The Terminator was inspired by James Cameron’s vivid dream

In a breakdown of his most iconic films for GQ, director James Cameron revealed how The Terminator was inspired by a literal fever dream of a chrome skeleton surrounded by flames, sharing that he woke up with a vision of what became an endoskeleton in The Terminator. Given that Cameron is one of the most creative directors in Hollywood, it’s no surprise that even his dreams are filled with horrific imagery, replete with the movie screen.


He said of the chrome skeleton: “I have always believed that dreams are not just a picture. There’s also a kind of narrative metadata that accompanies an image, where in a dream you know what the image means.” Following this logic, Cameron knew that the skin of the skeleton had been burned away by the fire, revealing the endoskeleton underneath.

From this image, Cameron’s story began to unfold. As he crafted the story around the image, he thought to himself, “How could I, as a director trying to break through and get a directing job, design this movie so that it’s affordable enough that they trust me?”

Cameron then came up with exactly what he needed to make the film make sense as a low-budget production. He turned to time travel, an ancient method of taking something advanced – and film-worthy – from the future and delivering it to the present day with the goal of changing the past, thereby influencing the future. Thus was born The Terminator, and Cameron created his own future that has not yet been written, learning that there is no other destiny than the one we make ourselves.


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