The Terminator is a 1984 American science fiction action film directed by James Cameron. The film was produced by Cinema '84 and Pacific Western and distributed by Orion Pictures. Released on October 26, 1984, the film is the first in the franchise, followed by Terminator 2: Judgment Day on July 1, 1991, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines on July 2, 2003, and Terminator Salvation on May 21, 2009. Terminator Genisys, a reboot of the series via an altered timeline, was released on July 1, 2015.
On May 12, 1984, two beings from the year 2029 arrive in Los Angeles: one is a Terminator T-800 Model 101, a cyborg assassin programmed to kill a young woman named Sarah Connor; the other is Kyle Reese, a soldier sent to protect her from the T-800. After the Terminator kills a gang member, a gun-shop manager, the two other women named "Sarah Connor" listed in the telephone directory, Sarah's roommate Ginger, and her partner, it tracks its target to the Technoir, a nightclub. Kyle arrives and saves Sarah from the Terminator. The two steal a car and escape, while the Terminator steals a police car and pursues them.
Kyle explains to Sarah that in the near future, an artificial intelligence defense network known as Skynet will become self-aware and initiate a nuclear holocaust. He mentions that Sarah's yet-to-be conceived son John will rally the survivors and lead a resistance movement against Skynet and its army of machines. With the Resistance on the verge of victory, Skynet has sent a Terminator back in time to kill Sarah before John is born, as a last-ditch effort to avert the formation of the Resistance. The Terminator is an efficient killing machine with a powerful metal endoskeleton, but with an external layer of living tissue that makes it appear as a human being.
Kyle and Sarah are again attacked by the Terminator, leading to another car chase. Their cars eventually crash into a wall. Kyle and Sarah are caught by the police, but the Terminator escapes. Kyle is questioned by criminal psychologist Dr. Silberman who concludes that he is paranoid and delusional, while Sarah is questioned by Lieutenant Traxler and Sergeant Vukovich. The Terminator goes to a run-down inn, where it performs treatment on itself and reveals how its inner workings function. Soon after, the Terminator attacks the police station, killing many police officers-including Traxler and Vukovich-in its attempt to locate Sarah. Sarah and Kyle manage to escape and spend the night under a bridge before seeking refuge in a motel, where they assemble some pipe bombs. Sarah realizes that the Terminator will find them again, and they are not safe, no matter where they go. Kyle admits that he has been in love with Sarah since John gave him a photograph of her. Sarah reciprocates Kyle's feelings and they have sex.
Later that night, the Terminator tracks them to the motel and Kyle and Sarah escape in a pickup truck. In the ensuing chase, Kyle throws pipe bombs at the Terminator, but is wounded by the Terminator's gunfire. Sarah knocks the Terminator off its motorcycle, but loses control of the pickup truck, which flips over. As the Terminator gets up, it is struck by a gasoline tanker truck that drags it a short distance. When the truck driver gets out of the truck, the Terminator hijacks the truck, and continues the chase. Kyle slides a pipe bomb on to the truck's fuel trailer causing a massive explosion. The Terminator emerges from the burning truck covered with flames and collapses, seemingly destroyed.
The Terminator, now with its clothes and flesh covering burned away, rises up and continues to pursue them into a factory. Kyle activates the factory's machinery to try to confuse the Terminator and attacks it with a metal pipe but it knocks him down. In a daze, he jams his final pipe bomb into the Terminator's abdomen, causing an explosion which apparently destroys it; the explosion kills Kyle and injures Sarah. Now a one-armed, legless torso, the Terminator continues its attempt to kill Sarah. She leads it into a hydraulic press which she activates, crushing and finally deactivating it. Sarah is later taken out of the factory by an ambulance as Kyle's body is taken away. The authorities also examine the Terminator's components.
Several months later, a pregnant Sarah is traveling through Mexico. Along the way she records audio tapes which she intends to pass on to her unborn son, John. She debates whether to tell him that Kyle is his father. While stopping at a gas station, a small boy takes a Polaroid photograph of her which she purchases-the same photograph that John will later give to Kyle. Sarah then drives on toward approaching storm clouds.
- Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese, a human Resistance fighter sent back in time to protect Sarah.
- Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, the Terminator's target who is soon to be the mother of the future Resistance leader John Connor.
- Paul Winfield as Ed Traxler, a police Lieutenant who questions Sarah.
- Lance Henriksen as Hal Vukovich, a police Seargent who questions Sarah.
- Earl Boen as Dr. Peter Silberman, a criminal psychologist.
- Bess Mota as Ginger Ventura, Sarah's roommate.
- Rick Rossovich as Matt Buchanan, Ginger's boyfriend.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator/T-800 Model 101, a cybernetic android disguised as a human being sent back in time to assassinate Sarah Connor.