The Terminator (1984) still
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107 min.
Release Date
The Terminator

The Terminator is James Cameron’s first cinematic foray into a career-long obsession with heavy tech, strong women, and relentless action. Upon its arrival in 1984, the impressive, brutal blend of science fiction and propulsive chases boasted striking special effects, gave a superstar-making role to Arnold Schwarzenegger, and, for better or worse, launched an enduring franchise. Cameron has since remarked that now he sees only his mistakes and what he would do differently with the film. However, the rough edges of this scrappy, tactile production show evidence of a filmmaker at his most inventive and resourceful. It’s the purest expression of Cameron’s raw, handcrafted talent as an artist, storyteller, technician, and genre enthusiast. Cameron’s intense momentum and prescient ideas sustain the film today, even after repeated viewings and a deep saturation of its iconography into the culture. The film’s sheer entertainment value—marked by its sharp B-movie plot and A-level visuals, focused narrative thrust, and indelible imagery—remains intact forty years later. And while Cameron would make better, more ambitious, and certainly more successful projects in the decades to come, none would feel so foundational to Cameron’s auteurism as The Terminator, which offers the unfiltered essence of his abilities and preoccupations.

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