Study Guide

The Terminator Cast

  • Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton)

    She may not look it—what with the '80s hair and the lack of Force ability—but Sarah Connor is a total Jedi. Wait, don't go. Hear us out.

    Okay, so Sarah doesn't come equipped with a lightsaber, but like Anakin and Luke Skywalker, Sarah is equipped with an important destiny: she's the chosen one who will help destroy an evil empire. And like her Jedi brethren, hers is a coming-of-age story: she comes from humble origins, acquires the skills necessary to succeed, and ultimately overcomes the evil forces out to destroy the world.

    That makes Sarah's story the classic hero's journey. Neo? Frodo Baggins? John McClane? Ellen Ripley? That kid from Gremlins? they all embark on journeys just like Sarah's.

    Humble Origins

    When we first meet Sarah, she's an average college student. She works a dead-end, thankless job at a restaurant, and her main worries in life consist of what she'll do Friday night and how good she'll look doing it.

    Yeah, well, she's not succeeding at either of those things. As we watch her serve entrees, it's evident that Sarah isn't getting her name on the employee-of-the-month plaque anytime soon:

    RESTAURANT PATRON: Miss, we're ready to order now.

    SARAH: Yes, ma'am.

    Sarah sets a plate down on the table and spills water on her customer.

    SARAH: Oh, I'm so sorry. This isn't real leather, is it?

    A boy puts ice cream inside Sarah's apron.

    GUY WITH JACKET: Nice going, kid. I ought to give you the tip.

    Now, anyone who has worked in the food industry knows it isn't easy. Even so, Sarah's performance is hardly becoming of someone who will one day train the savior of the human race. She can't get an order right; how will she teach John Connor to defeat the unstoppable force of the Hunter-Killers?

    As we follow Sarah throughout her day, we see more evidence that she's pretty average. She spends her evenings prepping and primping for her Friday-night date. Her greatest responsibility appears to be a pet iguana she can't keep tabs on. And her Friday night is derailed when her date cancels on her:

    ANSWERING MACHINE: Hi, Sarah, Stan Morsky. Something's come up. Looks like I won't be able to make it tonight. Just can't get out of it. Look, I'm really sorry. I'll make it up to you. Call you in a day or so, okay? Sorry. Bye.

    GINGER: That bum. So what if he has a Porsche? He can't treat you like this. It's Friday night, for Christ's sake.

    SARAH: I'll live.

    GINGER: I'll break his kneecaps.

    To be fair, Ginger takes it way harder than Sarah does, but her bestie's reaction further illustrates the world she inhabits. This world isn't one where survival is of the utmost importance, where your thoughts must always be on how to secure food or on your enemy's location. It's a pretty frivolous world, one in which a canceled date is a tragedy, and one in which your decisions have no lasting consequences.

    Rather than be devastated, Sarah decides to go out on her own and get some pizza. Whereas Ginger is totally ticked at the thought of a date canceling, Sarah takes it in stride and chooses to not let it ruin her evening. It may not seem like much, because, well, it isn't, but this decision gives us a hint of the strong, self-sufficient woman within, one who will become more evident as Sarah's ordinary world is invaded by some rather unordinary folk.

    That's Some Weird Science

    Once Sarah goes for that slice, things start to get weird for her. Real weird. She hears a news broadcast about the second Sarah Connor killed in that day, and she realizes someone is bumping off people with her name. She calls the police and hides out in a nightclub called Tech Noir, but the Terminator finds her, anyway.

    Reese rescues Sarah from the Terminator and dumps a whole bunch of exposition on her really quick. To summarize (deep breath): in the future, an artificial intelligence defense network will gain consciousness and decide that all humans are pretty much horrible. It will initiate a nuclear war and then proceed to systematically take out the survivors. When humanity's existence is on the brink, Sarah's son to-be, John Connor, will arrive and show humanity how to rage against the machines. The Terminator has been sent back in time to kill her and prevent her son from ever being born. Reese has been sent back to protect her.

