Ranking the Franchise: The Terminator

In 1984, director James Cameron changed film forever with his sci-fi action hit The Terminator. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as the titular character, this film became a huge hit and spawned four sequels, a spin-off TV series, video games, and countless toys and other products.

1. The Terminator (1984)

The original film edges out the sequel in my list simply because the entire story that has driven the franchise all began here. In James Cameron’s original, a young woman named Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) suddenly finds herself in the middle of a fight between two people sent from the future. One is a human, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), sent to protect her. The other is a T-800 android (Schwarzenegger) sent to kill her.

Reese is charged with saving Connor to ensure that her unborn son, John, is born and becomes the leader of the human race when the machines take over. The story was original. The action was amazing. And The Terminator became a huge success.

2. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

Released seven years after the original, T2 is one of the few sequels to possibly surpass the original. I listed it second on this list because the original set up so much that this movie relied on. Without the original, this great movie would have never happened. In the sequel, The Terminator (Schwarzenegger) returns but is now given the mission to save John Connor (Edward Furlong), who is now a troubled teenager living with foster parents. But he is tasked with defending the youngster against a better android named the T-1000 (Robert Patrick), a liquid metal, shapeshifting machine.

Linda Hamilton returned as the now unstable Sarah Connor and joins the fight with John and the T-800 against the amazing T-1000. Judgement Day upped the bar for special effects in movies and holds the test of time even today. Some may say this movie surpasses the original and I may even think that at times. But regardless of how you feel on that, this sequel stills goes down as one of the best.

3. Terminator: Genisys (2015)

The newest installment in the franchise comes in third on the list for me. In Genisys, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) is sent from 2029 to 1984 by John Connor (Jason Clarke) to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). But when Reese arrives in the past, he realizes that the timeline has been altered and must battle against Skynet, the company responsible for the androids, to save the future of the human race.

Joining the cast was the returning Arnold Schwarzenegger as “Pops”, a reprogrammed T-800 who helps Sarah Connor. While not perfect, Genisys brought the franchise back to the original storyline after the previous film failed to recreate the magic of the series. The time jumping in this movie gets a little confusing, but it is still a fun ride and can be watched after T2 without having to watch either of the two movies in between them.

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

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was the third film in the series and the last time Schwarzenegger would be in the series until 2015’s Genisys. In this film, Schwarzenegger returns as the T-800 to protect John Connor (Nick Stahl) and his future wife Kate Brewster (Claire Danes). This time, they are being hunted down by the T-X (Kristanna Loken), a female android.

The movie follows the T-800, John, and Kate as they fight off the T-X and prepare for the inevitable end of the world. Although the special effects were great, Rise of the Machines, was ultimately a failure. It was such a let down from the previous two films that it was basically the end of the series. The next film made was supposed to reboot the series and this film would serve as the end of that trilogy of movies.

5. Terminator Salvation (2009)

In 2008, Fox aired the series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and interested started to grow in the franchise once again. After Rise of the Machines failed, the next film was set to reboot the franchise and be the first in a new trilogy of Terminator films. Terminator Salvation was the result of this. Directed by McG, the movie is set in a post-apocalyptic 2018 and stars Christian Bale as John Connor, the leader of the human resistance. Along with a young Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), the humans are preparing for an attack on Skynet when they discover a new weapon, an android that is half-human and half-machine. This weapon is named Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) and he may be the key to the future.

The discovery of this experimental weapon changes the battle and now the humans must be cautious of what their enemy looks like. The storyline is great and should have worked, but Salvation was not a success and the planned sequels for this film were dropped. The potential was there for this film, but it wasn’t realized and it made for the worst film in the franchise. Interest in the Termintor franchise quickly faded as this movie was a bust and the new TV series lasted just two seasons and was cancelled in 2009, the year this movie came out.

Daryl Karpinski, Jr.