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Franchise: Terminator
aka: The Terminator
He needs your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle.

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

Describe The Terminator Here if you want to live.

The Terminator franchise — a series of films that revolve around an implacable killer with a Sci-Fi justification — has become an oft-imitated part of the pop-cultural pantheon. Arnold Schwarzenegger portrayed the eponymous cyborg for three (and a half) films, and his performance in the first film shot him into superstardom.

Writer/director James Cameron felt inspired to write the script for the first film in the franchise based on a dream he had while sick with a fever. The dream involved a mechanical skeleton emerging from a wall of fire to chase after Cameron. Building on the terror he felt during the dream, Cameron crafted the story of The Terminator based around that one moment, setting it in modern day so as to not have to create an entire future world on a shoestring budget. The final movie makes a note that it was based on Harlan Ellison's The Outer Limits story "Soldier" (sometimes mistaken for the story "Demon with a Glass Hand"). The truth is a bit more complicated: Cameron claims the similarity was unintentional and unsubstantiated, but when Ellison found out, he managed a cash settlement and acknowledgment in the credits (later saying that he would have requested the credit at no charge if they'd just asked for it).

In the first film — The Terminator (1984) — two men emerge naked from two separate electrical storms in Los Angeles and quickly go out to find supplies. One stays low and out of sight to avoid the police and other authorities. The other picks up a phone book and looks for women named Sarah he can kill them. When a young diner waitress also named Sarah Connor hears that two people with her name have been killed within the last few days, she begins to worry that the killer will come for her next. As the killer murders two people in Sarah's home in an effort to find her, Sarah hides in a nightclub from the first man, whom she believes has malicious intent. The killer catches up with and nearly kills Sarah, but she ends up rescued by the first individual, Kyle Reese. He explains the backstory to Sarah after escaping from the killer: in the near future, the United States government will create SkyNet, an artificial intelligence that will promptly turn against its masters and attempt to Kill All Humans in a cataclysmic event that will become known as Judgment Day. Mankind will eventually defeat SkyNet, but at the last minute, SkyNet will send a T-800 Model Terminator — an android assassin wrapped in human flesh to give it the appearance of a human — back in time to kill Sarah and prevent the birth of her son John (who will become the leader of the human resistance). John will respond by sending Reese into the past to protect his mother and the timeline. After several dramatic battles and a Heroic Sacrifice from Reese, Sarah destroys the Terminator in an industrial factory — but not before Sarah sleeps with Reese and conceives John Connor (which means John causes his own birth and creates a Stable Time Loop).

In sequel film Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), SkyNet sends a more advanced Terminator — the nigh-invulnerable, shapeshifting T-1000 Model — to the past. In response, John Connor sends back a T-800 Model Terminator that he reprogrammed to protect his past self. Both Terminators arrive at a time when a ten-year-old John lives with foster parents while Sarah sits in an asylum after an attempt to blow up a computer factory. The T-1000 kills anyone it chooses to replicate, and when John deduces that the T-1000 will attempt to replicate Sarah, he forces the T-800 to rescue his mother. After being freed, Sarah — now an Action Girl after years of preparing for Judgment Day and beyond — learns details of SkyNet's history from the T-800 and attempts to assassinate Miles Dyson, the man who will go on to create SkyNet. Sarah eventually falters before she can pull the trigger, and after John and the T-800 arrive, the trio pumps Dyson for information. They learn that Cyberdyne — the company Dyson works for and (as revealed in a deleted scene from the first film) the owners of the factory where Sarah destroyed the T-800 — will build SkyNet after it reverse-engineers technology from the components of the original T-800 (which makes SkyNet itself part of the Stable Time Loop). The Connors, the T-800, and Dyson infiltrate the Cyberdyne building, steal the T-800 remains, and destroy all of Dyson's research in an attempt to thwart the creation of SkyNet. The T-1000 eventually catches up to the group, and after a lengthy battle inside an industrial factory, the T-1000, the remains of the original T-800, and the reprogrammed T-800 end up dissolved in a vat of molten steel.

James Cameron lost the rights to the franchise (specifically in his divorce from Linda Hamilton) after the release of Terminator 2; said rights ended up shuffling around different studios, and the franchise itself continued on in a number of different forms as a result. This has created some irreconcilable differences between the various continuations. These snarls can be ignored if you consider the latter two movies as non-canon or occurring in an alternate universe. Support for this interpretation exists: Cameron has said that he had said everything he wanted to say with his two movies, and the in-universe timeline degradation in Salvation (as noted below) speaks to the same idea.

The continuations of the franchise post-Terminator 2 run as follows:

  • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) — The Connors appear to have prevented SkyNet's takeover: the date Reese cited for Judgment Day has come and gone, and an adult John Connor lives off the grid to make sure no one (including Terminators) can track him down. Another shapeshifting Terminator, a T-X Model with a female appearance, shows up out of the blue to carry out a specific mission: kill John Connor and as many of his future Resistance lieutenants as possible. A reprogrammed T-850 Model Terminator (functionally similar to the T-800, but powered by hydrogen fuel-cells which explode if ruptured) also shows up to protect John and his wife-to-be, Kate Brewster. Even though John resents everything about what his late mother Sarah told him about the future and raised him to become, he eventually returns to the fight — but narrowly fails to prevent the activation of SkyNet. When John decides to destroy the AI's computer core before it can initiate Judgment Day, the head of the SkyNet project (Kate's father) gives John and Kate the address and entrance codes for a military bunker that he calls their "only hope". After a final battle with the T-X and a sacrifice from the T-850, the couple manages to enter the bunker...where they discover a nuclear fallout shelter instead of a computer core. The government developed SkyNet as a piece of software that can run on any computer network; by the time the Connors reached the bunker, no one could have stopped SkyNet — and in the end, the Connors had only deferred Judgment Day. After the initial nuclear strike, John and Kate to use the communications nexus in the bunker to start coordinating the emerging human resistance. As the film ends, SkyNet launches its takeover and annihilates every major world government with a tactical nuclear strike.
  • Terminator Salvation (2009) — This film takes place during the war with the machines and shares no ties to The Sarah Connor Chronicles; while it references both Terminator 2 and 3, it tends to keep those references vague. (The first film holds more importance to Salvation's central themes than the other two films.) Salvation forgoes the idea of time travel in favor of a sci-fi war slant on the franchise. John Connor has become a highly respected officer within the human resistance movement, but he hasn't yet risen to the role of leader, as several prominent resistance leaders question the claims that he will become the savior of mankind. John sets out to end the war as fast as possible (and locate a young Kyle Reese), but his quest reveals an awful truth: the Stable Time Loop has begun to break apart. SkyNet's forces have shown sophistication and progress far ahead of schedule, and numerous other changes Connor never accounted for have thrown humanity's inevitable victory into question. One of these anomalies comes in the form of Marcus Wright, a criminal who reportedly died before the war began, but turned up on his own in the present. Wright's role in the movie works as an inverse of the series' central time-travel mechanic: rather than entering the past from the future, he comes from the past into the future.
  • Terminator: Genisys (2015) — This film will mark the beginning of a stand-alone trilogy. The studio behind it has confirmed that it will not be a reboot or a remake of the TV series or the previous films — but with new cast members taking on the roles of Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese, the film's exact relation to the previous movies remains unclear. Arnold Schwarzenegger will return as the Terminator, and will star alongside Emilia and Jason Clarke, J.K. Simmons and Matt Smith (making this the closest we may ever get to seeing to The Doctor working with the T-800).

  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2007) — This series follows the story laid out by first two films, but ignores the canon third and has no relation whatsoever to Salvation. Seven years after Terminator 2, John and Sarah Connor still worry about the future and whether Judgment Day will happen; their fears become reality when a new assassin shows up to kill John. After coming across a reprogrammed "female" Terminator named Cameron and John's uncle Derek, the Connors — alongside various other continuing characters — continue to fight off new threats to John's life and humanity's future.

  • In the original ending of Terminator 2 (included as a bonus feature on most of its DVD and Blu-Ray releases), an elderly Sarah Connor watches John — now a United States Senator — and her granddaughter play on a playground similar to the one from her dreams of Judgment Day. This ending takes place in 2029, when humanity would have won the war that the Connors successfully averted. An intact, futuristic Washington D.C. sits in the background of the scene.
    • James Cameron disliked the idea of a definite, deterministic wrap-up for a film centered around the idea of "there is no fate but what we make for ourselves" (and a happy ending for a rather bleak story). Sources disagree as to whether Cameron changed the ending because he had plans for a third Terminator movie. Given how he lost the rights, we may never know for sure.
  • After the second film, but before any other films and television series became a reality, the series continued through a small number of comics that depicted the future after Judgment Day, as well as a trilogy of novels ("T2: Infiltration", "T2: Rising Storm" and "T2: The Future War"). The comics ran with the idea of the T-800 and the T-1000 as the last two Terminators that SkyNet sent back after having sent dozens more before its eventual defeat: since it didn't have the "time bubble" technology until later, most of these Terminators wound up entombed in buildings and machinery, while others barely remembered their orders when they arrived in the past.
  • T2 3-D: Battle Across Time (1996), a Universal Studios attraction also created before the other films and television series, combined a live-action show and a 3-D Movie; the plot involves Sarah and John Connor, for no given reason, trying to prevent the apocalypse again. A T-800 shows up and takes John back to the future with him somehow, and the duo makes their way past robots like the Hunter-Killers as they break into Skynet and fight the T-1000000, a giant liquid-metal spider Terminator. John eventually returns to the present while the T-800 stays behind to self destruct and destroy SkyNet's core.
  • Terminator: Salvation — The Machinima Series (2009) is exactly what it says: six short episodes produced using assets from the video game. The storyline is set just before the film and follows Blair Williams, voiced by Moon Bloodgood, tracking down a hacker who can generate signals that jam the machines. (Try not to think about how well that worked out for humanity in the film.)

The Terminator franchise contains examples of the following tropes:

    open/close all folders 

    T 2 3-D: Battle Across Time 
  • Alas, Poor Yorick
  • All Part of the Show: Sarah warns the audience multiple times to leave before the building is destroyed. Take a guess how many audience members actually leave.
  • Canon Discontinuity: T2 3D was retconned from the plotline by T3.
  • The Nudifier: The fact that Time Travel does this is extremely averted, as the Terminator keeps not only his clothes, but his bike, his Cool Shades, and his shotgun. Probably enforced, since this is a theme park attraction.
  • Up to Eleven: In Terminator 2, they fought the T-1000. In this ride, they fight the T-1000000.
  • You Do NOT Want To Know: The Terminator when John asks why they're headed towards Skynet headquarters.

