Blending science fiction with film noir conventions, Strange Days explores themes such as racism, abuse of power, rape, and voyeurism. Although the story was conceived by Cameron around 1986, Bigelow found inspiration after incidents such as the Lorena Bobbitt trial and the 1992 Los Angeles riots that followed the Rodney King verdict. The film was shot entirely in the Greater Los Angeles Area over a period of 77 nights. Some of the film's scenes, which offer a point-of-view shot (POV), required multi-faceted cameras and considerable technical preparation.
A major box-office bomb, Strange Days almost derailed Bigelow's career, making little more than a sixth of its $42 million production cost. Upon release, the film polarized film critics; some reviewers praised its gritty atmosphere and the performances by Fiennes and Bassett, while others criticized it for failing to comment on its violence. Nevertheless, the film's critical standing has improved over the years, with many fans feeling that the film has been overlooked by a casual mass audience and misguided critics. At the 22nd Saturn Awards, Bassett won Best Actress and Bigelow became the first woman to win the Best Director award.