    We imagine Sarah probably had Oingo Boingo looping through her head during that whole spiel. Understandably, she isn't willing to buy this level of crazy right away:

    SARAH: Then you're from the future, too. Is that right?

    REESE: Right.

    SARAH: Right.

    Sarah tries to escape from the car. Reese pulls her back in, and she bites his hand.

    REESE: Cyborgs don't feel pain. I do. Don't do that again.

    SARAH: Just let me go.

    That seems like a suitable response to us. Here, we see Sarah's reluctance to leave her ordinary world and accept her destiny. Destiny is calling, but it seems too difficult, too challenging, or too weird to be possible. Better to return to a life of waitressing and Friday-night dates, right? That stuff seems so much safer and saner.

    One dramatic car chase later, Sarah and Reese are picked up by the police. At the police station, Sarah continues to struggle with the choice between accepting her future or returning to the world as she knows it.

    On the one hand, she remembers seeing the Terminator take several shotgun blasts to the chest and get up like it was nothing. That was odd. She also remembers Reese's apparent honesty when telling his story.

    On the other hand, the officials seem to have explanations for everything. Traxler explains that the Terminator was probably wearing a bullet-proof vest, while Vukovich theorizes he might have been on PCP. Silberman brushes aside Reese's earnest description of a dystopic future by saying, "In technical terminology, he's a loon."

    Despite reassurance from the officials, it isn't long before Sarah's ordinary world is shattered and she is forced to accept her destiny. The Terminator arrives at the police station and goes first-person shooter on everyone in the building, including Traxler and Vukovich. Bullets have no effect on him, and the mere fact that a single individual can kill that many armed and trained individuals lends credence to Reese's story that the thing is a machine disguised as a man.

    Sarah and Reese manage to escape, but now it's just the two of them against the Terminator. To survive, Sarah will need to accept her role as a warrior.

    I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

    For the rest of the film, we start to see Sarah slowly develop into—to borrow Reese's words—"the legend," the one who "taught her son to fight, organize, prepare from when he was a kid."

    We first see this when the two hide out under the highway. While escaping the police station, Reese took a bullet, and Sarah uses their first-aid kit to bandage him up. While she's treating him, Reese says that the reason he volunteered was to meet her. But Sarah says, "Come on. Do I look like the mother of the future? I mean, am I tough? Organized? I can't even balance my checkbook!"

    But even as she says this, Sarah is performing her first field dressing, a job that even the battle-hardened Reese thinks is well done. Unbeknown to her, she's started to become the Sarah who will teach her son to fight the machines; she's started to become the tough and organized Sarah.

    Further evidence comes when Reese teaches her how to make homemade explosives, and also when the Terminator finds them at the Tiki Motel. Evading their mechanical pursuer once again, Sarah takes a more active role. Whereas before, Reese did the shooting and the driving, this time, Sarah drives the truck, and when Reese is injured, she pulls him from harm's way—harm, here, being an 18-wheeler trying to run them down.

    For the Honor of Greyskull

    It may not be as sparkly or overt as She-Ra's, but Sarah's complete transformation is nonetheless impressive, coming after she and Reese blow up the semi-truck.

    Despite having its skin burned off, the Terminator keeps on coming, looking like a mechanical skeleton risen from a fiery grave. Sarah and Reese run into a factory, but Reese is too hurt to move on. In this moment, Sarah finds her inner strength:

    SARAH: Come on! Come on. No, Kyle. Come on! 

    REESE: Leave me here.

    SARAH: Move it, Reese! On your feet, soldier! On your feet!

    Before this scene, things just happened to Sarah, while other people—Reese, the Terminator, the police, and even that bum who brushed their date night off—made the decisions that propelled her future. Here, Sarah takes command, and the roles are reversed as she pushes Reese onward. Together, they manage to defeat the Terminator and ride off together into the sunset.

    Just kidding.