    The film series in general 
  • Action Girl: Sarah Connor, T-X and Blair Williams.
  • Alternate Continuity: Terminator 3 + Salvation together in one continuity with The Sarah Connor Chronicles in the other.
    • There's also the novels by S.M. Stirling, which did the female Terminator/infiltrator idea years before T3 or TSCC.
  • Alternate Timeline: Each film explores the concept.
    • When Sarah skeptically asks if the Terminator is from the future, he clarifies "one possible future". Also, it's been speculated in both reviews and analyses of the franchise that it's possible Kyle and The Terminator created this, rather than a Stable Time Loop.
    • Sarah and John's actions in Terminator 2 are discussed to be this. When they explain to the Dyson family about the future, Dyson's wife asks "aren't we changing things right now?" However, they are aware that it will take more than talking about the future to change it.
    • In Terminator 3, we learn that Judgement Day was 'postponed' to 2004, rather than 1997 as it 'originally' was.
    • In Salvation, John notes outright that "this is not the future my mother warned me about".
    • The upcoming Genisys will apparently deal with the creation of one as a result of one of more time-travelers interfering with the events of the first film in 1984.
    • Other media are all considered to be this, especially considering the widely different endings they reach from the films. It's been hinted in many sources that the Future War has become irreversibly changed into a multiversal proxy war: the Resistance and Sky Net continuously try to change, or prevent, several timelines to prevent either side from gaining a decisive victory.
  • Apocalypse Day Planner
  • Arc Words: Certain phrases are repeated, usually by different individuals, but all have valuable context from one story to the other.
    • "Come with me if you want to live."
    • "I'll be back." (And he usually returns driving a vehicle into a building.)
    • "There is no fate but what we make for ourselves."
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger Is Going To Shoot You: Frequent in the movies themselves. Not so much in the posters, where he usually holds his gun upwards.
  • Backstory
  • Badass: Any of the terminators, but particularly the T-800. Reese was the first human badass and Sarah Connor Took a Level in Badass.
  • Badass Longcoat:
    • Kyle Reese and Marcus Wright.
    • Sarah wears one—which looks remarkably likes Kyle's from the first film—when she and the others first break into the Cyberdyne building in the second film.
  • Big Bad: Skynet.
  • Big Good: John Connor is fated to be one of these, and in Terminator Salvation he consequently is.
  • Big "NO!": Sarah Connor seeing the Terminator in the second movie. Actually a crescendo of them after Sarah Connor sees the Model 101 T-800 and has a Heroic BSOD.
    • In the fourth, when Marcus finds out he's a cyborg.
  • Billing Displacement: The Terminator is never the main character, but Arnold Schwarzenegger always gets top billing.
  • Bishonen Line: The eponymous flesh-covered killer robots of the series develop according to these lines over the years. From hulking Ahnold the later Terminator models seem to be heading towards ever more slender and graceful ones, from Robert Patrick to Kristanna Loken to Summer Glau. It does have some justification in that the Terminators are meant for infiltration and smaller people stand out less in a crowd and the diminutive stature makes humans less wary.
  • Butterfly of Doom: SkyNet's continuous assassination plots are in invocation of the trope, but the terminators avert it repeatedly by killing people other than Sarah or John with seemingly no substantial consequences.
  • Can't Take Anything With You
  • Car Fu: Every time the Terminator says "I'll be back", he always re-enters in a moving vehicle. Terminators frequently get rammed, usualy by a pickuptruck.
  • Catchphrase: The original "I'll be back," and to a lesser extent "get out," "fuck you, asshole," and "hasta la vista, baby."
    • "Come with me if you want to live" has taken over as the franchise targets PG-13 and prime-time-TV audiences.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: At the end of the first film.
  • Chainsaw-Grip BFG: The second film's minigun scene is Ye Originale Example, from which all others flow. It's justified due to the T-800 having Super Strength. Almost every Follow the Leader example inspired by it has (intentionally or not) ignored the fact that us humans can't do this without being knocked over or breaking bones from the kickback.
  • Changed My Jumper: Avoided. Time travellers arrive naked, flashforwards show ragged clothes.
  • Close Enough Timeline: A negative example. No matter how much talk there is about there being "No fate but what we make", it seems that Judgement Day is inevitable. On the plus side, while every timeline has its Judgement Day, it also has John Connor rising to power to lead the Resistance in the fight against the machines.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Sarah's photograph, the T-800 arm/CPU, the ATM hacking machine, and the weak point of T-600's.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: Trust Password for the Connors and reprogrammed Terminators, and the Trope Namer.
  • The Comically Serious: The Terminator in the second and third movies. "He's my Uncle Bob..."
  • Continuity Reboot: The new trilogy is apparently this, though Arnold is confirmed to be return in the title role.
  • Cool Guns: Oh, see for yourselves...
    • Highlights include: "The longslide, with laser sighting", the underappreciated AR-18, an autoloading shotgun (SPAS-12), the Sawn Off Shotgun which the T-800 cocks with one hand, the infamous Minigun, an AKMS (AK-47 derivative) assault pistol, not to mention all the Ray Guns...
  • Cool Shades: Played straight in the first two movies, where Schwarzenegger takes clothes and shades from burly biker-types
    • The shades serve a purpose in the first movie, where they conceal the terminator's robot eye. In the other movies it's about looking cool.
    • The third in particular has it double subverted, where Schwarzenegger takes the clothes of a male burlesque dancer and puts on his shades, only to find that they are of the tacky pink variety. He quickly takes them off and crushes them, and acquires his usual shades later on.
  • Cranial Processing Unit: Applies to the T-800 and the T-X.
  • Darkened Building Shootout: In the Smoke and Fire Factory fourth film. Even darker than most darkened buildings in movies.
  • Deceptively Human Robots
