Film / The Terminator

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"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".
Kyle Reese

1984's The Terminator is the first film in the Terminator franchise and the second feature film directed by James Cameron.

Two men emerge naked from two separate electrical storms in Los Angeles. One stays low and out of sight to avoid the authorities. The other picks up a phone book so he can find women named Sarah Connor—and kill them. When a young diner waitress also named Sarah Connor hears that two people with her name have been killed within a day, she begins to worry about the killer coming for her next. As the killer murders two people in Sarah's home in an effort to find her, Sarah hides in a nightclub; the killer catches up with her there, but she is rescued by the other man, Kyle Reese.

Kyle explains his story to Sarah after they escape the killer: in the near future, the United States government will create SkyNet, an artificial intelligence that will promptly turn against its masters and attempt to Kill All Humans in a cataclysmic event that will become known as Judgment Day. Mankind will eventually defeat SkyNet, but before its final defeat, SkyNet will send a T-800 model Terminator — an android wrapped in human flesh to give it the appearance of a human — back in time to kill Sarah and prevent the birth of her son, John, who will become the leader of the human resistance). John will respond by sending Reese into the past to protect John's mother—and the timeline.


Read these tropes if you want to live:

  • Action Survivor: Sarah.
  • Agent Scully: Dr. Silberman. Even more so in T2, till he sees the T-1000 walk through the barred door. Though he leaves the police station just as the Terminator walks in and is not witness to the sheer carnage that occurs next.
  • All Therapists Are Muggles: Dr. Silberman isn't for one moment going to take stories of time-traveling killer cyborgs seriously.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • In the novelization, Kyle deliberately shoots the Terminator's arm after it had its laser sights pointed at Sarah. If he'd shot it anywhere else, it would have killed her anyway. This shot is the one that injured its arm in the scene we see later. Further, this fact is actually included in the film but Kyle's amazing shot is very obscured by a Freeze-Frame Bonus. In slow motion, you can actually see the shotgun slug knock the Terminator's arm away just as it fires.
    • The series of Terminator that's targeting Sarah is never mentioned in the film—only its make and model. In the novel, Kyle ponders if the machine is a 700 series or 800 series, hoping against hope that it was the former. To his horror, he quickly realizes it isn't.
    • The novel also states the reason that the Terminator runs away after the parking garage chase. Thanks to Reese shooting it in the eye, the Terminator was stunned and blinded enough to crash its police car at high speed. note  The impact was so powerful that it actually knocked the T-800 unconscious for a few seconds as its systems reset. By the time it awoke, the police were closing in and with the Terminator's eye and arm injuries (both of which, we'll remind you, were caused by a police-issue shotgun), the Terminator chose to run away and repair itself rather than risk fighting a battle it might not win.
  • Ammunition Backpack: Used by the Terminators in the future sequences.
  • Animals Hate Him: Dogs hate the title cyborgs, even in human form. It's not training, as dogs reacted this way to Skynet's machines even before the Terminators were built.
  • Antagonist Title: Named after the now-famous killer cyborg who tries to kill Sarah Connor. Also the only film in the franchise to use this trope, since the later films divided the title's association between multiple Terminator models and made some of them protagonists.
  • Artistic License:
    • May 12, 1984 was a Saturday, not a Thursday. This may be due to the fact that the script was written in 1983, which did have May 12 on Thursday.
    • The pipe bombs Kyle throws at the T-800 during the Car Chase don't seem to do anything more than make a cloud of smoke, even though they would have created tons of shrapnel that would have, at least, popped the bike's tires. Averted later on, as his last two destroy a tanker truck and the Terminator's legs, respectively, with the shrapnel injuring Sarah.
  • Artistic License – Cars: Due to Special Effects Failure; the pickup Kyle and Sarah steal (a Chevy C10 - 2WD - dressed up like an offroading K10 - 4WD - though this isn't unheard of), when it's flipped over, is missing its drivetrain - it clearly has no engine, transmission or driveshaft.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: In reality, very few gun stores keep live ammunition within reach of a customer on the counter top, for reasons that should be obvious even if you haven't seen the film and know what becomes of the gun shop owner. Some stores might have crates of ammunition for sales or special deals on the floor, but gun store employees would pull their own sidearms on any customer who grabbed a box of ammo and had a live weapon in their hands at the same time.
  • Artistic License – Law: The T-800 obtains a fully automatic AR-18 and Uzi, which is also equipped with the short barrel. Neither could be sold over the counter, even in 1984. However, short dummy barrels were often installed in Uzi Carbines to entice buyers but were always sold with the legal 16" barrels, and as James Cameron explained in a letter to Soldier of Fortune (and later in the novelisation), they were a civilian AR-180 and a semi-auto Uzi Carbine which the T-800 converted to full auto using tools stolen earlier.
  • Asshole Victim: The T-800's encounter with several thugs goes deadly when one of the thugs stabs the cyborg, who responds by ripping his heart out. This is the first hint the the cyborg is not to be fucked with, and that thug is unlikely to be mourned because of it.
  • A-Team Firing: Zig-Zagged. Like most 80s action films, most characters fire everything from the hip, and how effective it is depends on who they're shooting at. Reese, Vudovic, and several others hit the Terminator dead-on with hip-fire, but of course, it has little effect. The Terminator, meanwhile, both hip fires and uses proper aiming techniques, which works fine against the police, but is less effective against our heroes.
  • Badass Biker: The T-800 can't be any more badass when wearing sunglasses, a black leather jacket, and riding a Honda CB750 all at the same time.
  • Bait and Switch
    • After the Robot War, a shot of a menacing robot turns out to be a garbage truck.
