The Terminator franchise, from the pinnacle of action movies to sci-fi, let downs

For some later Terminator movies, the famous “I’ll be back quote” acts as a dystopian omen, but not for the perfect killing machines. While Terminator launched the careers of James Cameroon and Arnold Schwarzenegger, some of the movies in the iconic franchise fall far below the high standards of the best Terminator movies.

It has been almost 40 years since the first Terminator, where Arnie created a perfect and terrifying villain. Meanwhile, there have been five sequels, the last coming out in 2019. Terminator movies gave some of the most memorable moments in action film history, and some most of the fans would like to forget. So here is how we ranked the Terminator films from worst to best.

Terminator Genisys

credit: Terminator Genisys

It’s debatable among the fans which Terminator movie is the best. On the other hand, in 2015, Genisys was almost unanimously proclaimed the worst in the franchise. But how can a Terminator movie featuring Emili Clarke, a.k.a. the Mother of Dragons, and Arnold Schwarzenegger miss the mark so much? Critics and viewers agreed the unsatisfying plot felt disconnected from previous movies. The film also didn’t have the panicked grit of the best Terminator movies. However, Terminator Genisys did manage to create some decent action scenes, and the CGI team did what was expected from blockbuster production.

Terminator 3: The rise of the Machine

credit: Terminator 3: The rise of the Machine

The best thing about the third part of the Terminator saga was the ending, and we don’t mean that cynically. Unfortunately, what could have been a natural successor to Terminator 2, became a disappointment. Kristianna Loken as the female Terminator was more weird than terrifying, and the plot got off the rails so that producer could justify this sequel. Arnold Schwarzenegger appearance aside, the first James Cameron-less Terminator is arguably the second worst despite having a huge budget.

Terminator Salvation

credit: Terminator Salvation

No Arnie, and no unstoppable machines going after defenseless younger resistance members. Salvation is a movie that shows man vs. machines in a future war where Christian Bale plays a resistance leader in a dystopian world. The action-packed title doesn’t have the elements of time travel or killing machines taking out civilians. Still, it follows the original story timeline and is more than a watchable experience.

Terminator: Dark Fate

Terminator: Dark Fate

The key ingredient to an excellent Terminator action movie is the villain. Gabriel Luna takes his spot as a brilliant Terminator in the role of Rev-9. The 2019 movie brings back Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, and we can see recognizable chase scenes. We appreciate the fight scenes, bringing back the original cast, and the great villain. Unfortunately, despite the ingredients, Dark Fate couldn’t reach the original two movies in this incredible franchise. The turnout was somewhat disappointing, but all Terminator fans shouldn’t overlook Dark Fate.

The Terminator

credit: The Terminator

Arnold Schwarzenegger was absolutely brilliant as a relentless killing machine coming back from the future. The iconic movie became part of pop culture, Arnold was probably the most significant action star of the 80s, and James Cameroon showed why he would be part of movies that move boundaries in the future. Terminator is genuinely terrifying, and the threat Sarah Connor experiences is palpable. Arnie doesn’t speak much, but his performance was stellar. Unfortunately, the first movie in the franchise can’t compete with special effects in later installments, but it doesn’t matter. If not for Terminator 2, this would be the best movie in an action-packed franchise.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

credit: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

The main plot twist from the first Terminator is Arnie’s T-800 switching sides. He is returning from the future, coming to protect John Connor, a future resistance leader. The movie makers managed to create a memorable villain in T-1000, played by brilliant Robert Patrick. Shape-shifting, almost impossible-to-kill future super killing machine reigns terror, and the film has an incredible build-up to the final encounter of the iconic steel mill factory. Car chases, helicopters, motorcycles, and continuous, relentless attacks of T-1000 created one of the most memorable action movies of all time. Terminator 2: Judgement Day is by far the best movie in the franchise, with great visual effects, an excellent soundtrack, a decent plot, and great acting. Although the film could look better with today’s special effects and CGI standards, Cameroon took it to a new level in 1991. The movie was an instant hit, with critics and fans acclaiming it.


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