Terminator is an American science fiction franchise that consists of five films, a television show, novels, comics, and tie-in merchandise. The franchise depicts a post-apocalyptic future in which artificially intelligent machines have initiated a nuclear holocaust of the human race after a catastrophic event known as Judgment Day. Storylines often focus on the global war between Skynet's machine network and the Resistance, with the rest of the human race, led by John Connor, and their attempts to alter the future by changing the past through the use of time travel. The titular "Terminator" refers to the various infiltration-combat autonomous robots manufactured by Skynet in its war against humanity.

Created by James Cameron, the first film in the series, The Terminator, was released on October 26, 1984 and became a box office hit. It was followed by Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), the only sequel in which Cameron returned, and three more sequels. Although the series has been rooted in legal troubles and creative differences, most notably with the rights being passed on to different companies for every subsequent film, the films have collectively grossed over $1.4 billion at the box-office worldwide. The series has additionally spawned an extensive media franchise that includes a television show, novels, video games, and theme park attractions, further cementing the franchise in popular culture.


Film Director Writer(s) Producer(s)
The Terminator (1984) James Cameron James Cameron & Gale Anne Hurd Gale Anne Hurd
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) James Cameron & William Wisher Jr. James Cameron
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) Jonathan Mostow Story: John D. Brancato, Michael Farris, Tedi Sarafian
Screenplay: John D. Brancato & Michael Ferris
Hal Lieberman, Colin Wilson, Mario F. Kassar, Andrew G. Vajna, Joel B. Michaels
Terminator Salvation (2009) McG John D. Brancato & Michael Ferris Derek Anderson, Victor Kubicek, Moritz Borman, Jeffrey Silver
Terminator Genisys (2015) Alan Taylor Laeta Kalogridis & Patrick Lussier David Ellison, Dana Goldberg


In The Terminator (1984), John Connor has successfully led the Resistance in destroying Skynet's defense grid, winning the long-fought war between man and machine. As a last ditch attempt to save itself, Skynet sends a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back forty-five years in time to 1984 to assassinate Sarah Connor, the mother of John. Shortly thereafter, Kyle Reese volunteers to go through a time displacement portal to protect Sarah and arrives in the same time period. Although initially skeptical of Kyle, Sarah later accepts his explanations about the future after the seemingly unstoppable cyborg continually attempts to kill her. Sarah and Kyle then become intimate and have sex after seeking refuge at a motel. The Terminator eventually tracks them down, and the three of them end up in a factory, where Kyle heroically shoves a pipe bomb into the Terminator, killing himself and severely damaging it. Still partially functional, it chases Sarah, but she manages to lead it into a hydraulic press, crushing and deactivating it.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) picks up about ten years later. It is learned that in the future, Skynet had also sent back a T-1000 (Robert Patrick) to assassinate a young John (Edward Furlong) in case the first Terminator failed. Because of this, John also sent a reprogrammed T-800 back to protect his past self. In 1994, John is under foster care, Sarah has been arrested and placed into a criminally insane hospital after a failed bomb attempt at a computer factory, and the remnants of the Terminator from the first film are in the process of reverse engineering by Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) and Cyberdyne Systems, which would eventually become the basis of Skynet and its initiation of the ensuing nuclear apocalypse known as "Judgment Day" in 1997. When the T-1000, T-800, and John coincide at a shopping mall, the T-800 and John manage to escape, and in turn, help Sarah escape the hospital. Sarah then plans to kill Miles Dyson because of his work, but couldn't do it when the time came. Instead, the T-800, John, Sarah, and Miles break into the Cyberdyne building and seemingly destroy all traces of Skynet-related projects and research, with Miles dying in the process. The T-1000 pursues the other three to a steel mill, where a climactic battle between the T-800 and T-1000 ends with the T-1000 falling into a vat of molten steel. In order to ensure that Skynet is not created, the T-800 sacrifices itself and is lowered and destroyed in the vat as well.

In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), the events of the previous film has altered time. In the future, Skynet is still alive and well by 2032, in which it had finally killed John (Nick Stahl) with a T-850, but the war is still not over. To ensure solid victory, it sends a T-X (Kristanna Loken), its most advanced infiltration-combat unit to date, to 2004 to assassinate Kate Brewster (Claire Danes), John's second-in-command and wife, and future lieutenants of the Resistance. The same T-850 that killed John is captured, reprogrammed, and also sent back in time by Kate to protect John and her past self. In the years since T2, Sarah died of leukemia, John has been living "off-the-grid," and the United States Air Force acquired Cyberdyne and took over the Skynet project for its Cyber Research Systems division. After the T-850 saves John and Kate from the T-X's initial attack, it explains that Judgment Day was not averted, but only postponed, and that it was programmed to get them to a safe location to survive Judgment Day. However, Kate orders it to help her and John prevent Skynet from being activated instead. They arrive at the Cyber Research Systems facility, which is headed by Kate's father, General Robert Brewster (David Andrews), but find that it's too late: Skynet had already been activated in order to stop the spread of a supercomputer virus. The T-X then shows up around the same time, killing Robert and taking control of early Terminator and Hunter-Killer units. It then defeats the T-850 in a fight and follows John and Kate to Crystal Peak, where they believe Skynet's system core is located. The T-850 reboots just in time to stop the T-X from killing the couple before the blast door to the entrance of Crystal Peak closes, and destroys it and itself. John and Kate walk in and learn that there is no core, that Skynet exists as software in cyberspace, and that Crystal Peak was just a fallout shelter for survival of Judgment Day, which commences outside.