    Reese totally dies when he puts the last explosive in the Terminator's endoskeleton. The ensuing explosion kills Reese, hits Sarah with shrapnel, and destroys the Terminator. Well, it destroys the Terminator's lower half. The upper half relentlessly crawls after Sarah as she shimmies through the assembly line of the factory.

    It may be the slowest chase in movie history, but here, we find the final development in Sarah's character. With Reese dead, Sarah is alone, yet her opponent remains. It is up to her to fend for herself, to take the lessons and strength she learned from Reese and put them to use.

    And put them to use she does. Crawling through the assembly line, she lures the Terminator under a hydraulic press and traps it. Just as the machine is about to reach her throat and strangle the life from her, she turns the machine on, saying, "You're terminated, f*cker!" And then she watches as the press crushes her nemesis into an expensive paper weight.

    In this scene, Sarah Connor has taken the first steps to accepting her role as the mother of humanity's future. Not only will she train her son to defeat the machines, but she has also become the first person in history, technically, to defeat a Terminator. And that, we've got to say, is pretty awesome for someone who started the film as a subpar waitress.

    Mommy's Got a Gun

    As the story wraps up, we see Sarah traveling across the desert toward destination unknown. She has taken Reese's lessons to heart. She has a dog to spot Terminators, and she's got a real big gun with her. These are visual cues telling us that Sarah has transformed—or, at least, is transitioning—into the legend Reese told her about.

    We also learn that she is pregnant. As it turns out, Reese impregnated Sarah during their one-night tryst. This leads to some time-traveling shenanigans that, for our own sanity, we won't get into. Let's just say we're here to discuss Sarah's character and not Grandfather paradoxes.

    Through Sarah's pregnancy, as we see her finally accepting her role in the coming war:

    SARAH [recording]: Tape seven. November 10. Where was I? What's most difficult is trying to decide what to tell you and what not to. But I guess I have a while yet before you're old enough to even understand these tapes. They're more for me at this point just so that I can get it straight.

    Although John remains in utero, Sarah has already accepted the role of mentor, just as Reese was a mentor to her. Her tapes and lessons will provide John with the knowledge he needs to stand up to the machines and help humanity survive the trials ahead.

    After a stop at the gas station, a young Mexican boy warns her that a storm is coming. Sarah says she knows and drives onto the road, heading directly for the storm. The symbolism here, although a bit on the nose, is nonetheless important. Sarah knows what the future holds; she knows the difficulty ahead. Yet she chooses to head toward it and confront it all the same. This is a stark contrast to the character who bit Reese's hand in an attempt to run from her problems at the film's beginning.

    Like a true Jedi, Sarah has accepted her destiny and is ready to fight the evil that is coming. Now, if someone could just get this girl a lightsaber, she'd be set.

  • Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn)

    What would you do if you had a time machine? Would you go back to see dinosaurs? Take some modern tech back to your ancestors? Kill Hitler?

    The thing is, time travel is rough. You have to worry about paradoxes, about wiping out your own existence, and about the treacherous conditions of yesteryear. Also, it's not like no one has tried to kill Hitler before (maybe one was a time-traveler?). It's just not that easy.

    Of all time-travelers, Kyle Reese might have it the toughest. His job is to go back in time to protect Sarah Connor from a killer cyborg—called a Terminator—using only the tools and weapons available in the 1980s. Even his method of time travel is rough: it's an electrically charged rift in space-time that drops him naked into a dingy L.A. alley. Certainly makes a tricked-out DeLorean look like a first-class ride by comparison, right?

    Even sporting a homeless guy's pants, Reese has an important role to play in the film: he has to save—and mentor—Sarah Connor, whose son will save the world.

    Of Tutors and Terminators

    Reese is the mentor of the film because he has the knowledge to defeat the Terminator. Along with keeping Sarah safe, he must pass on his knowledge to her for use in the future war to come. We see him take on this mentor role as soon as he and Sarah get together:

    REESE: All right, listen. The Terminator's an infiltration unit. Part man, part machine. Underneath, it's a hyper-alloy combat chassis. Microprocessor controlled. Fully armored, very tough. But outside it's living human tissue. Flesh, skin, hair, blood…grown for the cyborgs.

