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  • Writer's pictureD. P. Lyle

Criminal Mischief: Episode #21: Autopsy OF A Thriller: The Terminator


The Autopsy of a Thriller

A scene-by-scene analysis of The Terminator

Each scene is either good (+), Bad (-) or Neutral (0) for Sarah Conner, the protagonist.

Watch the movie and rate each scene. You will see that through the first 2/3s of the film things don’t go well for Sarah but she overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to win in the end.

This is how a good thriller is plotted.

The Terminator (1984)

T = The Terminator

R = Kyle Reese

S = Sarah Conner

T appears in ball of light, takes clothes from punk after being stabbed and ripping out his heart. + - 0

R appears in ball of light, takes vagrants clothes, steals shotgun from police car, escapes from police, finds 3 Sarah Conners in phone book.

+ - 0

S works at Big Boy, ditsy and clumsy. + - 0

T steals guns from gun shop, kills owner + - 0

T finds 3 Sarah Conners in phone book. + - 0

T kills Sarah Conner #1. + - 0

S sees TV broadcast of Sarah Conner’s murder. + - 0

S date stands her up, she goes out alone. + - 0

Police learn of murder of 2nd Sarah Conner. + - 0

S heads out for night, R follows. + - 0

S in restaurant sees TV news of 2nd Sarah Conner murder, tries to call police, phone out of service + - 0

S senses she’s being followed by R, ducks into disco, R follows, S calls police, can’t get through. + - 0

T goes to S’s apartment, kills roommate and boyfriend, hears call from Sarah who leaves message about where she is, sees photo ID of S. + - 0

S reaches police, they are coming to disco. + - 0

(Inciting Incident)

T arrives, R and T have shoot-out. T shot multiple times but gets up. + - 0

S and R escape, T steals police car and chases + - 0

R explains that he is there to protect her and that she has been targeted for termination and that T is a cyborg that will not stop until S is dead. R tells Sarah that in the near future machines take over and start a nuclear war, then set out to destroy all humans. T must kill her to prevent her from having her son, John Conner, mankind’s savior from the machines that will rule the future world. + - 0

Chase resumes between R & S, T, and the police. S and R crash car, arrested by police, T escapes. + - 0

S learns that roommate was killed. + - 0

T repairs injured forearm and removes injured eye, revealing that he is indeed a cyborg. + - 0

Psychiatrist explains to S that R is crazy and that T was likely on PCP and wearing a flak jacket. + - 0

(1st Turning Point)

T attacks police station, killing many cops. + - 0

S and R steal car and escape. + - 0

T looks through Sarah’s address book, finds mother’s address. + - 0

S and R get room in motel out of city. Sarah calls her mother, tells her where they are, but she is talking to T. + - 0

S and R make sticks of nitroglycerine and then make love. + - 0

T arrives, but S and R escape in stolen truck, T chases on motorcycle. + - 0

T avoids nitro sticks, S knocks T off bike, crashes truck, T is run over by 18-wheeler. + - 0

T gets up, takes over 18-wheeler, and chases S and R. + - 0

R slips nitro stick into truck, blowing it up in huge fireball, T burns in fire. + - 0

(2nd Turning Point)

T rises from fire, now reduced to a metallic skeleton.

+ - 0

R and S hide in industrial building, T follows. + - 0

T corners S and R in building. + - 0

R places nitro stick in T’s ribs and blows him to pieces. + - 0

Upper half of T keeps coming, forcing S into corner. + - 0


S leads T into crushing machine and crushes him. + - 0


R dies, pregnant Sarah leaves country to prepare for coming war.

+ - 0

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