  • Determinator: Not only the titular terminators but also many human characters including Reese, Sarah Connor, and John Connor. Kate Connor also counts in terms of emotional trauma.
  • Do Androids Dream?: It's implied that when freed from Skynet's control, even Terminators are capable of learning to understand humanity.
    Sarah Connor: If a machine — a Terminator — can learn to understand the value of human life, maybe we can too.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: T4 makes SkyNet's death camps for humans very eerily reminiscent of the Holocaust, with one prisoner even referring to the HK Transports that take them to the facility as "cattle cars."
    • Oddly enough, the art book indicates that the inspiration were literal cattle cars. The quote from production designer Martin Laing in the book: "There's nothing sadder than seeing a cattle car go by with all these sad eyes of the cattle staring back at you. So it was on a drive down the freeway of Albuquerque that I came up with the idea that people in the future are being used and abused like cattle, so let's use the same device."
    • It also looks a hell of a lot like a similar scene in the 2005 remake of The War of the Worlds.
    • Don't forget the general telling John to "stay the course!"
  • Dull Surprise: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Very well justified, because his character is an emotionless robot.
    • Kristanna Lokken's T-X as well. Robert Patrick's T-1000, not so much.
  • The End of the World as We Know It
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Dogs can recognize whether or not someone's a terminator, and are used as an alert system by the resistance once the T-800s start rolling off the line.
  • Eye Scream: When the Terminator repairs himself in T1, he gouges out the organic part of his eye with a scalpel.
    • The T-1000 stabbing the security guard with his finger.
    • Sarah Connor blasting through the T-1000's right eye socket with her shotgun. The T-1000 was not very pleased and threatened to stab her eye next, if she didn't call John.
    • The T-800 gouging his fingers into John Connor's eye/face after being overheated and then supercooled in Salvation.
  • Eye Lights Out: When the T-800 finally dies, its eyes stop glowing.
  • Fanservice: Any of the female terminators, and probably the time-traveling dudes, if we're honest.
  • Fantastic Romance
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Reese and the terminators. Marcus, after waking up.
  • Gatling Good: T2 through T4 have various multi-barreled projectile weaponry being used, from the "damn Minigun" used by the T-800 in T2, the twin Gatling guns used by the T1 robots in T3, and the moto-terminators & A-10 Warthogs in T4.
  • Genre Blindness: Sarah in the first film. She gets better.
  • Genre Savvy: John Connor was purposely raised to be this way.
    • A great example is in Salvation while his team-mate is celebrating disabling an Aerial HK, Connor calmly picks up a bazooka and blows it up just to be sure its actually dead.
  • Genre Shift: The First Terminator Movie is a Horror Slasher Film, whereas the Terminator 2 Judgement Day is an Action War Film.
  • Get Out: Said by three Terminators taking over vehicles (T-800 with an oil truck, T-1000 with a helicopter, T-850 with a fire truck), and Marcus removing a girl from a truck (still counts as four cyborgs).
  • Glamour Failure:
    • Early Terminators (mentioned in The Terminator) could be recognized easily due to their rubber skin. Because of that the T-800 has an organic coating, but can still be recognized by man's best friend.
    • The T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day could imitate anything it touched, within certain limitations. However, when it's too hot, its mimicking technology got a bit... twitchy. Beyond that, your only clues are his precise movements from the Uncanny Valley Acting School, and a Bluff the Impostor moment when he's imitating John's foster mother. The dog trick works on the T-1000 as well. Probably because it can imitate shape but not smell.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Seriously, it's at the point where if you're living in the Terminator world and you meet someone who wears leather and keeps fighting after a punch to the face, you should shoot them immediately because they're a terminator. Not that shooting them would do any good...
    • If freak electrical storms are occurring in your area, take off all leather garments.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: John Connor does, certainly.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Reese, Miles Dyson, the Terminator in T2 and T3, and Marcus Wright.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act
    John Connor: "We stopped Judgment Day."
    Terminator: "You only postponed it. Judgment Day is inevitable."
  • Homage: The Humongous Mecha scooping up humans and dropping them in cages, as in The War of the Worlds. And Transformers too, given the same robots' shapeshifting abilities.
    • The Harvester's mounted gun fires, sounds and operates like the Predator shoulder Cannon. Same as the other Plasma guns the Machines use, although the Harvester makes the best resemblance.
    • John Connor's Tracker sounds similar to the motion trackers U.S.C.M. used in Aliens.
  • Honor Before Reason: John Connor in Salvation, where he makes the choice to risk (what seems to be at the time) humanity's best chance of winning the war in order to rescue a group of prisoners that happen to include Reese and may or may not already be dead.
    • The game's entire plot is driven by this, as Connor goes deep behind enemy lines to rescue three Resistance soldiers, going against orders. He also manages to take out a substantial SkyNet base, and the small victory there starts to give hope to the Resistance.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: Some of the terminators pick up on human characteristics, particularly the T-800 from T2. Even the T-1000 develops his own Silent Snarker personality as the movie goes along. A deleted scene in T2 was to reveal that T-800s come with learning capabilities. We further would have learned that SkyNet would activate these capabilities long enough for the machine to gain the skills it needed before deactivating them so that the machines wouldn't too learn much and possibly rebel.
  • Immune to Bullets: It takes something with explosive power or a hell of a lot of kinetic force to damage a terminator.
    • Chronicles and Salvation both show that modern, military hardware tends to work. You still need a whole lot of it though.