    It's quite a line to drop on a gal right after getting her into your (stolen) car, but Reese is a guy who doesn't have time to waste. He needs Sarah to understand what is after her, like, yesterday. Otherwise, she might try to treat the cyborg like a normal killer psychopath, and that would be insufficient. She'd get killed, like everyone else who has come across the machine and assumed it was a normal human.

    As a bonus, by teaching Sarah all of these things, Reese is also teaching us, the audience. Each book or film is a new world to explore, but without a mentor character to guide us, it can be difficult to know where to begin. This is especially true for fantasy and science-fiction stories, as they have a lot of special rules that the audience needs to learn before it can fully understand the story or world the story takes place in.

    In a way, Reese is our mentor, too.

    Say What, Now?

    Of course, Sarah doesn't believe Reese at first, and she totally tries to jump out of the car. Later, she starts to wonder if Reese may be telling the truth, but the police and Dr. Silberman don't believe him, and they come up with several ways to reinterpret the events of that night.

    And that makes sense. Taken out of the fantasy or science-fiction worlds they inhabit, mentor characters can seem a little…crazy. We know Reese is telling it like it is, because we've seen the Terminator performing some inhuman acts. But everyone else thinks the guy has lost it. As a result, the Terminator racks up an impressive body count without much interference. It even manages to take out an entire police station like a griefer playing Halo with hacks.

    It's this last event that leads Sarah to accept Reese's time-traveling shtick, and she starts paying attention to his lessons afterward. He teaches her how to make homemade explosives, and he teaches her that dogs can be used to spot Terminators. He also tells her about the tactics used by future soldiers: "You stay down by day, but at night you can move around. You still have to be careful because the H-Ks use infrared." These are tips, no doubt, that Sarah will pass on to John later.

    We can see that Sarah has taken these lessons to heart in numerous scenes. When the Terminator attacks at the Tiki Motel, for example, Sarah takes a more active role in her own defense. And at the end of the movie, we see her with a dog, just in case.

    Time-Crossed Lovers

    There is one more aspect of Reese's character we should consider: he is totally crushing on Sarah.

    After a lovely evening making explosives, Reese keeps watch at the window, and Sarah goes to talk with him. She wonders if he's disappointed in the supposedly "legendary" Sarah Connor, but he says he isn't, dropping this sweet line on her:

    REESE: John Connor gave me a picture of you once. I didn't know why at the time. It was very old…torn, faded. You were young like you are now. You seemed just a little sad. I used to always wonder what you were thinking at that moment. I memorized every line...every curve. I came across time for you, Sarah. I love you. I always have.

    Sarah decides she feels the same way, and the two get busy that night. Now, this romantic subplot isn't just there to add a little steam to the story: it creates a direct contrast between Reese and the Terminator. Both are from the future, and both are the best at what they do. In fact, given the fact that they come from the same brutal world, it's not surprising that Reese can sometimes take on traits similar to his cyborg foe.

    For example, the Terminator doesn't show any pain when he gets shot, because, duh, metal. In the same way, Reese can control his pain, emotional and physical, to an inhuman level:

    SARAH: I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. So much pain.

    REESE: Pain can be controlled. You just disconnect.

    Yet what separates Reese from the Terminator is his ability to love and his willingness to sacrifice himself for another person. The Terminator can do neither of these things, and in this way, we see exactly what separates the humans from the machines.

    This same human quality manifests itself in Sarah. As one smarty-pants points out, "[Sarah] does not acquire [her] toughness through force of necessity or through the influence of the hostile 'environment' into which she has been thrust […]. It happens all of a sudden because it happens through her love for Kyle" (source).

    In other words, it isn't just Reese's lessons that help Sarah become the mother of the future; it's also the love they feel for each other that gives Sarah, and by extension all of humanity, the fight to battle the machine.

