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  • Alas, Poor Scrappy:
    • If you don't like Ginger for generally just being sleazy, obnoxious, and being stuck in Headphones Equal Isolation in the stupidest and worst time, then you may feel sorry for her death. Unless, of course, Draco in Leather Pants and/or Rooting for the Empire is in effect, then it'll be Take That, Scrappy! Sarah herself is definitely devastated with her death.
    • The same goes for Ginger's boyfriend, Matt, if only because he's just a stereotypical stupid boyfriend character like in many horror movies who's only there for a Sex Scene with a female character and to get killed in a gruesome manner. Like Ginger, Sarah seems upset at his death as well, and their interaction at the front door suggests that they got along quite well.
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  • And You Thought It Would Fail: 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. He was right - it didn't damage his career at all.
  • Awesome Music: Brad Fiedel's pounding, relentless, electronic score is the perfect evocation in sound of an unstoppable, murderous machine. The now-classic theme evolves this idea by adding layers of sadness and melancholy, a requiem for a dead humanity.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: The T-800 is a classic example of this trope, gathering so many fans at his debut that it becomes a heroic character in the sequel, as well as giving Arnold Schwarzenegger a rise to stardom. He may be a merciless mass-murdering monster, but something about his massacre at the police station clicked with the anti-authoritarian youth culture of Reagan Era 1980s America. Not to mention that he's actually wearing leather pants for most of the series.
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  • Evil Is Cool: The T-800 is a relentless and remorseless killing machine, but damn if it's not a badass and effective villain.
  • First Installment Wins: Terminator 2: Judgment Day may have been the big box office smash and the one which deeply ingrained itself in pop culture, and a lot of people still consider it the Even Better Sequel. However, there are also many people who prefer the first film for its greater focus on sci-fi horror, its darker tone, and its self-consistent timeline, as opposed to the more action-oriented sequels which involve changing the timeline in one way or another, opening up questions of paradoxes and bringing about an extremely confusing and flimsy canon. Also, because Kyle and Sarah are mere humans all alone without any Terminator allies like in the sequels, their situation and that of humanity at large feel much more desperate in a way the sequels can't match. It also has the highest critical score on Rotten Tomatoes, the only film in the franchise to have a 100% score.
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  • Harsher in Hindsight: Orion Pictures wanted O.J. Simpson to play the Terminator, but James Cameron felt that nobody would buy O.J. as a cold-blooded killer. Yeah, about that...
  • He Really Can Act: Zig-Zagged. Linda Hamilton nearly backed out of the project on hearing that Kyle Reese was going to be played by Arnold Schwarzengger, convinced he wasn't up to the acting challenge of delivering pages and pages of expository dialogue, but was perfectly fine with him playing the killer cyborg. Even James Cameron wasn't sure about hiring Schwarzengger for Reese, but fortunately both Cameron and Schwarzengger agreed he was perfect for The Terminator. That said, playing the emotionless robotic assassin is an acting challenge some true thespians would balk at: crafting a character with minimal dialogue, being believably a machine that merely looks human without falling into Dull Surprise, having the precise level of restraint to invoke Uncanny Valley without veering into too wooden or too over-the-top. It took many, many more years for this trope to fully apply to Ahnald, but in hindsight the fact that not only is he the Terminator, but he is The Terminator is an early sign that he's far more than just a bodybuilder-turned-movie-star.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • James Cameron used Lance Henriksen's likeness in early sketches for the Terminator. He would play an android in Cameron's next film, Aliens.
    • A then-unknown Bill Paxton plays one of the Terminator's first victims. He would play an evil cyborg himself 30 years later in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
    • Brian Thompson plays another of the Terminator's first victims, specifically the one that gets his heart ripped out of his chest, ala Mortal Kombat. Brian would later go on to play Shao Khan in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. He would also go on to play the Terminator-like Alien Bounty Hunter in The X-Files.
    • James Cameron himself provides the voice of the guy who leaves a message for Sarah cancelling their date. He later left his wife for Linda Hamilton, and then later left Hamilton for another woman.
    • The toy semi truck the Terminator crushes with the wheel of his car upon arriving at the house of the wrong Sarah Connor looks similar to the semi truck the T-1000 would use in the sequel during the first chase scene.
    • In this film, Reese uttered the iconic line "[The Terminator] doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear". Well, as of Dark Fate, we have seen Terminators show all three of those emotions. In T2, the T-1000 panicked when blown apart by a grenade and dunked in molten metal while in the latest film the Rev-9 shows a small amount of pity for someone whose property he destroys, and Carl shows deep remorse for its actions after killing John Connor.
    • Peter Cullen narrated the original teaser trailer. A few months later, Cullen would voice his most famous (and his favorite) role - another robot that disguises itself in order to blend in with human society.
  • It Was His Sled:
    • The fact that the T-800 endoskeleton can move perfectly well without its flesh covering. Promotional materials for later films generally show this upfront, but the original film sets it up as a shocking eleventh hour reveal to emphasize just how implacable the Terminator is.
