The Terminator

Movie review by
Ken Feil, Common Sense Media
The Terminator Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Terrific sci-fi action, but too violent for some.
  • R
  • 1984
  • 108 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 56 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 215 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Though the heroes' goal is ultimately a noble one -- save the future from decimation by robots and other machines -- the movie's bleak, dark tone and frequent bloody violence makes it hard to think of this as a positive movie.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The heroes are ultimately pacifists, although they, as well as the villain, use killing as a means to solve problems. Sarah Connor is one of cinema's most powerful female action heroes.


Graphic and gory violence, with lots of fights, explosions, and car accidents. There's a very high body count.


Some partial nudity (buttocks, breasts) -- some of which is sexual and some of which isn't. Implied sex and passionate kissing.


Several uses of "f--k"; other words include "s--t," "a--hole," "damn," "bitch," "goddamn," and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult characters drink in a bar; some smoking.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10-year-old Written byloghlr July 22, 2014

Skip the sex scene at 81 minutes and an 11-year-old can watch it

Skipping the sex scene takes nothing away from the movie, and it made it ok for my 10-year-old. He loved it. There is a lot of swearing, but we're getting... Continue reading
Parent of a 18+-year-old Written bySircjalot September 16, 2018

A darn good scary action movie. It was amazing movie for its small budget of $6.4 million "which with inflation to today's dollars is $15.5 million."

Quite scary /gritty/violent! The first scene has the terminator naked. He comes across some punker dudes, he then ask them for their clothes. One of punks pull... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old December 2, 2014

AR4U Cert: 18

Contains strong bloody violence, sex, sexualised nudity, language, some drink and drug references and very strong menace.
Teen, 13 years old Written byNF ATHayes88 February 23, 2021

Ages 12+ is OK. Awesome movie with great action, great story, great acting.

Awesome movie, but there is lots of violence, high death count, and rather dark and scary at some times. Not much swearing for its genre, a few f bombs scattere... Continue reading

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi

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