Terminator Salvation was released in 2009 and shifted the focus of the film series to the future war instead of the pre-Judgment Day present. In 2003, Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a convict, donates his body to Dr. Serena Kogen (Helena Bonham Carter) of the Genetics Division of Cyberdyne Systems, so that she can use his body after his execution to further her research in her fight against cancer. In 2018, fourteen years after Judgment Day occurred, John (Christian Bale) and his Resistance soldiers attack a Skynet base and learn that Skynet has been working on incorporating living tissue on Terminator endoskeleton for infiltration purposes. However, the base is bombed, and John is the only survivor. Marcus wakes up from the from the wreckage several hours later, confusingly walks around a post-apocalyptic world, and stumbles upon Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who explains everything that has happened. They then travel on foot in search of the Resistance, but are later separated when Kyle is captured. Marcus meets a Resistance pilot, who takes him to John's base, but a land mine explosion reveals him to be a cyborg with human organs. After much suspicion, John finally lets him go after Marcus promises to lead him to Skynet Central to rescue Kyle. There, they infiltrate Skynet, but not before John is mortally injured by a T-800 prototype, and are airlifted out as the base is destroyed from detonating fuel cells. Because of impending heart failure from the injury, Marcus chooses to give his heart to John, so that John can get a second chance and live to lead the Resistance in the continuing war.

Terminator Genisys (2015) ignores the events of the previous two films and begins in 2029, depicting Skynet's loss in the war and the dispatch of a T-800 and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) to 1984 for the events of The Terminator to transpire. However, when Kyle arrives, he finds a Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) that has been raised and trained by "Guardian," a T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), for the past ten years. They destroy the original T-800 as well as a T-1000 (Lee Byung-hun) that was already in 1984 awaiting Kyle's arrival to kill him. Afterward, Sarah and Kyle use a time displacement device built by the T-800 to time-travel to San Francisco 2017, the new date and location that Kyle claims of when Skynet is launched online after experiencing new memories due to the altered timeline. In 2017, they meet up with John Connor (Jason Clarke), who is now an advanced Terminator that was sent back in time by Skynet to ensure that Cyberdyne successfully activates "Genisys," an upcoming global operating system that foreruns Skynet. John tries to gain their trust, but is stopped by Guardian. Eventually, John tracks Kyle, Sarah, and Guardian to Cyberdyne Systems, where they detonate the facility and destroy John, halting Genisys' activation.


The idea for The Terminator originated from a feverous dream that writer-director James Cameron had while in Rome for post-production of Piranha II. The dominant imagery he remembered was a "chrome torso emerging, phoneixlike, from an explosion and dragging itself across the floor with kitchen knives." As an artist and avid science fiction fan, he sketched the image out on paper and developed a story from the dream, but also took direct inspiration from two Outer Limits episodes written by Harlan Ellison, whose credit would later be acknowledged in home media releases. William Wisher, Jr., a friend of Cameron’s, helped him write additional dialogue and scenes, while Gale Anne Hurd polished and took the “rough edges off” the first drafts. On writing the film, Cameron said that he wanted to "basically [...] give the audience an E-Ticket ride [a la the old Disneyland ticket scheme]," but wanted a worthwhile story, so that they could "talk about it afterwards, but not to have to try and figure out what it is they just saw." To bolster their producer-director team collaboration, Cameron entrusted Hurd with the rights of the film by selling it to her for $1 on the basis that she would produce only if he directed it. Because of this, Cameron has made no money from the two sequels that followed T2, nor from home media and merchandising sales, but he has not regretted that decision, saying that he now has "a career as a result."

When Cameron initially developed the story for The Terminator, he thought of the film in two stages: the first would eventually become what is The Terminator, and "[i]n the end, the mechanical guy is destroyed," while the second involved the machines saying, "'Well, wait a minute, that didn't work; what else do we have?' And the answer is something terrible, something even they're afraid of," which is the T-1000. However, he eventually realized that it all couldn’t fit into one film and that no one would fund so much for such technology. After Aliens and The Abyss, Mario Kassar of Carolco Pictures bought the Terminator rights by paying $5 million each to Gale Anne Hurd and the financially troubled Hemdale Film Corporation, and approached Cameron about the sequel, offering him $6 million. He agreed and brought along William Wisher to co-write, using the original T-1000 concept as the premise to push the storytelling as well as the visual effects. Cameron wanted the film to stand on its own, saying that "I had to write the script just like there had never been a first film."

