Every Movie in the Terminator Franchise

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Image Credit: Disse86 on Deviant Art

Engaging storytelling, unexpected creativity, and great acting ensured that the first movie in the Terminator franchise would impact our culture for decades to come—and that the line “I’ll be back” would become one of the most quotable movie lines of all time.

The Terminator revolutionized the entire science-fiction genre, and paved the way for the many films that followed.

The Terminator (1984)


Director: James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Where To Watch: Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

One of the rare films to have a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes, The Terminator brought a fresh concept to the screen with all the action and blazing guns that audiences could handle.

It plays on the fear that technology advances too quickly for humans to control. The Terminator brilliantly utilizes the trope that artificial intelligence of our own creation will, eventually, become our downfall.

Some people might criticize the now-outdated special effects. In every other way, however, this film holds up—even when compared to new releases.

 

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)


Director: James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Where To Watch: Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

After spending most of the first movie as a ruthless antagonist, Arnold’s character returns—rather heartwarmingly so—to defend the boy he once sought to kill.

Although the pace is just as action-packed as the first movie, this film shows the bond between human and android in an innovative way that is sure to pluck at your heartstrings.

This movie is a favorite among many Terminator franchise fans because of how the android and humans relate, bringing a bit of levity to an otherwise tense film.

 

Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003)


Director: Jonathan Mostow
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Claire Danes
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Where To Watch: HBOMax, Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

Frustrated in its attempts to stop human rebel leader John Connor, Skynet sends its newest assassin: the TX.

This high-tech version of the original terminator has plenty of new features that make her a formidable foe. John Connor must rely on his old friend, the first generation terminator, to escape from Skynet’s clutches once again.

 

Terminator Salvation (2009)


Director: McG
Starring: Christian Bale, Helena Bonham Carter
Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Where To Watch: Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

After the events of the last movie, Judgment Day arrives as predicted—and eliminates most of humankind as a result.

Skynet revs up for a final battle, intending to thoroughly wipe out the last of the human resistance. Meanwhile, John Connor prepares himself to stand against it.

A mysterious stranger may provide Connor with the key he needs to put an end to Skynet’s threat, in the present and future, once and for all.

Despite the cast’s well-known acting abilities, this movie fell flat in many ways.

Although the filmmakers hoped Terminator Salvation would launch a new Terminator trilogy, their lack of budget and the commercial flop of this movie canceled those lofty plans.

 

Terminator Genisys (2015)


Director: Alan Taylor
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, J.K. Simmons
Rotten Tomatoes: 27%
Where To Watch: Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

Following the commercial failure of Salvation, the producers wanted to take the Terminator franchise in a new direction.

John Connor, the leader of the human resistance against the robots led by Skynet, sends a helping hand back in time to protect his mother from assassination before she can give birth to him.

Furthermore, in doing so, he creates an alternate timeline that might lead to a better future.

Terminator Genisys was supposed to be a jumping-off point for a new Terminator trilogy, to revamp the franchise completely.

Instead of being a sequel in the existing Terminator timeline, Genisys was meant to be “the new Terminator 1,” with entirely new world-building.

A YouTube series aired in three parts, to get audiences excited for Terminator Genisys, prior to the film’s release. In fact, Genisys was projected to be such a success that a TV show tie-in began development.

Unfortunately, Genisys performed poorly at the box office. Although the writers had already fleshed out the rest of the trilogy, movies 2 and 3—and the TV show—were ultimately canceled.

 

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)


Director: James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Where To Watch: Fandango, Hulu, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV

When the terminator’s newest model is sent back in time to assassinate a factory worker for mysterious reasons, another person from the future is sent to stop them: a human-android hybrid. But, since she alone is hardly a match for the terminator, she looks for help in other places.

By now, Sarah Connor has become a battle-hardened warrior. She makes a formidable ally, along with her terminator friend.

Cameron and Hamilton returned to the franchise to pick up the pieces and try, once again, to get the Terminator series back on track. Reviews proved this return pleased audiences.

However, while this movie is a significant improvement over the previous two, it never does manage to recapture the heights of the first two movies in the Terminator franchise.

Like its two predecessors, Dark Fate was intended to be the first movie in a trilogy. Unfortunately, it followed in their footsteps: its $120 million dollar box office loss swiftly ensured that no trilogy would follow.

 

via GIPHY

Despite the last three movies’ lackluster commercial performances, the Terminator franchise is still near and dear to many people’s hearts. And, as humanity surges ahead with technological advances we can’t quite handle, the concept of a Skynet-ruled world will only feel more and more like reality.

Fairly terrifying, when applied to real life…but wholly entertaining, when discussing possible future installments in the Terminator universe.

For more science fiction recommendations, check out the best sci-fi books or movies, or every film in the Alien franchise.