The Terminator (1984) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Terminator (1984)



Critic Consensus: With its impressive action sequences, taut economic direction, and relentlessly fast pace, it's clear why The Terminator continues to be an influence on sci-fi and action flicks.

The Terminator Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

A Cyborg has been sent from the future on a deadly mission, it has been programmed to kill a young woman named Sarah Connor. Sarah has no idea that her life will have a staggering effect on the fate of mankind and that she is in danger of being killed at the hands of an inescapable machine known as the Terminator. Kyle Reese has also been sent from the future, but his mission is to protect the unknowing mother of a future leader. Is there any way to stop the death of an innocent when the relentless Cyborg is set on his course...more
Rating: R (N/A)
Genre: Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By: William Wisher, William Wisher, James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, William Wisher Jr.
In Theaters:
On DVD: Sep 3, 1997
Orion Pictures Corporation - Official Site


Linda Hamilton
as Sarah Connor
Michael Biehn
as Kyle Reese
Paul Winfield
as Det. Ed Traxler
Lance Henriksen
as Det. Vukovich
Bess Motta
as Ginger
Earl Boen
as Dr. Silberman
Dick Miller
as Pawn Shop Clerk
Franco Columbu
as Future Terminator
Bill Paxton
as Punk Leader
Bruce M. Kerner
as Desk Sergeant
Ken Fritz
as Policeman
Tom Oberhaus
as Policeman
Ed Dogans
as Cop in Alley
Joe Farago
as TV Anchor
Tony Mirelez
as Station Attendant
Philip Gordon
as Mexican Boy
Stan Yale
as Derelict
Al Kahn
as Customer
Leslie Morris
as Customer
Harriet Medin
as Customer
Loree Frazier
as Customer
James Ralston
as Customer
Norman Friedman
as Cleaning Man
Barbara Powers
as Ticket Taker
Wayne Stone
as Tanker Driver
David Hyde Pierce
as Tanker Partner
John Bristol
as Phone Booth Man
Patrick Pinney
as Bar Customer
Gregory Robbins
as Motel Customer
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Terminator

Critic Reviews for The Terminator

All Critics (55) | Top Critics (10)

You almost forget the film's flaws - like the cartoony look of the war-ravaged future. Here, the most absurd excursion is believable and we go along willingly - stopping now and then for a breath or a laugh.

Full Review… | October 26, 2015
New York Daily News
Top Critic

The havoc makes for a genuine steel metal trap of a movie that may very well be the best picture of its kind since The Road Warrior.

Full Review… | October 3, 2015
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

Damn close to perfect.

Full Review… | June 15, 2015
Time Out
Top Critic

As for Schwarzenegger, he nicely fleshes out the convention of a soulless gun for hire. With his choppy hair, cryptic shades and state-of-the-'80s leather ensemble, he looks like the Incredible Hulk gone punk.

Full Review… | May 18, 2009
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

An efficient, cold-blooded sci-fi splatter movie that never makes the mistake of forgetting that on some level it is deeply ridiculous.

Full Review… | May 18, 2009
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

As a souvenir of a kind of B-grade action cinema that has all but vanished, The Terminator should find a small place in the heart of every movie addict.

Full Review… | March 1, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Terminator


Classic films are films that stick with you, whether or not they are amazing, but when you think about true "Hollywood" classics, "The Terminator" is usually one of the first that comes to mind. Arnold Schwarzenegger leads the film as a machine set from the past to eliminate Sarah Connor, whose child (John Connor) will become a threat in the future. The film is less about that and more about learning what the characteristics are of each one of them. With some tense moments, scary moments, and some very cool action scenes, "The Terminator" is a great film that will always be remembered. James Cameron (on a shoe-string budget) directed this film in the best way he knew how to at the time. Some of the effects feel dated, but the type of film it is, and under the circumstances that it was made, this has stood and will always stand a classic.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

Who knew that Cameron's update of the Frankenstein monster (wherein he really IS out to get you) would enter the national conciousness? Who knew that the day would come when everyone would recognise "I'll be back" as a warning of ominous proportions? Who knew anyone could parley a turn as a monster into a gubernatorial bid? Though the special effects have aged some, nonetheless this bad boy still has some sizzle.

Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

It sure is funny how memory plays tricks on you. I can tell you in which theater I saw the way ahead of its time Terminator back on initial release in 1984 (ironic that: 1984); and yet my memories of the film itself are shaded by a veil of "man that was awesome".

