The Movie Watcher’s Guide to Terminator


When the T-800 Terminator unit first told a desk Sergeant in the LAPD that he’d be back, no one could have expected that not only did he come back to slaughter the police station, but that he’d return in several sequels, receive tons of critical praise and earn a heap of money.  The Terminator, directed by James Cameron and released in 1984 is widely regarded as one of the better science fiction films of the past twenty-five years.  Full of explosions, bullets, bodies, and naked time travelers, there isn’t much more you can ask of.  Except maybe a future war featuring bitchin’ robots.  With McG’s attempt at furthering the franchise hitting theaters on May 21st, we figured you might need a few hints and tips to keep the somewhat convoluted timeline of the franchise in check.

terminator-guide-2The Terminator (1984)

The film begins in Los Angeles in the year 2029 where man is on the verge of extinction at the cybernetic hands of Skynet, an artificial intelligence network that became self aware.  The machines have created a vast army of hunter-killers, tanks, and cyborg assassins intent on eliminating the human race once and for all.  It is in the year 2029 that Skynet, unable to fully quell the human resistance, sends the model T-800 Terminator, a robotic skeleton overlaid with living tissue, back in time to kill Sarah Connor, the mother of the man who will eventually lead of the resistance.  Said leader, John Connor, hears of the plan and sends back one of his most trusted men, Kyle Reese, to protect his mother.  Both of the time travelers arrive on May 12, 1984 and begin their pursuit.

Paradoxically, the time traveling Kyle Reese falls in love with and impregnates Sarah Connor, in effect becoming the father of John Connor, the very man who sent him back in time.  The previously meek Sarah Connor is transformed into a warrior by Reese, who gives her the skills necessary to eventually destroy the T-800.

T2: Judgement Day (1991)

Around the year 1995, Sarah Connor is being held in a mental institution after no one believes her story about time travelers and murderous robots.  Her son, John Connor, is a juvenile delinquent living with foster parents and the target of a new breed of terminator – The T-1000, a machine made of a “mimetic polyalloy” which, scientifically speaking, is like liquid metal, allowing the Terminator to change shape, liquefy, and mimic the appearance of others.  To protect his past self, John Connor (2029) sends back a captured and re-programmed T-800 to protect his young self.  The T-800 has been programmed to follow any direction given to it by the young Connor, who quickly tells the machine to rescue his mother.  The trio fight off the T-1000 while attempting to reach Cyberdyne Technologies to prevent the Terminators and Skynet from ever being created, a move they hope will stop Judgement Day, the day machines become aware and launch a full out nuclear attack on humanity.  The future history shows that Skynet went online on August 4th, 1997 and began learning at a geometric rate.  On Judgement Day, August 29th, 2007, Skynet becomes self-aware and launches its assault on man.  By destroying much of Cyberdyne Technology’s work, for the time it seems as though Judgement Day has been averted.


Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

The Machines of the future (which has now progressed to 2032) aren’t content to just roll over and shut down.  There is no turning back the technological tsunami – Judgement Day will happen and it will happen on July 24th, 2004.  A now teenaged John Connor is living ‘off the gride’ in an effort to avoid Skynet, which has lost track of him.  Unable to find a trace of Connor in the past, the machines decide to target his future wife and many of his top commanders.  To this end, they dispatch the T-X or Terminatrix, a hot, female Terminator that can change her bust size.  The T-X is a solid endoskeleton with a layer of liquid metal over top, allowing her to generate weaponry and change her physical appearance.  Out thinking the humans and their ability to reprogram Terminators, the T-X is also equipped with weaponry to disable other Terminators.  The T-800 is once again called into service and sent back to protect John Connor and Kate Brewster, John’s future wife.  In the year 2032 the T-800 unit sent back in time is said to have killed Connor, but has since been reprogrammed into the guardian mode.

After the destruction of Cyberdyne Technologies in 1997, the US Air Force has picked up the pieces of Skynet and are preparing to bring it online.  Kate and John arrive too late to stop Skynet from being activated, soon after which they realize that Skynet is software existing on the whole of the internet – something that could never be stopped.  The T-X arrives at their location and programs several early Terminator model tanks and aerial vehicles to attack the base, causing John and Kate to flee to what they believe is a central server that will stop the spread of Skynet.  Lieutenant General Robert Brewster, Kate’s father and the head of the Skynet program, has actually sent them to a secure bunker, knowing that Skynet cannot be stopped as it is everywhere.  Judgement Day happens, albeit several years after it was initially supposed to, resulting in a nuclear holocaust.  John Connor, alive and in the bunker, begins receiving radio transmissions, alluding to his role as leader in the future.

Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation takes place mostly in the year 2018 and will focus on a young Kyle Reese and the origins of the program that developed the T-800 model Terminator.


Terminator Models

T-1: One of the first Terminator units, this is a tank like object on treads equipped with twin Gatling guns.

T-70: The first humanoid Terminator was overly large and equipped with a minigun.

terminator-guide-3T-600: The first attempt at creating a humanoid Terminator that was covered in skin.  Designed to sneak in among humans they were large, lumbering, easy to spot and identified even easier by guard dogs.  In Terminator Salvation they are prominently featured and are armed mostly with miniguns.

T-800: The most dangerous of the Terminator models, this endoskeleton was covered in living tissue that made them almost impossible to spot and capable of bypassing security checkpoints.  Designed as an assassin, some T-800 models were also used as general foot soldiers.  The Arnold Schwarzenegger model skin is designated the 101, making him a T-800 Model 101.

T-850: An upgraded T-800, visually similar to the T-800 but with an improved power supply.

T-888: Another improvement on the T-800 model, featuring a smaller endoskeleton.

T-X: The female Terminator-Terminator, featuring a small endoskeleton with complete rotation in all the joints and a liquid metal outer layer.  Capable of generating weapons and changing appearance.

T-1000: Portrayed by Robert Patrick in T2, the T-1000 is a completely liquid metal Terminator capable of changing appearances, generating bladed weaponry, mimicking its background and morphing into a thin, puddle like sheet.  Resistant to nearly all small arms.

T-1001: An upgraded T-1000 in The Sarah Connor Chronicles which can create autonomous yet linked parts of its body that act separately from the whole.

T-1000000: A gigantic liquid metal spider-like robot.  The only known example was destroyed.

Mototerminator: Sentient Terminator motorcycles capable of high speed pursuits, advanced mathematical calculations while at full speed, with the ability to recover from crashes and change direction quickly.

Hydroterminator: An eel like water-based Terminator meant to patrol and launch sneak attacks against humans in and around water.

Sidewinder Terminator: A land based version of the hydroterminator that hunts in desert landscapes.


Hunter-Killer: An aerial terminator that has a collection basket but is more feared for its impressive arsenal of weaponry.  A terminator attack helicopter, complete with thermal sensors.

Harvester: A gigantic Terminator that can deploy mototerminators from its legs.  Designed to capture living humans for Skynet research.

I-950: A hybrid Terminator-human that starts out as a human but is modified by the machines via neural implants.


Speaking Terminator

The Terminator franchise has added several phrases to our lexicon, quotes that are immediatley recognizable and ubiquitous.  To properly roll with real fans, you’re going to need to know a few things.

Your clothes.  Give them to me, now. (First said in Terminator by T-800)

Come with me if you want to live. (Whoever says this, go with them)

Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead. (Kyle Reese’s warning to Sarah Connor in Terminator)

Phased-plasma rifle in the forty watt range. (T-800 in Terminator. Note:  Never give a Terminator bullets, even if he asks for them, because he will then kill you)

Wrong. (T-800 will tell you when you’re wrong, then kill you)

I’ll be back. (T-800 will be back, then kill you)

Fuck you, asshole. (T-800 will repeat your last words back to you, then kill you)

Chill out, dickwad. (The T-800 learning combination slang in T2: Judgement Day)

Hasta la vista, baby. (The T-800 will say this, then kill you)

No problemo. (The T-800 is cool in two languages)

What’s wrong with your eyes? (The T-800 doesn’t understand why you cry like a girl)

There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves. (Except, also Judgement Day)

Basic psychology is among my sub-routines. (The T-800 in Terminator 3 gets a little sassy)

Well, my friends, there you have it.  A pretty decent rundown of what’s already happened and what you should know going into Terminator Salvation. If you really needed this rundown, go out right now and pick up the three previous Terminator movies.  While some may bad mouth the third installment, I thought it was a great chase film with some good Terminating action.  Until next time, just remember that the T-600 has a weakspot in the back of the neck that, if destroyed with a knife or similar object, will temporarily confuse its targeting computer.

Talk Terminator.  Do It Now!

Robert Fure is many things: horror expert, ruggedly handsome man of the world, witty prose composer, and writer of his own biography page. Beneath the bravado is a scared little boy, ready to grow into an awesome man and make lies about a scared little boy inside of him. Wait a minute...

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