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Overall Rating
4.66

Awesome80%
Worth A Look: 11.25%
Average: 6.25%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 2.5%

2 reviews, 148 user ratings


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Terminator, The
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by David Hollands

"The greatest sci-fi film. Period!"
5 stars

It is pretty impossible to imagine that a movie that only cost slightly under a million dollars could be so well made. The premise is quite the mind-buster. A demonic cyborg from a future where computers have managed to take over the world, returns to the year 1984 to terminate the mother of the leader of a future rebellion that would turn the tides of the future war against the machines.

Along with this mechanical terror is Kyle Reese, a soldier from the future who volunteered for the dangerous mission based solely on love. In time, both Sarah Conner (the mother) and Kyle would end up joining forces to escape the wrath of the cyborg, and possibly even find the way to destroy it for good.

James Cameronís screenplay absolutely sparkles with life and emotions. The dialogue is wonderfully sharp for a low budget science fiction flick, something which is quite surprising since this is only Cameronís second film. The premise offers up the chance for some highly campy dialogue scenes and costumes which reek of wacky colours and funny hair attributed to that time period.

Cameron makes the wise decision to not have his movie bogged down in exposition. Of course, the standard introduction to the characters is present and accounted for, although there is an unusual approach taken here. For much of the first act, Cameron places the audience right with protagonist Sarah Conner, so that we may experience her fear and confusion as well. This kind of thing brings us almost uncomfortably close to the characters, which lets us get into their minds and experience all of their fears and emotions. The Terminatorís motive is not readily given out for the first act of the film, so we are just as confused as Sarah Conner as to what this being wants to do. Cameron establishes one of those atmospheres where one is constantly unsure of what is going to happen next. Characters that we come to love are ruthlessly killed off by the Terminator, which not only enhances our want for this thing to die, but our fear that maybe the lead characters wonít get away.

As mentioned earlier, the one thing that could have completely caused this whole thing to collapse was the science fiction elements of the story. The Terminator is a cyborg, so it naturally does what a cyborg would do. It stares coldly at its targets, scanning them, before pulling out its gun and blowing them away. This could have been one of the film elements that became unintentionally comical. A thing that just stares coldly at someone is not something that one may be afraid ofÖunless, it was done properly. There are many elements in Cameronís script that help turn this Terminator into a true being of terror. Cameron thankfully doesnít direct the Terminator to do anything too over the top. The stare is exactly what it is supposed to be, cold and methodical. One may think that this is one of those campy elements, but anyone who sees the stupendous work done with the character will become a believer. Scenes like the Terminator repairing damaged parts after vicious gun battles may not seem like much, until one realises that all this thing has to do to heal itself is a quick repair job. Not only do gunshots not effect this being, but trying to kill it is a chore.

Indeed, this is one of those movies which has that terrifying never-ending nightmare feeling to it. The movie is driven by a breathless pace, with hardly any scene allowing the audience to catch a breath.

There is an element to The Terminator that most definitely would have failed miserably had it been done in any other way: the exposition. Thankfully, Cameron again impresses with a very unique way of presenting the exposition. Instead of having the Reese character simply sitting down and explaining everything to Sarah (and insultingly to the audience as well), Cameron has every scene of exposition delivery take place during action scenes. This just makes all the ho-hum seem much more lively, as how the exposition being explained actually reflects how one may have to explain it in real life. The Sarah character asks the questions while things are happening, just as we are, and she (and we) get our answers.

As for Cameronís scene construction, it sparkles just as much as every other part of this movie. Like every one of his films, he shows an absolute love for everything that goes up on the screen, something that has made even the most serious of his pictures highly enjoyable. Cameron employs almost every technique available to him to make his movie work, and the effect is spellbinding. Cameron makes his first good choice by not choosing to use any overtly artsy or obvious camera angles. In fact, the camera photographs things to make them appear just like everyday life, which helps the film immensely.

However, just because Cameron doesnít do anything fancy, doesnít mean he doesnít do anything at all. Working with cinematographer Adam Greenberg, Cameron has been able to create a gritty appearance that matches perfectly with the film. Colours arenít very blown out, always appearing muted. The movie looks drab, making it absolutely perfect for Los Angeles. If there had been any fancy colours and obvious camera movements, the whole thing just wouldnít have seemed right. The hard-edged quality of the movie would have fallen on its face. The camera is always in movement at one point or another. There is never a still shot to be found here, and that works to maximum effect. The never-ending feeling of the camera movements enhances the urgency of this film, and makes the film seem even more desperate.