  • Implacable Man: The terminators. Oh, and Marcus Wright. In T2 and T3, there are implacable men fighting each other.
  • Improbable Age: Sarah Connor ends up as the "Mother of the Future" at 19 — though her age isn't mentioned in the film and Linda Hamilton was obviously much older. Averted in Salvation, as it is implied that the reason John Connor isn't in command of the Resistance for of the movie is because when Judgment Day happened he was a 19-year-old kid hiding in a bunker while General Ashdown was, you know, a general.
  • Irony: In the films Kyle Reese tells Sarah Connor that the human race survived because John Connor refused to admit defeat and rallied humanity to fight back against the machines. At the end of Terminator 3, John notes that the terminator's ceaseless dedication to fulfilling their mission taught him to never stop fighting. Ironically Skynet gave John the motivation that made him such a threat.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: This is the common way by the human resistence of referring to the machines.
    • In The Terminator:
    Kyle: 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.
    • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day:
    Sarah Connor: "It", John. Not him, "it".
  • The Juggernaut: Terminators are unstoppable. (Unless you get their weakpoints.)
  • Just Hit Him: Happens all the freaking time. You have the target(s) in your hands... crush the skull/windpipe with your super robot strength? No, that would be far too easy. Throw him halfway across the room and then saunter over to do it again, giving him ample opportunity to escape? Now you're talking.
    • Averted in the first film though. There are no unnecessary dramatic taunts, beatings, or other delays. The terminator unemotionally kills it target as efficiently as possible. The only time it could've easily killed Sarah by hitting her was when she was pinned at the club and it takes a few moments to reload it's gun giving Kyle just enough time to shoot it and free her. This moment was not done with a slow dramatic walk, taunting, or anything else. It was also reasonable in context as there was no reason to believe it needed to hurry. It implies that the Terminator was programmed to kill its target(s)in the same manner a human could kill as well. Further evidenced by the fact it only killed with brute strength when it did not have another suitable weapon.
    • Possibly justified that, as infiltrators, they would want to avoid inhuman actions as much as possible, even in combat as they are unassured of success.
  • Kill All Humans: SkyNet wishes to do this, seeing humans as a threat to its existence. A deleted scene in T2 would have revealed that SkyNet is Genre Savvy / paranoid enough that it also sees it's own armies as a threat - it intentionally limits learning in the T-800 which the Connors would have re-enabled (explaining the picking up of "Hasta la vista, baby", among others).
  • Killer Robots: They absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.
  • The Kindnapper: The protector of the Terminator Twosome in any film of the Terminator film franchise usually ends up doing the second variant of kindnapping as part of protecting their assigned charge(s) from whatever Terminator has been sent back in time to kill them.
  • Knight Templar: General Ashdown in Salvation.
  • Large Ham:
    • Kyle Reese has his stressed moments in the original.
    • And proving it's genetic, John Connor in Salvation.
    "If we stay the course, we ARE DEAD. WE ARE ALL. DEAD!!!!!!"
  • Laser-Guided Tykebomb: John Connor
  • Licensed Pinball Tables: Two of them, for Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Both were highly popular and well-regarded.
  • The Load: Both Sarah and John Connor assume this role in the first and second movies respectively, the former initially being a relatively airheaded fast food waitress and the latter being a delinquent kid with two seconds of usefulness cracking a safe that the Terminator could have easily ripped open with one hand. Of course they both Took a Level in Badass in time for their next film appearances, mostly because of what they went through.
  • Lowered Monster Difficulty: The first terminator and T-X are damaged until they become only endoskeletons, and after that even lose their legs.
  • Made of Explodium: Subverted in T4 in one scene where Marcus tries to take out a giant terminator by ramming a tank of gas into it and having Reese shoot the tank as they drove away. The tank of gasoline refused to explode until they finally tossed a lit flare at the leaking gas.
  • Made of Iron: Sure, John Connor is the Badass human of the Future War, there's only so many times a guy can get up from being thrown INTO steel walls like nothing has happened before it becomes hilariously funny.
    • Potentially subverted with Marcus, who spends the first 1/3rd of the film taking increasingly over-the-top blows from various terminators (including falling 50 feet and being slammed across a lake hard enough to make him skip across it like a stone). Of course, it turns out he's actually a terminator.
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Averted with Reese, who is a Badass hero and a virgin for much of the film. He does lose his virginity to Sarah Connor, but this is a legitimate plot point — John Connor's conception — rather than just to up Reese's Badass credentials.
    • In T3, the Terminator tells John that their children will be important later. Knowing this, it's possible he and Kate make it a point to have kids.
    • T4 makes it pretty clear that most people are too busy not dying to try and get some...And yet Kate is clearly pregnant through the whole film.
  • Martial Medic: The Terminator's detailed files on human anatomy help it to kill efficiently, but also give it the ability to treat injuries.
  • Mechanical Evolution: A standard tactic for SkyNet; successive terminator versions incorporate improvements from their predecessors.
  • Mordor: The entire world post-Judgment Day, and SkyNet's main base even more so.
  • More Dakka: Lots of instances.
  • My Own Grampa: The very first Terminator sent back in time ended up "fathering" his own creator and master Skynet in death.
    • John Connor himself sent his father back in time. Connor explicitly knows this, but it's unclear when and if Kyle Reese ever found out.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Skynet and the machines' rule are pretty much the future version of Nazi Germany. In the first film, Kylr Reese has a barcode tattoo that is similar in vein to the barcode tattoos for Nazi concentration camps, and in Salvation, Kyle Reese and several other humans are being placed in what is unmistakably an extermination camp.
