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The Terminator

The Terminator was a 1984 science fiction film which made the former body-builder Arnold Schwarzenegger a star. Directed by James Cameron, the premise of the movie is that a cybernetic construct, the Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 800 Series Terminator (played by Schwarzenegger), has been transported back in time from 2029 A.D. to 1984 to assassinate a woman named Sarah Connor (played by Linda Hamilton). At the same time a man, Kyle Reese (played by Michael Biehn), is sent back to protect Connor from the cyborg. Issues raised by the film include time travel, causal loops, and artificial intelligence.

The sequels to the movie, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, further developed the story line and explored the ethical implications of machine intelligence as well as what it means to be truly human.

Table of contents
1 Plot
2 Inspirations
3 Legacy
4 External links


A young woman, Sarah Connor, finds herself pursued by a relentless killer for reasons completely unknown to her. She is eventually approached by Reese, who explains that in the future, an artificial intelligence called "Skynet" will be created by military software developers to make strategic decisions. The program becomes self-aware, seizes control of most of the world's military hardware (including various highly-advanced robots), and launches an all-out attack on human beings. However, a man named John Connor eventually leads the human resistance to victory, only to discover that in a last-ditch effort Skynet had researched time travel and sent a robotic killer back in time to destroy John Connor's family before he can be born. John Connor, of course, is Sarah's future son, and he sends back a trusted assistant (Reese) to protect his mother at all costs.

The plot is summed up by these lines spoken by Reese, who tells Sarah Connor:

"Listen! And understand! That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with! It can't be reasoned with! It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!"


Some aspects of the story were sufficiently similar to two episodes of the TV series,
The Outer Limits—both episodes written by Harlan Ellison—that Ellison pursued legal action against Cameron. Cameron settled out of court and an acknowledgment of Ellison's work was placed in the film's credits. The episodes in question were called "Soldier" (which involves a specially-trained man sent back in time to assassinate a rival) and "Demon With A Glass Hand" (concerning a time traveler who suffers memory loss and relies on a computer chip implanted in his body to give him information about his mission). There is also some similarity between the concept of Skynet and the evil intelligence featured in Ellison's short story, "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream".

Commentators have also noted a similarity, in the premise of a killer robot disguised as a human, between the film and Philip K. Dick's short story "Second Variety." A similar plot of a killer machine sent back in time to change history was seen in a fairly obscure film from 1966 entitled Cyborg 2087.


The second feature film for director Cameron (the first was the unsuccessful Piranha II: The Spawning), this movie was a surprise box-office hit. It established Cameron as a talented action director. He would then go on to produce a string of successful action movies, continuing with Aliens in 1986. Schwarzenegger had already starred in the hit film Conan the Barbarian and its successor, Conan the Destroyer, but The Terminator made his name a household word. It is still considered to be one of his best roles.

A sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) was also directed by James Cameron, and again starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, with Edward Furlong as the young John Connor.

A further sequel, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, was released on July 2, 2003, again with Schwarzenegger, but with Nick Stahl as John Connor and Kristanna Loken as the model T-X Terminatrix. Terminator 3 was directed by Jonathan Mostow.

Dark Horse Comics has the comic book rights to the story, and in addition to movie adaptations has released a number of original sequels.

External links