    • Sarah cowers under a desk while the Terminator rampages through the police station. A menacing shadow appears outside, tests the handle, smashes the window…it's Kyle.
    • During the future flashback, a family appears to be watching television, until a Reveal Shot shows they've lit a fire inside the smashed television set.
  • Ballistic Discount: The T-800 considers this the best way to complete a transaction.
  • Ballroom Blitz: Tech Noir gets blitzed, everyone stops their eighties style dancing and runs for the exits. Luckily Kyle was able to "Zero" the T-800 as a result, so it was worth the few dead dancers.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: The second cop with an M-16 is blasted with a spray of rifle bullets and buckshot. The only evidence of his death is a split-second grunt.
  • "Be Quiet!" Nudge: Lt. Traxler gives one to Det. Vukovich when he starts telling an unnecessary story to Sarah in the Police Station while they are explaining how the Terminator could have done the things she said it did.
    Lt. Traxler: [shows Sarah a Bulletproof Vest] Sarah, this is what they call body armor. Our tac guys wear these. It'll stop a 12-gauge round. This other individual must have been wearing one under his coat. Feel that.
    Sarah: [feels the vest] But what about when he punched through the windshield?
    Det. Vukovich: He's probably on PCP. Broke every bone in his hand and won't feel it for hours. There was this guy once, you see this scar...?
    [Lt. Traxler shoves the armor into Det. Vukovich's chest.]
    Det. Vukovich: Thank you. [Det. Vukovich takes the vest and leaves.]
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished:
    • Sarah retains immaculate hair throughout the entire movie, despite all the stressful and traumatic action she's subjected to.
    • In one of Kyle's flashbacks of the future, a fellow Resistance fighter removes her helmet to reveal that perfect makeup that hasn't been hindered by the apocalypse.
  • Big Badass Rig: The T-800 chases down the protagonists in an International Harvester Transtar fuel truck.
  • Big Blackout: The Terminator shorts out the fuse box in the police station, as with his infrared vision he doesn't need light to see.
  • BFG: The future Terminator's laser cannon.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Terminator is defeated and Sarah survives along with her unborn son, but Kyle dies. Further, Sarah is a changed woman thanks to her experiences, and must live paranoid of the nightmarish future on the horizon.
  • Black Comedy: In-universe, one of Sarah's coworkers is cheered up by the news of the murder of another Sarah Connor and gleefully brings it to her attention. She is not amused.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Kyle's attraction to Sarah is what conceives John Connor in the first place.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Noticeably averted with reloading scenes or magazines running empty. An exception is the parking garage chase where sloppy editing caused Arnold to fire numerous times from a pump-action shotgun without racking the slide or inserting more shells. Or driving.
  • Break the Cutie: The entire point to Sarah's Character Development. Note how she goes from being so meek as a waitress to delivering a Pre-Mortem One-Liner to a killer cyborg. But, even more, note how she is so completely wrecked at the end of it all that even touching the dead Terminator's arm is almost too much for her.
  • Bullets Do Not Work That Way: There's a take that averts this trope and ends up cooler because of it: when the T-800 is killing its way through the police station, one doomed Officer Red Shirt hits it with a revolver shot that passes right through and spiderwebs the glass partition behind it.
  • Burn Baby Burn: Sarah Connor's picture burns in a symbolic manner in one of Kyle's dreams.
  • The Cameo: The infiltrator terminator in Kyle's flashback of the future is played by Franco Columbu, Schwarzenegger's bodybuilding partner and longtime friend.
  • Car Fu: Reese knocks down the Terminator with the pickup truck outside the hotel, giving them time to drive out of the carpark. Later, Sarah uses the pickup to knock down the Terminator on his motorbike, but crashes it in the process.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Reese has a dream of combat against the machines.
  • Catchphrase: Arnold's famous "I'll Be Back."
  • Cat Scare: Sarah bumps into Matt (Matt Scare?) as she leaves her building, and later Ginger is startled by Pugsley the pet lizard.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: At the end, the police arrive only after Sarah has defeated the Terminator.
  • Central Theme: As stated by James Cameron himself...
  • Chase Fight: The finale is both a chase scene and a fight scene.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Sarah accidentally presses the button to activate the hydraulic press. This draws the Terminator in their direction, but she remembers it later.
  • Clipped Wing Angel: By the time the heroes have reduced the Terminator down to its naked metal skeleton, the Terminator has incurred some actual damage, including a limp. In the very end, it's reduced to a crawling, one-armed torso.
  • Coconut Superpowers: T1 was originally conceived as a Robot War film set in The Future. Cameron was a nobody at that time, so he got a measly budget for the production. In order to save the little money he had, James clad the robot in human skin (so he could use a live actor) and moved the action into the present. Awesomeness ensued.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: After the Terminator kills several victims, the police make sure that there's a news broadcast about the killed Sarah Connors. When Sarah is fetched from the restaurant, the newscaster conveniently adds "To recap:" and then repeats the entire story.
  • Combat Breakdown: A very drawn-out example happens during the final encounter with the Terminator. Both it and the heroes begin with a car chase. Then both vehicles crash. Kyle was shot during the chase, and the Terminator is then hit and dragged by a truck, leaving both with a limp. The pair runs into a factory to try and lose the Terminator, but wind up trapped and forced to fight in close combat. A resulting explosion leaves the Terminator blown in half, Kyle dead, and Sarah with a severely injured leg. Sarah and the Terminator are both reduced to crawling and the chase continues.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: The Trope Namer. Here, Reese says it to Sarah just before they escape from Tech Noir.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Averted, as during the Terminator's rampage through the police precinct, he can be seen killing officers by shooting through walls and desks with high-powered, automatic assault rifles and shotguns, exactly as it would happen in real-life.
