The Terminator wasn’t just an awesome action movie. A seminal blend of sci-fi and action, it introduced the world to James Cameron – one of the most successful directors in Hollywood history. And it became one of the biggest surprise hits of the 1980s, stunning audiences with it’s special effects and exhilarating story. The sci-fi thriller, released in 1984, follows two characters as they travel from 2029 to 1984, both in pursuit of an unassuming young woman, Sarah Connor. Kyle Reese, a soldier fighting against the oppressive futuristic Skynet regime, will stop at nothing to save Connor so she can one day give birth to John Connor, the man who will one day lead the resistance. But he has to get to her before the T-800, a human-like cyborg bent on assassinating her to insure Skynet's future.
12 Arnold Schwarzenegger – The T-800 101
He’s one of the most recognizable action stars in the world – and The Terminator undoubtedly was the film that made him a household name. For Arnold Schwarzenegger, who played the android sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor, James Cameron sci-fi thriller remains a career highlight. But it’s one of many films that made the bodybuilder, actor and politician the man he is today.
After starring in The Terminator, Schwarzenegger rocketed to the A-List, and he's since appeared in nearly 40 movies. He’s flexed his comedy muscle in hit films like Kindergarten Cop and True Lies, and he’s shown he still has what it takes to be a major action star in Total Recall and The Expendables franchise. He’s also appeared in each of the subsequent movies in the Terminator series (yes, counting Salvation, where he lent his likeness), including last year’s Terminator Genisys.
Schwarzenegger has no plans to stop his life in the public eye. Since leaving his position as Governor of California, he’s taken on numerous acting projects, including 2018’s franchise reboot The Predator. The 68 year old will try his hand at reality television as well, taking over for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as host of the 2016-2017 season of The Celebrity Apprentice.
11 Linda Hamilton – Sarah Connor
When we first meet Sarah Connor, she’s nothing special – a young waitress with few responsibilities and her whole life ahead of her. She was completely unprepared to learn her fate and fight the T-800. But by the end of The Terminator, she beat the android, and drove off into an uncertain future, pregnant with the future’s only hope for salvation and haunted by what she knows of the horrors to come.
Linda Hamilton was a complete unknown when she was cast to play Sarah Connor. But her performance – which took the young protagonist from carefree to terrified and finally empowered – was so effective, it made her an instant celebrity.
Hamilton appeared in the blockbuster sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. While she’s wracked up an impressive number of credits on film and television since the early 1980s, she’s still most widely known for her work in the Terminator franchise. But she has appeared in everything from cult classic films like Children of the Corn to popular television dramas like Weeds. Most recently, she had a recurring role in the Syfy series Defiance and the family drama A Sunday Horse.
10 Michael Biehn – Kyle Reese
Saving the world is a tall order — especially if it's a one-man mission. But Kyle Reese was more than up to his task of keeping Sarah Connor alive. He also just happened to be madly in love with her. And because of both his efforts and a heartfelt confession of his feelings, Sarah became pregnant with her son, John — the man who would grow up to lead the resistance force against Skynet.
Michael Biehn had few acting credits to his name when James Cameron cast him as Kyle in The Terminator, though the movie was undeniably a career breakthrough for him. He appeared in Aliens alongside Sigourney Weaver and re-teamed with Cameron for the epic underwater saga, The Abyss. Since the late 1980s, Biehn has worked pretty steadily in film and TV, though none of his more recent projects have brought him the level of fame he found with Terminator. He lent his voice to the Aliens: Colonial Marines and Far Cry 3:Blood Dragon games, and he also appeared in the Grindhouse segment Planet Terror.
9 Paul Winfield — Ed Traxler
Paul Winfield is one of the few cast members who came to the first film in the Terminator franchise with an impressive acting resume. He wasn’t a household name, but he’d earned considerable respect for his performances in television miniseries like Julia and King. He’d even been nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in the 1972 film Sounder.
So Winfield brought a particular level of gravitas to his role as Ed Traxler, a kind-hearted and seasoned police lieutenant tasked with getting to the bottom of the T-800-induced mayhem in Los Angeles. Though Traxler only appeared in a few scenes in the film – and met a decidedly untimely and brutal demise – Winfield made the most of his time on screen.
In the years following his performance in The Terminator, Winfield kept busy. He passed away in 2004, but before his death, he acted in several notable movies and TV series, including Cliffhanger, Mars Attacks!, Murder She Wrote and Touched by an Angel.
8 Lance Henriksen – Hal Vukovich
LAPD police sergeant Hal Vukovich didn’t have the easiest job in the world — but it was clear that his heart was in the right place. His interrogation of Kyle Reese was cut short when the T-800 stormed the station where Sarah Connor hid. His attempts to stop the android in his tracks proved to be futile, but he at the very least died a heroic death.
Lance Henriksen is deeply embedded in the Terminator franchise, and not only because of his supporting role in the film. When he was trying to sell his script, James Cameron enlisted him to dress up like the Terminator and kick open the door at Hemdale Pictures in order to drum up interest. Cameron cast Henriksen as Vukovich to thank him for his help.
The Terminator isn’t Henriksen’s only claim to fame by a long shot, though. As an actor and artist, he’s built up a considerable legacy in the sci-fi and horror genres. He’s well known for his performance as Bishop in the Alien franchise, and the campy horror series Pumpkinhead. He also made an impression with TV fans with his starring role in the FOX horror series Millennium, and with his voice work on animated series like The Legend of Korra and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He’s recently made appearances in Hannibal, The Strain and Criminal Minds.