The performances in the film are excellent. As protector Reese, Michael Biehn is appropriately cold when he needs to be, yet startlingly emotional and alive when called for. His chemistry with co-star Hamilton is mesmerizing, mainly because it is so believable. Biehn speaks his lines with conviction and heart, and one can tell that he absolutely loves what he is doing. His performance never travels into that terrible high camp zone, and the film benefits greatly from that. Linda Hamilton provides just the right amount of normal fuddy-duddy city girl and a willingness to survive that benefits her character. Basically, if her character had turned out to be only one of those good screamers, this whole film would have felt like a dumb slasher movie with a higher budget. But Hamilton is no slouch when it comes to her character. She has Sarah behave just how anyone else would behave, never becoming annoying or unbelievable. And in the few moments of this movie when he character becomes a bit hard-edged, Hamilton makes that change seem very believable and almost one hundred percent realistic. Itís just a shame that these two performers havenít had the best of careers, because they are both extremely talented actors who deserve lots of attention.

No review of The Terminator would be complete without mentioning the unsurpassable Arnold Schwartzenegger as the ultimate killer robot. There is simply no denying the power of this guyís performance. His imposing form and heavy build makes him the perfect killing machine, as does the fact that he looks blank and emotionless practically at all times. There are also some other cast members here who deserve mention. Underrated actors Lance Henriksen and Paul Winfield turn in fun performances as the two policemen who are trying to crack the case of the recent spate of murders going on. While they donít have that much to do in the movie, their performances are very memorable, from the funny conversations they have to their constant bickering, one just gets the general idea that these guys have been friends for a long time. Like Biehn and Hamilton however, itís just too bad these guys havenít had the best careers.

The special effects of this picture are astounding. Working with such a low budget, one would think that Cameron would be hard pressed to create visuals that could seem like anything more than Roger Corman inspired. Thankfully, Cameron managed to hire geniuses of the special effects trade. Stan Winston and Fantasy II effects master Gene Warren join forces to bring some excellent matte work and composting to the picture. In the later half of The Terminator, the demonic cyborg has all its skin burned off and continues pursuing its victims in all its crome metal glory. The animatronic puppet by Stan Winston in amazing in that it moves with just the right amount of life to seem believable. It moves with a combination of grace and that hard metal edge that still makes it seem like an emotionless deadly cyborg. The wonderful design of the thing makes the numerous times it comes back to life after having been seemingly destroyed seem very realistic and even frightening. There are also some other effects in the movie used to bring the Terminator to life. Stop motion animation is used in one part where the Terminator pursues Sarah and Reese down an empty corridor, and it is quite convincing, matching well with the model effects work of Stan Winston.

What really stands out is the future war effects provided by Gene Warren. This guy is a genius of forced perspective and model filming. The entire future war sequences were filmed with miniatures and composite photography, and it really had the risk of appearing dated or fake. Not the case, as even the composites look one hundred percent convincing.

Brad Fiedel provides a very memorable score for The Terminator which still has surprising resonance today. Comprised of mostly synthesizers, this music does two things at the same time. The synthesized score enhances the emotionless of the Terminator very well. It also manages to be surprisingly human at the same time, something which Iíve never seen done with synthesizers before. Fiedel creates themes that are very memorable, the opening theme being a clear example. Even with that opening title theme, one immediately knows that this is going to be a memorable movie, as the music just seems to flow with a kind of energy and grace that has never been equalled in any other science fiction film. The love theme music flows almost like an ocean, moving along with the steady rhythm of love-making with a very high amount of beauty. Quite basically, Fiedel has created one of the most memorable scenes to one of the most memorable movies ever made.

All in all, The Terminator is simply one of those movies which will never grow old, never loose its power or poignancy. Its themes are beautifully presented, its human qualities never push into the sugar-sweet crap valley that so many others have done. Really, The Terminator may just be the best science fiction film ever made. Period!