  • Contagious Cassandra Truth: In the middle of the film, Sarah Connor seems happy to accept the psychologist's explanation that Kyle Reese is a paranoid schizophrenic, and the Killer Robot is just on PCP. By the beginning of the second film, she's locked up in a mental asylum for insisting that Reese's story about the impending apocalypse is true, as well as acting on that belief...
  • Cool Code of Source: The T-800 has 6502 assembly code scrolling on the Robo Cam. 6502 Assembly code, generally acknowledged as Apple II code originally taken from Nibble Magazine.
  • Coolest Club Ever: Tech-Noir
  • Cop Killer: The T-800 massacres an entire police station in an attempt to get to Sarah Connor. Radio reports later reveal that quite predictably a nation-wide manhunt was started for the mysterious gunman. The cops are still looking for the shooter in Terminator 2: Judgment Day to get justice for the officers who were killed on that night.
  • Crapsack World: Future LA. You can't move by day at all, only at night. Even then you have to be careful because the machines use infra-red. HK's hunt for any living thing to brutally and clinically murder, and everybody lives underground in squalid hovels. Hovels that from time to time get infiltrated by Terminators...
  • Creator Cameo: James Cameron provides the voice of Sarah's date on the message where he cancels.
  • Curbstomp Battle: The shootout inside the police station. We later learn in Judgement Day that no less than seventeen police officers were massacred in their hopeless defense against the Terminator. By the time it is over, anybody who lived to tell about has already fled the scene.
  • Curbstomp Cushion:
    • In the future war scenes, humans are typically on the receiving end of the beatdown, but Kyle does manage to destroy an HK Tank.
    • Each encounter with the Terminator results in demonstrating that it does have weaknesses. After the first time it chases Sarah and Kyle, it has to go back to its hideout to repair its arm and eye. After the second shootout, its skin disguise begins to malfunction and rot. After the third chase, it walks with a limp.
  • Cyborg: Kyle Reese explains: "The Terminator's an infiltration unit: part man, part machine. Underneath, it's a hyper-alloy combat chassis, microprocessor-controlled. Fully armored; very tough. But outside, it's living human tissue: flesh, skin, hair, blood - grown for the cyborgs." This makes it quite an unusual depiction of this trope, which tends more towards "organic being with various parts — up to and including the entire body — replaced with cybernetic fascimiles". Instead, the T-800 (and subsequent T-850) Terminator is a fully-functional Skele Bot — later films even show them operating without their "skinsuits" — that can wear artificially grown epidermal tissue as a disguise.
  • Darkened Building Shootout: The Smoke and Fire Factory at the conclusion of the film.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dr. Silberman mocks Reese in a very straight, clinical way; he remarks that Skynet is attempting some kind of retroactive abortion and wonders why Reese didn't bring ray guns from the future with him.
  • Death by Irony: The Terminator is ultimately destroyed by an unstoppable, remorseless machine. In this case, a large pneumatic press that Sarah lures him into.
  • Death by Sex:
    • Sarah Connor's roommate Ginger and her boyfriend have just finished making love when the Terminator breaks in looking for Sarah.
    • Kyle Reese. His fate is sealed the minute he and Sarah make love, while Sarah survives.
  • Determinator: Both Kyle Reese and, of course, De Terminator.
  • Dialogue Tree: Seen from the T-800's POV in one scene, when it considers its response options to someone inquiring about the smell in the apartment it's hiding out in. It eventually decides on "Fuck you, asshole", a phrase learned from the punks.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: The Slow Motion chambering of their respective weapons by Kyle and the Terminator, as the latter is about to shoot Sarah in Tech Noir.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Kyle Reese, justified in that he learned to drive After the End. He also instinctively drives cars at night without the headlights on, as doing so in the future would draw aerial Hunter-Killers.
  • Drone of Dread: A frightful metallic-sounding droning theme plays as the Terminator prepares to shoot Sarah Connor in the night club.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Kyle Reese volunteers to go back in time to protect Sarah Connor, who he fell in love with only from stories and a picture he was given by John Connor, knowing there is absolutely no way back and that going up against a Terminator programmed to kill Sarah will most likely result in a violent death. The line in question: "John gave me a picture of you once. I memorised every line. Every curve. I came across time for you, Sarah." Though considering the alternative in the future... and John Connor gave the picture of Sarah to Kyle specifically to elicit this effect... Kyle being his Father thanks to time travel, and all.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Ginger's boyfriend tries to fight the Terminator when he bursts into their house. It is, of course, a Curbstomp Battle, but he somehow manages to keep the Terminator occupied for a good half minute or so, even managing to shove the Terminator backwards a few steps at one point. In later Terminator media, any human going up against a Terminator in hand-to-hand would get killed pretty much instantly.
    • The zombie-like decay seen on the Terminator over the course of the film as he takes damage isn't seen again in later films or media, and some Terminator media such as The Sarah Connor Chronicles even mention that Terminator living tissue has a moderate capacity for self-regeneration, and by Terminator Genisys an entire missing arm's worth of flesh can grow back, given enough time (several years).
    • Arnie has more facial expression than in later movies, where there's more emphasis on a Terminator's emotionless facade, with the reactions evolving as they interact more with humans.
    • The climax looks like something that you usually see in a horror movie. While some later films had similar climax (i.e. a Terminator cornered the protagonists to an enclosed space), but their climax are more action-oriented than this movie's.
    • The film itself plays more like a horror film than an action film at times, much more than its sequels. It even follows some Slasher Movie tropes.
