My Favorite Movies – The Terminator (1984)

5 Jul

By Tanner Smith

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is one of my top 15 favorite films of all time…but before I get to that awesomeness, I want to talk about THIS awesomeness: James Cameron’s 1984 sci-fi-horror sleeper hit “The Terminator!”

The film no one expected to become a classic hit gave birth to one of the scariest and most badass villains in the history of cinema: the Terminator, played memorably by Arnold Schwarzenegger. What’s more terrifying than a killer? A killer that can’t be reasoned with, is heavily persistent, and won’t stop for anything at all until they kill you!

The Terminator is a cyborg sent from the future to exterminate the would-be mother of who would grow up to become the leader of a human resistance against a hierarchy of defense-network computers turned against mankind. (Or, as another fighter from the future states, it’s “one possible future, from your point of view.”) Schwarzenegger plays him as a ruthless killer–a machine with no purpose other than to hunt and kill his target. And what’s worse? He seemingly can’t be killed, seeing as underneath his living human tissue is a metal endoskeleton!

Yikes! Someone’s out to kill me, they have lots of weapons, and they can’t be killed–I’d be running for my life and saying my prayers constantly!

Plus, as director James Cameron pointed out, Schwarzenegger’s Austrian accent adds to the effect–it does sound like a machine computing and processing, in a sense.

The Terminator’s target is Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), a meek, mild-mannered waitress who simply can’t believe it when she learns she’ll give birth to the leader of the world, a killer robot is stalking her, and her only hope is a fighter from the future human resistance, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), who lays down so much info on her in one night. It’s a lot to take in, and what I love about Sarah’s arc in this movie is how much the adrenaline of the chase between the Terminator and her and Reese gets her to grow. By the end of the film, she fights back and even gets to order Reese to keep going because they’re not finished yet.

If the Sarah Connor of this movie turned into the Sarah Connor of the sequel in just one movie, it wouldn’t be believable–but here, it makes sense. She doesn’t become a full-on badass, but she does accept what she has to do to become said-badass.

Even though “The Terminator” is more of a horror film than an action film, there are still some really well-executed chase sequences to be found here, especially for its low budget. I especially like when Reese and Sarah are on foot while the Terminator now has a huge truck. (I remember as a kid being like, “Holy sh*t! How are they gonna get out of this??”)

Now…I have to share this one tidbit about the film I really hate: “You Got Me Burnin’,” the song in the Tech Noir club. Man, is it bad. The singer sounds like the Heart lead vocals on absinthe. And for whatever reason, the people who picked the song list at the theater I worked at thought THAT would be nice to listen to every once in a while!

But that’s just a nitpick, really. “The Terminator” is still great–great monster, clever script, likable heroes, intriguing story, one of the best the ’80s had to offer!

Now, its sequel, on the other hand? That’s one of the best the ’90s had to offer! (I’ll get to it soon…)

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