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The Terminator

James Cameron's 1984 sci-fi action film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Come with me if you want to live!! 95%

  • Dec 20, 2012
The Terminator has been one of those movies that I've been a fan of since the 90's, and it seems like with age, you end up loving it even more. With Arnold Schwarzenegger's movies, I consider this among his absolute best, second only to the mighty Total Recall.

It's also interesting to note that if you ask around a lot of Terminator fans, most will tell you that Terminator 2: Judgment Day is their favorite movie. If you would have asked me this question about 10-15 years ago, I would have concurred with the consensus on this. However, after some deeper thought about the two movies, I now consider the first Terminator my favorite because compared to the sequel, the first Terminator movie has a much stronger sense of tension and urgency.


In the relatively distant future (2029), a nuclear war has wiped out most of humanity. However, armies of anthropomorphic machines and cyborgs are dead-set on eliminating the survivors. The genocidal machines send a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to Los Angeles circa 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), the mother of human resistance leader, John Connor. The human resistance sends a resistance fighter named Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) to infiltrate the Terminator and save Sarah.


What makes this movie such a great one is the characters. Sarah steals the show since she's very easy to relate to, since she feels like a real person. When she's faced with impending death by the Terminator, she understandably acts scared as hell and when she meets Kyle Reese, she initially thinks he's a maniac, even when he saves her from the Terminator at the Tech Noir club. Kyle is great as the "hero" of the movie because much like what John McClane would help establish in the mighty Die Hard several years after this movie, he's not unstoppable and is faced with grave danger that forces him to act creatively. He knows that the Terminator is much stronger than him, and in the beginning, is even doubtful that he can destroy it since he's restricted from the high-tech weapons he had in the future, and is forced to fight with sawed off shotguns and homemade pipe bombs.

Arnie did a great job as the Terminator. The Terminator lives up to his name, and is one terrifying entity that could easily make him among the best antagonists in film in the last thirty years. He has no emotion, can't feel pain, and is virtually unstoppable. It's also really menacing to see him murder people, especially unarmed women.


One of the things that really helps out this movie is how James Cameron has the story told. Through some scenes of exposition, such as when Kyle has to explain to Sarah what cyborgs are and what his life in the future was like, they didn't feel like the "designated spots" where exposition is done. Especially with Kyle explaining to Sarah what cyborgs are, he does so in a really cautious and quiet manner, since he knows that the Terminator is looking for him.

The logic behind time travel is not only established well, but like any good movie, the story and characters actually follow through that logic. An example would be with time travel. Only organic masses can travel through time, thus why the Terminator and Kyle arrive naked when they come into LA circa 1984, and when Kyle explains to a police psychiatrist why he couldn't bring back any advanced weaponry back to the past.


With this movie being a sci-fi action/thriller entry, the action movies are top-notch.

Since the characters are developed well, these make the action scenes that much more tense. Among the best scenes in this has to be when the Terminator enters the Tech Noir club and finds Sarah Connor. You see Kyle emerge and fire many shotgun shells into the cyborg and it doesn't stop him. Also, this scene helps establish how much of a cold, ugly entity the Terminator is when he ends up gunning down a few people at the club during the firefight.

Let's not forget the iconic scene where the Terminator assaults the police station Kyle and Sarah are kept in. This scene marks how terrifying the Terminator is since not even over two dozen armed police officers could stop him, and shows how creative Kyle is when he's faced with danger and isn't in a position to fight.

The action scenes also show Sarah and Kyle as vulnerable characters, which make you root for them even harder as the movie runs. Kyle gets shot a few times and towards the end, gets worn down from all the combat to where Sarah has to push him into "snapping back into it."

The chase scene near the end also enhances the Terminator's characteristic of being unstoppable and of Kyle's creativity, since the Terminator survives a head-on collision with an 18-wheel tanker truck and Kyle has to see if one pipe bomb can stop a cyborg driving a tanker truck.


Adam Greenberg's cinematography for this was perfect. The shots of at the time current day Los Angeles look gritty and claustrophobic, helping to enhance the feeling of dread and tension in this movie. I thought it was perfect to have the final fight take place in a factory loaded with robotic assembly machines, helping to further the feeling of industrialized, metallic terror.


While some special effects have shown their age (such as the walking Terminator skeleton near the end and of the Terminator's face when one of his eyes are damaged), other effects still look good today. I though one of the best-looking effects in that movie is when the Terminator does some self-surgery on his arm after getting in gun battles with Kyle, and you see the inner workings of his cyborg arm. This was simultaneously gross and impressive to look at. Even with the effects that could have aged better, the special effects overall help the movie greatly than harm it.


