Written and directed by James Cameron and starring the inimitable Arnold Schwarzenegger, the first instalment of the ‘Terminator’ film franchise wowed audiences and critics alike when it hit the screen in 1984.
We all know the premise; a killer cyborg is sent back in time to kill the mother of a resistance leader, John Connor. The latter is destined to defeat the cyborg army in a post-apocalyptic future.
The Terminator was an instant hit with moviegoers, grossing $38 million in the US and Canada and another $40 million overseas. What’s more, the film instantly joined the accepted pantheon of ‘must-see’ Hollywood action/sci-fi movies.
Cameron’s film proved a hit with critics as well. Variety magazine called it ‘virtuoso moviemaking,’ while Time magazine praised the film’s ‘tech-noir savvy’ and included it on its top-10 movie list for that year.
Not only did The Terminator lead to multiple film sequels and a spinoff TV series, but it also secured Cameron’s position as an A-list director and made Schwarzenegger an action-film icon.
The Terminator brims with suspenseful scenes that audiences will never forget, such as when the T-800’s steel skeleton rises from the ashes of what should have been a fatal explosion.
Today, many of the film’s special effects could probably be done on a second hand imac, and could possibly be done much better to boot. But they were revolutionary for their time, relying mainly on stop-motion techniques.
The Terminator ended up winning three Saturn Awards for the best sci-fi film, best writing, and best makeup.
Cameron’s 1984 sci-fi classic inspired a string of sequel films, including Judgement Day (1991), Rise of the Machines (2003), Salvation (2009), Genisys (2015), and Dark Fate (2019).
But fans of the franchise mostly agree that the later films (except Judgement Day!) never managed to recapture the dark brilliance or ‘tech-noir savvy’ of the original.