James Cameron is an interesting director. The filmmaker’s first film was Alien 3 levels of bad. However, just like David Fincher was able to quickly bounce back, so was James Cameron as Terminator was born. Since then, the filmmaker has made classic after classic, and Cameron’s box office numbers showcase his success that, so few filmmakers are able to replicate. This list will highlight the top characters from Cameron’s filmography. The only movie exempt from this list is Aliens since Cameron didn’t write or direct the first film.
Titanic is pretty much a love story with a tragic ending. Jack Dawson isn’t the most layered character out there, but he’s got an interesting backstory prior to his eventual doom in the RMS Titanic. Following the death of his parents at the age of 15, Dawson is a world traveler who ends up on the huge ship. Jack is the classic example of the type of guy romanticized in Hollywood movies and though the film can get melodramatic at times, Titanic does a great job of building up the relationship between Jack and Rose, making his ultimate sacrifice of saving Rose that much more realistic, though heartbreaking.
This loving family man and international spy for the counter terrorist agency The Omega Sector is probably one of the weirdest premises in the James Cameron filmography. Remember, Cameron also penned a movie about killer cyborgs and talking blue people. Still, True Lies can be over-the-top fun when it embraces its absurdity, and Arnold Schwarzenegger surprises by being good with the dramatic and comedic tones of the film. True Lies won’t go down as one of Cameron’s best, but it’s far from the worst film ever made and at least Cameron tried something new. Tasker leading a secret down life opens the story to a ton of possibilities given the incredible layers surrounding the character. Cameron doesn’t go too deep enough with what he’s written, however, Tasker’s double life is nicely explored and he’s easily one of the more interesting protagonists to come along.
Let’s pretend that the mess known as Terminator: Dark Fate didn’t kill off one of their main characters for no other reason than to serve a feminist agenda. John Connor has been a huge staple of the Terminator franchise and there’s been four different versions of the same character (television series included) and the series actually explored the option of Connor being a Terminator himself! The idea of Connor being a Terminator is a cool one, but Genisys doesn’t really dig deep into that characteristic, and it’s completely forgotten about once Dark Fate arrives. Terminator Salvation also focused on an interesting aspect of Connor’s character as we’re actually in the war of Skynet; however, the Christian Bale version is a bit bland, and the script doesn’t truly capture the essence of John Connor. That leaves the television series and James Cameron versions, which is both identical, but has a few key differences. Thus far, John Connor is best when he’s playing the clean-cut hero, which is why Terminator 2: Judgment Day sticks out so much because of the bond Connor and the T-800 share. Admittedly, every incarnation of Connor has strong potential, but it’s failed to materialize as something better than the Terminator 2 version, with the show coming extremely close to being the second-best portrayal of John Connor.
Like John, there’s been several notable incarnations of the Sarah Connor character and though Lena Headley’s version is actually pretty great, there’s no one better than the original Linda Hamilton version. We see an evolution in Connor from Terminator to Terminator 2; She goes from this nice and regular woman, whose life is drastically changed once the T-800 comes after her to this ass kicking warrior in the sequel. However, Cameron wisely doesn’t just make Connor a badass chick, as she comes with some emotional scarring that’s greatly explored. It’s actually the emotional side of Connor’s character that makes her a memorable onscreen presence and separates her from being another action heroine. Of course, Linda Hamilton brings the character to life with her incredible performance, and she was easily the highlight of Terminator: Dark Fate.
The plot logic and story behind the T-800 becomes muddled once Terminator 2: Judgment Day ends; however, I’m not going to blame the greedy studio execs who desperately wanted a recognizable face for the floundering franchise. The best incarnation was the first two films where the T-800 goes from a murderous assassin to a robot getting a better understand of human life. The T-800 has died multiple times following Judgment Day; however, his death in the James Cameron sequel still has the most impact because of the strong development of the cyborg. Him putting the thumbs up as he’s sacrificing himself for the good of humanity is one the most heartbreaking and iconic moments in film history, and it showcases James Cameron craft as a storyteller.