Terminator (franchise)

Terminator (franchise)
Terminator franchise
Creator James Cameron
Original work The Terminator (1984)
Print publications
Novels Novelizations
The New John Connor Chronicles
T2 trilogy
Comics NOW Comics
Dark Horse Comics
Dynamite Entertainment
Films and television
Films The Terminator
Judgment Day
Rise of the Machines
Television series The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Video games Terminator video games
Soundtracks The Terminator
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Original music "You Could Be Mine" by Guns N' Roses
Toys Endoskeleton figures, various others
Rides T2 3-D: Battle Across Time (Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood)
Terminator Salvation: The Ride (Six Flags Magic Mountain)

The Terminator series is a science fiction franchise encompassing a series of films and other media concerning battles between Skynet's artificially intelligent machine network, and John Connor's Resistance forces and the rest of the human race.

Skynet's most well-known products in its genocidal goals are the various terminator models, such as the original "Terminator" character, portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first film. Schwarzenegger also portrayed other Terminator characters; however, it is made clear that these are different units. The latest film in the franchise is Terminator Salvation, released over Memorial Day weekend, 2009.



The central theme of the franchise is the battle for survival between the human race and the self-aware artificial intelligence that is Skynet. Skynet is positioned in the first film as a US defence computer system by Cyberdyne Systems which becomes self-aware and, on perceiving all humans as a threat, seeks to wipe out humanity itself. It initiates a nuclear first strike against Russia, ensuring a devastating counter strike and a nuclear holocaust, wiping out much of humanity instantly. In the post-apocalyptic aftermath, Skynet builds up its own autonomous machine-based military capability, which includes the Terminators used against individual human targets, and proceeds to fight a war against the surviving elements of humanity, some of whom have organised militarily into the Resistance. At some point in this future, Skynet develops the ability of time travel, and both it and the Resistance seek to use it to win the war by preventing or forestalling their present timeline.

Judgment Day

In the franchise, 'Judgment Day' is referred to as the date on which Skynet becomes self-aware, decides to exterminate humankind, and launches the attack on Russia. Due to the element of time travel and the consequent ability to change the future, several dates are given for Judgment Day during the franchise. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah states that Judgment Day will occur on August 29, 1997. However, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines shows that the Judgment Day holocaust has been postponed to July 25, 2004. In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the day of judgment was delayed to April 21, 2011, due to the attack on Cyberdyne Systems in T2.

The passing of the final date for Judgment Day of April 21, 2011 prompted BBC News to pose the question, "How close were the Terminator films to the reality of 2011?", comparing how far present day technology and society had developed compared to the predictions of the franchise.[1]


The Terminator

The Terminator is a 1984 science fiction film released by Orion Pictures, co-written and directed by James Cameron and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, and Michael Biehn. It is the first work in the Terminator franchise. In the film, machines take over the world in the near future, directed by the artificial intelligence Skynet. With its sole mission to completely annihilate humanity, it develops cyborg assassins called Terminators that outwardly appear human. A man named John Connor starts the Tech-Com resistance to defeat them and free humanity. With a human victory imminent, the machines' only choice is to send a Terminator back in time to kill John's mother, Sarah Connor, before he is born, preventing the resistance from ever being founded. With the fate of humanity at stake, John sends soldier Kyle Reese back to protect his mother and ensure his own existence.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the 1991 sequel to the original Terminator film released by TriStar Pictures. It is co-written, directed, and produced by James Cameron and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, and Robert Patrick. After the machines failed to prevent John Connor from being born, they try again in 1995, this time attempting to kill him as a child with a more advanced terminator, the T-1000. As before, John sends back a protector for his younger self, a reprogrammed Terminator, identical to the one from the previous film. After eleven years of preparing for the future war, Sarah decides to use the same tactics the machines used on her: prevent Skynet from being invented by destroying Cyberdyne Systems before they create it.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is the 2003 sequel to Terminator 2 released by Warner Bros. domestically and Columbia Pictures internationally, directed by Jonathan Mostow and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, and Kristanna Loken. As a result of the destruction of Cyberdyne at the end of T2, the Skynet takeover has been postponed, not averted. In a last attempt to ensure a victory by the machines, a new terminator, the T-X, is sent back to kill as many of John Connor's future lieutenants as possible, including John Connor and his future wife Kate. After the future Connor is terminated by a version of his previous protector, Kate reprograms it and sends it back to save them both from the T-X.

Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation is the fourth installment of the Terminator film series, again distributed by Warner and Columbia, and with an original release on May 21, 2009.[2] It was written by John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris, Jonathan Nolan, and Anthony E. Zuiker, directed by McG,[3] and stars Christian Bale as John Connor.[4] After Skynet has destroyed much of humanity in a nuclear holocaust, John struggles to become the leader, but in this future, Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington, who was personally recommended by James Cameron[5]) has somehow altered it, and the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Roland Kickinger) is coming online sooner than expected. The film also centers on Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin[6]) and how he became the man he was in the first film.


While Terminator Salvation was initially intended to begin a new trilogy, production of a fifth film has been halted by legal trouble, as well as production company Halcyon filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection.[7] While some anonymous sources[8] insist that Terminator 5 will be moving forward, the majority of analysts predict that its future is in jeopardy.[9][10] In late September 2009, it was announced that the rights for the franchise are once again up for sale as the Halcyon Company tries to pull itself out of bankruptcy.[11] In late October 2009, Halcyon announced it would auction off the rights to future Terminator material and is seeking $60–70 million, though the only offer was made by director Joss Whedon for $10,000.[12][13] In December 2009, Halcyon issued a statement saying that they are looking at various options including sale and refinancing of the rights with an announcement on the outcome no later than February 1, 2010.[14] On February 8, 2010, an auction was held to determine the owner of the Terminator rights. After studios Sony and Lionsgate bid separately from 3 PM to 8 PM, Pacificor, the hedge fund that pushed Halcyon into bankruptcy, made a deal for $29.5 million. As of June 2010, Pacificor has hired an agency to sell off the rights to the franchise.[15][16] In August 2010 it was reported that a new Terminator film is being developed. The new film would not be a direct sequel to Salvation, but rather an animated reboot of the original series. It will be entitled Terminator 3000 and will be shot by Hannover House.[17] However, Pacificor, the owner of the rights to the Terminator franchise, has not given any official license to Hannover House to develop a new movie.[18] The company posted a warning to Hannover:

"Please be advised that developing, producing, marketing or in any other way utilising characters and situations which are part of the Terminator franchise infringes upon and interferes with Pacificor's ownership rights."

Pacificor, warning Hannover House for making a new Terminator movie, without any license.[19]

On February 16, 2011 it was announced that Universal was considering a fifth Terminator film with Arnold Schwarzenegger returning as the star and with Fast Five's Justin Lin directing along with Chris Morgan as the screenwriter. Discussions for the film are in the very early stages.[20] On April 27, 2011 it was announced that a rights package to a Terminator movie, to which Schwarzenegger, Lin, and producer Robert W. Cort are attached, but no screenwriter, is circulating among the studios. Universal, Sony and Lionsgate, and CBS Films are some of the interested companies.[21][22] According to sources close to Schwarzenegger, he will only commit fully if a good script can be created.[23]

It was reported on May 13, 2011 that Megan Ellison and her production company Annapurna Films won the rights to make at least two more Terminator films, including Terminator 5, in an auction deal that is rumoured to have hit the $20 million mark.[24] While actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is said to be up for a substantial role, the film will not be anchored by him. Instead a young male actor will take the lead.[25]


Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

A television series titled Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles aired on the Fox network, with Lena Headey as Sarah Connor and Thomas Dekker as John Connor. The series, created by Josh Friedman, centers on Sarah and John after Terminator 2 as they try to "live under the radar" after the explosion at Cyberdyne. Summer Glau plays a Terminator protecting the Connors. Executive producer James Middleton confirmed in Variety that the series would contain a link to Terminator Salvation;[26] however, McG later clarified in an interview that show creator Josh Friedman "was the first to jump on and say we can't chase their story threads."[27]