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=950&reviewer=355
originally posted: 12/29/03 08:17:26
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Trilogy Starters: For more in the Trilogy Starters series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell AWESOME the best in the series IMHO 5 stars
3/16/12 stanley welles cheesy b-movie with a highly predictable ending 1 stars
5/11/11 Silkworm ALL TIME CLASSIC - no Arnie, no film therefore no brainer 5 stars
9/25/10 Flathead King Arnie probably will never make a better film than this masterpiece 5 stars
3/09/10 patsy Kyle Reese is so....yummy 5 stars
3/02/10 PAUL SHORTT NASTY AND GRITTY BUT CLEVER AND BREATHLESSLY PACED 4 stars
12/27/09 randy todger incredible what can be done on a small budget 5 stars
8/29/09 Jeff Wilder Plenty of action with a real story and characters. Superb 5 stars
7/16/09 Steven M The best sci fi action ever made! but ''Navy SEALS'' tops this as far as action movies go!! 5 stars
7/08/09 *Holy_J@lapeno* Such an origional. cant beat it. 5 stars no doubt about it 5 stars
6/29/09 budo UNREAL!!! 5 stars
6/13/09 Hiroshi Who doesn't love this film? It's a classic, as well as T2. 5 stars
6/03/09 C Vega great shit...best of the lot. 5 stars
8/18/08 K. Sear Fantastic and chilling. 5 stars
1/20/08 Pamela White awesone suspense and great FX what a ride 5 stars
7/13/07 Arg By far the best of all 3 films 5 stars
5/07/07 Cindy my favorite movie, fucking awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
4/23/07 David Risser Pretty good 4 stars
4/20/07 Stevo UK T2 was better, but this knocks seven shades of shit out of T3 5 stars
3/21/07 man loved it 4 stars
1/19/07 movieman not as good as T2 5 stars
1/15/07 ahmed lashin nice 3 stars
1/11/07 Michael Cox It is scary, great score 5 stars
12/28/06 David Pollastrini brilliant, great fx 5 stars
12/26/06 johnnyfog I watch it every xmas. Perfect except for the random, stupid love scene 5 stars
11/24/06 Austin Wertman NOT NEARLY AS GOOD AS T2 OR T3 4 stars
11/22/06 R.W.Welch Arnold's big break, and one of the top five sci-fi operas. 5 stars
8/27/06 Jim "Sarah Connor?" 5 stars
4/12/06 chris f one of the best action films made 5 stars
12/06/05 cooler the greatest sci-fi film ever made 5 stars
11/24/05 cr sarah conner repley yes classic line in a james cameron classic scfi actionflim 4 stars
10/03/05 Ronin T2 is better IMO but this one has that thriller feeling in it. Highly recommended classic 4 stars
8/24/05 Eden Classic time traveling paradox film - very well done 5 stars
8/22/05 ES Time travel in films, is like tomatoes in a blender, but this series sells its sauce well 4 stars
8/12/05 Rogue Psyker Without the Terminator, there'd be no T2. Think about that. Cinematic Masterpiece. 5 stars
6/29/05 darick T2 is better, but this is still awesome 5 stars
6/17/05 Quigley so full of cinematic cheese it could have been an enchilada. sequel is much better, yes! 1 stars
6/10/05 JD A true classic!! 5 stars
6/02/05 Chris The original classic(although not the best Terminator movie) 5 stars
4/27/05 lio good writing + skillful filmaking 5 stars
4/23/05 Indrid Cold Not sure why people think this equals or surpasses T2, but yeah, it's very good. 4 stars
3/04/05 Jon Smith Awesome! 5 stars
12/03/04 Sugarfoot Robbed at oscar time! 5 stars
8/06/04 Anthony G we are not comparing movies spiderfaggot, we are rating this classic, nerd boy(spock lives) 5 stars
7/06/04 Spiderfan720 If I were to relate each movie to the Alien trilogy (yes, only 3), Alien is WAY better!!! 3 stars
6/27/04 Daveman Classic 80's sci-fi b-movie magic. Cameron shows what you can do with a shoestring budget. 5 stars
5/10/04 TonyMontana as good as Aliens 5 stars
4/11/04 American Slasher Goddess A brilliant treasure of a movie. 5 stars
2/21/04 Denise Duspiva Great 5 stars
2/02/04 I Would Much better than the overrated second film. 5 stars
