A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that kids will want to see The Terminator due to its reputation as a "classic" action film and the fact that it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger. But this isn't the sweet, exasperated Arnold of Kindergarten Cop or the comedic action hero of True Lies -- or even the huggable father stand-in of Terminator 2 and 3. This is a relentless, shark-eyed killer Arnold. His systematic destruction of the inhabitants of Los Angeles is unsettling even for adults. Expect virtually nonstop tension and violence, as well as swearing (including "f--k"), some partial nudity, drinking, and smoking.
What's the story?
The story of THE TERMINATOR begins with the arrival of a pumped-up, naked Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is "The Terminator," a cyborg sent from the post-apocalyptic future where machines have taken over the world via nuclear Armageddon. His mission is to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), the woman who will eventually become the mother of the leader of the future resistance. Soldier Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) is sent back as well; in this case to prevent the Terminator from carrying out his mission. Reese must protect Sarah long enough for her to give birth to her son, John, who will lead the fight against the machines.
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the conventions of action movies like The Terminator and director James Cameron's statements regarding corporate culture, unchecked technological development, and nuclear war.
What do you think of Sarah Connor's transformation from sweet, defenseless damsel-in-distress to strong and independent action hero?
For kids who love sci-fi
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.