Brad Fiedel's soundtrack for this movie is one of the best I've ever heard in cinema, whether it be live-action or animated. Some may complain that the music is "dated," but I think it matches the tone and style of the movie perfectly. Most of the music on here is made from keyboard synthesizers, and all of it is instrumental. The soundtrack perfectly shows that a genius with minimal resources can make something brilliant. The mechanized, metallic beats and dread-laden synth-layers are superb, especially in the scenes where Kyle has a flashback to when he fought giant war machines and automated gunships and during the end fight in the factory.


This is not a movie for the kids, since there's quite a few scenes in the beginning with male nudity, some scenes of nasty gore, and a tastefully-done sex scene between Kyle and Sarah.


The Terminator is easily among James Cameron's brightest jewels in his filmography. If you don't have this movie in your collection yet, get it now.

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December 20, 2012
One of my fave action-sci-fi movies! Birthed one of the best villains and then in the sequel, birthed one of the best action heroes!
December 20, 2012
It's funny to think that this movie created an iconic villain who would become an iconic hero in the sequel. I don't think that's ever happened in other movie franchises.
More The Terminator reviews
review by . October 11, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The original Terminator.  The cold blooded killer from the future.  You could give him a date with Brazilian and Swedish supermodels, give him an Aston Martin full of gold Krugerrand, promise Peace in the Middle East or give him a whole Caribbean island to himself, and it wouldn't matter.  He has one job, he will find you and he will kill you.      In the near future, mankind was hit with a nuclear war by intelligent machines.  Humans were rounded up …
Quick Tip by . October 19, 2010
Great memorable scenes and lines. A classic with room for thought behind the action.
Quick Tip by . August 01, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Chilling and grim look at a machine future with a lone warrior protecting a lone woman from a lone killer. Arnold's acting muscles get to flex here and it's minimalist violence and budget impress people more then it's flashier but still terrific sequel.
review by . July 29, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Well before James Cameron was making movies about giant smurfs he sent a body building cyborg back in time to kill Sarah Connor. In the year 2029 a war between the humans and the machines (Skynet) rages on. Led by the series' messiah, John Connor; the humans hand a crippling blow to Skynet insuring their victory. The machine's solution, of course, is to send a robot that looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger back to 1984 to kill Connor's mother, Sarah Connor, before he is born. Connor responds …
Quick Tip by . July 17, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
This movie is a movie I will always cherish as my dad always quoted this movie!
review by . November 13, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
I should have known that when a blu-ray disc was selling for under $10 that something was wrong. Sure enough, the picture quality is pretty much the same as a regular DVD. The fact that it's selling for such a low price probably means that somebody is wising up and will soon issue a better quality blu-ray version. My advice is to pass up on this offer and instead wait for the definitive treatment.
Quick Tip by . September 29, 2009
Dark sci fi action film about a hero sent back in time from a bleak future to protect a woman who's child will save man kind. Awesome film.
review by . November 02, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
The French language edition of this cult classic.  You know the movie, here it is in French.  It is amusing to listen to Arnold speaking in the language of love, killing machine that he is. ;']  Enjoy - Amusez-vous bien!
review by . June 09, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Alright, The Terminator is a classic that helped proppel Arnold S and director Cameron to fame, so I won't bother reviewing the movie because I give it 5 stars all the way, even though I prefer T2.     Okay let's be serious. If you're expecting to get a new DVD edition you're wrong. This is still the same DVD as the last release. Nothing new except now it has a nice sleeve. Now if you don't own a copy and you want the sleeve (Like me) this is good, but if you already own the …
review by . January 27, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
I remember going to this movie thinking it would put me to sleep. After all, back then Arnold was just a muscle guy who had made Pumping Iron and then the not too good, Conan the Barbarian. Boy was I wrong! This movie hooked me from the opening scene and even Arnold's stiff sounding dialogue was perfect for the cyborg he was playing!     The chase scenes and narrow escapes had my heart pounding throughout the film!    There were many scenes in this film that …
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David Kozak ()
Ranked #21
I'm a morbid cynic who thinks very, very differently from most other people. Chances are, if the majority says X is the greatest in its category, I'll disagree with that notion, because I tend … more
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James Cameron's THE TERMINATOR is one of the tightest, tensest sci-fi films ever made and a landmark in the genre. In the year 2029, battles rage between the super intelligent machines that rule the world and the last vestiges of humanity. In late-20th-century Los Angeles, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) suddenly finds herself stalked by an unstoppable killing machine--a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) sent from the future to kill her and her unconceived son, John Connor, the future leader of the human resistance. Sarah can rely only on Reese (Michael Biehn), a soldier sent from the future to protect her from the seemingly indestructible Terminator and save humanity. This low-budget masterpiece was the breakthrough film for director Cameron, who weds special effects, thrills, and understated romance to create one of the finest action films of the 1980s, which spawned many imitations but few equals. Science fiction author Harlan Ellison sued over the film's similarities to his own works, especially the OU...
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