Film #12 on the 100 Movies Bucket List: The Terminator
The Terminator is a sci-fi classic and responsible not only for helping propel Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron to the household names they are now but also for creating a movie franchise that is still going nearly 40 years later. Although admittedly the majority of the sequels are better off never spoken about again.
Released in 1984 and bringing director James Cameron into recognition, The Terminator follows a cyborg assassin (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who is sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), to prevent her son John Connor from saving humanity in the future. Also sent back in time to try and save Sarah is human soldier Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn).
This is a story that must be familiar to most, having spawned a further 5 sequels (and counting) in the past 30+ years. And as sci-fi stories go, this is a damn good one – time travel, murder, even romance – it has it all. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this, and watching it back now I never realised how 80s it was. Aside from the memorable title music from Brad Fiedel, the rest of the score and soundtrack screams 80s and with the clothing and hairstyles, it’d be difficult to miss when this was released. There are a lot of horror aspects and tones to this original too that makes it a lot darker and sometimes scary, which is not something we see in any of the sequels. The gore, especially the wonderfully icky scene when the T-800 patches himself up in the bathroom mirror, is great and another aspect sadly lacking from the sequels. Admittedly some of the effects and props in this do look a little dated (the T-800 point of view and the animatronic Arnie are noticeably dodgy), but considering this was made in 1984 it’s actually incredibly impressive. The final scenes with the metal skeleton of the T-800 are especially noteworthy.
This is the film that made Linda Hamilton into the kick-ass heroine we know and love, Arnie into the cyborg we love and hate (depending on which film you’re watching), and made the name John Connor into something that is completely unforgettable. With limited lines and a requirement to look menacing and imposing, this film is perfect for Arnold Schwarzenegger. He isn’t required to do much and personally, I think his role as the T-800 in any of the Terminator films are undoubtedly his best performances to date. And with supporting performances from the likes of future Aliens alum Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn and a blink and you’ll miss him Bill Paxton, the cast is faultless. And let’s be honest, who didn’t have a crush on Michael Biehn after watching this?
What I like the most about The Terminator is its simplicity. It might be sci-fi, but it’s relatively low budget with a small cast of main characters and a large number of practical effects and action scenes. It has a fairly B movie look about it, and coming from the James Cameron we know now, something this simple is actually very refreshing. While I like a lot of Cameron’s work (who doesn’t love Aliens?), his more recent efforts are a little too over the top and overwhelming. This is nothing of the sort.
The Terminator is absolutely a classic and deserving of its place on this list. I will admit that I still think the first sequel T2 is superior, especially as it doesn’t have the outdated and overwhelmingly 80s feel that makes this original slightly flawed.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!