The Terminator is a cyborg killing machine portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in James Cameron's 1984 hit action film, The Terminator. Created by the rogue military AI Skynet in the post-apocalyptic future of 2029 AD, the T-800 (Cyberdyne Systems Model 101) sent back in time to Los Angeles in 1984. Its mission: to assassinate Sarah Connor, the mother of John Connor, the leader of the human resistance in the future. If Sarah is killed, John Connor will never exist and Skynet's army of machines will win their war against humanity.
Upon emerging in LA in 1984, the Terminator is naked (Only living matter or matter surrounded by living tissue can tavel through time). After attacking a group of street punks, the Terminator acquires clothing to better blend in and then goes about procuring weapons with which to carry out its mission. Having no records of Sarah Connor's exact address, the cyborg assassin searches the phonebook and starts hunting down everyone in town with the name 'Sarah Connor', picking them off one by one. It eventually catches up to its true target but it is prevented from executing Sarah by Kyle Reese, one of John Connor's soldiers sent back from the future to protect Sarah. As Kyle and Sarah make their escape, the Terminator pursues, recieving damage as it chases them across the highway. It breaks off pursuit to make repairs, hiding out in an abandoned apartment block. At this point, a piston in its arm has been severed and one of its organic eyes has been crushed. It cuts out the eye, revealing an infra-red mechanical optic behind it. From this point on, the Terminator wears sunglasses to hide its eye.
After making repairs, the Terminator attacks the police station where Sarah is hiding out. It drives a car through the front gate and proceeds to march into the building and gun down every officer in sight. Amidst the chaos, Sarah and Kyle regroup and make their escape, fleeing to a motel outside of town. The Terminator continues searching; by this time, its organic skin sheath has begun to deteriorate from all the wounds it has suffered. It relocates Sarah by breaking into her mother's home and waiting for Sarah to contact her mother. Imitating her mother's voice, the Terminator fools Sarah into revealing her location and makes its way to the motel she and Kyle are staying at. As it arrives, Kyle and Sarah are already driving away in a stolen van. The cyborg steals a motorcycle and pursues, wounding Kyle with Uzi fire. However, it is knocked off its bike when Kyle throws a pipe bomb and is sent skidding across the tarmac. It then gets knocked down again by a passing oil tanker. The tanker stops and the driver gets out to see what he hit, but the Terminator kills him and takes his truck. Sarah and Kyle's van has a flat tyre and they try to run on foot. As the Terminator chases Sarah, Kyle stuffs a pipe bomb into the tanker's delivery pipe, then takes cover. The pipe bomb explodes and takes the whole tanker with it.
Moments after the explosion, the Terminator falls out of the ruined truck's cab and collapses into the flaming wreckage. Sarah and Kyle embrace each other, thinking that their ordeal is finally over... But the Terminator's not finished yet. The mechanical killer climbs out of the burning debris, its flesh and clothing completely incinerated, revealing a nightmarish robotic skeleton with glowing red eyes. The motors in its leg are damaged so its progress is impeded somewhat, but it nevertheless continues to chase down Sarah and Kyle, who run into a computer factory. They turn on all the machines in the factory to try and confuse the Terminator's tracking system, but the limping robot corners them on a walkway and proceeds to beat Kyle to death. In a last ditch effort to destroy the Terminator, Kyle plants his last pipe bomb into the android's abdomenal cavity. When it detonates, the robot's legs are blown to scrap. Kyle dies after getting hit by a piece of shrapnel, but the Terminator still functions, although now only able to crawl using one arm. The tired and wounded Sarah crawls on to a conveyor belt that passes under a hydraulic press and she finds the switch for the press at the end of the belt. Closing a grate behind her, Sarah utters "You're terminated, fucker!" to her pursuer as it reaches out through the grate. Sarah then pushes the switch and the hydraulic press comes down on the Terminator, crushing it into scrap metal.
The Terminator is assigned to attack Sarah Connor, but is authorized to terminate anyone who defends her or otherwise impedes its progress.
- The Terminator's first victim is a delinquent who tries to knife it after it demands his clothes. The punk is impaled on the Terminator's arm.
- The Terminator's next victim is the owner of a gun shop where the cyborg recieves the weapons it uses throughout the film. The Terminator loads its shotgun with shells on the counter, to which the shopkeeper says "You can't do that!" and the Terminator replies "Wrong." before shooting the man.
- Sarah Connor - Not the protagonist but another woman with the same name. The Terminator uses the phonebook to try and find its target, finding two other individuals with the same name. it systematically finds them and kills them in their homes.
- Ginger & Matt - Sarah's roommate and her boyfriend. The Terminator arrives at its target's place of residence to find her not there, but kills Ginger and Matt since they happen to be there. Matt is beaten to death whereas Ginger is shot in the back. From there, the Terminator discovers Sarah's location when she calls the apartment and gets through to the answering machine.
- Several patrons of the Tech Noir club where Sarah is hiding are gunned down as she and Kyle try to flee from the Terminator.
- Lt. Traxler - Chief detective of the police department. He is killed by machine-gun fire.
- Several other officers are killed when the Terminator attacks the police station, mostly by gunshots but the officer at the front desk is crushed by a car driven through the front door. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, it is revealed that seventeen officers in total were killed during that incident.
- In order to reacquire Sarah, the Terminator invades her mother's home. Sarah's mother makes no physical appearance and it is not revealed on-screen whether or not the Terminator killed her, but it seems very likely.
- The Terminator kills the driver of a tanker truck by slamming his head against the side of the vehicle.
- Kyle Reese - During the second chase scene, Kyle is injured when the Terminator shoots his arm as he throws a pipe bomb from a car window. He also suffers a concussion following the tanker explosion and is beaten down by the Terminator inside the factory. He finally dies after blowing up the endoskeleton's lower body and is skewered by flying metal shards.