In viewing the film now, almost 30 years later, one can't but notice the cinematic conventions used to get around things like budget constraints, the lack of blue screen and of course, ironically, CGI. That James Cameron succeeded so well in showing us things that hadn't been seen before is a testament to his filmmaking craft, (like the very first Star Wars film, which from the opening sequence was one big Wow, ain't seen nothin' like THAT before).

So, does this iconic film still stand up? Overall, yes, even though the story, the pace, in fact the entire genre has been done to death - but yes, so much of it stems from this fountainhead of a film. Note Cameron's use of close up and focus on an item, like a gun or knife, so that he can cutaway from the action without having to try to show you things that couldn't be generated yet. His editing and pacing are superb here, and funny thing - as much as I dislike car chase scenes, so much of the film is just that (probably some of the weaker moments, really) - and it is within these car chase scenes that the film shows its age. The squeeling tires as police cars burn rubber - all so very dated now, just as the sound effects of same (obvious film "sweetening" done in post production, and again a budgetary and technology issue). Also, look at how Cameron used a shot of the skeletal cyborg's feet as he climbed the stairs in pursuit of his prey - pretty nifty, you only had to place the fake feet on the steps and move them from above camera - instead of creating CGI to show you the action... this is yet another example of how a true filmmaker gets around his limitations.

But regardless, the film is just like its main character: relentless. So very little time to catch your breath (like Aliens in that regard).

Of course there are a few picadillos to consider - first and foremost is why a cyborg is speaking with a heavy Austrian accent - but who else would you have cast for the part? Arnold is so perfect, and this is the film that gave him iconic status - even though he only says about 100 words in the entire piece. This is Arnold's film, make no mistake, even though the heavy lifting is ably done by Michael Biehn (who later showed up in Aliens) and Linda Hamilton. On the side you have the perfect minor role of Lt. Traxler (Paul Winfield), the tired and yet still sharp policeman who puts together that someone is systematically killing off all the Sarah Connors. His interplay with Lance Henrickson (who later went on to star in the wonderful and underrated TV series Millennium, as well as playing Bishop, the cyborg in Alien; another Cameron film), is so effortlessly acted that it's a joy to behold. (Another interesting side note: Henrickson was originally tabbed to play the title role, but then Arnold came along...).

And talk about flashbacks - those hair styles! Yikes! Then the technology on display - clunky phone recorders, pay phones, huge video machines - wow!

In viewing this now, 30 years later, and since I knew the story and how it all played out, I had time to think - which I didn't back at the U.A. 6 in 84. Things that make you wonder - how a computer AI wouldn't have been more imaginative in trying to achieve its goal. I guess that is part of the charm, and again, a product of the non computer world of 1984 - assuming that a machine would simply take the immediate goal in front of it instead of processing the information and reaching a better conclusion (although Cameron did display a certain algorhythm in the scene where the landlord asks if there's a dead cat in Arnold's room - Arnold's HUD shows "possible responses" including the priceless "fuck off". However, it occurred to me that while Arnold was chasing Connor and shooting the hell out of the back window etc., that a cyborg should have been aware that the best way to disable a fast moving vehicle would have been to shoot the tires!!!!! Dumb machine!!!!

Anyhow, this was a nice trip to the past - and while some of my warm and fuzzy memories of this film were tripped up, and the film hasn't aged as well as I would have hoped, it still entertains. If I were to go back in time and review it in 1984 it would surely have gotten a 100 rating, but here in my jaded present, an 80 is still nothing to sneeze at.

Oh, and before I forget - here's an interesting tidbit; during the credits it states that Cameron and producer Gale Ann Hurd wrote the screenplay - and then there is a disclaimer that some of the "concepts" for the film were provided by Harlan Ellison. This made me take notice as Ellison will always be in my memory banks as the writer of perhaps the best Star Trek episode "City On The Edge of Forever", as well as the cult classic film A Boy And His Dog. Turns out that Ellison really had nothing to do with Terminator, but sued Orion claiming that some of his short stories outlined the concepts used in the film - the solution of course was a settlement and inclusion of the little disclaimer - hooray for Hollywood attorneys!

paul sandberg

Super Reviewer

The Terminator Quotes

– Submitted by Matthew D (5 months ago)
– Submitted by Ben D (23 months ago)
– Submitted by Emelyn W (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Emelyn W (2 years ago)

Discussion Forum

Discuss The Terminator on our Movie forum!