    Sadly for Reese, love does not plot armor make. After taking a bullet, he struggles to fight the Terminator on the highway, and then in the factory. In a last-ditch effort, Reese crams an explosive in the Terminator's endoskeleton. Injured, he can't clear the blast zone in time, and he is killed in the explosion. But his sacrifice is not in vain, as he damages the Terminator enough to allow Sarah to destroy it.

    Neither was his love in vain, by the way: it's revealed at the end of the film that Sarah is totes pregnant with the future savior of humanity, John Connor.

    By teaching Sarah, Reese also becomes a teacher to his unborn son. In this way, he becomes more important to humanity's survival than he even realized when he took the mission back in time. And that's the power of love.

    Er, sorry. Wrong time-travel movie. But you get the idea.

  • The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger)

    He's back. For the first time.

    Yes, we're here to discuss the character that became a cinematic icon…before that very same role became a mockery of itself. Seriously, even Elton John would be embarrassed to wear those glasses. Yeesh.

    Anyway, shake it off. We're here to remember the good times.

    (By the way, in this section, we're specifically talking about the Terminator as a character. If you are looking for more of a discussion of its symbolism, then click on over to our "Symbols and Tropes" section. We'll have more for you there.)

    Unitasker

    The Terminator isn't a terribly round character. It's actually the definition of a flat one.

    The thing is sent from the future with one objective: to kill Sarah Connor in the past so she won't give birth to John Connor in the future. That motivation is the single force driving the cyborg throughout the film.

    As the story progresses, the Terminator's character doesn't develop in any meaningful way. There's no scene in which the Terminator reflects on its reason for being or regrets the youthful choices that have prevented it from opening the flower boutique of its dreams. None of that noise. Sarah just needs to die.

    The closest thing to a characteristic we get from the Terminator is the single-mindedness in which it pursues this objective. Kyle Reese nicely summarizes this characteristic of the Terminator: "Listen and understand. That Terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with, it can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear, and it absolutely will not stop—ever!—until you are dead."

    The Terminator is relentless, unimpaired by questions of self-preservation or questions of morality. We see this in the Terminator's willingness to damage itself in the pursuit of Sarah. As for its lack of morality, well, that seems pretty obvious. To select one of many, many examples, how about we go with the time it murders every police officer in a precinct just to get at Sarah? Harsh.

    But even these characteristics don't come from the Terminator's personal choices. It performs these actions because it's been programmed to be relentless and remorseless. It's less "I think; therefore, I am" and more "I am programmed; therefore, I do."

    So, yeah, the Terminator may be a one-dimensional character. But it's the Terminator's very one-dimensionalness that makes the thing so terrifying.

    Kill All Humans

    As you can imagine, the Terminator is less of a dynamic character and more a stock character. Specifically, he's a fusion of two famous stock types: the evil cyborg and the slasher-movie killer.

    The evil cyborg part is easy to spot. Like alternate versions of Microsoft Windows, cinematic robots mostly fall into two camps: those that help humanity and those that harm us. We are, of course, excluding robo-frenemies such as Bender and Marvin the Paranoid Android. We love them because they make life more trying.

    J. P. Telotte noted that the fear associated with the evil cyborg (and with robots and androids, too) stems from the fact that they are our "creations, emblems of our very power, [yet] might well overpower us" (source).

    Reese's future history lesson fills us in on how the machines have overpowered humanity: "Most of us were rounded up [by the machines], put in camps for orderly disposal. [He shows her a barcode scarred into his arm.] This was burned in by laser scanner. Some of us were kept alive. To work. Loading bodies. The disposal units ran night and day. We were that close to going out forever." Although we created the machines to serve us, to improve our lives, they have turned on us and brought us to the edge of extinction.

    The imagery of Reese's future draws from the Jewish Holocaust and the atrocities performed in concentration camps like Auschwitz, one of the 20th century's most horrifying instances of mass murder. One of the reasons the Nazis were so efficient in butchering their victims was that they mechanized the killing process with factory-like efficiency.