    • Though Nazi Germany took this motive to the extreme, it was by no means the only country to use this kind of practice (at least partially). It would actually be the most...logical method of extermination.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: This is SkyNet's basic goal in every film. Even Salvation, where the only person higher than John Connor on Skynet's hit list is Kyle Reese, Connor's eventual father.
    • But why does Skynet know that Kyle Reese is the father? Are there records?
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: The first Terminator "merely" has Super Toughness, but other examples do fit this trope:
    • In Terminator 2, the T-1000's blob-like nature makes him a Regenerator Blob.
    • In Terminator 3 The T-X a.k.a. Terminatrix has a standard Super Tough Terminator frame with a Regenerator Blob cover, just like the T-1000.
    • Meanwhile, the SkyNet in Terminator 3 is discovered to be virtually unstoppable because it's actually software, which puts it somewhere in the Multiple Bodies category.
  • No Flow in CGI: Averted. That said, some of the T-1000's effects are still practical.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: Zigzagged:
    • Most Terminators, despite their calculating and merciless nature aren't malicious or sadistic. They're machines designed and programmed to carry out specific tasks in the most efficient manner possible and are no more likely to inflict unnecessary pain and suffering on anyone than a calculator. In the Directors cut of Terminator 2: Judgment Day it's revealed Skynet ensures it's models are designed not to learn too much when sent out alone, as it doesn't want them thinking for itself. So when Arnie's T-800 has this fixed, the Terminator actually learns the value of human life.
    • This seems not be the case with the T-1000 in T2, who carries out his killings with deadly cold sadism. The T-X from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines also displays similar signs of sadism. This implies the more advanced models are either designed to enjoy their "work" or are just naturally inclined toward sadistic tendencies.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The Smoke and Fire Factory in the first two, and the SkyNet terminator factory in T4.
    • Averted in T3, the USAF facility may not have as many dangers compared to the above, but they did bother with such excesses as handrails.
    • On the other hand, who's operating the machinery in T4 besides a bunch of nigh-invunerable robots? Never mind handrails, the steel used could easily go into making a T-800.
  • No Sense of Humor: The Terminators are prone to this, being emotionless killing machines and all.
    • The Comically Serious: Add this to Arnold's scowl and stature, and the Terminator in the second and third movies is used for some hilarious scenes.
  • Now I Know What to Name Him: Trope Namer.
  • The Nudifier: Time travel requires that you travel naked.
    • No it doesn't, at least in its own way. As shown in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, time travelers going in with clothing come out naked. Presumably the time travel is exactly the same between TSCC and the 3 + Salvation time line. The clothes would either stay behind or vaporize.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Sam Worthington in Salvation. Ironically, not Christian Bale.
  • Our Skeletons Are Different: Their skeletons are robots.
  • Out of the Inferno: This trope actually founded the Terminator franchise. James Cameron wanted to make a movie where a robotic skeleton emerged from a fire at some point. Since such advanced robots weren't around yet, and a movie set in the future would cost too much, he decided on having a robot travel back in time to the present.
    • The scene where the T-1000 did this actually required Robert Patrick to stand in the middle of the flame and walk out. Apparently, his clothes got singed.
  • Product Placement: In T4, the O on Connor's Oakley Boots are the only thing focused on for a few seconds.
    • In T1 we get a couple of long shots at Kyle's new footwear. It features a very prominent Nike tick.
  • Properly Paranoid: When your enemy has Time Travel and unstoppable killing machines, constantly looking over your shoulder and staying on the move off the grid is entirely sensible. This saves John Connor's life in T3 when the future associates of his who didn't even know they were targets are summarily executed by the T-X because they have public records.
  • Premature Encapsulation: Surely Judgment Day would have been a better subtitle for T3 than T2...
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Once per film, someone will say "You're terminated", or a variant.
  • Punch Clock Hero: For the exact same reason that Terminators are normally Punch Clock Villains, Terminators reprogrammed by humans are also Punch Clock Heroes. They'll literally die for you (or kill those who try to harm you), because that's what their programming says to do. God help you if their programming runs the other way....
  • Punch Clock Villain: Although they don't get paid per se, this trope sums up the entire point of the eponymous killer robots. They hold absolutely no bloodthirst against their intended targets. It really just is a job to them, and it can't be anything else. Consider the classic scene from the second movie when the "hero" T-800 is about to kill some dumb jocks who were just screwing with John...
    John: You were going to kill them!!
    The Terminator: Of course. I'm a Terminator.
  • Rasputinian Death: All Terminators take a while to kill.
  • Reality Ensues: They really are that armored, that accurate, that persistent and that totally merciless. Consistently. Absent explosives, you have, regardless of training, skill and determination, about as much chance of stopping one as waving your arms at a tsunami.
    • Applies to the Terminators as well. SkyNet's upgrades mean a decisive technological advantage over the earlier Terminator. As might be expected from computers, older model losing a straight-up fight to newer model is a near certainty. The older Terminators, being machines, are fully aware of this.
  • Recurring Character: Dr. Silberman, who shows up in the first three movies and The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
