Parents' Guide to

The Terminator

By Ken Feil, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Terrific sci-fi action, but too violent for some.

Movie R 1984 108 minutes
The Terminator Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 51 parent reviews

age 18+

Watch out for nudity and sex scene

Other reviews haven’t mentioned this, but soon after Arnold first manifests, naked, and right after we see the punks, Arnold approaches them and we see ***full frontal nudity on Arnold*** (his privates swinging, somewhat shadowed but clearly visible). Then a sex scene at 81 minutes that’s about a minute and a half to two minutes long. If you can skip these parts and don’t mind cursing and violence, a child could watch it, depending on your morals. As others have mentioned, each time the two men appear right after time travel, you see their buttocks. But I hadn’t seen mention of full frontal nudity on The Terminator (again, the movie shows the punks, and right after that Arnold approaches them naked, then camera pans to their reaction and they make fun of him). After they start making fun of him you don’t see his front privates anymore.
age 15+

Now an iconic film that still reverberates in popular culture

This film started what we have now come to know about James Cameron and how his mind works and the types of films he is capable of and the characters he writes. Between this film and The Abyss (1989) we see where Cameron is going to go with the rest of his career for a while. The film sets up the sequel well and the iconic lines in this film have permeated popular culture. Hamilton's character though not a standout in this film offers a lot of potential in future films. It is difficult to review The Terminator on its own merits without thinking about everything that has come afterwards and how this film helped nudge action cinema in a direction that T2 would then come along and influence the genre until The Matrix would take action cinema even further down a rabbit hole. Cameron still commands attention even in this 1984 state and Schwarzenegger's career would never be the same.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (51 ):
Kids say (237 ):

Co-written and directed by James Cameron, this is an excellent vehicle for his facility with sci-fi action and spectacle. It also highlights themes like humans versus machines, the destructiveness of war, capitalism, and the questioning traditional gender roles that are common in his films.

The Terminator is more serious than the second two movies in the series. Schwarzenegger's character bears none of the playful ambiguity of the sequels; he simply kills. True, he does utter the infamous phrase, "I'll be back," a promise that the character utterly fulfills, but the effect is less ironic than horrifying.

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