The Terminator - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Terminator Reviews

Page 1 of 1007
Super Reviewer
½ December 26, 2010
The well-written and exhilarating cyberpunk classic that started the successful franchise, and an intelligent science-fiction that is always extremely tense and well paced, offering us a terrifying, indestructible villain and the scary view of a bleak post-apocalyptic future.
Super Reviewer
½ January 10, 2010
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.
Super Reviewer
July 5, 2007
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.
Super Reviewer
December 30, 2012
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!
Market Man
Super Reviewer
August 3, 2012
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.
Super Reviewer
November 22, 2008
The thing that won't die, in the nightmare that won't end.

Excellent Film! This is one of the great movies of the 80's. The Terminator is a thrilling sci-fi that entertains. This is the movie that got started James Camerons clime of fame. The action, suspense, plot, acting, and dialogue is great. The score is great especially the main song. Arnold gives a scary performance as one of my favorite villains The Terminator. Kyle Reese's dialogue when he talks about the future is very well written, and gives you a good impression of how bad it is in the future. The shootout at the police station is great, and shows off how The Terminator is a killing machine. Also I am impressed with how they made the movie with just almost 6 and half million and made it look so good. The Terminator is a great film.

In the future, Skynet, a computer system fights a losing war against the humans who built it and who it nearly exterminated. Just before being destroyed, Skynet sends a Terminator back in time to kill Sarah, the mother to be of John Connor, the Leader of the human resistance. The terminator can pass for human, is nearly indestructible, and has only one mission, killing Sarah Connor. One soldier is sent back to protect her from the killing machine. He must find Sarah before the Terminator can carry out it's mission.
Super Reviewer
October 29, 2006
In a post apocalyptic future where humanity has been made all but extinct by rebellious technology, a relentless killing machine is sent back in time to assassinate the mother of the human resistance leader who represents their only hope of salvation. The original Terminator film is an exercise in sheer cinematic economy as James Cameron's breakthrough film is as ruthlessly efficient as the murderous cyborg itself. There's none of the schmaltz and sentimentality that went on to mar his later films and the taut direction and thrilling, bullet riddled action sequences make for one of the most tense and brutal sci-fi action films ever made. The cynical may point out that Arnold's robotic acting skills made him perfect for the part, but I think his performance is cruelly under-rated; as those who tried to fill his shoes in the later films can attest it takes more than a big gun to make such a charismatic and intimidating presence and the final act actually suffers quite a bit for his absence. Some of the effects have dated a little but the make up and animatronics have stood up surprisingly well and the paradoxical time travel twist makes for a simple but ingenious story that's told with the kind of vigour that's sorely missing from most CGI infested blockbusters. Seminal sci-fi.
michael e.
Super Reviewer
½ November 2, 2010
Though the Sequel is far more superior, this film is still fantastic. The effects for the time still look impressive, the plot is very creative and original, the acting is great, The music is incredible, and the action is fantastic. Arnold does one of his best performances with this film, and does a very good job at playing basically a serial killer going around killing everyone named Sarah, like how Michael Myers goes around butchering all the baby sitters. The other characters also do great jobs, Linda Hamilton does a great job as the fleeing Sarah Connor, and Michael Beihn does a fantastic job as Kyle Reese, and you really sympathize with these two characters and how they're trying to stay alive while this robot menace is trying to kill them.
Super Reviewer
February 28, 2011
A classic and I love it, but the sequel is better and this is an iconic role for Arnold, I love this film.
Super Reviewer
July 31, 2011
This film made Arnold. It also set a huge standard for other films as far as action sequences go.
Super Reviewer
½ May 12, 2007
"I'll be back." - The Terminator
Super Reviewer
June 28, 2011
The Terminator. Not everyone will like it, but it's a 1 in a 100 chance you'll find someone who doesn't. I don't know what was so great about the movie. The acting was good, but not great like in other movies like Forrest Gump. The dialog had some memorable moments, but nothing like The Matrix. Effects were... okay... and so was the story. But it's the action and the thrills that make this possible my all-time favorite movie. I can't wait to see Terminator 2: Judgment Day (especially since people keep saying it was much better) after my happy experience with this movie. I watched it, I loved it. You'll watch it, you'll love it. I have 5 gold stars up there, Sherlock, as well as a 100% Fresh Rating from Rotten Tomatoes! Watch this movie! I don't care what someone tells you or how much it costs! All I care about is you watching this movie. That is all I ask for you. Make the world a better place by putting a smile of fulfillment on the viewers' faces, and let us all watch and love this amazing movie.
Jack Hawkins
Super Reviewer
July 12, 2009
James Cameron's seminal classic reveals an apocalyptic Los Angeles torn apart by nuclear war in the year 2029. Machines headed by a network called 'Skynet' are hellbent on wiping out the human race upon becoming self-aware, however there is a human resistance led by 'John Connor' that are set to prevail against the machines. To prevent 'Skynet' from being overthrown, they send a 'Terminator', a cyborg assassin resembling a human, back to 1984 to kill John Connor's mother Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), preventing him from being born. To counteract this, the resistance sends soldier 'Kyle Reese' to 1984 to protect her.