  • '80s Hair: The hair, dear sweet Lord the hair. The scene where Sarah and her roommate are primping at home could be put in a time capsule as evidence of 1980s hair.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: This is how we get the first look at the Terminator's real body.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The T-800 punking three punks during one of its first scenes when they don't comply and become confrontational. It comes across them naked, displaying a decidedly non-human behaviour, it is unaffected by a knife thrust and then delivers a gruesome blow to one with its bare hands.
    "Wash day tomorrow, nothing clean!"
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: A couple of well-placed shots from Kyle turn a car into a fireball.
  • Eye Scream: The T-800's "self-repair" scene, where he cuts his damaged left eye out with an X-Acto knife.
  • Fanservice
    • Averted; Sarah and Kyle have probably the most plot-critical sex scene of all time.
    • Also played straight, though, in the form of male Fanservice. Watch the opening scenes of that movie (both Kyle and the T-800 are naked, courtesy of their time transport. They are both very, very well-built, and Kyle particularly stays at the least shirtless for a good long while).
  • Feet-First Introduction: The Teminator and Reese when they come from the future. Of course, it's a James Cameron movie.
  • Final Girl: Sarah Connor, clearly.
  • Finger Twitching Revival: Reese shoots the Terminator several times with a sawed-off shotgun when it tries to move in on Sarah in Tech Noir. Shortly after it hits the floor, its fingers twitch, offering the audience their first clue that the big scary guy isn't human.
  • 555: The number at the nightclub that Sarah is hiding at, and the number of the motel where she hides with Kyle.
  • Flashback Nightmare: Kyle Reese frequently had nightmares relating to the war against Skynet as well as his hiding from the various HKs and Terminators.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese. Reese gets shot in the preceding scene and Sarah notices it after what must have been an hour or so seeing as how they drove until they ran out of gas. Cue Major Injury Underreaction from Reese. Sarah flips out of course and proceeds to bandage up his arm, apparently oblivious to the obvious Male Gaze she's getting. It's a pretty important scene for their relationship, as Sarah finds out Reese's first name.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Sarah asks Kyle about John Connor, Kyle tells her that John is about his height but has her eyes. When she asks who the father is, Kyle tells her that he doesn't know much except that he died before the Robot War. All of this foreshadows that Kyle is John's father, and that he won't survive the film.
    • Not strictly time-travel related—deleted scenes show that Sarah was starting to become the tough, determined woman that the future knew her as after she, on her own initiative, tracks down Cyberdyne Systems HQ and talks Reese into going with her to blow it up (and threatening to leave him behind if he won't).
  • From Bad to Worse: Almost stated word for word by the narration of Reese's thoughts in the novel. Reese was expecting that the model sent to kill Sarah was a T-700, which would have been bad enough. But when he saw how fast it got up after being shot through a window, he knew that he was fighting something much, much worse than a 700.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: The T-800 does this to a bunch of punks at the start of the film. It ends pretty quickly after he tears the heart out of the chest of one of them...
  • Gaia's Lament: A deleted scene shows Kyle and Sarah getting into a fight and rolling into a wooded area. Kyle suffers a bit of a Heroic B.S.O.D., and starts to cry when he sees how beautiful the world used to be.
  • Get Out: After getting run over, the T-800 says this to a truck driver. He quickly obliges.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: The machines versus the humans. Nobody expects one side to surrender.
  • Gun Porn: When the T-800 purchases firearms at a gun store, the owner compliments its knowledge of weapons, and adds that all that heavy weaponry is ideal for home defense.
    • There's lots of errors, though;
      • A .45 longslide with Laser Sighting. The owner Hand Waves it by saying, "These are brand-new, just got them in," but the smallest lasers in the world in 1984 weighed multiple pounds, mostly the battery. Arnold wore the battery up his sleeve.
      • A 12-gauge autoloading shotgun. This is a Franchi SPAS-12, and owner says it's "pump or auto", but unless he means semi-auto - one round per trigger pull - he's bullshitting, as the SPAS-12 isn't fully-automatic. Only a handful of shotguns are full-auto, as they are the definition of Awesome, but Impractical.
      • A short-barreled, automatic "Uzi nine millimetah". There are strict federal laws, and California has had bans on these for decades. No gun store sells them, and no criminal enterprise would have them readily visible on the wall. Converting a long barreled semiautomatic Uzi to full auto takes completely different internal parts, a machine shop and precise tooling.
      • And above all else, no gun store has the ammo stored right next to the guns, for pretty much the reason seen. And any gun store owner that saw a customer loading a newly-bought weapon would draw his own and ask them what the hell they think they're up to!
  • Guns Akimbo: The T-800 with a shotgun in the left hand and an automatic rifle in the right, neither of which is even supposed to be shot one-handed. Justified in that he's a cyborg from the future with computerized targeting and superhuman strength.
  • Hand Wave: Kyle Reese's general ignorance regarding how he was sent back in time. This is invoked twice; once when he is discussing how he got there with Sarah ("one possible future...I don't know tech stuff") and when he is being analyzed by Doctor Silberman ("You go naked. Something about the field generated by a living organism. Nothing dead will go. I didn't build the fucking thing!"). Also averts As You Know.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: Sarah's roommate Ginger is so busy rocking out on her headphones that she doesn't hear her lover being beaten to death by the Terminator in the next room. What does that tell you about the quality of their sex?
    • The novelization makes a point to mention that Ginger's performance during sex is...enhanced by whatever she's listening to, which is why Matt, in the movie, can be seen turning the volume up on her Walkman.
    • Also earlier when the detectives are trying to call Connor's apartment; Matt turns up the volume on Ginger's Walkman in response as they're having sex.
  • Hope Spot
    • When the gas tanker explodes, supposedly taking the T-800 with it, Kyle and Sarah embrace and triumphant music swells all around them...until the Terminator rises from the flames and they realize that the killing machine is still coming.