1/26/04 Eric Arnold was cool but Biehn was better.The best actors they could have got.The fit great 5 stars
1/23/04 De eeeeeee 5 stars
12/15/03 Falco This film kicks ass! 5 stars
11/30/03 john it's a solid B movie 3 stars
11/16/03 Eeon Very well done, with some subtle context messages 5 stars
11/02/03 American Slasher Goddess Classic all the way around. 5 stars
10/02/03 Spiderfan729 I liked it. T2 was better but I liked it... 4 stars
9/29/03 Arnold Who ever whatched this is gey 1 stars
9/27/03 Boris Smtih Great Action, Plot, and Characters! My 17th favorite movie! 5 stars
8/20/03 Jake Probably should be considered in the top ten best movies ever. 5 stars
8/07/03 marc_ian_a Excellent ! (5 stars) :) 5 stars
7/26/03 Shane Myers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! INSTANT CLASSIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
7/25/03 Double G Best Terminator Movie, this was scary, 2 was boring but good, 3rd was funny and good!!!!!!! 5 stars
7/05/03 ND phenominal classic and personal favorite movie of my own. Arnold and James are the best!!! 5 stars
6/20/03 Sammy very memorable movie to say the least 5 stars
6/18/03 Deanna Awesome. My all-time favorite action film (boo, good arnie in T2!) 5 stars
6/14/03 Alice I hate action movies but this one rocks !! 5 stars
6/10/03 Vicious This needs no explanation. 5 stars
4/18/03 LIAM JACKSON arnie is a hero. the street punk scum. the annoying roomate. they fucking deserved it.great 5 stars
3/18/03 GMan Nothing better than a movie with a herculean cyborg mutilating unsuspecting new-wavers... 5 stars
3/12/03 Butterball Cenobite good action, but Sarah Conner character here is ridiculous, and some maudlin scenes 3 stars
3/06/03 J Knight Excellent! 5 stars
3/03/03 Jack Sommersby A full-throttle, intense masterpiece. Biehn and Hamilton are outstanding. 5 stars
2/06/03 kosta Best movie ever. 5 stars
2/01/03 Shane Myers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ha-Ha iam back, fuckers!! and yes this was a good movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
12/28/02 Sarah The Terminator kicks arse! Loved it. Go Arnie! 5 stars
12/20/02 anil good 3 stars
12/04/02 Russell Mad Max-er I mean, The Terminator, is out to get Linda Hamilton and the other guy 5 stars
11/10/02 Jay I'll Be Back 5 stars
10/04/02 CVJ EXCELLENT but the sequel made this look like Bambi 5 stars
7/02/02 Film Guy A Classic Science fiction movie. Kick ass gun play 5 stars
6/28/02 Justin Arnie at his best! 5 stars
5/26/02 Chowie Fuck u asshole....I'll be back ( he sure will!) 5 stars
4/25/02 maximal01 Great movie (remember the eyeball?) where Arnold acts WELL w/ only two lines of dialogue! 5 stars
4/11/02 Chuck Michael Biehn would kick *your* ass, man 5 stars
4/06/02 Justin Fuck you, asshole! Cool movie! 5 stars
3/24/02 K y L e The original. 5 stars
3/01/02 Chowie Pretty good, but the 2nd kicked it's arse 4 stars
1/07/02 the asm hero You're Terminated, Fucker. 5 stars
11/23/01 Andrew Carden Non-Stop Action, but The Plot Wears Off Quickly. 3 stars
10/16/01 Mike One of the greatest of all. 5 stars
10/16/01 Jake You've got me burning' ***echo reverb*** Technoir! Need I say more?? 5 stars
10/10/01 jawsboy Predator is better, but this is pretty good. it's overated and corny but it's good for 84'. 4 stars
10/06/01 Shams Huque This and Aliens are Cameron's finest. He'll never do anything better. Awesome. 5 stars
8/10/01 badfish Awesome,beautiful,one of the best Sci-Fi epics ever!!! 5 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk Ruthless. Cameron showed what a bad-ass director he was with this one. 5 stars
7/28/01 Steve Not too bad, but a bit cheesy, looked cheap. Sequel is obviously best movie ever. :-P 3 stars
7/28/01 Henry Ginsberg Good idea .To predictable . 4 stars
6/10/01 Turtle This movie is good, but too corny and stupidly strange. 3 stars
5/03/01 Gracy Lionheart Gotta admit that it's a great movie 5 stars