The fascinating concepts imagined by James Cameron along with his excellent directing results with a taut, dark and original film. In my opinion, Schwarzenegger's sinister portrayal of the hard, soulless Terminator is far better than the softer, more human depictions in the sequels. Also, the transformation of Linda Hamilton's character is also well acted. I watched the film with a few contemporaries recently (I'm 18 years-old), who picked flaws in the dated music and effects. Firstly one has to appreciate the budget (a mere $6.5 million), and I personally feel that the music perfectly aids the tension of the cat-and-mouse sequences (however I am unusually partial to a bit of 80s music). Anyway, whatever your stance on those matters, the film's substance and breathtaking action far outweigh any 'flaws'.
Super Reviewer
June 12, 2006
James Cameron's classic action thriller that made Schwarzenegger a star and influenced action cinema like few other films of the 80s. While some of the effects and especially the keyboard-driven soundtrack (which also includes the fantastic and iconic main theme of course) did not age all that well, the story is still enthralling and exciting. While the action mostly consists of shoot outs and car chases and was easily topped by part 2, it was still ground breaking for its time. The films biggest asset is it's wonderfully gloomy atmosphere of constant threat and the knowing of the coming storm. In that regard the last sequence is particularly awesome. No wonder Arnie had to come back.
Super Reviewer
May 8, 2011
James Cameron's first official film (not counting the sequel to Piranha) is a monumental film experience. The plot is fairly simple. Cyborg sent back through time to kill the mother of the leader of a futuristic resistance that wage war against machines.But the way that it's handled is epic. The Terminator is probably the best action film ever made. James Cameron has had an impressive career. But The first Terminator film along with it's sequl, are simply phenomenal. This first entry introduced audiences to Arnold Schwarzenegger as The terminator. Though a simple role, Schwarzenegger's intensity on screen is legendary and is what makes The Terminator an action classic. Cameron mixes Sci Fi elements into a pulse pounding thrilling action film that is a perfectly well executed. The Terminator is one of the all time greatest classic Action films. The film is an exciting viewing experience that delivers solid pulse pounding thrills that you won't soon easily forget. In the 80's theres been a few stand out Action films that really were astounding in terms of delivering thrills and action. Film like Die Hard, Predator and Top Gun seem to the best examples of 8's Action classics. However one of the most brilliantly conceived actioners remains The Terminator. Simply for the fact that it has an incredible villain and an awesome concept for a story that not even the best action films of the time could surpass. The Terminator also boasts some impressive special effects done by effects master Stan Winston. The film has been criticized for it's use of violence and lack of story, but really the thing is, The Terminator has an elaborate plot hidden under it's veneerof ultra violence. As some critics have failed to understand the plot and only focus on the graphic content of the picture; it only shows how mainstream critics are misleading. The Terminator though extremely has a terrific story, acting, and none stop thrills that it shouldn't be a mystery as to why this film is regarded as a classic.
Super Reviewer
July 29, 2007
LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS MOVIE!! have watched it over and over! has got to be Arnie's best movie !
James Cameron gives us one amazing action sequence after another!
an amazing brillant sci-fi master-piece in my opinion!
Super Reviewer
½ March 14, 2011
Amazing story and fast paced action sequences make this a classic for it's genre. The only negative was the effects were not as convincing as they could have been.
Super Reviewer
November 16, 2010
SCHWARZENEGGER ... that is all.
Super Reviewer
½ June 25, 2007
An intense, appropriately bleak sci-fi adventure dealing with a cyborg from the future (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who is sent to kill the mother (Linda Hamilton) of the future savior of humanity, who has not yet been conceived. While the romantic subplot that emerges is not as skillfully hidden as director James Cameron thinks it is, the movie succeeds as extremely entertaining, anchored by a intimidating turn from Arnold whose emotion-less facial expressions are irrefutably spine-chilling.
Page 1 of 1007