    • Reese is the father of John Connor. Also, he dies at the end.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "I'll be back."
    • "Come with me if you want to live."
    • "Phased Plasma Rifle with 40 Watt range." note .
    • Sarah and Kyle's sex scene is often noted to be the only time a sex scene ever needed to happen in a film.
  • Misaimed Fandom: See Draco in Leather Pants entry above.
  • Narm:
    • During the police station shootout, the "Hey!" Vukovich yells out before opening fire on the T-800 can come off as unintentionally funny in the way Lance Henriksen delivers the line.
    • For Spanish audiences only, the skeletal T-800's awkward, stiff-legged gait while chasing Sarah and Kyle. Although the motions aren't particularly funny by themselves, it was popularly noted that they happened to resemble the signature footwork of cult comedian Chiquito de la Calzada, a veritable source of cringe humor in Spanish popular culture. When reviewer Andoni Garrido dared to mix the scene with Chiquito's voice in his video of the film, most of his suscribers felt the original had been rendered downright impossible to take seriously anymore.
  • Narm Charm:
    • The T-800 mimicking Sarah's mother's voice. It's a tense scene, showing not only that the Terminator has murdered Sarah's mother, but can imitate her voice so perfectly. However, seeing Arnold talking in an old lady's voice makes it a bit ridiculous.
    • Sarah and Kyle's romance has some tremendously cheesy dialogue, most of all her final statement "In the few short hours we had together, we loved a lifetime's worth." But the circumstances and the actors somehow make it work.
    • The stop motion model used for the eye removal scene and a few other close ups is obviously not Arnold, but it's a pretty neat practical effect regardless.
    • The puppetry used for the T-800 when it doesn't have its sunglasses on after its Eye Scream and the stop motion effects used for it after it's reduced to its endoskeleton sometimes fall into Uncanny Valley, but the effects also work at making it come off as a creepy, inhuman monster and adds to the T-800's scare factor.
  • No Problem with Licensed Games:
    • The Sega CD version. While far from perfect (and quite grueling), it's actually a fairly competent run-n-gun game with an amazing soundtrack by Tommy Tallarico.
    • Ditto the Sega Genesis version, which was another highly competent run-n-gun game, albeit nowhere near as hard or polished as the Sega CD version, as it had two driving levels cut out due to its rushed development. note  It follows the story quite closely thanks to text and stills from the film used in-between levels to tie the narrative. Its great soundtrack by Matt Furniss follows Brad Fiedel's score the most out of all the versions due to the fact both are actually just industrial synth scores. However, it is also criminally short, with a full playtrough taking about 20 minues from beginning to end.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The Terminator in Reese's memories of the future, played by Arnold's best friend and fellow Mr. Olympia Franco Columbu (who appeared in the documentary Pumping Iron along with Arnold, Lou Ferrigno and other big names in bodybuilding). He was the first person other than Arnold to play a Terminator, and the only other person to play a T-800. So this is the only time we ever see a T-800 with a different model from Arnold's Model 101.
  • Periphery Demographic: The E! True Hollywood Story on the first movie pointed out the love story attracted lots of women. Because obviously women would never be into action sci fi. Arnold even points out in his autobiography that he suggested making ads centered around Kyle and Sarah instead of just the action. The studio refused, thinking the movie wouldn't last very long in the box office.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: Most of the video games based off of this movie are pretty bad, with clunky controls, overbearing difficulty, and a plain style that doesn't fit the film:
    • The NES adaptation is one of the most notorious games on the platform, due to its grating, repetitive soundtrack, bizarre control scheme and overly finicky level design, which combines with bad collision detection to make getting past the early stages a Luck-Based Mission.
    • While the SNES game isn't anywhere near as bad as its NES counterpart, and features some comparatively decent arcade-style gameplay, its main issue is that the stages are both difficult and ludicrously long, making it far more of a chore to play than it needs to be.
    • The first Sega Genesis game is good (albeit it's not nearly as good as the later Sega CD game), but the Master System and Game Gear versions are definite Porting Disasters. While the graphics are impressive for both systems, the controls and hit detection are very finicky, and the levels were severely cut down, making it quite easy to complete the game in just ten minutes.
  • Realism-Induced Horror: Unlike the incredibly unlikely idea of a masked, supernatural knife-wielding stalker chasing a bunch of idiot kids around a small suburban neighborhood or isolated forest, the titular killer is deceptively "normal"-looking, is chasing his prey through one of the most populous cities in the world, will use any weapon or means available to do so, can and will track you down by collecting every bit of personal information that you've previously left out in the open, is capable of outsmarting or outwitting anyone trying to stop it, and last... but not least... is built upon a highly plausible fear about artificial intelligence.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Future movie star Bill Paxton and future B-movie legend Brian Thompson play two of the three punks in the opening scene.
