The Terminator (1984)

the terminator

“I’ll be back”

The Scoop: 1984 R, directed by James Cameron and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, and Paul Winfield

Tagline: The thing that won’t die, in the nightmare that won’t end.

Summary Capsule: Robotic bully from the future seeks helpless waitress to smack around

Justin’s rating: Caesar will protect me from any approaching Terminators. Well, either that or cozy up to them looking for food. Selfish dog.

Justin’s review: When The Terminator came out, it shouldn’t have been anything surprising. Although we think of it as the pioneer of Bad Robots Doing Naughty Things To Good People flicks, it was hardly unique in the genre. There had been plenty of movies with killer robots, plenty of time travel plots, plenty of men with loud guns running around willy-nilly and driving the buffalo to the brink of extinction.

But what made The Terminator sparkle like the deadly diamond centerpiece in an engagement ring of mortal wounds was that the villain in an action movie turned out to be its true star. A villain which said no more than five lines and had no emotions whatsoever. Truly weird.

Whatever made James Cameron put a feisty spin on a tired genre, I’m glad that he did. The Terminator is a good movie that prompted a spectacular sequel (T2: Judgment Day), and forever immortalized Schwarzenegger along the Harrison Fords and Sylvester Stallones of the movie series world.

Looking back, it’s almost a quaint action/scifi romp. You might be surprised to see that there’s incredibly little blood and gore for such a slaughterhouse flick (thanks to many cutaways and bodies flying about instead of blood). You might not be surprised to be pulled into some of the worst fashion of the ’80s.

Either way, it’s still a pretty good movie. One of the reasons why is that the premise is overly outrageous, but the movie addresses that by having half the characters treat it seriously, and the other half (the half that represents the unbelieving, you-have-to-win-me-over audience) refuses to accept the impossible, even when staring down its gun barrel.

The Terminator is a heartwarming tale of a group of friendly, E.T.-like robots who wanted to explore the human world and learn what it is to love. Love firearms and explosions, I mean. Machines and humans are fighting a war against each other in the future, and, deciding to cheat, the machines send back a T-800 unit (a cyborg — metal chassis covered by human flesh) to kill the mother of the human resistance. Fortunately, the human resistance had the resources to also send back… letsee… a laser tank? A computer virus capable of hacking into a Terminator’s brain and shutting it down? Judge Dredd? No… all we get is a skinny, twitchy Michael Bein (aka “Always The OTHER Guy In Action Movies”). We might as well pack up our bags and leave earth right now.

For a soulless robot hell bent on being a buzzkill (insert your own “ex-boy/girlfriend” joke here), the Terminator is fun to watch. His indestructable nature makes him more of a tank — plodding along slowly — than an agile, nimble ballerina. Watching bullets ping off of it and its body slowly shedding its organic outsides is effective in slowly building up just how unstoppable and durable this robot is. Yet knowing that it will never stop — never EVER until you are DEAD or at least switch to a NEW LONG DISTANCE PROVIDER — eventually forces the wimpy girl and rat-like dude to face off and deal with the baddie. The Terminator has some fairly decent weaponry, but the good guys get the equivalent of pea shooters and water balloons, which makes it less than a fair fight.

It’s funny that it all works in the end, because The Terminator is really just your standard horror movie given a scifi glossy finish. There’s a lot of girlish “stumbles” here; you know, when the good guys are seconds from getting away, and they trip or crash the car or stop to tie their shoes or some other form of “please kill me” sign language. Yet the whole movie wouldn’t have worked without the final act, where the filmmakers retire Schwarzenegger for the day to reveal the T-800’s bare robotic skeleton. It’s a feat of stop-motion brilliance — quite obviously stop-motion, but still cool — and the final horror that’s been lurking underneath throughout the flick is finally unveiled.

It wasn’t till the sequel the The Terminator went from being a stand-alone marvel to an effective setup to the events that would follow. So see the movie that everyone’s crawling around in, and be glad that you aren’t the mother of some future military genius. Trust us, that’s popularity you don’t need.

Guns don’t kill people. Except when they’re attached to homicidal robots with itchy trigger fingers and a deep-seated resentment against all of humanity. But that’s just common sense.