2/10/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi The film that inspired countless hack imitations...its only flaw. 5 stars
1/13/01 Invader This is everything a movie should be from hollywood at least -fantastic. 5 stars
1/13/01 Jake Cameron's first masterpiece 5 stars
1/13/01 Stewart Ball The movie that made Arnold a star, and the role he was born to play. 5 stars
1/10/01 Chris Parks Very Very Good! Arnold is a great villian! 5 stars
1/07/01 Destruction Worker Awesomely awesome awesomeness. 5 stars
1/01/01 Msitrab I love this movie 5 stars
12/30/00 sagesource forget the tech, it's a love story. damn good one, too. 5 stars
12/27/00 Turtle Great action and more great action, but Arnold's been better. 4 stars
12/24/00 md the best movie ever made 5 stars
12/21/00 Al Arnold sucks..this movie sucks 1 stars
12/08/00 Arielle Nicholas I'LL BE FUCKING BACK TO SEE THE THIRD 5 stars
11/29/00 SP fun and exciting; this was perhaps the only role Ahnold played perfectly 5 stars
11/18/00 Gary Absolutely perfect Science Fiction/Action movie! 5 stars
10/30/00 Mic Excellent. But what's the deal with doing it as soon as he said "I've always loved you."?? 4 stars
10/24/00 Viking Leaves Titanic for dead !!! 5 stars
10/21/00 JB The Best movie in the whole wide world of Sci-fi. We miss you Arnold. 5 stars
9/20/00 Jeff still Cameron's best film 5 stars
9/19/00 White Rabbit A great piece of Sci-Fi 5 stars
6/28/00 Bender 10 times more interesting and scarier than the sequel 5 stars
6/12/00 Bruce T2 is my favorite movie, but this one isn't far behind 5 stars
6/01/00 Jimmy Cameron's and Schwarzenegger's first great film. 5 stars
5/21/00 Jess I grew up on this stuff in the 80's. I love this film. I am emotional. 5 stars
5/05/00 matt THIS MOVIE STARTED IT ALL 5 stars
3/22/00 Lame-Oh great movie, but the ending sucked! 5 stars
3/10/00 David Rogers The role Arnold was famous for was not what I expected. 3 stars
3/06/00 Kyle Broflovski Thoroughly saturated, non-sugarcoated sci-fi 5 stars
2/16/00 Richard Wright A near perfect mix of action and sci-fi. It doesn't get much better than this. A classic. 5 stars
1/17/00 Dirk Diggler almost as good as part 2 5 stars
1/13/00 Chrissy T Don't be mean to Michael! The Terminator is romantic and explosive! Love it. 4 stars
1/10/00 dr.d behind Terminator 2 this is the best sci-fi 5 stars
12/13/99 Brad Jenison One of the best, if not the best. 5 stars
11/26/99 Matt Henderson More than just action. Intelligent exploration of human/technology relations. 5 stars
11/23/99 Andrea Pavlichich Pretty Awsome 4 stars
11/01/99 Poke I know better 80's movie but this was a OK movie. 3 stars
10/29/99 Lame-Oh awesome movie, but the ending was a letdown... 5 stars
10/26/99 Karahde Khan This is what I call good Sci-Fi. The best effect is always a good script. 5 stars
10/21/99 the Grinch James Cameron, what happened? More slap, less pap, please! Classic sci-fi/action movie! 5 stars
9/07/99 Glitter Berry The days before Cameron became a COMPLETE asshole. 5 stars
6/10/99 Homer J. Simpson This the movie that started the most famous line in history"I'll be back" 5 stars
4/28/99 Michael Grimm What can I say, cream of the crop 5 stars
4/21/99 lucas jackson The best action film of the eighties,the one liners are fucking great 5 stars
12/07/98 Shadow Raider Not exactly sucky, I stll say it's great even for... Aww, watch it. Nothing to spoil. 5 stars
10/28/98 cyanide rush bested only by t2 5 stars
10/28/98 Silent Rob It's everything T2 ain't....and vice versa. 5 stars
10/19/98 Johny Looks understandably dated, T2 is many steps above this film. 4 stars
10/10/98 {{{OZ}}} For my money, this kicked T2 up and down. 5 stars
9/15/98 tessSpork good plot, entertaining, not boring movie-could have used more character development. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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  26-Oct-1984 (R)

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