    • Happens again after Reese's Heroic Sacrifice. Sarah gets a few seconds to mourn his death...and then the top half of the Terminator sits up and reaches for her.
    • Despite the dilapidated buildings and awful condition the future is in, Kyle tells Sarah that the human resistance managed to turn things around. He tells Dr. Silberman that the war was won by the time Kyle was sent back in time, and that the time travel assassination was a last minute attempt by Sky Net to win the war.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: The humans in Kyle's flashback, huddling underground hiding from the HK's and Reduced to Ratburgers.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Averted; Ed Traxler drinks a cup coffee that's been cold for hours, and doesn't react when he partner tells him he put a cigarette out in it.
  • I Can Change My Beloved: In deleted scenes, Sarah begins to fall for Reese right when cracks in his tough soldier exterior begin to show. For the first time, she realizes what kind of Hell it must be to grow up in a world where all the current comforts of life—green plants, good food, plentiful entertainment—are all gone and your every waking moment is fighting to survive and to strike back against relentless machines. She tries to get him to open up several times, to no avail, and decides that stopping the future and giving Kyle the life he never had is the best way to bring out the human in him.
  • Impending Doom P.O.V.: Sarah's vision goes red as the Terminator puts his Laser Sight right between her eyes.
  • Implacable Man: The T-800. Kyle's description provides the page quote.
  • It Can Think: The hideout scene in general demonstrates that the Terminator isn't a bestial, berserker killbot. It knows when a risk is too great, and it knows how to alter its appearance to blend in better, even with grotesque injuries. The fact that it can think strategically and blend in until it's too late only makes the danger that much greater for Sarah.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Arnold Schwarzenegger took the role despite thinking it would be a "shit movie" because he thought it wouldn't damage his career too much if it failed. How wrong he was...
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: Kyle Reese tries this, collapsing from his gunshot wound after Sarah Connor has dragged him into the factory. By this time in the movie Sarah has Took a Level in Badass, so she isn't buying it.
    Sarah: Move it, Reese! On your feet soldier! ON YOUR FEET!
  • Jump Scare: When the half blown apart T-800 jolts up and starts pursuing Sarah again. Complete with Scare Chord.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • The titular character had to run over some children's toys to establish that he is evil. Never mind that he'd already killed (at least) two people in exceptionally ruthless fashion. It becomes a bit of foreshadowing, since the toy semi is the same model as the real one the Terminator will drive later in the movie.
    • There's also a very literal example, as the humanoid Terminator in Kyle's future flashback uses his machine gun to mow down the guard dogs who detected him, although there's a Gory Discretion Shot.
  • The Kindnapper: Kyle Reese kidnaps Sarah Connor to save her from the titular character.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Despite its reputation as a, well, Determinator...The Terminator knows when it can't win a fight. An injured Terminator escapes from the police when it, Sarah and Kyle crash their cars and goes back to its hideout to perform repairs and get more powerful weapons.
  • Laser Sight: "The .45 longslide, with laser sighting." At the time, laser sights were nowhere near as common as they are now, and Arnold had to hide the battery up his sleeve. Of course, this invites the question as to why an advanced cyborg with night vision who can probably calculate the ballistics of a round would need to use a laser sight. But it does give a cool Impending Doom P.O.V. when Sarah Connor's vision goes red as the Terminator puts the laser dot right between her eyes.
  • The Load: Sarah Connor, being a relatively airheaded fast food waitress. She grows out of it.
  • Love Before First Sight: Reese claims to have fallen for a photograph of Sarah. The photo was in fact taken of Sarah while she was thinking of what to tell John about his father...Reese.
  • Lowered Monster Difficulty: Justified Trope; it made sense that the Terminator was getting weaker by the end, due to all the damage it has slowly been accumulating throughout the movie. The suspense lay in the fact that the heroes had been getting hurt and killed too.
  • Made of Iron: Averted in the scene where the Terminator withdraws to repair the damage after driving a stolen police car into a concrete wall, rather than take on a large number of police officers who've just turned up.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: There's a brief but clear shot of Arnie's hard drive as he walks naked over to the punks.
  • Man Bites Man: Sarah bites Kyle's hand to little effect when she tries to escape from this madman raving about killer robots from the future. It does hurt however, as he testily points out, and Kyle wears a bandage for the rest of the film.
  • Match Cut: Used to great effect in the scene where Reese has the dream about the future. The scene first shows a crane in the present and then zooms in to show what look like the crane's treads, until you notice they are running over human skulls...
  • Missed Him by That Much:
    • Silberman scoffs at the prospects of the Terminator, and he leaves just as the Terminator arrives at the station. He's looking at his pager when it first walks in.
    • In Tech Noir, Sarah knocks over a bottle and bends down behind a table to pick it from the ground just when the Terminator is looking at her direction, missing her. He sees her shortly after, so the trope only serves to draw out the suspense.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Matt has his underwear on when he leaps out of bed.
  • Monster Munch: The three punks at the beginning, with a touch of Asshole Victim. The fate of the less antagonistic one is ambiguous. The novelization has him killed too after he hands over his clothes.
  • More Dakka: The T-800's assault on the police station.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Reese and the Terminator. The size-fitting problem is averted; the punk is wearing a jacket too big for him, while Reece is shown checking the size on his shoes before putting them on, and selecting the correct size jacket, when stealing them from a clothes store.
  • Mugging the Monster: A trio of hoodlums decides that it's a good idea to pick on a Herculean naked man walking around at night. While it's generally not a good idea to start fights with crazed weightlifters, the punks probably would have been at an advantage had their intended victim not been a killbot from the future. Also played with, in that the Terminator is essentially mugging them (of their clothes, that is) before they decide to take out their knives.