    These parallels are relevant to the film's characterization of the Terminator. In the future, industrial machines are still performing acts of mass murder. Yet they have shrugged off their masters, overpowering not just one particular group but all of humanity.

    The Terminator is a part of this mechanized genocide, and we see this in its actions in the present, too.

    Evil cyborg? Check.

    Something Wicked This Way Shoots

    The Terminator is also a lot like a serial killer from a slasher film. Don't believe us? Well, TV Tropes defines a slasher movie as one that has "near-indestructible serial killers stalking attractive young girls, a combination that allows for buckets of gore and enough flesh to titillate" (source). Sound familiar?

    The slasher portion of the Terminator's character isn't seen so much in its history or motives. Instead, it pops up in the way Cameron chose to shoot the Terminator's actions.

    A great example is when the Terminator kills the first Sarah Connor. The scene takes place in a suburban neighborhood. The Terminator determinedly strolls up to the door. Mrs. Connor opens it slowly. Then there's the building of tension and dread as she realizes things are amiss. Next, tension is broken as the cyborg smashes in the door, killing Mrs. Connor in cold blood. Everything about this scene, from the build-up to the suburban neighborhood to the kill, is reminiscent John Carpenter's Halloween, the prototypical slasher film.

    Another example is the way the Terminator sneaks into Sarah's apartment to kill Matt and Ginger right after they've had sex. Well, "sneaking" might be too subtle a word for the Terminator's approach, but whatever. The film also contains shots from the killer's point of view, and it's totally got the Final Girl archetype, both staples of the slasher genre.

    But it's not all copy-and-paste on Cameron's part. The film adds some fun twists to the type, too. Most slasher killers have disturbing, inhuman quirks to them. Going back to Halloween, Mike Myers is the master of the creeper stare. The Terminator has quirks, too, but they are subtly mechanized. When the Terminator is searching for Sarah and Reese in the police car, for example, its eyes move back and forth, and then its head moves to follow, a motion "like a surveillance camera" (source).

    Another fun twist is the face reveal. Typical of the slasher film genre, the killer wears a mask, and when that mask is removed, he is revealed to have a hideous, deformed face. Jason Voorhees, we're looking at you, kid. The Terminator turns that around: his human face is the mask. At the end of the film, this human mask is burned away, and its true face revealed: a Grim Reaper skull complete with robotic upgrade.

    Like Jason Voorhees and Mike Myers, the Terminator is an inhuman, practically immortal killer who cannot be deterred. Of course, our heroes do prevail and destroy it—it only takes (deep breaths now): shooting it with countless bullets, hitting it with a semi-truck, blowing it up in a semi-truck, a couple whacks with a piece of rebar, blowing it up again with dynamite, and crushing it in a hydraulic press.

    Of course, like any good slasher serial killer, the Terminator will be back in many, many sequels to come. But that's (quite literately) another story.

  • Lieutenant Ed Traxler (Paul Winfield)

    According to the commandments set down by the gods of cinema, the cop in a horror movie will have the most thankless job ever. His will be a typical day until he will have to solve a string of unexplained murders. He'll do his job and maybe even solve the mystery, but then he'll die a painful death to protect the teenager protagonist who will just kill the villain in the end, anyway.

    Even the luckiest of horror-movie law officers have it rough—think Deputy Dewey in Scream, who, you'll recall, hooks up with Gale but only after being gut-stabbed. Then he is gut-stabbed again in the sequel. Yeesh.

    Sadly, Lieutenant Ed Traxler falls victim to these cinematic laws. Not only does he die in a manner unbefitting an excellent officer, but he doesn't even get to hook up with anyone before that happens. Bummer.

    The senior officer on the Sarah Connor case, Traxler, is more sensitive and thoughtful than his younger partner, Vukovich. When they are unable to contact the third Sarah Connor in the phonebook, rather than just shrugging his shoulders in acceptance like his partner, he has the idea to use the news media to get the word out in the hope that she'll contact them.

