Film lists

Terminator: Dark Fate – Ranking the Terminator films

The latest Terminator film is hitting cinemas soon, bringing series veterans Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Linda Hamilton together once again to fight a whole new host of robotic baddies. But before jumping into this new entry, we thought that we’d go back and rank the rest of the series!


5. Terminator Genisys (2015)

Terminator Genisys was supposed to be the start of a whole new trilogy of films, but thanks to some awful reviews it failed to be what it wanted to be, despite being the second highest grossing entry in the franchise.

It sees the Terminator timeline that fans are familiar with get messed up when more Terminators travel back in time and alter Sarah Connor’s (Emilia Clarke) past. Instead of having a normal life she was raised by a T-800, and is already being hunted by a T-1000 when Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) travels back to help her.

Thanks to messing with the preexisting mythology of the series, some casting that fans didn’t find particularly great, and major plot twists being shown in trailers, fans found very little to enjoy about the film.

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4. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Following the events of the second film, John Connor (Nick Stahl) has been living off the grid in Los Angeles following his mother’s death. Because he’s left no trace of his whereabouts for Skynet to be able to trace. the machines send a new, female Terminator (Kristana Loken) back in time to eliminate people key to his future resistance cell. John ends up getting dragged back into the fight and must find a way to survive the coming Judgement Day.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines had a hard time being seen to be a good film thanks to trying to appeal to a broader audience, incorporating comedic moments into the narrative and going for splashy spectacle over horror. The result is a Terminator film that feels like it’s aimed more towards a teen audience than adults, where it struggles to create an identity for itself. Though not a bad film it does feel like a distinct drop in quality when compared to others in the franchise.

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3. Terminator: Salvation (2009)

Terminator: Salvation has its good points, even though a lot of people seem to hate on it. It took the bold step of setting the story within the apocalyptic future of the Terminator-dominated world – the only film in the franchise to do so. It showed a John Connor (Christian Bale) who was still rising up the ranks of the Resistance to become the leader we know he’s destined to become. And it made the Terminators scary again.

Other than the first film in the series the Terminators had become less frightening over the course of the films, thanks in large part to having good Terminators standing up against them. This film showed audiences how scary the machines could be. We had bigger, bulkier Terminators stalking the wasteland, covered in bad rubber skin. They made loud mechanical noises when they moved, and they were really, really hard to kill. This made them so scary.

The film also gave us the scene when John Connor had to go up against a T-800 that looked like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, a fight that reinforced how bad the humans in the future have it when a single Terminator is so difficult to combat. Unfortunately, there are some plot elements that let the film down a little, and prevent it from being higher on this list.

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2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a hell of a movie. It flipped things on their head by making Arnie a good guy (something people really didn’t see coming), upped the ante in both action and special effects, and gave us an amazing female action lead in Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor.

The story explored the future war with the machines in ways that the original film didn’t, and introduced some new elements to the mythology – the most obvious being the liquid metal Terminators. The T-1000’s would become a firm fan favourite, and a staple enemy that the franchise would come back to again and again, as well as pushing the technology available at the time to its limits and helping to pioneer new special effects.

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1. The Terminator (1984)

The original, and still the best in the franchise for one simple reason: horror. Where the other films in the series became sci-fi action films, the first film was very much entrenched in the realms of horror. The unstoppable killing machine that will always be hunting you and can’t be hurt is absolutely terrifying. The film manages to capture this tone and keeps the pressure on throughout, giving audiences an intense and suspenseful movie that doesn’t let up.

The film also helped to make Arnold Schwarzenegger a star, and to establish James Cameron as a director to watch out for. Without The Terminator, not only would we not have the entire franchise, but we might have missed out on James Cameron’s other movies, Arnie might have struggled further to become a star, and special effects technology mightn’t have been pushed. Not only the best film in the series, but a hugely important piece of cinema.

Do you agree with our Terminator rankings? Let us know in the comments.


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