Film Director Writer(s) Producer(s)
The Terminator James Cameron James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd & William Wisher, Jr. Gale Anne Hurd
Terminator 2: Judgment Day James Cameron & William Wisher, Jr. James Cameron
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Jonathan Mostow Story: John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris & Tedi Sarafian
Screenplay: John D. Brancato & Michael Ferris
Mario Kassar, Hal Lieberman & Joel B. Michaels
Terminator Salvation McG Screenplay: John D. Brancato & Michael Ferris Derek Anderson, Moritz Borman, Victor Kubicek & Jeffrey Silver



  • (y) indicates the actor portrayed the role in a flashback scene as a child.
  • (v) indicates the actor or actress lent only his or her voice for his or her film character.
  • Italics indicate a cameo appearance.
  • A dark grey cell indicates the character was not in the film.
Character Film TV series
The Terminator
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Terminator Salvation
The Sarah Connor Chronicles
The Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger Roland Kickinger
Arnold Schwarzeneggerb
Endoskeleton only (in dream)
Dr. Peter Silberman Earl Boen Bruce Davison
Sarah Connor Linda Hamilton Linda Hamilton (v)a Lena Headey
Kyle Reese Michael Biehn Michael Biehnc Anton Yelchin Jonathan Jackson
Skyler Gisondo (y)
John Connor Edward Furlong Nick Stahl Christian Bale Thomas Dekker
John DeVito (y)
Kate Brewster Claire Danes Bryce Dallas Howard
Miles Dyson Joe Morton Phil Morris
T-1000 Robert Patrick
T-X Kristanna Loken
Cameron Summer Glau
T-1001 Shirley Manson
  • ^a Uncredited.
  • ^b Schwarzenegger's facial likeness was utilized via CGI, with a mold of his face made in 1984 scanned to create the digital makeup.[28]
  • ^c Biehn reprised his role in a cameo appearance. The scene was cut from the theatrical release,[29] but was restored in the Special Edition of the film.


Box office

Film Release date Box office revenue Box office ranking Budget Reference
United States Foreign Worldwide All time domestic All time worldwide
The Terminator October 26, 1984 $38,371,200 $40,000,000 $78,371,200 #1,459 $6,500,000 [30]
Terminator 2: Judgment Day July 3, 1991 $204,843,345 $315,000,000 $519,843,345 #92
#64 $102,000,000 [31]
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines July 2, 2003 $150,371,112 $283,000,000 $433,371,112 #184 #100 $170,000,000 [32]
Terminator Salvation May 21, 2009 $125,322,469 $246,030,532 $371,353,001 #281 #136 $200,000,000 [33]
Total $518,908,126 $884,030,532 $1,402,567,458 $478,500,000
List indicator(s)
  • (A) indicates the adjusted totals based on current ticket prices (calculated by Box Office Mojo).

Critical reception

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic Yahoo! Movies
Overall Cream of the Crop
The Terminator 100% (44 reviews)[34] 100% (6 reviews)[35] 84 (11 reviews)[36] A- (5 reviews)[37]
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 98% (44 reviews)[38] 91% (11 reviews)[39] 69 (17 reviews)[40] B+ (5 reviews)[41]
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines 70% (196 reviews)[42] 58% (38 reviews)[43] 69 (41 reviews)[44] B- (15 reviews)[45]
Terminator Salvation 33% (259 reviews)[46] 32% (38 reviews)[47] 52 (35 reviews)[48] C+ (13 reviews)[49]
Average Ratings 75% 69% 69 N/A

Cultural impact

The Terminator Franchise has had a significant impact on popular culture, most notably James Cameron’s original films, The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The film franchise placed #17 on the top 25 greatest film franchises of all time by IGN[50] and is also in the top 25 grossing franchises of all time. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the Terminator franchise is the sixth highest rated franchise on the site behind Toy Story (franchise), the Dollars trilogy, The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, Mad Max (franchise), and the Star Wars trilogy, but in front of the Indiana Jones (franchise).