7 Bess Motta – Ginger Ventura
Ginger Ventura didn’t have all that much to do in The Terminator. But as Sarah Connor’s roommate, she serves as comic relief and a feisty contrast to the protagonist. Bess Motta, who played Connor’s ill-fated friend, never really found substantial work as an actress after her appearance in The Terminator. She had a recurring role as Rita the Waitress in the late ‘80s TV series New Monkees, and then mostly dropped off the Hollywood radar.
But Motta did manage to carve out a successful fitness career. She was the creator, choreographer and star of a successful aerobics-based exercise series called The :20 Minute Workout. Motta stays active on social media and attends fan conventions for The Terminator franchise, and can occasionally be seen in regional theater productions.
6 Rick Rossovich – Matt Buchanan
Ginger’s brawny, not-particularly bright boyfriend had a lust for life. And he did his best to stand up to the T-800 when he came looking for Sarah Connor. Unfortunately, Matt Buchanan’s bravado alone wasn’t enough to overpower the T-800.
Luckily for Rick Rossovich, his time in Hollywood lasted quite a bit longer than his Terminator character. He’s best known for his performance as Slider in the adrenaline-fueled classic Top Gun. But he worked consistently throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, snagging roles in everything from Roxanne to ER, and starring in USA Network’s Pacific Blue. Rossovich stepped away from Hollywood in the early 2000s to focus on raising his family. But in 2007, he appeared in an episode of House Hunters International and in 2011, he returned to acting with a role in the 2011 indie film Sandbar.
5 Dick Miller – Gun-Shop Clerk
No one wants to be the guy that armed one of the most notorious murderers in cinematic history to the teeth. Unfortunately, the unnamed gun shop clerk in The Terminator had to be the guy for the job. And he paid for being an accessory to mass murder with his own life. To say he had a rough go of it would be an understatement.
Dick Miller’s cameo role in The Terminator didn’t exactly make or break his career — but it was a fun nod to fans of Roger Corman, who had a profound influence on director James Cameron. Miller worked frequently with Corman throughout the early part of his career, starring in a dozen of his films, including A Bucket of Blood and The Little Shop of Horrors. Overall, Dick Miller has acted in over 100 films, including the horror classics The Howling and Gremlins — and in one of Hollywood’s quirkier traditions, he’s played characters named Walter Paisley on six separate occasions. Most recently, Dick Miller appeared in Burying the Ex, and in a 2014 documentary about his life, That Guy Dick Miller.
4 Franco Columbu – Future Terminator
We only get a glimpse of the future in The Terminator, but it’s enough to convince us that Kyle Reese’s mission to save Sarah Connor is worth the effort. It’s nothing more than a post-apocalyptic world is at war, overrun by murderous machines.
Franco Columbu played one such futuristic monstrosity — a bulky, human-like android that expertly mows down Reese’s fellow soldiers as they make their way through the ruins of Los Angeles. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, but still among the highlights of Columbu’s Hollywood career.
A longtime friend and fellow World’s Strongest Man competitor alongside Schwarzenegger, he’s worked on-and-off in Hollywood since the early 1970s. He’s perhaps most recognizable from Pumping Iron, the bodybuilding documentary that put Schwarzenegger on the map. Columbu has also shown up in several other fitness and weightlifting documentaries. The former Mr. Olympia seems to spend most of his time helping young bodybuilders as a trainer and chiropractor. But he’s appeared in more than a dozen films and TV shows throughout his career, including Big Top Pee Wee and Tales From the Crypt.
3 Marianne Muellerleile– Sarah Connor
Sarah Connor -- the one not played by Linda Hamilton -- had the poor luck of being named the wrong thing at the wrong time. The unassuming housewife barely had time to realize how much danger she was in before she met her end at the hands of the T-800. And all because she was listed before the woman he was pursuing in the phone book.
Marianne Muellerleile, the actress who played the other Sarah Connor, falls squarely into the “I know I’ve seen her somewhere” category of actresses. She’s worked virtually nonstop for several decades, racking up more than 200 acting credits in film and on TV. Muellerleile has appeared in everything from acclaimed movies Memento and Thank You For Smoking to the spectacularly over-the-top NBC soap opera Passions. In the last few years, she’s guest starred on Mike & Molly, Parenthood, How I Met Your Mother and Curb Your Enthusiasm. She's pretty much everywhere.
2 Brian Thompson – Punk
He had the honor of meeting one of the grislier endings in the Terminator franchise, and we don’t even know his name. The punk that antagonized the T-800 as he emerged from the shadows stark naked had no idea that their chance encounter would end with his heart being ripped clean out of his body. If he did, he probably would have been more willing to acquiesce to the android’s request for his clothing.
Brian Thompson, who played one of the three young men who first encounter the T-800, never became a household name. But he’s had one of the more extensive careers for Terminator alums nonetheless, nabbing supporting roles in nearly 100 different projects. His brooding features have led him to be cast in series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, Charmed and Kindred: The Embraced. In 2014, Thompson directed, wrote and starred in the action comedy The Extendables.
1 Bill Paxton – Punk Leader
With his blue spiky mohawk and less-than-stellar attitude, the mouthiest of the three young men the T-800 encounters early in The Terminator serves as a cautionary tale to us all: show androids from the future some respect. Bill Paxton gave a scenery-chewing turn as a young punk who tries to fight — and loses spectacularly against — the titular villain in The Terminator’s opening moments. It wasn’t exactly a breakout role for the actor, but he has gone on to build a pretty solid career.
Paxton is best known to movie fans for his roles in Weird Science, Twister, Apollo 13, Titanic and Aliens. He’s also made waves on TV, starring in HBO’s polygamy-happy Big Love, and the History Channel miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. Most recently, he appeared in Edge of Tomorrow and Nightcrawler. The game is clearly far from over for Mr. PAxton.
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