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James Cameron’s sci-fi franchise was born in the 80s as an indie passion project. Let’s take a look at all the movies in the 'Terminator' franchise!

Go back to the 80s with all the action-packed ‘Terminator’ movies

Through fits and starts, the Terminator movies have managed to remain a prevalent part of pop culture for decades. James Cameron’s sci-fi franchise was born in the 80s as an indie passion project, and it’s developed over the years into a millionaire property that simply refuses to die. You know, like the killer robots in the films.

Now, don’t get us wrong, we’re no Terminator haters. Even if most of the sequels don’t live up to the first two movies, they’re still pretty darn good action flicks. And there are moments of brilliance in all of them. Don’t believe us? Perhaps we need to refresh your memory.

Let’s take a look at all the movies in the Terminator franchise!

The Terminator

The OG Terminator is a low-budget thriller. Yes, there are some impressive set-pieces but, compared to the special-effects extravaganzas that would follow it, Cameron’s 1984 movie feels almost quaint in its approach to the material. There’s time-travel, there’s an unstoppable killing machine, and there’s a vastly outgunned human target. That’s it. It’s the basic Terminator formula and it works like gangbusters.

This movie marked, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s debut as a Terminator. Arnie’s presence would become a staple in the series – sometimes as a bad guy, sometimes as a good guy, always memorable – along with the characters of Sarah Connor, Kyle Reese, and John Connor . . . although those last three would be recast multiple times.

You can currently stream The Terminator on Prime Video.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

James Cameron’s 1991 sequel to the original Terminator is the equivalent of some dude buying the most expensive car on the lot after having spent ten years riding the bus. To Cameron’s credit, the resulting film doesn’t feel like a cynical more-expensive rehash of the first movie. Quite the opposite: T2 moves Sarah & John Connor’s story forward while further expanding the Terminator mythology.

Judgment Day is also a knock-your-socks-off action blockbuster with a lot more special effects work and a lot more spectacle thrown in than its predecessor. Linda Hamilton gets to play a hardened version of Sarah, and Arnie gets to give us his take on a “good” Terminator, all while they’re being hunted by the relentless T-1000, played to perfection by a creepy Robert Patrick.

You can currently stream T2: Judgment Day on AMC.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

It took over a decade for a new Terminator movie to come out. It’s understandable: the massive success of T2 would intimidate anyone. Perhaps it’s telling that James Cameron didn’t come back to direct the third installment, letting Jonathan Mostow take over the reins of the franchise in 2003 instead. The result was a solid action film that felt a little too familiar to what we’ve seen before – despite all the new elements it introduced.

Rise of the Machines gives us a female Terminator, an adult John Connor, and introduces John’s future wife Kate, while also writing Sarah out of the franchise. Oh, and Arnie comes back as a good Terminator again. But what’s really memorable about the third of the Terminator movies is that it catches us up to the moment Skynet actually attacks humanity, in what’s easily the bleakest ending in the franchise.

You can stream Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines on HBO Max.

Terminator Salvation

Say what you will about Terminator Salvation (and plenty has been said), but you can’t deny it at least tried something different. For the first time in the franchise, the story takes place in John Connor’s post-apocalyptic future, and we are embedded in the resistance’s ongoing battle against Skynet. In a way, Salvation is closer to a war movie than previous entries in the series. That’s exciting!

But perhaps the world wasn’t ready in 2009 for how Terminator Salvation departed from the other Terminator movies. Christian Bale plays John Connor as borderline psychotic, and people seemed to resent the lack of Arnie (who sort of shows up as an extended CGI cameo). As for the new Terminator himself, Sam Worthington, audiences & critics mainly received him with a shrug.

You can currently stream Terminator Salvation on HBO Max.

Terminator Genisys

Well, that’s an unfortunate title. But if the word “Genisys” somehow didn’t give you the impression the Terminator franchise was desperately trying to appeal to a hipper audience, there’s a good chance the casting of Emilia Clarke as a new Sarah Connor would. The Game of Thrones star was joined by perpetual-attempt-at-being-a-thing Jai Courtney – who played a new Kyle Reese.

Arnie came back too, this time playing an aging Terminator who’s been protecting Sarah since she was a little girl. Before your head starts spinning, it’s worth pointing out Genisys went all out with the time-travel shenanigans and then made John Connor (played by Jason Clarke now) a bad guy. The 2015 movie is actually a lot better and a lot more fun than it sounds . . . although in a very silly way.

You can currently stream Terminator Genisys on FXNOW.

Terminator: Dark Fate

The last of the Terminator movies (so far) jettisons Rise, Salvation, and Genisys out of existence and serves as a direct sequel to the beloved T2. Then it totally murders John Connor in its opening sequence. You know, to show us it means business. Dark Fate then goes on to become the Girl Power edition of a Terminator film, and we’re all here for it.

While the evil Terminator is still a dude, John Connor’s messianic figure has been replaced by Dani Ramos, a Mexican girl. The soldier coming back in time to protect her is played by a bad@ss Mackenzie Davis, and a grizzled Linda Hamilton makes her return to the franchise to help out as well. Speaking of grizzled, old Arnie is back too, because how could he not?

You can currently stream Terminator: Dark Fate on Prime Video & Hulu.

Which of the Terminator movies is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

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