The Terminator has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "Culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."[51] The American Film Institute (AFI) has also recognized both films on a number of occasions: the line "I'll be back" from The Terminator placed as the 37th best movie quote of all time, while "Hasta la vista, baby" from Part 2 ranked 76th on the same list. The Terminator character from The Terminator was voted the 22nd villain of all time; meanwhile, the T-800 (of the same likeness) in Terminator 2: Judgment Day was voted the 48th hero of all time on the 100 Heroes and Villains list; this is the only time the same character has appeared thusly on the two opposing lists. In the 100 Years...100 series list, the Terminator franchise was voted the 42nd most thrilling of all time. Finally, Terminator 2: Judgment Day ranked 8th on AFI's top 10 list in the Science Fiction genre.[52]

Both films were subject to numerous pop culture references, such as the use of “I’ll be back” in countless other media, including Arnold himself in The Running Man,[53] to several cameo appearances by Robert Patrick as the T-1000, in The Last Action Hero and Wayne's World. The Simpsons have also spoofed both films, and the T-1000 in particular, on a number of occasions.[54]

In terms of critical reception, the first two films also stand out. Terminator 2 is thus far the only film in the series to garner attention of the Academy Award (6 nominations and 4 wins).[55] In addition to being rated highly among top critics,[56] Total Film has rated The Terminator the 72nd best film ever made, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day the 33rd. Both films are consistently featured on IMDb’s Top 250 list.[57]

All four Terminator films have had very respectable box office gross, though after James Cameron left the series it saw diminishing returns in subsequent films. The Terminator made $78 million worldwide, far surpassing its $6 million budget and becoming a major sleeper hit. Terminator 2: Judgment Day grossed approximately $520 million globally, becoming a major blockbuster and the top-grossing film of 1991. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines did not fare as well, with $433 million, making it the seventh highest-grossing film of 2003. Terminator Salvation grossed an estimated $371 million worldwide, a figure below industry expectations and the lowest of any of the sequels in the series.[58]

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Seasonal rankings (based on a weighted average total viewers per episode) for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles in the United States:

Season Timeslot Season premiere Season finale TV season Rank Viewers
(in millions)
1 Sunday 8:00 p.m. ET (January 13) January 13, 2008 March 3, 2008 2008 #36 11.4[59]
Monday 9:00 p.m. ET (January 14 – March 3)
2 Monday 8:00 p.m. ET (September 8 – December 15) September 8, 2008 April 10, 2009 2008–2009 #71 4.64[citation needed]
Friday 8:00 p.m. ET (February 13 – April 10)

The series premiere in the United States was watched by 18.6 million viewers during its premiere timeslot on January 13, 2008.[60]

The pilot episode received a rating of 11.1 from Nielsen Media Research on January 13, 2008. The mainstream press reviews were generally positive. USA Today gave the premiere episode 3 and a half stars out of four, calling the series, "smart, tough and entertaining."[61] The New York Times referred to it as "one of the more humanizing adventures in science fiction to arrive in quite a while",[62] while the Los Angeles Times declared the show "has heart and feeling" and "an almost Shakespearean exploration of fate vs. character" that features "plenty of really great fight scenes, and explosions, as well as neat devices developed in the future and jury-rigged in the present."[63] In addition, film industry journal Daily Variety declared the series pilot "a slick brand extension off this profitable assembly line" that showcases "impressive and abundant action with realistic visual effects and, frankly, plenty of eye candy between Glau and Headey."[64] At the start of the second season, Variety praised "Headey's gritty performance as Sarah — managing to be smart, resourceful and tough, yet melancholy and vulnerable as well" and that the Chronicles "continue to deliver", getting "considerable mileage out of the constant peril" facing the characters.[65] The Connecticut Post placed it on its list of the top 10 TV shows of 2008: "It's smart, with thought-provoking meditations on parenthood, destiny and human nature, and features good performances by Lena Headey, as Sarah, and Summer Glau."[66] On Metacritic, a review aggregator which assigns a normalised score out of 100 to each review, the first season currently holds an average score of 74 based on 24 reviews.[67] The second season has a score of 67, based on only 4 reviews.[68]

Other media

There have been several book series and comic books associated with the Terminator series. The films have been novelized as well.



Stirling, Blackford and Allston's individual series are of separate continuity. Tiedemann's novel follows on from Blackford's. Foster, Zahn and Cox's novels form a single continuity.

