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The Abyss (1989)

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A civilian diving team is enlisted to search for a lost nuclear submarine and face danger while encountering an alien aquatic species.


James Cameron


James Cameron
2,400 ( 903)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 8 wins & 15 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ed Harris ... Bud Brigman
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio ... Lindsey Brigman
Michael Biehn ... Lt. Coffey
Leo Burmester ... Catfish De Vries
Todd Graff ... Alan 'Hippy' Carnes
John Bedford Lloyd ... Jammer Willis
J.C. Quinn ... 'Sonny' Dawson
Kimberly Scott ... Lisa 'One Night' Standing
Captain Kidd Brewer Jr. ... Lew Finler (as Capt. Kidd Brewer Jr.)
George Robert Klek George Robert Klek ... Wilhite
Christopher Murphy ... Schoenick
Adam Nelson ... Ensign Monk
Dick Warlock ... Dwight Perry (as Richard Warlock)
Jimmie Ray Weeks ... Leland McBride
J. Kenneth Campbell ... DeMarco


Formerly married petroleum engineers who still have some issues to work out. They are drafted to assist a gung-ho Navy SEAL with a top-secret recovery operation: a nuclear sub has been ambushed and sunk, under mysterious circumstances, in some of the deepest waters on Earth. Written by Jwelch5742

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A place on earth more awesome than anywhere in space. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for language and some scenes of action | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

9 August 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Abyss See more »


Box Office


$70,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$9,319,797, 13 August 1989, Wide Release

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (special edition)

Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| Dolby (35 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Real oxygenated fluorocarbon fluid was used in the rat fluid breathing scene. Dr. Johannes Kylstra and Dr. Peter Bennett of Duke University pioneered this technique and consulted on the film. The only reason for cutting to the actors' faces was to avoid showing the rats defecating from momentary panic as they began breathing the fluid. See more »


Soon after Virgil begins his descent into the abyss, Linz informs him that he's broken the world record for the deepest sea dive. He smiles, which causes air bubbles to come out of his nose, even though he's supposed to be breathing liquid oxygen. See more »


[first lines]
USS Montana Captain: Sixty knots? No way, Barnes. The Reds don't have anything that fast.
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Crazy Credits

The opening 20th Century Fox logo doesn't have the usual fanfare, only the sound of sonar pings in the background. See more »

