 8," he's been almost exclusively dedicated to "Star Trek" and "Star Wars." When "Super 8" was first released, though, it seemed like the beginning of the kind of career he could have if he decided to move forward with original stories. Although he didn't ultimately take that path, "Super 8" remains a fascinating look at how Abrams tells stories that aren't based on existing material, and the movie's also an obvious homage to the kinds of movies that Abrams grew up with, including the same '80s nostalgia and small-town vibe that would eventually become part of the core appeal of "Stranger Things." 

In this movie, a group of young teenagers is filming their own movie using a super 8 camera when a train derails in their town, releasing a mysterious and sinister force into their town. The movie has a number of crystal clear predecessors, including '80s adventure films like "The Goonies" and "E.T." In general, one can argue that Abrams has tended to model his career most closely after the work of Steven Spielberg, which is why "War of the Worlds" may be the best movie for fans of "Super 8" to pop in if they're looking for something similar. 

War of the Worlds is a clear predecessor to Super 8

"War of the Worlds" is one of Spielberg's many supernatural films, and also one of his most underrated. The film, which is adapted from a decades-old H.G. Wells story of the same name, follows Tom Cruise as a distant father who is forced to take care of his children in the face of an alien invasion. The movie's focus on family unites it with "Super 8," although "War of the Worlds" is more focused on the father, while "Super 8" emphasizes the children (strangely, both movies also star a Fanning sister, with Dakota in "War of the Worlds" and Elle in "Super 8"). 

Abrams was undoubtedly influenced by Spielberg's visual sensibility on films like "War of the Worlds." As he explained to PopcornBiz, "Super 8" was a conscious tribute to the work of directors that Abrams had grown up loving (via NBC Washington), and its success came in part because he was so successfully able to combine the films he loved into something slightly new. "War of the Worlds" is like the original flavor, though, even if the movie's second half is not as strong as its first. 

War of the Worlds plays like a horror movie

Although "Super 8" has elements of horror, part of the movie's fun is in the slow unveiling of the mystery at the movie's center. By contrast, "War of the Worlds" very quickly transforms itself into a movie about the sheer terror and havoc that this alien invasion has unleashed. Most of the time, the horror comes from the aliens themselves, but there are also various human threats that the movie's central family has to contend with. 

On the whole, though, "War of the Worlds" is a visceral example of how much great storytelling Spielberg can do without any need for dialogue. Spielberg has undoubtedly made a number of movies that informed Abrams' approach to "Super 8," and a film like "E.T." might be the most obvious point of comparison. "War of the Worlds" actually has more in common with "Super 8," though, thanks in part to the much more terrifying nature of its alien threat, and the action set pieces featured in both films.