US Release Date: 10-26-1984
Directed by: James Cameron
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, as
- The Terminator
- Michael Biehn, as
- Kyle Reese
- Linda Hamilton, as
- Sarah Connor
- Paul Winfield, as
- Lieutenant Ed Traxler
- Lance Henriksen, as
- Detective Hal Vukovich
- Bess Motta, as
- Ginger Ventura
- Earl Boen, as
- Dr. Peter Silberman
- Rick Rossovich, as
- Matt Buchanan
- Dick Miller, as
- Pawnshop Clerk
- Franco Columbu as
- Future Terminator
The Terminator makes due without a Phased-plasma rifle in the forty watt range.
The Terminator was one of those movies that changed the face of Hollywood films. It was written and directed by a rookie director. Cameron's other directing credit to this point was Piranha Part Two: The Spawning. The only star was a heavily accented Austrian body builder, who recently starred in Conan The Barbarian (1982). Neither Cameron's or Schwarzenegger's career would ever be the same again.
The movie opens with two men appearing naked out of nowhere. One, Reese, steals some bums pants, "That son of a bitch took my pants." While the other kills a couple of punks for theirs. "Your clothes - give them to me, now." Both men have been sent from the future. One is actually a machine, a Terminator, and he is programmed to kill Sarah Conner. The other man has been sent to protect her.
Sarah is a waitress with an uneventful life, until every other Sarah Conner in the Los Angeles phone book gets killed. The movie hits it stride in the scene where the Terminator and Reese catch up with Sarah at the night club, Tech Noir. After a shootout, Reese says the first of many classic lines, "Come with me if you want to live."
This movie is full of memorable lines. Even though it had been years since I last saw it, I remembered many of them, such as when Arnold is in the Gun Shop, "Phased-plasma rifle in the forty watt range." "Hey, just what you see, pal." Arnold only has a few lines in this movie but due to his delivery, they stay with you. If you have seen this movie I bet you can tell me the response to the janitor asking The Terminator if he has a cat in his room? This is also the movie that first featured Arnold's signature line, "I'll be back."
Although this is Arnold's star making role, I have always been impressed by Biehn as Reese. He has the much harder role to play. This is a guy that comes from the future and has to convince this woman, as well as the audience, that everything he says is true, without sounding ridiculous. Reese and Sarah get chased by the Terminator through out the movie, and during it all Biehn is saddled with dialogue like, "The 600 series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy, but these are new. They look human - sweat, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot. I had to wait till he moved on you before I could zero him." He says these types of lines sometimes during the middle of an action sequence. To Biehn's credit, he pulls off what could have been some very cheesy scenes.
Although this is an action movie, it throws a love story in as a key plot point. That sounds like it would slow down the plot, but it does not. In fact, it humanizes the film and gives it some depth. The scene in the hotel room is romantic as well as erotic. Even though Hamilton does a nude scene, I again give credit to Biehn. He makes this line sound sincere, "I came across time for you Sarah. I love you; I always have."
After The Terminator, Arnold went on to be one of the biggest stars in the world, while Cameron went on to direct many blockbusters, including Titanic. This movie spawned numerous sequels, video games and a television show. This movie even influenced me. One of my sons is named after the main character.
I can't say I ever named anyone after this movie, but it certainly influenced my taste in movies. I saw this film multiple times in the theater upon its release, and I've seen it many times since. It's a classic sci-fi action movie that is a flawless example of the genre.
A couple of things surprised me when I rewatched this movie for the first time in a few years. The first thing was that it's quite short. Unlike its sequel, which ran for two and a half hours, this one barely clocks in over an hour and a half; probably the last Cameron movie to ever be that short, but this short running time keeps the movie taut and incredibly fast paced. There's literally not a dull moment in the whole movie. The other surprise was that the special effects actually hold up pretty well considering when the movie was made and its budget. Sure, the scene where the Terminator plucks out his eye is obviously fake, and the metal skeleton Terminator at the end of the movie is a bit dodgy sometimes, but the scenes in the future are well done and the action scenes all work great.
This is also the last movie in the Terminator series that makes sense time-travel wise. It's interesting that instead of changing the future by sending a terminator back in time, this is the movie that caused the future to happen. If they hadn't tried to kill Sarah in the past, she would never have trained her son to be a resistance leader in the future and they would have won the war. The problem with the second movie is that they change the future, which opens a whole host of problems that are never really answered.
Okay, one other thing surprised me about this movie. It made me feel kind of old to watch the hair styles and to see the cars and clothes and think that I remembered when all of those things were new and in style! I mean, it's almost 25 years since this movie came out! However, despite the intervening years, The Terminator is still a classic.
The Terminator arrives in all his glory.
I too was impressed with the taut pacing. The story is intriguing right from the beginning and keeps getting more so as it progresses. And any movie that begins with two naked buffed men appearing out of nowhere is alright in my book. But I digress.
This sci/fi action classic holds up extremely well. I agree that the effects in the futuristic scenes have aged well and I also concur that it is pretty obvious when Arnold’s face is fake and when it is actually him. Likewise the metal skeleton Terminator is quite cheesy looking but shot in such a way - and with all the brutal action that has come before it - that it works.
Arnold was perfect for this role. Not only physically but his voice and mannerisms as well. Notice the robotic way he moves his head while driving around Los Angeles searching for Sarah and Reese. One of the reasons you buy the metal skeleton Terminator is because of Arnold’s mechanical performance. His relentless quest to kill and imperviousness to any outside stimuli show him clearly to be more machine than man.
But like Eric I was most impressed with Biehn’s performance. His best scene is when he is being interrogated by the cop shrink. He tells his fantastic sounding tale about coming from the future with such conviction that it actually sounds plausible coming out of his mouth. Of course this just makes him seem even more insane.
Linda Hamilton is equally as good as her male costars. Watching Sarah Connor morph from meek waitress to combat ready hard-ass is one of the joys of this movie. I’m just surprised it took 7 years for the sequel as this movie has such an open-ended finish.
The Terminator remains as entertaining today as it did way back in 1984.
Photos © Copyright Orion Pictures Corporation (1984)