Other books

  • T-2: Judgment Day Book of the Film by Cameron/Wisher (1991)
  • The Making of T-2: Judgment Day by Shay/Duncan (1991)
  • Terminator 3: ROTM - Prima's Official Strategy Guide (2003)
  • The Art of Terminator Salvation by Tara Bennett (2009)
  • The Official Terminator Salvation Companion Guide by Tara Bennett (2009)

Comics and graphic novels

In 1988, NOW Comics published an ongoing series with John Connor as the main character in 2029, after sending Kyle Reese back to 1984 to protect his mother. The seventeen issue series was followed by two limited series.[69][70][71]

Dark Horse Comics acquired the rights in 1990 and published The Terminator (titled Tempest in trade paperbacks to distinguish itself), where a group of human soldiers and four Terminators come to the present, to respectively kill or protect the developers of Skynet. One of the Terminators is Dudley, a human doctor with cybernetic implants, and he betrays his group as he feels he can make a difference in the past.[72] In the following year's sequel Secondary Objectives, the surviving Terminator leader, C890.L, is reprogrammed to destroy another Terminator sent to aid him and kill Sarah Connor.[73] In the immediate follow-up The Enemy Within, C890.L rebuilds and modifies himself to become more dangerous than ever, while a team of human assassins attempt to return to the past and kill a Skynet developer.[74] The 1992 Endgame concludes this arc, with human colonel Mary Randall, having lost Dudley and her soldiers in the final battle with C890.L, protecting Sarah Connor as she goes into labor. Sarah gives birth to a girl named Jane, whose future leadership means Skynet is quickly defeated and never develops time travel.[75]

Dark Horse published a 1992 one-shot written by James Dale Robinson and drawn by Matt Wagner. It followed a female Terminator and a resistance fighter battling for the life of another Sarah Connor: Sarah Lang, who has married artist Michael Connor and intends to kill him for his money.[76] The following year they published the limited series Hunters and Killers, set during the war, where special Terminators with ceramic skeletons and genuine organs are created to impersonate leaders in the Russian resistance.[77] Another limited series was published in 1998, focusing on the misadventures of two malfunctioning Terminators in Death Valley. They kill a man named Ken Norden, mistaking his wife Sara and son Jon for the Connors.[78] This set up the following year's comic The Dark Years, where Jon Norden fights alongside John Connor in 2030. In The Dark Years, another Terminator is sent to eliminate John and his mother in 1999.[79]

Terminators have crossed over with RoboCop, Superman, and Alien vs. Predator. In the 1992 RoboCop versus The Terminator and 2000 Superman vs. The Terminator: Death to the Future, the heroes must prevent the war ravaged future.[80][81] In 2000 Dark Horse also published Alien versus Predator versus The Terminator, where Skynet, who went dormant after Connor defeated them, have returned and are creating an Alien-Terminator hybrid. The Ellen Ripley clone (from Alien Resurrection) and the Predators join forces to stop them.[82]

Malibu Comics published twin series in 1995. One was a sequel to Terminator 2: Judgement Day, where Sarah and John encounter two T-800s and a female T-1000. The other was a prequel exploring how Connor sent Reese and the T-800 back in time, and the creation of the T-1000 (which took its default appearance from a captive soldier). The conclusions of both series were published in one issue.[83][84]

Beckett Comics published three series to promote Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, each consisting of two issues.[85][86][87]

The 2007 Terminator 2: Infinity comic book series by Dynamite Entertainment (a sequel to Rise of the Machines) depicts Connor on July 17, 2009. Kate Brewster died the year before, and he is aided by a future Terminator named Uncle Bob. They create a homing signal to bring together other human survivors, beginning the resistance. The series is also tied-in to another one of Dynamite's publications, Painkiller Jane, for two issues.[88] Dynamite are releasing a sequel Terminator: Revolution and at all the same time IDW Publishing are releasing a Salvation tie-in, possible because the former is based on the Terminator 2 license.[89]


The franchise has been expanded with many computer and video games and other game types, where many are concerned mainly with the future war, rather than the time travel.


See also


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