The plot involves Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the Terminator, a cyborg assassin sent back in time from the year 2029 to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor, played by Linda Hamilton. Michael Biehn plays Kyle Reese, a soldier from the future sent back in time to protect Sarah.
The idea for the film was almost derailed by Cameron's agent stating that he hated the concept of the film and told Cameron to work on another project instead. However Gale Anne Hurd showed interest in the film project, and Cameron sold the rights for The Terminator to Hurd for one dollar with the promise that she would produce it only if Cameron was to direct it.
Upon pre-production, one of Cameron's first tasks was to determine who would be cast as the film's Terminator. At first Cameron had suggested O. J. Simpson for the role of the Terminator, but Cameron did not feel that Simpson would be believable as a killer. But upon meeting Schwarzenegger about the prospect of him taking the role of the cyborg killer here is what he mentioned.
"Casting Arnold Schwarzenegger as our Terminator, on the other hand, shouldn't have worked. The guy is supposed to be an infiltration unit, and there's no way you wouldn't spot a Terminator in a crowd instantly if they all looked like Arnold. It made no sense whatsoever. But the beauty of movies is that they don't have to be logical. They just have to have plausibility. If there's a visceral, cinematic thing happening that the audience likes, they don't care if it goes against what's likely."
—James Cameron on casting Schwarzenegger.
The Terminator was a low-budget film costing $6.4 million to produce. Though the film was not expected to be either a commercial or critical success, The Terminator topped the American box office for twoweeks and helped launch the film career of James Cameron, as well as solidify the acting career of Schwarzenegger making him the star that he his now.