The Terminator is a 1984 science fiction action film directed by James Cameron, co-written by Cameron and William Wisher Jr., and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, and Michael Biehn. The film was produced by Hemdale Film Corporation and distributed by Orion Pictures, and filmed in Los Angeles. Schwarzenegger plays the Terminator, a cyborg assassin sent back in time from the year 2029 to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor, played by Hamilton. Biehn plays Kyle Reese, a soldier from the future sent back in time to protect Sarah. Though not expected to be either a commercial or critical success, The Terminator topped the American box office for two weeks and helped launch the film careers of James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It received mixed reviews from critics upon its release, but later critical opinion of the film was more positive. In 2008 it was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
In a post-apocalyptic 2029, artificially intelligent machines seek to exterminate what is left of the human race. Two beings from this era travel back in time to 1984 Los Angeles: one is a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a cyborg assassin programmed to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). The other is Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), a human resistance fighter sent to protect her. After killing two other Sarah Connors listed in the telephone directory, the Terminator tracks its target to a nightclub. Kyle saves Sarah from the Terminator's attack and the two make an escape. Kyle explains that in the near future an artificial intelligence network called Skynet will become self-aware and initiate a nuclear holocaust of mankind. Sarah's yet-unborn 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 can be born, as a last-ditch effort to avert the formation of the Resistance. The Terminator is an emotionless and efficient killing machine with a powerful metal endoskeleton, but with an external layer of living tissue so that it resembles a human being. Kyle and Sarah are again attacked by the Terminator, leading to a car chase and their arrest. Lieutenant Ed Traxler (Paul Winfield) and Detective Hal Vukovich (Lance Henriksen) tell Sarah that Kyle is insane. Kyle is questioned by psychologist Dr. Silberman (Earl Boen), who concludes that he is paranoid and delusional. The Terminator attacks the police station and kills many police officers in its attempt to locate Sarah, but she and Kyle escape and seek refuge in a motel. Kyle confesses that he has long been in love with Sarah, having been given a photograph of her by her son John. Sarah reciprocates Kyle's feelings and they have sex. The Terminator tracks them to the motel and wounds Kyle. In the ensuing chase the Terminator is caught in the blast of an exploding gasoline tank truck. With its external flesh burned away, it pursues Sarah and Kyle into a factory. Kyle jams a pipe bomb into its abdomen, blowing off its legs and one of its arms, but Kyle himself is killed. Still partially functional, the Terminator drags itself toward Sarah by its remaining arm. She leads it into a hydraulic press, which she uses to crush it, causing it to deactivate. 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. A young Mexican boy takes a photograph of her which she purchases it is the photograph that John will later give to Kyle. She drives on towards approaching storm clouds.