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • Just in general, the film suffers from a lot of this by 21st-century standards; the film's whole budget was only a bit above $6 million (even in 2020, around about $15-16 million) but the script called for effects that, in the following century, would use processes demanding ten times that budget. Cameron and his crew did their best to make it work with 1984 filming technology and a comparatively limited effects budget, but as the examples below demonstrate, they still ran into a lot of problems.
    • Watch the background when the endoskeleton rises out of the fire. Someone partially stands and grabs the lever, pulling it down to lift the endoskeleton.
    • The dummy Terminator head used in the "eye removal" and "Fuck you, asshole" scenes is very obvious (although good by 80s standards).
    • The endoskeleton itself is considered as such by several people. Largely with the poorly animated, poorly composited stop-motion model. The SFX team built it out of steel, not realising how difficult it would be to move and animate.
    • As mentioned in Artistic License – Cars, the truck Kyle steals is missing its drivetrain when it flips over.
    • Early in Kyle's nightmare, when Kyle and his squaddie are moving out to attack the machine tank, the "tank" beyond the cover is very obviously either composited behind the actors and the prop or is just outright a film projection during the shot itself; it's not even the same resolution or focal length as the rest of the scene.
    • In the shot immediately before Kyle wakes up from his nightmare, it's quite obvious that the fire is superimposed over the shot.
    • Downplayed in one of the shots immediately before; when the car is being chased by the HK, the gunner up top is obviously a model, but the way he's violently thrown back and forth makes perfect sense given the bumpy ride.
    • During the famous moment where the Terminator leans close to the glass at the police station to promise "I'll be back", you can see both of Arnie's eyes behind his sunglasses, despite the fact that the Terminator had cut out its damaged right eye in the previous scene and was wearing the sunglasses to cover up the exposed glowing red optic lens.
    • A few seconds after, the policeman behind the front desk is alerted to the Terminator about to ram-raid the station in a car by the leadlights illuminating him... but when the car comes crashing through the door it clearly has its headlights turned off.
    • Look closely when Arnie is at the end of the first floor hallway during the police station rampage and is firing into a room with his left hand. His left hand that has the shotgun but makes automatic rifle sounds.
  • Squick: John Connor spent his whole friendship with Kyle getting him to fall in love with John's mother so they would have sex and John could exist. Genisys has Sarah call him out on this, but only in regards to her telling Kyle that that's basically what their friendship was about.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Reese claims to have been in love with Sarah ever since seeing her picture. Sarah is suspicious of him at first, but comes to trust him. Then, thanks to the fast pacing of the movie, they suddenly have sex, followed by them being too busy fighting the Terminator to develop their relationship for the rest of the movie. At the end, Sarah says in a recording she's making for her son that she and Reese "loved a lifetime's worth".
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: The 2000 DVD release had several sound effects changed, most notably the gun sounds to match the ones from the sequel. Some fans were not amused. This is lessened by the fact that the release also contains the original monaural soundtrack.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: A Deleted Scene showed Kyle Reese suffering a brief breakdown over being a man out of time, complete with a No Place for Me There monologue. Kyle's thoughts and feelings over the world before the war are never touched on in the finished film, which is too bad since it would have added some more depth to him.
  • Unfortunate Implications: This video shows that while Kyle Reese is trying to save Sarah Connor, his actions also fall into the "abduction as romance" trope.
    "The storytelling here is trying to set up an elaborate scenario in which a woman's perfectly reasonable and rational resistance to male violence seems like a naïve mistake. And that framing is not accidental. It's a specific kind of male fantasy where a man taking away a woman's freedom and fundamental rights is presented as something done for her own good, which results in situations where she becomes dependent on her abductor for survival."
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The movie is screamingly 80s in so, so many ways, and we're not just talking about the hair or the phone books; there's a lot of subtle societal attitudes about the poor, urban decay, the rise of computer technology, etc. that influence the film in ways both gross and subtle.
  • Values Resonance: In the age of the Web 2.0 model of the internet, where personal privacy as a concept is continuously on a decline, the idea of being stalked by someone who knows how to collect every bit of personal information you've left about yourself takes on a new degree of terrifying relevance, especially considering the fact that people in real life have been hunted down, harassed, and even killed by complete strangers via this exact method.
  • What an Idiot!: See the franchise's page.
  • The Woobie: Poor Kyle Reese. The guy was born and raised in one of the suckiest worlds imaginable, what with a lack of food, questionable-at-best shelter, and the constant threat of death from killer machines. He was then sent back in time (naked, no less), for the purpose of protecting the mother of the person he looked up to more than any other, knowing he wouldn't be coming back. He met the man's mother, only to find she wouldn't listen to a word he said, and was then taken into custody by law enforcement that didn't believe him either. Only after watching these same law enforcement officers get brutally murdered did Sarah believe him, and he spent the next day on the run, before finally suffering a slow and painful death, never knowing if Sarah would survive or not.

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