Directed By: James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn
Tag line: "The thing that won't die, in the nightmare that won't end"
Trivia: O.J. Simpson was considered for the role of the Terminator, but the producers feared he was "too nice" to be taken seriously as a cold-blooded killer
James Cameron’s 1984 Sci-Fi blockbuster, The Terminator, is the movie that made Arnold Schwarzenegger an action star. The Austrian-born bodybuilder would go on to dominate the genre for the better part of a decade, appearing in some of the most exciting films ever to emerge from Hollywood.
The year is 2029, and the world as we know it has been destroyed. A brutal war between man and machines has killed millions of people, making the machines the planet's dominant species. Only a small pocket of resistance fighters remain, who, despite limited numbers, have successfully disrupted their enemies at every turn. In an effort to stop the rebellion before it starts, the machines send a highly developed cyborg, called a Terminator (Schwarzenegger), back in time to Los Angeles, 1984. His mission: kill Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton), the woman who gave birth to the future leader of the resistance, John Conner. With Sarah Conner dead, John Conner will never be born. To protect Sarah, the resistance sends one of their own, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), back to the same time period. Heavily armed, Kyle does what he can to shield Sarah from the ruthless Terminator, which will never stop until its mission is completed.
Schwarzenegger’s Terminator is a cyborg of very few words, speaking only a handful of times throughout the film, and when it does, it's usually short and to the point (like the actor’s now-patented catch-phrase, “I’ll be back”, a line he uttered for the very first time in this movie). But then, this is a machine that doesn’t need words; it may speak softly, but it carries a big arsenal. Upon its arrival in the past, the Terminator gets right down to business, murdering one punk rocker (a young Bill Paxton) before stealing the clothes of another. From there, its off to a small gun shop, where it has the proprietor (Dick Miller) pull all his best weapons off the shelf, then shoots the man with his own merchandise. To ensure the success of his mission, the Terminator next turns his attention to killing every Sarah Conner in the phone book, taking out the first one (Marianne Muellerleile) by pumping six rounds into her as she stood defenseless in her living room. The Terminator is a killing machine, programmed with a single goal and a driving determination to see it through. Reese fills Sarah in on just what they’re up against when he says, “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”. We’ve seen Schwarzenegger play tough before, but in The Terminator he’s also damn scary.
His role in The Terminator transformed Arnold Schwarzenegger into box-office gold, and films like Predator, The Running Man, Total Recall, and the first Terminator sequel further established his ranking as the #1 action hero of his time, a man with no fear who always got the job done. This is the very attitude that steered his character in The Terminator.
Only here, he was working for the other side.