    When Sarah is at the police station, Traxler shows his mature, fatherly side in his interactions with her. He doesn't let her see Matt's and Ginger's bodies, likely feeling she's been through enough. And when they are watching Dr. Silberman's interview with Reese, he doesn't laugh like Silberman or Vukovich but has the doctor turn off the tape when he realizes that Reese's comments could scare Sarah.

    He also has Sarah sleep in the police station while she waits for her mother to arrive. As he offers her his jacket as a blanket, he says, "It may not look it, but that couch is very comfortable. You'll be perfectly safe. We got 30 cops in this building." And is that not the most fatherly thing ever?

    Unfortunately for Traxler, the cinema gods will not be denied their police sacrifice. He is shot and killed when the Terminator attacks the police station. In true horror fashion, though, it's likely that his sacrifice slows the Terminator's rampage just long enough for Reese and Sarah to escape.

    R.I.P., Traxler. Your sacrifice was not in vain.

  • Detective Hal Vukovich (Lance Henriksen)

    Detective Hal Vukovich is the Riggs to Traxler's Murtaugh, minus one '80s mullet and several degrees of frantic. Whereas Traxler is thoughtful and experienced, Vukovich is a little thoughtless in his approach to the job. He stops trying to call Sarah after a few messages rather than keeping at it, and it's Traxler who has the breakthrough to use the news media to reach out to Sarah.

    Vukovich also says things around Sarah that you probably shouldn't say to someone who has been through such traumatic experiences: "He was probably on PCP. Broke every bone in his hand. He wouldn't feel it for hours. There was this guy once—You see this scar?" Remember, he says this right after Sarah has just watched a video about someone who won't stop until she's dead. It's neither the time nor the place for personal anecdotes, Vukovich.

    Whereas Traxler is serious about his job, Vukovich finds some humor in the messed-up stuff he has to deal with. He particularly enjoys Silberman's lazy brand of psychoanalysis:

    VUKOVICH: That guy, Silberman, cracks me up. Last week, he had a guy in here burned his Afghan. He screwed it first—

    TRAXLER: Ed, shut up!

    We don't want to be too hard on the guy, though. He comes through when it counts. After Traxler is injured by the Terminator, Vukovich attempts to kill the assailant and protect his boss. Sure, he fails epically, and the Terminator kills him, too, but good for you all the same, Vukovich. Your heart was in the right place.

  • Ginger Ventura (Bess Motta)

    True to the teen '80s spirit she embodies, Ginger is a girl who just wants to have fuh-uhn. Let's go through the checklist: she chews bubblegum, she listens to her Walkman all the time, she spends all afternoon grooming for her date, and she has only one night-time activity planned for said date. Wink.

    In the game of stock character Bingo, Ginger is going black out on the ditzy-gal card.

    In this way, she's a perfect foil for Sarah. Consider this exchange from after Sarah learns her date has canceled, for example:

    GINGER: That bum. So what if he has a Porsche? He can't treat you like this. It's Friday night, for Christ's sake.

    SARAH: I'll live.

    GINGER: I'll break his kneecaps.

    Ginger's response shows that she considers dates and boys to be of the utmost importance. Last time we checked, a canceled date isn't an offense worthy of kneecapping someone. Even a mafia hitman would be like, "Whoa, take it down a notch, eh?"

    Sarah, on the other hand, has a more practical response to the bad news. She decides to not let it ruin her evening, and she goes out to grab a slice of pizza. Although it's a small moment, it shows that Sarah has a certain amount of maturity that her peers are lacking, which hints at her ability to grow and become the Sarah Connor of legend.

    Sadly for Ginger, she's a flirty young gal who finds herself in a horror film. As punishment for her sexy ways, she must be killed by the monster, just like in every slasher movie since Halloween.