  • Naked People Are Funny: The punks in the beginning are amused by the nakedness of the T-800 and tease it a little; "Nice night for a walk, wash day tomorrow, nothing clean, right?". It gets gruesome afterwards.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Kyle Reese has a barcode tattoo that is similar in vein to the numbered tattoos given to those imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps.
  • Near Villain Victory: The Terminator comes insanely close to murdering Sarah Connor in the Tech Noir club and accomplishing SkyNet's mission. He scours the club, and when he finally spots Sarah, the scene shifts to slow-mo with a droning metallic theme in the background. He calmly walks over and targets his gun's laser sight directly at her head, as Kyle grabs his shotgun from across the room and frantically tries to get the other people out of the way. The Terminator is less than a second from blowing her brains all over the floor when Kyle blasts him. If you pay attention, the Terminator actually fired and missed Sarah due to the impact of Kyle's shot throwing off his balance by a few inches.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Sarah looks up Cyberdyne System's address in a phone book, which was actually filmed but not used in the film, though it can certainly be speculated that it happened after watching the sequel. Together, she and Kyle concoct a plan to blow up Cyberdyne and stop the rise of SkyNet . The Terminator follows them. The Terminator's remains, including the chip, are found at Cyberdyne, where they are taken to be studied.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Had the Terminator not attacked the police station, Kyle would have been carted off to jail and Sarah would have gone home with her mother. By attacking, it causes Reese to rescue Sarah instead.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • How DID Reese get that big wad of cash he used to pay the motel room? It's a fair assumption he spent the day stealing what he needed, but it's not really addressed. Lampshaded by Sarah, who comments "I don't wanna ask where you got it."
    • Detective Vukovich's explanation of how someone acts on PCP.
      "See this scar? There was this guy once..."
  • No Place for Me There: A deleted scene had Kyle Reese breaking down in tears as he laments that he doesn't belong in the world of 1984, which to him feels like paradise compared to the hellhole future he comes from. And knowing it was all doomed just made it worse.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Intentionally filmed to invoke this. Apart from when he rescues Sarah at Tech Noir and his death, Reese otherwise never appears in the same frame as the Terminator at any other point of the film, instead having the camera focus on either him or the Terminator.
  • Not So Different: Kyle Reese and the Terminator both take broadly the same actions early on in the film, right up to the Tech Noir shootout where the exposition begins. They both arrive naked in balls of lightning, they quickly steal clothing to blend in, they arm themselves and then they both commence a search for Sarah Connor, using the same tactic of looking her up in the phone book. This is done to leave the viewer unsure as to which of the characters is the good guy, assuming that either of them are. There are a few clues dropped in the differences between how Reese and the Terminator accomplish the same goals. Reese mugs a man for his pants, then lifts the rest of his clothing from a shop, then he arms himself by stealing a shotgun, so he prepares without seriously hurting anybody. The Terminator, on the other hand, simply demands the stuff he wants and ruthlessly kills the people who he demands it from. We are also clued in by the fact that The Terminator remains completely stoic, whereas Reese seems to be on the verge of completely losing it, and by the fact that The Terminator arms itself rather more heavily than Reese does.
  • Novelization: By Randall Frakes and William Wisher, the latter of whom would co-write the sequel.
  • Now I Know What to Name Him: The Trope Namer.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted; there were three Sarah Connors. Our Sarah was fortunate to be the last in the phone book.
  • One-Winged Angel: The Terminator's true form.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Kyle gets shot by the Terminator while escaping from the police station, but manages to keep driving until their car runs out of gas. Later, he and Sarah hide under a bridge and when she finds out he's shot, he refuses medical attention and says it's "not bad". He's shot again later on, but this one is far more serious as it slowly saps his strength and possibly contributes to his death later.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Although strictly speaking not undead per-se, the T-800's increasingly decayed and putrefied form, not to mention its increasingly robotic and shambling gait as its form is punishingly pulverized by speeding vehicles clearly invokes the image of a murderous living corpse.
  • Out of the Inferno: The famous scene where the T-800 rises from the wreckage of the fuel tanker, all of its artificial skin having been burned off in the explosion, straight from the fever-induced nightmares of the director himself.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Basically invoked by Reese, attempting to explain the Terminator during his police interrogation (see page quote).
  • Parking Garage: Reese and the T-800 have a couple of gunfights in one.
  • Pay Phone: To find Sarah Connor's address, both the Terminator and Reese go to a pay phone and rip out the page containing the listing of the three addresses of women named Sarah Connor. See also the item on Fridge Logic.
  • Pet the Dog: Reese instinctively allows the dog at the roadside hotel to sniff him. They use dogs to sniff out Terminators where he comes from.
  • Plasma Cannon: While ordering guns the T-800 asks for a phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range. Presumably the ray guns seen in the future sequences are the plasmacannon the Terminator was asking for.
  • Police Are Useless: Downplayed. The police are shown to be highly intelligent, figuring out the pattern of the killings almost immediately, take advantage of the power of the press to warn Sarah Connor and can readily explain the mysterious gunman's seemingly superhuman invulnerability. They're just Wrong Genre Savvy. Furthermore, their armament in the precinct station (up to M16 rifles) demonstrates they're definitely ready for most disturbances. Unfortunately, the Terminator is just too tough for them. After the police station massacre, a radio newscaster reports that a state-wide manhunt for the Terminator was underway.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "You're terminated, fucker!"
