The ’80s Sci-Fi Thriller Classic With 100% On Rotten Tomatoes

By Douglas Helm | Published

Perfect score sci-fi thriller on Netflix

It’s almost impossible to make everyone happy in the world of movies, but some films are so representative of their genre that they manage to fire on all cylinders and come as close as possible to a “perfect movie.” The Terminator is one of those films, as evidenced by its 100% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. When it comes to sci-fi action films, you would be hard-pressed to find too many that do it better.

Released in 1984, The Terminator was a film that helped put both auteur director James Cameron and major action star Arnold Schwarzenegger on the map. The film is the perfect blend of speculative science-fiction, action, and even a little bit of horror. It’s no wonder that people continue to hold it in such high regard so many decades later.

Perfect score sci-fi thriller on Netflix

The Terminator takes place in a dystopian future where the machines, under the leadership of the advanced AI Skynet, have taken control of the world. To snuff out the human resistance, the machines send a cyborg assassin (Arnold Schwarzenegger)back to the past to take out Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), whose son will eventually become the leader of the human resistance. The resistance also sends back a soldier of their own, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn). 

From the jump, The Terminator is a rapidly paced and tension-filled action extravaganza that also manages to balance the arcs of its iconic characters. We see Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor transform from an everyday person to a formidable hero who will become even more formidable in the sequels. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stoic portrayal of the titular machine is also instantly iconic, as he relentlessly pursues his target through 1980s Los Angeles.

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James Cameron easily cemented himself as an all-time great action director too in The Terminator, as he blended practical effects with cutting-edge VFX technology to bring the story to life. Cameron has continually pushed the boundaries of visual effects, most recently in his Avatar franchise, but it’s safe to say he probably caught this bug way back at the beginning of his career with The Terminator. It doesn’t hurt that the story continues to be relevant all these years later, with the film diving into the consequences of unfettered artificial intelligence. 

Of course, James Cameron somehow managed to top himself years later with Terminator 2: Judgement Day, which is one of the best sequels of all time. If you have missed out on The Terminator all these years, then you’re in for one of the best duologies of all time. The one-two punch of The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day makes for the perfect sci-fi movie night.

Perfect score sci-fi thriller on Netflix
Linda Hamilton in The Terminator (1984)

Of course, The Terminator and its sequel were both massive commercial and critical successes that helped shape the blockbuster landscape as we know it today. The films would spawn multiple sequels, which never lived up to the originals. Maybe one day we’ll get another all-time great Terminator film that can get 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, but for now, we’ll always have the originals. 

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