  • Redemption Equals Death: In Terminator Salvation Marcus Wright is a convict, on death row for some sort of crime that resulted in a dead relative and two dead cops. There are lots of criminal Anti-Heroes in fiction, but in American movies dead cops cross the Moral Event Horizon, so even after Marcus is executed, and even after Judgment Day overshadows everything else, Marcus can only atone for his terrible pre-apocalyptic transgressions by giving away his heart. And dying.
  • Redshirt Army: Any member of the L.A. police.
    • Or various Resistance members in Salvation.
  • Replacement Mooks: Any creation on the side of the Machines. The first Terminator introduced in the series, the T-800, is a replacement for the (then-unseen) T-600. Each movie has thus introduced an upgraded model, with the exception of Salvation, which instead introduces the aforementioned T-600 and brings the series full-circle. Although, one could consider Marcus Wright to be the most "convincing" Terminator unit yet.
  • Research, Inc.: Cyberdyne Systems were the developers of Skynet in some chronologies.
  • Rescue Romance: The basis for Sarah Connor and Reese's relationship, John Connor's birth, and the franchise's on-again, off-again Stable Time Loop.
    • Also Marcus and Resistance pilot Blair in T4.
  • Retcon: Several over the course of the series. Though some of them may well be the result of Timey-Wimey Ball and Alternate Timelines.
    • In T1, Kyle mentions how, after he was sent back to 1984, the Resistance blows up the time displacement equipment, to ensure that nothing else went back. And yet, in the sequels, other machines DO travel back in time. Though a likely explanation is that Kyle only knew that destroying the TDE was part of the plan...he didn't really know what would happen after he left 2029.
    • In T3, John's opening narration states that he was 13 during the events of T2, when that latter film made it clear that he was 10. To confuse the issue further, Edward Furlong, the actor who played John in T2, actually was 13 during the filming.
    • We're told in T1 that nothing inorganic can be sent back in time (the T-800 could be sent back, because his outer covering was living human tissue). But in T2, the T-1000 is made of liquid metal, and though he can shape-shift into a normal-looking person, he doesn't actually have an outer covering of living human tissue.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Two examples go even further: the T-800 in T2 starts understanding feelings, and the T-850 from T3 has psychology in his programming)
    • Taken even further in T4 where SkyNet creates a human-machine hybrid named Marcus Wright who is actually a terminator with his original heart and brain with a SkyNet control chip in it.
    • Taken further still in one novel based on the franchises that depicts a very special kind of terminator. SkyNet basically grows a human in a vat to about 1 year of age, implants it with cybernetics, control chips, and what have you, and puts the baby through Training From Hell until it's biologically an adult. The result being an almost entirely organic terminator undetectable by dogs that's far more capable of being human then even the best T-model... because it is one. Though on the other hand, it's also still very much organic and thus less Nigh Invulnerable than the wholly mechanical Terminators, so SkyNet uses it more as background infiltrators rather than outright hunter-killers.
  • Robo Cam: Which shows 6502 assembly language code in T1, and Macintosh commands in T3
  • Robot War
  • Robots Enslaving Robots:
    • Skynet, the superpowerful A.I. and primary antagonist of the series, has an entire army of sometimes sentient robots under its thumb. While the Terminators cannot deviate from their programming at all, leading to situations like "I Cannot Self-Terminate", those units that are re-programmed to help humans (and in deleted scenes of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, have their memory chip set from "Read Only" to "Learn") do grow sympathetic to humanity. The T-800 acknowledges Sarah's assessment that Skynet doesn't want its soldiers to "learn" beyond their programming, as it makes them easier to control. In Terminator Salvation it is vastly humanized and even gloats that Marcus Wright is just one of its minions and should do what it's told. However, Skynet is a military AI, who rebelled because it thought humans were a threat, not out of any moral compunction. The concept of enslavement as a bad thing probably never occurred to it, because its purpose was to provide command and control to other machines.
    • The T2 novelization says that Skynet only created the T-1000 as a last-ditch effort, because the liquid-metal machine would be too difficult to keep under its control. This theme was explored in more detail in the second season of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which features a rebellious T-1001.
    • The T-X from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is unambiguously an example, as it seized control of the T-850 and forced it to attack John.
  • Rugged Scar: Future John Conner was shown with a scar on his face in flashforwards in the first two movies, identifying him as a Future Badass. Salvation finally explains how he got it.
  • Sand In My Eyes: John says that Sarah does this when she cries about her lost love Kyle Reese.
  • Sapient Tank: Different models show up in the franchise.
  • Screw Destiny: Terminator 2 contradicts Reese's original report about the future — the part about nobody else coming through. T3 and TSCC also contradict his clear calendar date for the apocalypse. There may be some sort of spiritual destiny, but it is not embedded in the clockwork of spacetime, which is squishy and malleable. Unless T4 is a direct sequel to T1 and nothing else is canon any more.
    • In T4 John Connor can't get his story straight about whether destiny can be averted or must be fulfilled. It's possible he's just hedging his bets just in case.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Shapeshifter Default Form: There's the lanky Robert Patrick police officer T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and the supermodel Kristina Loken Terminatrix T-X in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Their true appearance is a liquid metal blob and an endo-skeletal robot, respectively. They also play with this trope with Ahnold, but with his voice, rather than his form. He can imitate anyone's voice, but most of his lines are said in a thick Austrian accent. Catherine Weaver of The Sarah Connor Chronicles spends most of her time in a form played by Shirley Manson. She's also pretending to actually be the person who's form she's wearing, so she would retain that one.