Alternate Versions

In 1992, an alternate version titled "The Abyss - Special Edition" was released, with 28 minutes of new material. The following is a complete list of all the new and alternate footage included in the Special Edition:
  • An opening quote from Friedrich Nietzsche: "when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you. "
  • The scene where Bud is on the phone has been slightly extended. In the original film, this scene ended right after he says "what's up?". In the special edition, he listens to the response and after a few seconds, screams "WHAT?!"
  • Added scenes involving the crew being recalled: we see Hippy controlling an ROV by remote, then Bud enters and announces to the crew that they are being recalled. The crew gathers in the moon pool and Bud explains to them why the've been called back inside.
  • As One Night is towing the rig, she is listening to a country song on her tape deck. Bud and Hippy hear the song coming through the intercom and join in the singing. A small extract of this scene was used in the theatrical version.
  • A new scene dealing with Bud and Lindsey's breakup is inserted before Bud throws his wedding ring in the toilet. Bud shows Lindsey to her room and asks whether she is still seeing her new boyfriend. They begin having a discussion about why they broke up in the first place, and it turns into an argument. They exchange comments and then Bud leaves the room.
  • After Lt. Coffey explains the mission to the crew, Bud confronts him and suggests that he go easier on the crew. Coffey informs Bud that they will continue to do things his way. This scene increases the tension between Bud and Coffey. Bud goes into the next room where a crew member makes a comment on his purple hand.
  • A brief report about Benthic Petroleum is added to the scene where the crew is watching the news report on TV. The news reporter talks about Benthic's involvement in the sub rescue mission, and one of the crew members says "we want names!" When the news switches over to a live report from the Explorer, a crew member has an added line which was not in the theatrical version: "hey, we're famous!"
  • A second news report has been added which was not in the theatrical version. It discusses the collision of a NATO warship with another vessel.
  • A third news report was also added to increase the focus on the tension building up between world superpowers. The report discusses Soviet, NATO, and military buildups around the globe and also includes interviews with citizens.
  • New scene showing Coffey and his men opening the missile hatch to retrieve a nuclear weapon from the sunken navy submarine.
  • Once the rig has come to rest on the edge of the abyss after the accident with the crane, a new scene shows Bud, Hippy, and One Night surveying the damage using an ROV. They locate a wrecked minisub and a dead crewman. Hippy asks if they are just going to leave him there, and Bud replies that they have to worry about restoring power and getting air first.
  • While Bud and One Night are doing repairs in the moon pool, their conversation is extended to include talking about Bud and Lindsey's relationship. Bud talks about how they first met and some of the details leading to their breakup.
  • A new scene shows Coffey confronting the crew about their recent contact with the NTI's. Coffey refuses to believe that there are really aliens down there, he thinks that they are actually Russian war bogeys.
  • New scene showing Coffey staring out into the water from one of the rig's windows.
  • Just before the "water tentacle" sequence, a brief scene has been inserted showing Lindsey bringing a drink to the injured navy soldier.
  • Once the crew has caught on to Coffey's plan, a new scene shows Hippy walking down a passageway and finding the warhead missing from Coffey's room. We then see Coffey carrying the warhead down a hallway.
  • A new scene involving discussion about the NTI's. Lindsey suggests that the aliens may be from outer space, and that their home planet may have similar conditions as the abyss: extreme cold and intense pressure.
  • When Lindsey is talking to Bud over the intercom during his descent, Lindsey talks for a bit and then says "sorry, I'm rambling." A brief typed response from Bud was inserted after this: "you always did talk too much".
  • During Bud's descent into the abyss, the pressure beings to affect him and his link with the surface. In the original film when the crew realizes something is wrong, they ask if Bud can still hear them, and his typed response is just gibberish. A brief new bit of dialogue has been inserted just before this: Bud types "you're going away" and Linsdey replies "No I'm not, I'm right here, Bud."
  • A new piece of dialogue was added just before Lindsey tells Bud "you're not alone, I'll always be with you": she reminds him about when they were a couple and a special night they spent together.
  • The sequence with the aliens in their underwater ship has been greatly extended and now involves a whole extra twist to the plot. When Bud is taken inside their ship, they show him an assortment of images on a giant screen. The first few images are of the news reports about the NATO and Russian military buildups. Bud realizes that the aliens can pick up our television signals and have been monitoring our TV stations. The next report is a seismologist discussing heavy seismic signals coming from the earth's oceans towards the coasts of every continent. Bud is then shown an image of yet another TV report, this time an on-location report on a beach where an enormous tidal wave, thousands of feet high, is heading towards the shore. People are running and screaming in panic as the wave gets closer. Bud realizes that it is the aliens who are controlling this wave: "you guys are doing this! You have the power to control water!" He asks why they are doing this, and the aliens respond by showing him images of nuclear weapons exploding and causing destruction. Bud realizes that the aliens are concerned about the recent military buildup and the possibility of a nuclear war. He asks "where do you get off passing judgment on us? How do know they'll actually do it?" The aliens then show him various images depicting the horrors of war, all the images are from the great wars in human history. This shows that the aliens have monitored our TV for many years and know that mankind has a tendancy for war. We then see shots of the huge tidal wave increasing in size and approaching coastlines all over the world, including New York and San Francisco. People are panicking and fleeing in terror, and then the wave suddenly slows to a stop and hangs in the air, seemingly suspended in time. Citizens stare in awe at the giant wave, and then it begins receed and back away from the coast. People shout and cheer as the wave moves away. Bud turns to the aliens and asks "you could've done it, why didn't you?" This is where the scene started in the theatrical version, with the aliens showing Bud that they were monitoring his typed conversations with the surface.
  • A very brief piece of dialogue from Hippy has been inserted just before One Night sees Bud's transmission on the monitor. He says "I wish I could've seen it, I mean, how do you stop a thousand-foot tidal wave?"
  • After Bud contacts the rig and informs everyone about the aliens, several new lines of dialogue were inserted as Lindsey reads Bud's messages and discovers the true purpose of the aliens. Bud types that the aliens "have left us alone until now" and "it bothers them to see us hurting each other". He says that the aliens "sent us a message, hope you got it" and that they want us to "grow up and put away childish things." (referring to nuclear weapons). When the crew of the Explorer hears this, one of the crew members jokes to the Navy officer: "looks like you boys might be out of a job!"
  • As the alien ship rises up out of the abyss, some brief footage has been inserted as it rises in front of the rig. We see beams of intense light streaming into the rig's windows, and Lindsey looks at her hands as if something in the light is affecting her. (This could account for the dialogue between Lindsey and Hippy when they exit the rig: Lindsey says "we didn't depressurize, we should be dead!" Hippy says "Maybe they did something to us." to which Lindsey replies "yeah, I think you could say that.")
See more »


Written by Lowell George
Performed by Linda Ronstadt
Courtesy of CEMA Special Markets and Capitol Records, Inc.
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Breathtakingly beautiful
18 April 2005 | by philip_vandervekenSee all my reviews

When we think about aliens in the movies, I guess everybody immediately thinks about the series of "Alien" - movies, but there are some other fine examples and "The Abyss" may well be the best alternative I can come up with. Even though this was made by James Cameron, the same director who gave us "Aliens", both movies are very hard to compare.

When an American nuclear submarine is attacked during the cold war and crashes, the navy is convinced that it was the work of the Russians. They want to salvage the wreckage as soon as possible, because a storm is coming, but they aren't able to send a diving crew of their own that quickly. That's why they contact a group of workers of a nearby underwater oil rig, who reluctantly accept the job. They are joined by some navy SEALS who will help them to locate and investigate the cause of the crash. But they do not only find the crashed sub, they also find out that there is more down there in the deep than what they had ever expected to see.

What I liked so much about this movie was that this time the aliens didn't feel threatening at all. It was something completely different from what we were used to see and it worked perfectly. This was a beautiful, well-crafted movie with some very fine acting and with some excellent special effects. Even though this movie was created in 1989, the computer animations were still marvelous and breathtaking. In fact, this entire movie is breathtaking. It is very touching and powerful at the same time and I'm sure that many people will have a lot of difficulties not to show any emotions while watching it. I give this movie an 8/10. It sure doesn't deserve any less.

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