  • See, kids, back in the 80s, there were a group of the baddest people around — they were called punks. And what did punks do in their reckless abandon? Why, gaze at the stars through telescopes, of course!
  • Bill Paxton as the blue haired punk… hahahahahahaha!
  • Big Buns… great statue
  • Sarah Hamilton definitely has 80s hair
  • I would rather have the scooter than the wood-and-lime green station wagon
  • The car running over the toy truck is a lot like the HK tank running over the human skulls earlier
  • So, he hotwires a car to start, then just sits there without moving the car and lets the engine run? Isn’t he worried about it running out of gas or the car’s owner coming back?
  • That girl likes her headphones way, WAY too much
  • How does that iguana get on top of the bookshelf and fridge?
  • In the driving scenes, Schwartzenegger’s face looks *very* fake (and this is pre-battle damage face)
  • The future humans drive cars with BIG lights on them and strap blue lights on their chests… which begs the question, do they WANT to be shot and killed?
  • The Terminator in the future is cool… big gun and glowing red eyes in the dark (nice effect), but that’s not Schwartzenegger — it’s some other dude
  • Okay, Sarah didn’t know that fire couldn’t stop a Terminator, but shouldn’t Future Boy have known that? He acts all surprised when it gets up from its burning.
  • Michael Biehn’s character gets bitten on the hand by another character. This happens to him in every ‘James Cameron’ movie he’s in.
  • Just after the first scene in the nightclub TechNoir, we hear a police radio report a “two-eleven in progress at Bob’s Liquor, corner of Third and Cameron,” a possible reference to director James Cameron.
  • Schwarzenegger’s voice is used in exactly 16 lines, with 17 sentences spoken. The terminator has two other lines onscreen, one with the voice of a police officer overdubbed, and one with the voice of Sarah’s mother overdubbed. There are also many lines with the voice of Sarah’s mother, and we learn that the terminator is actually saying them, but we don’t see it.
  • There is only one time that Michael Biehn and Arnold Schwarzenegger are in the same frame together. It is when Kyle blasts The Terminator the second time at Tech Noir. When they finally meet in the factory, it is not Schwarzenegger, just a metallic puppet.
  • The address 41239 appears three times. It’s the gun shop’s address. It’s Sarah Ann Connor’s address and the address of the Tiki Motel.
  • The future Termintor model is some other dude – yes. That’s Franko Columbu – a man who was in bobybuilding competition competitions with Schwarzenegger back around 30 years ago, and 2-time Mr. Universe. He & Arnold have been friends since, and that’s why he’s in some of his movies. [thanks ALmighty6693!]
  • About the reoccuring address, now … You said ‘41239’ appears at three different locations. Well, at the gun shop, it’s ‘14329.’ At Sarah Ann Connor’s house it’s ‘14239,’ and at the Tiki Motel…well, I don’t even see any “address there.” [thanks ALmighty6693!]
  • Many of the actors in The Terminator would return for future James Cameron films, including Michael Biehn (T2, Aliens, The Abyss), Arnold Schwartzenegger (T2, True Lies, T2:3D), Linda Hamilton (T2, T2:3D), Lance Henriksen (Aliens), Joe Farago (The Abyss), and Bill Paxton (Aliens, True Lies, Titanic).
  • O.J. Simpson was considered for the role of the terminator, but the producers feared he wouldn’t be taken seriously.
  • The scene where the Terminator punches through a car’s windshield was done by inserting an industrial steel girder into Schwarzenegger’s jacket arm and swinging it back and forth on a pulley. The idea stayed with Cameron and he used it again during the fight between the T-800 and T-1000 in Terminator 2.
  • A scene in which a person picked up the CPU of the terminator after it was crushed was filmed, but not included.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous debut line ‘I’ll be back’ was originally scripted as ‘I’ll come back’.

Groovy Quotes

Kyle Reese: 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.

The Terminator: Your clothes, give them to me.

Kyle Reese: Listen! And understand! That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with! It can’t be reasoned with! It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!

The Terminator: The .45 Long Slide, with laser sighting.
Pawn Shop Clerk: These are brand new; we just got these in. That’s a good gun. Just touch the trigger, the beam comes on and you put the red dot where you want the bullet to go. You can’t miss. Anything else?
The Terminator: Phased-plasma rifle in the forty watt range.
Pawn Shop Clerk: Hey, just what you see, pal.

Kyle Reese: Come with me if you want to live!

The Terminator: I’ll be back.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • T2: Judgment Day
  • T3: Rise of the Machines
  • Aliens


  1. This movie has both Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen, the only two actors who have been killed by an Alien (both in Aliens), a Predator (Paxton in Pred 2, Henriksen in AvP), and a Terminator (both in this movie).

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