  • Prima Donna Director: Averted with James Cameron, according to numerous sources. Cameron, who would later develop a reputation for having an "evil twin" while working on films, was extremely amicable to his cast and staff during filming. Michael Biehn stated that Cameron was willing to listen to suggestions, and although he didn't use them all, there were numerous instances where he would. Of particular note is the police interrogation scene; Reese talking directly into the camera was Biehn's idea, as he felt it would make his character look like a soldier with sharp wits honed by a world where he Had To Be Sharp.
  • The Quincy Punk: The movie opens with three stereotypical punks smashing up the Griffith Park Observatory...and then they try to mug the T-800.
  • Rapid-Fire Nail Biting: Sarah Connor is chewing her nails while watching a police video of Kyle Reese's interrogation.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Lieutenant Traxler is quite competent and unlike his fellow officers, he doesn't laugh at the possibility that Reese may not be lying or crazy. He even comes to believe Reese in a deleted scene when he's dying, telling him to protect Sarah, and even gives him his revolver.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Intentionally invoked in the gun shop scene. Artistic License – Gun Safety is partially averted, with the owner telling the T-800 he needs to wait two weeks to purchase the handguns, and getting alarmed when he starts loading the shotgun. note 
    Gunshop Owner: Hey, you can't do that!
    Terminator: Wrong. *BOOM*
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The T-800, once its red optical sensors are exposed. Made even more chilling with the red-tinted display when the T-800's perspective is shown.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: What Sarah's roommate Ginger thinks of her pet iguana.
  • Rescue Introduction: Kyle introduce himself to Sarah by extricating her from Tech Noir just as the T-800 closes in for the kill.
  • Rewatch Bonus: When Sarah asks Kyle what her future son looks like, Kyle replies that John is about his own height but with Sarah's eyes. This becomes rather sweet when you realize that Kyle is John's father.
  • Ripped from the Phone Book: Kyle rips the page with the three Sarahs' addresses. The T-800 just scans and memorises them.
  • Robo Cam: Frequent and shameless, and spoofed once an hour ever since.
  • Rule of Three: We think the Terminator is dead once, then twice, then finally it sticks when Sarah remembers to deliver a simultaneous Pre-Mortem One-Liner and Precision F-Strike.
  • Run or Die: Definitely how the T-800 is treated — attempting to take it in a straight-up fight is suicide.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: Reese makes one from a pump-action shotgun he steals out of a police car.
  • Scannable Man: Reese and his barcode concentration camp tattoo.
  • Screw Destiny: In deleted scenes, there was a sub-plot about Sarah being obsessed with this, after she comes to trust Reese. The final film makes it seem like the two of them wound up at Cyberdyne completely by accident during the Final Battle, but in the original movie, that was their intention. She and Reese planned to use their pipe bombs to blow Cyberdyne up, but were forced to use all of their explosives fighting the Terminator.
  • Sequel Hook: Reese explains the history of SkyNet and Cyberdyne. The Smoke and Fire Factory at the end of the climax is revealed as a Cyberdyne building in a deleted scene.
  • Sensory Overload: When Kyle and Sarah run into Cyberdyne, he creates cover for their movements by turning on every machine in the automated factory. When the Terminator pursues, it initially can't find them because there's too much movement to get a fix on them. Unfortunately, Sarah ruins it by accidentally activating a machine the Terminator knows isn't automated.
  • Sex for Solace: Sarah Connor ends up having sex with Kyle Reese while they're on the run from a killer cyborg, and she had witnessed it murder multiple people that she knew and a whole police station.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: The Terminator shoots out a door lock with his SPAS-12 during the police station assault. Could count as Early Installment Weirdness as in later movies a Terminator can knock steel doors off their hinges. Perhaps it's because he had his hands full at the time.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: The only firearm that is able to do any kind of damage to the T-800 is Reese's shotgun and even that is only able to knock it down and disable it for a few seconds.
  • Shown Their Work
    • Arnold Schwarzenegger underwent weeks of weapons training before starting the film and wound up garnering a compliment from Soldier of Fortune magazine for his realistic handling of the weapons on camera (also something of a minor Moment of Awesome, because Soldier of Fortune usually ridicules movies for their unrealistic weapon handling). Also, Schwarzenegger served in the Austrian Army (he actually went AWOL at one point to win his first bodybuilding competition), so he already had some knowledge of firearms.
    • Also seen when cars are hot-wired realistically.
  • Serial Killer: The film starts as a variation of this genre of film.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran
    • Sarah Connor, again. Though John has some of this in his character as well, due to being raised the way he has.
    • Kyle Reese, obviously.
    • Everyone in Kyle's flashback has varying degrees of Shell-Shockedness.
  • Slasher Movie: A textbook example of this genre. It is fundamentally the story of a (literally) Made of Iron Serial Killer who stalks his young female victims by picking their addresses out of a phone book.
  • Stable Time Loop: The events of the first movie set up a simple, self-contained time loop with Sarah and Kyle. Compared to the rest of the series as a whole, it's very straightforward, as evidenced by the photograph of Sarah Connor which Sarah gives to John to give to Kyle to describe to Sarah.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Zig Zagged Trope; crazy-eyed Kyle is following Sarah about like a nutty stalker, then we discover it's only to protect her. After they become Fire-Forged Friends, Kyle reveals that it's actually played straight, as he'd volunteered for this one-way mission because he really does have a creepy obsession with her. Fortunately by the time he blurts this out, Sarah is entirely willing to play along.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Kyle is shown frantically trying to restart his car after making the Terminator crash into a wall, but when he's arrested and the police advance on the stolen cop car, the Terminator has vanished.
  • Stealth Pun: Tech Noir
  • A Storm Is Coming: In the final moments of the film, while Sarah is waiting at a gas station, a Mexican child takes her photo (the same one that Kyle later sees and falls in love with her from). Right after, the child mentions the incoming storm in Spanish, which the gas station attendant translates to Sarah as a storm is coming; the pregnant Sarah replies "I know."