    The scenario plays out just as you'd expect. After she and her boyfriend, Matt, enjoy some lovin', she goes into the kitchen to make a post-sexy-time sandwich. The Terminator breaks in and kills Matt, but she is unable to hear the scuffle because she's got her Walkman on. Young people these days, right? The Terminator kills her, thinking she's Sarah Connor.

    That's the end of Ginger's story. We assume she goes to '80s Girl Heaven, where cassettes never unravel, legwarmers never get swampy, and hairspray is in infinite supply.

  • Dr. Peter Silberman (Earl Boen)

    It's hard not to be hard on Dr. Silberman. On the one hand, he ignores Reese's warnings about the Terminator coming to find Sarah at the police station. When no one listens, the Terminator ends up doing just that—and murdering every officer in the building in the process.

    On the other hand, if someone told us he'd been sent from the future to protect the mother of humanity's savior from a killer cyborg sent to assassinate her, we'd agree with Silberman's assessment that he's more cuckoo than a Coco Puffs factory.

    Ultimately, Silberman is ineffective at his job as a criminal psychologist because he doesn't care about helping the people he's brought in to analyze. It's a job for him, something to finish as soon as possible—unless he determines there's a way he can profit from it.

    Vukovich hints at Silberman's disregard for those he analyzes when he says, "That guy Silberman cracks me up." The line hints at Silberman's habit of making a joke of his patients' psychoses. For example, he asks Reese why he didn't bring any "ray guns" back from the future, a line that obviously disregards Reese's paranoia. It's not the best way to treat a patient.

    Silberman's desire to use his patients to further his own career is further evident when he says, "This is great stuff. I could make a career out of this guy!" We mean, that's pretty self-explanatory, folks.

    Silberman leaves the police station just as the Terminator arrives to prove Reese's story, meaning he lives to psychoanalyze another day. Unfortunately, as we'll see in Terminator 2, he hasn't learned his lesson, and he continues to disregard his patients' feelings while using their paranoia to benefit his own career.

    We don't want to give anything away, but if you can wait for the sequel, fate will serve this guy his comeuppance. We promise.

  • Matt Buchanan (Rick Rossovich)

    Matt is a young dude who is obsessed with sex and lives in an '80s horror film. Yep, this guy is gonna catch some death.

    Matt calls Ginger to engage in a little phone foreplay but accidentally gets Sarah on the phone instead. Embarrassed but undeterred, he shows up at their apartment later and engages in more than foreplay with Ginger. True to horror-movie rules, after they have sex, the Terminator arrives and kills both of them, mistaking Ginger for Sarah Connor.

    In the end, Matt's main purpose is to serve as a foil for Reese. Both men love their respective women, but Matt's love is more immature. As far as we know, it is based entirely on sexual attraction, unlike Reese's more mature love. This is partly due to the very different worlds the two men come from. Matt's world is the light-hearted, often shallow world of present-day America, whereas Reese's world is a dystopian future that makes Hunger Games look a nature walk.

    To give credit where it is due, Matt does attempt to protect Ginger from the invader, and he busts the Terminator in the chops with a lamp. If a 260-pound, 6-foot-tall Austrian bodybuilder snuck into our house, we'd probably just have snagglepussed it out of there.

  • Gun Shop Owner (Dick Miller)

    The gun shop owner is more of a plot device than a character—he doesn't even have a name. The Terminator pretends to be a patron of his store and requests to check out a bunch of guns. The owner thinks it's his lucky day, but when he goes to get the paperwork, the Terminator loads a shell into the shotgun and blows him away.

    Scene set.

    Why do we even bring the guy up? Because he's played by Dick Miller, that's why. This actor's been in everything from Gremlins to The Twilight Zone Movie to Batman: The Animated Series. Once you recognize Dick Miller, you'll start to see him everywhere. If you can memorize his filmography, along with Christopher Lee's, Frank Welker's, and Kevin Bacon's, you'll dominate at any game of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." Seriously, none shall stop you.