''The Terminator'' -- James Cameron's science-fiction mind bender premiered 16 years ago

It looked horrid. A time-twisting sci-fi script directed by a Roger Corman vet and starring a former Mr. Universe. Little did anyone know that the opening of The Terminator on Oct. 26, 1984, would herald the arrival of pop-culture titans James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who would go on to dominate multiplexes for the next 15 years.

”No one knew who [director-cowriter] Cameron was,” remembers Michael Biehn, who starred as Kyle Reese, the futuristic guerrilla sent back to 1984 L.A. to protect revolutionary mom Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) from Schwarzenegger’s nigh-invincible cyborg. ”And when I would tell my friends I was doing sci-fi with Schwarzenegger, they would snicker and go, ‘Hey… greeeaat.”’

But it turned out to be a masterstroke. The claustrophobic, ultraviolent movie grossed $38.4 million in theaters, won a devoted cult on video, and was enshrined as a pop classic when the 1991 sequel grossed over $200 million. (A third is currently in the works, with Schwarzenegger slated to reprise his role.)

Cameron’s career exploded after the film, as he evolved into one of Hollywood’s action avatars, helming Aliens, The Abyss, and True Lies — before his tiny little romance called Titanic swept the Oscars. Oh, and that schlocky guy Biehn’s friends snickered at? He’d be back too.

Time Capsule: October 26, 1984
At the movies, Howard E. Rollins Jr. and Denzel Washington star in Norman Jewison’s acclaimed drama A Soldier’s Story. On TV, NBC’s tragically short-lived alien-invasion show V the Series has audiences all shook up in the wake of its premiere. In music, Stevie Wonder’s ballad ”I Just Called to Say I Love You” continues its run at No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart. And in the news, as Election Day nears, Walter Mondale criticizes President Reagan for not commemorating the deaths of 241 servicemen killed in Lebanon.

The Terminator
  • Movie
  • 108 minutes