Though Carolco Pictures found huge success with Terminator 2, it also had huge box office bombs, like Cutthroat Island, that eventually made the company go bankrupt. Mario Kassar and his partner Andrew Vajna, still interested in making a second sequel, formed a new company called C2 Pictures and swept up half of the rights at a Carolco bankruptcy auction for $8 million and paid Gale Anne Hurd $7 million for the other half. Upset that 20th Century Fox was not participating in the film, which he established a relationship with after Titanic, Cameron refused to return to write and direct, saying, "I don't control the rights, and to build value in someone else's franchise really doesn't make sense." Nevertheless, development of the third film continued as Arnold agreed to return and Jonathan Mostow was hired to direct. The initial draft of the film was written by Tedi Sarafian, but it would have cost $300 million to produce, so John Brancato and Michael Ferris were signed on to rewrite the script.

The third and fourth films were initially planned at the same time, with the idea that they would be developed back-to-back. David C. Wilson wrote a T4 draft as Tedi Sarafian worked on T3, but the collaborative production never came into fruition. Following T3's success, Jonathan Mostow, John Brancato, and Michael Ferris agreed to return for a sequel, even finishing a completed script, but creative differences at C2 Pictures forced the fourth film’s production to halt. These creative differences eventually led to the dissolution of Mario Kassar’s and Andrew Vajna’s partnership and to the rights being put back up for auction. Victor Kubicek and Derek Anderson of the Halcyon Company saw the opportunity, and with the financing of hedge fund Pacificor, bought them for undisclosed amount, hoping to expand the franchise’s audience base. Using John Brancato’s and Michael Ferris’ original T4 script, they hired McG to direct, who casted Christian Bale, who, in turn, asked for a major rewrite of the script, so that John Connor’s role could be lengthened into a main role. Various writers, notably Jonathan Nolan, contributed to the script, but the concept of the human-cyborg Marcus was kept intact.

With the underwhelming performance of Terminator Salvation at the box office, the Halcyon Company could not keep up with the loans from Pacificor and other litigations, going bankrupt and putting the rights on sale. Film studios like Lionsgate and Sony Pictures were interested, but Pacificor itself eventually won the rights for $29.5 million. However, because it isn’t a film studio and isn’t well-versed in film productions, Pacificor put it back up for auction, in which Megan Ellison of Annapurna Pictures acquired them for a rumored $20 million. The current deal for a fifth film is with Universal Pictures for Arnold to return and Justin Lin to direct.

Cast and charactersEdit

Character Film
The Terminator
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Terminator Salvation
The Terminator (Model 101) Arnold Schwarzenegger Roland Kickinger
John Connor Edward Furlong Nick Stahl Christian Bale
Sarah Connor Linda Hamilton
Kyle Reese Michael Biehn Anton Yelchin
Kate Brewster Clair Danes Bryce Dallas Howard
Marcus Wright Sam Worthington
Dr. Peter Silberman Earl Boen
Miles Dyson Joe Morton
General Robert Brewster David Andrews
T-1000 Robert Patrick
T-X Kristanna Loken

Box officeEdit

Film Release date (US) Budget Box office revenue Reference
United States Foreign Worldwide
1. The Terminator (1984) October 26, 1984 $6,400,000 $38,371,200 $40,000,000 $78,371,200 [1]
2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) July 3, 1991 $102,000,000 $204,843,345 $315,000,000 $519,843,345 [2]
3. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) July 2, 2003 $200,000,000 $150,371,112 $283,000,000 $433,371,112 [3]
4. Terminator Salvation (2009) May 21, 2009 $200,000,000 $125,322,469 $246,030,532 $371,353,001 [4]
Total $508,400,000 $518,908,126 $884,030,532 $1,402,938,658

Critical reactionEdit

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
Overall Top Critics
1. The Terminator (1984) 100% (44 reviews)[5] 100% (7 reviews)[5] 84 (11 reviews)[6]
2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) 98% (45 reviews)[7] 89% (9 reviews)[7] 68 (16 reviews)[8]
3. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) 70% (198 reviews)[9] 67% (12 reviews)[9] 66 (41 reviews)[10]
4. Terminator Salvation (2009) 33% (265 reviews)[11] 26% (19 reviews)[11] 52 (35 reviews)[12]
Average Ratings 75% 71% 69






Video gamesEdit



Theme park attractionsEdit



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