  • Sunglasses at Night: Justified, because the Terminator uses them to hide his exposed robotic eye.
  • Take the Wheel: Reese to Sarah twice, once while while the Terminator is pursuing them in a police car and once while it's riding a motorcycle.
  • Time Travel Romance: One where the romance has a good deal of plot significance.
  • Time Travel Tense Trouble: Sarah has a problem with Reese telling her of all the things she hasn't done yet. It can make a person go crazy.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The owner of the gun shop leaves a box of shotgun shells on the counter where the Terminator can just take them, apparently not at all suspicious of a guy dressed like a street punk (in a time when dressing that way stereotyped you as a violent thug to begin with...) buying that many high-powered firearms all at once.
    • The street punks whom the T-800 mugged for their clothes. Provided they did not know he was a killer cyborg from the future but still... see Mugging the Monster.
    • When Sarah and Kyle are on the run, Kyle repeatedly informs Sarah not to contact anyone she knows because the Terminator will find a way to use that to track them down. Sarah is understandably worried about her mother and calls her anyway, vaguely warning her to get out of her house. But, that's not the dumb part; concern for her mother is natural. Where it becomes outright dumb is when Sarah calls her mother again and allows herself to be guilt-tripped into giving out the phone number of the motel she and Kyle are staying in. Then it turns out that the voice on the other end is the Terminator, and he immediately hangs up and calls the motel to get an address. Oops.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Sarah starts to by the end of the movie, and by the sequel is a straight-up Action Girl.
  • Trashcan Bonfire: While Sarah is dreaming of the post-apocalyptic future several can be seen in the underground area where the humans are hiding.
  • Unorthodox Reload: During the police station shootout, the Terminator flips two tied-together magazines upside down, swapping a spent mag for a fresh one.
  • Updated Re Release: The Special Edition DVD, which included, in addition to the original mono soundtrack, a remastered 5.1 soundtrack with improved sound effects taken from the sequel.
  • Uncanny Valley:
    • Deliberately invoked by Arnold's make-up artists. Not only was his face liberally sprayed with vaseline to give his skin a faux-artificial appearance, but his eyebrows were shaved to subtly creep out the viewer even more. In-story, the Terminator gets his eyebrows removed when Reese blows up a car and it runs through the flames anyway. That's also when Reese makes The Reveal about the Terminator's cyborg nature.
    • How the survivors identified the 600 series, what with their rubber skin and such.
  • Uncommon Time: Due to a mistake Brad Fiedel made when syncing the tracks manually, the main theme is in 13/16
  • Unwitting Pawn: It's strongly implied that John Connor deliberately manipulated Reese into falling in love with his mother by giving him her picture. And then he had to send his own father back in time to certain doom, just to make sure he would exist to save the world. Reese never knew his true role in the bigger picture, never realizing he was fighting for his own son. Must have been heartbreaking for John. Terminator Genisys actually brings this trope up, with Sarah telling Reese that John was basically manipulating him to ensure things would play out the way they did. In that timeline, Sarah herself rejects this, and is actively trying to invoke Screw Destiny in order to prevent Reese from dying. Surprisingly, the two end up doing just that, though Reese personally still believes John had good intentions.
  • Villains Blend in Better: Early in the film, the T-800 has a much easier time securing a disguise, weapons etc., while Reese seems to be simply lucky. This is because A) Reese, having grown up after the war, knows little about pre-apocalypse society, while the Terminator can presumably draw on files given to it by Skynet and B) the Terminator can simply take what it wants due to being unstoppable by 20th Century standards. Averted later on, as Reese slowly regains some humanity (better highlighted in deleted scenes) while the Terminator loses its humanity, with even its flesh starting to rot.
  • Wake-Up Fighting: Kyle is shown drawing his shotgun the moment he wakes up.
  • War Is Hell: You definitely get this impression in Kyle's future-flashbacks.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: "There's over 30 cops in this building. You're perfectly safe here."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Sarah had a pet iguana, good for a Cat Scare in the first film. What happened to it? And was the dog at the end of the first film Max in the second film (he'd be pretty elderly)?
  • What Year Is This?: Appears, although questioning under gunpoint is required to receive the (incomplete) answer. The questioned police officer, whom Kyle Reese has just disarmed, gives him the date and day of the week, but balks and looks confused when Kyle demands to know the year.
  • Who Needs Their Whole Body?: The T-800 continues to pursue Sarah Connor after Kyle Reese blows its legs off with a pipe bomb.
  • With My Hands Tied / Handy Cuffs averted; Kyle knocks out a policeman with his hands cuffed behind his back, and apparently takes off the cuffs that way too, using the keys on the policeman's belt.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The police believe themselves to be in a standard Slasher Movie. To their credit, they would have done very well against, say, Jason Voorhees. As soon as they receive the death certificates of the first two ladies named Sarah Connor, they send out a news bulletin to warn any other Sarah Connors that might be out there as well as their friends and family, and they keep officers on the 911 lines just in case one of the Sarahs calls in. Then they bust open a crate of M16s and hide Sarah behind a wall of guns. If the titular Terminator wasn't Immune to Bullets, the movie would have been over in about 25 minutes.
  • You Have to Believe Me: Played for Drama when Reese loses his patience at Silberman and starts Suddenly Shouting and Spiking the Camera.
  • You Shall Not Pass: Reese blows up the endoskeleton in his last action and tries to jump to safety, but to no avail.
  • Zipping Up the Bodybag: Done to Kyle Reese after the climactic battle.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/TheTerminator