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The Terminator

The Terminator (1984)

tomatometer

100

Average Rating: 8.7/10
Reviews Counted: 50
Fresh: 50 | Rotten: 0

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.

100

Average Rating: 7.8/10
Critic Reviews: 7
Fresh: 7 | Rotten: 0

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.

audience

88

liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 766,753

My Rating

Movie Info

Endlessly imitated, The Terminator made the reputation of cowriter/director James Cameron -- who would go on to make 1997's titanic Titanic -- and solidified the stardom of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movie begins in a post-apocalyptic 2029, when Los Angeles has been largely reduced to rubble and is under the thumb of all-powerful ruling machines. Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), a member of the human resistance movement, is teleported back to 1984. His purpose: to rescue Sarah Connor (Linda

Sep 3, 1997

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All Critics (50) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (50) | Rotten (0) | DVD (42)

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.

May 18, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine | Comments (7)
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

May 18, 2009 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop 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.

March 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (12)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

More than enough violence to make it a profoundly moral film; and Arnold's a whizz.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is a monster movie, and the monster's role fits Mr. Schwarzenegger just fine.

July 16, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Terminator is a blazing, cinematic comic book, full of virtuoso moviemaking, terrific momentum, solid performances and a compelling story.

February 13, 2001 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Wittily written with a nice eye for sharp detail, it's hard sci-fi action all the way.

April 1, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

A nerve-bludgeoning, relentlessly exciting action movie masterpiece.

April 1, 2014 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

[Cameron] keeps things under control nicely, though, right through the final confrontation.

April 1, 2014 Full Review Source: People Magazine
People Magazine

Still a toss-up between The Terminator and Aliens as to which James Cameron picture ranks as his best, this propulsively exciting yarn about a murderous cyborg has long staked its claim as a classic -- science fiction or otherwise -- for the ages.

February 23, 2013 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

Still one of the most harrowing science fiction films in James Cameron's repertoire...

February 18, 2013 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

Remains a surprisingly meditative work, its concentrated visceral bursts not unlike punctuation marks among something more brooding, even prayerful.

May 23, 2011 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Throughout his extraordinary, legend in his own time career, James Cameron has done very little that cannot be legitimately considered well ahead of its time.

December 30, 2010 Full Review Source: Bangitout.com
Bangitout.com

I remain perpetually amazed by how magnificently Cameron keeps the tension up... there is not a single moment that isn't operating at 100%.

December 6, 2009 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy | Comments (3)
Antagony & Ecstasy

A cyberpunk picture that flirts with emotional resonance but mostly focuses on the gut...testosterone-fueled, estrogen-boosted action melodrama.

May 25, 2009 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

A brilliant sci-fi film that cleverly combines strong storytelling with suspense and killer set-pieces.

May 22, 2009 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

James Cameron's fast-paced, downright propulsive directorial sensibilities ensure that there are few lulls within the narrative.

May 21, 2009 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

"TECH%u2022NOIR" indeed. He's a futuristic machine and this movie is pitch black with menace.

May 15, 2009 Full Review Source: Film Experience | Comment (1)
Film Experience

The original and best film from the franchise -- iconic, heady, dark and exciting.

June 17, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

It's a work of pulp art to see the future guv of California rip out someone's heart.

March 27, 2008 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews | Comments (3)
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Gritty, clever, breathlessly paced, and dynamic despite the dark shadow of doom cast over the story, this sci-fi thriller remains one of the defining American films of the 1980s.

December 29, 2007 Full Review Source: Turner Classic Movies Online
Turner Classic Movies Online

A sci-fi actioner as relentless as its cyborg title character. The megabudget sequels are very good, but the low-budget original is still the best.

March 5, 2006 | Comments (5)
FulvueDrive-in.com

Audience Reviews for The Terminator

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!
December 30, 2012
maxthesax
paul sandberg

Super Reviewer

The well-written and exhilarating cyberpunk classic that started the successful franchise. A very intelligent science-fiction that is always extremely tense and well paced, offering the scary vision of a bleak post-apocalyptic future and a terrifying, indestructible villain.
December 2, 2012
blacksheepboy

Super Reviewer

[img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/icons/icon14.gif[/img]

In recent years the reputation of the action film has gone completely downhill. With a few exceptions, action movies have forgotten the power of narrative, by too often favouring artificial explosions and special effects over heartful acting and storyline. In the case of The Terminator it understands how to use both. Arnold Schwarzenneger is cast perfectly as the titular, unstoppable robot killing machine, in which he basically plays himself but with one genius twist. James Cameron manages to direct both the action and the character drama perfectly. However during the film's production I think he was still learning how to make films, as his script is fairly weak and the tone of the film frequently changes. The special effects are not even close to the extraordinary visuals of anything Cameron has done recently but in comparison to how weak Titanic was in terms of story, this is infinetely superior. You could call it cheesy but it's been inspiring action blockbusters in the same way 2001: A Space Odyssey has done for science fiction films and to have a film with that capabiliity is definitely one incredible achievment. Although lacking in substance, depth and emotional involvement, to this very day Terminator still sets the golden standard for action movies. It managed to launch various successful careers of a fair number of Hollywood talent. Boasting a heap of conventional influences that are still duplicated and ripped-off in the action movies of today.
September 3, 2012
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

A very intense and original science-fiction film. It's not as good as the sequel and some of the effects are dated, but that doesn't stop it from keeping you on the edge of your seat.
August 3, 2012
Market Man
Eric Shankle

Super Reviewer

    1. Terminator: I'll be back.
    – Submitted by Ben D (3 months ago)
    1. Kyle Reese: The Terminator's an infil-tration unit. Part man, part machine. Underneath, it's a hyperalloy combat chassis,mircoprocessor-controlled, fully armored. Very tough. But outside, it's living human tissue. Flesh, skin, hair,blood, grown for the cyborgs.
    – Submitted by Emelyn W (13 months ago)
    1. Kyle Reese: Listen. Understand. That Terminator is out there. It can't be reasoned with, it can't be bargained with. It doesn't feel pity of remorse or fear and it absolutely will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead.
    – Submitted by Emelyn W (13 months ago)
    1. Terminator: I'll be back.
    – Submitted by Dutch E (13 months ago)
    1. Sarah Connor: Move it, Reese! On your feet soldier! ON YOUR FEET!
    – Submitted by Matthew D (17 months ago)
    1. Terminator: Get out.
    – Submitted by Matthew C (19 months ago)
View all quotes (44)

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Foreign Titles

  • Terminator (DE)
  • The Terminator (UK)
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