4. The Terminator (1984)
At the time of The Terminator’s release, its star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had already appeared in Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, but The Terminator would be the genesis of Schwarzenegger’s decades-long stint as an A-list action star. The film was also a big break for its fledgling director, James Cameron (Avatar).
Schwarzenegger plays a cyborg sent from the future (2029) to kill the mother, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), of a rebel fighter, John before she’s able to give birth. In the post-apocalyptic future, mankind faces possible extinction because machines rule the world, and it’s John who’s got the wherewithal to push back.
On Cameron’s timeline, the apocalypse is just a decade away. In reality, all machines are doing are replacing unskilled labor, and causing an economic meltdown as opposed to a nuclear one. But hope springs eternal.
The Terminator more closely resembles some of its clunky predecessors when it comes to aesthetics. It’s particularly reminiscent of Escape from New York, although Cameron’s pacing is far more frantic which tends to happen when the heroes are constantly foiled by a homicidal robot.
Blade Runner, released two years prior, has a sleeker more modern sci-fi feel. The success of The Terminator relies almost entirely on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance and all of the cyborg-related effects. Normally, Schwarzenegger’s wooden on-screen presence is laughably bad, but his limited range works perfectly in this role.
The Terminator breathes life into one of the most famous movie quotes of all time, “I’ll be back,” and the movie launched a franchise comprised of a total of six films spanning 35 years.