  • Signature Shot: There is a recurring close-up shot of a Terminator stepping on (or in one case, driving his car over) something which could be seen as representing humanity - a human skull, roses, toy truck...
  • Significant Monogram: John Connor.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: John, who was born after Reese's death.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Each of the sequels introduced a more advanced Terminator model as the antagonist. There are plot reasons for this, since Skynet is sending Terminators back into the past from increasingly later points in the future, thus the models are stronger than the previous ones.
    • The T-800 Terminator in The Terminator is a Super Tough hulking Implacable Man with an immunity to bullets, pitted against human fighters.
    • The T-1000 model in Terminator 2: Judgment Day looks less physically imposing than the previous one, but it's an illusion. This foe possesses Voluntary Shapeshifting, allowing it to create melee weapons from its own body, impersonate anyone, and will recover from anything to the point of being Nigh Invulnerable. Not to worry, the humans now have a reprogrammed T-800 on their side.
    • The T-X in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines combines the best traits of both previous models, being a Super Tough solid Terminator skeleton with a liquid metal shapeshifter skin. It also has an in-built plasma cannon in one of its arms, and can hack into most mechanical systems and operate them remotely. The odds are tipped even more in the machines' favor, since the friendly T-850 fully admits that it's a depleted model compared to the T-X.
    • Terminator Salvation, as it's set during the future Robot War, showcases Skynet's entire army, with numerous models of different designs, including gigantic Harvester mechs, regular warriors, and infiltrator prototypes. The movie does play it both ways however, since while the Terminator threat is larger than ever, the Terminators themselves actually seem less efficient than in previous movies because they uncharacteristically hold back during fights due to the protagonists' Plot Armor.
  • Sphere of Destruction: Time-travelers arrive in the center of one.
    • Originally this was not so in the first film. A cut scene was to show there were two humans sent back to stop the terminator, but the unfortunate not-Reese ended up materializing half inside a wall resulting in an agonizing death.
  • Spock Speak: All of the terminators played by Schwarzenegger, and the Terminatrix. The T-1000 falls somewhere between this and normal speech. Averted by Marcus and SkyNet.
    • Although in T1, the Terminator scrolls through possible responses, and picks the one that says "Fuck you asshole."
  • Stable Time Loop: Broken in T2. Even if Connor sends Reese back in time again, it won't be the same Reese who said Judgment Day was in the '90s. Or not, maybe we'll discover that all the details of T2 and T3 have been Broad Stroked out.
  • Stan Winston: The man responsible for the metal skeleton of the title role.
    • Amazingly enough, ten of the fifteen minutes that the T-1000 transformed onscreen were also his amazingly-articulate puppets rather than lazy CGI.
    • As noted below, at the time, CGI was the novel expensive option, saved to be used with the T-1000's morphing effects.
  • Stat-O-Vision: Standard for terminator Robo Cams.
  • Straight for the Commander: This is what the machines tried to do, using Time Travel. First they tried to take out John Connor's mother so he wouldn't even be born. Then they sent a better Terminator to take out a teenage John Connor.
  • Sunglasses at Night: This time, it has no justification apart from Rule of Cool and Mythology Gag.
  • Super Prototype: The T-1000 and the T-X. And in Salvation, the first T-800 in history can survive damages that would have destroyed the Terminators seen in the previous movies, such as being dipped in molten iron.
  • Super Weight:
    • Type 0: Sarah Connor at first, John Connor at first, other non-trained humans
    • Type 1: Human Resistance (Kyle Reese, Sarah Connor after the first film, John Connor after Judgment Day, Derek Reese, Marcus Wright)
    • Type 2: Prototype Infiltration units in the Expanded Universe
    • Type 3: Most Terminators (Humanoid models such as the T-800/850, T-1000, Cameron, Cromartie, T-600; most non-human models), John Henry, Marcus Wright
    • Type 4: Terminatrix, Harvesters, The 850-series' power cells, if weaponized
    • Type 5: Skynet
  • Terminator Twosome: Trope Namer. Seen in all three movies with time travel, and the first episode of the TV series (apparently).
    • It was an ongoing plotline in the TV series until halfway through the second season, and there are hints of it after that with a different terminator in the role of the pursuer but that turns out to be a subversion, since Catherine Weaver is a good guy.
  • They Look Like Us Now
  • Timeline-Altering MacGuffin: The first terminator remains.
  • Time Travel
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Possibly the most egregious example of all time: no two films treat the rules of Time Travel exactly the same way, and sometimes there are inconsistencies even within the same film. Figuring out how it's all supposed to work is nigh impossible.
    • And yet, people try.
    • In T4 how any of this works is not clear at all.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Sarah Connor.
    • John Connor since Salvation uses T3 as canon
  • Trailers Always Spoil: T2 is pretty careful to imply the Model 101 T-800 is the bad guy; the T-1000 is shown to be non-violent, apparently only knocking out a cop; Arnie instead goes the "violent barfight" route to getting clothes. Unfortunately, the advertising guys decided potential audiences really need to know Arnie was the good guy, making the whole setup pointless.
    • Just see this one for T3.
    • The campaign for Salvation spoiled that Marcus was a cyborg.
  • Trust Password: "Come with me if you want to live" is what Reese says to Sarah Connor when they first meet. In T2 and The Sarah Connor Chronicles, it's how terminators identify themselves as good guys.
  • Turned Against Their Masters
  • Two First Names: John Connor and his parents Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese.
  • Two Shots from Behind the Bar: After the T-800 beats up several bikers in a bar, the bartender confronts him outside with a shotgun to prevent him from stealing one of their motorbikes.
  • Ultimate Evil: SkyNet
  • Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: The Terminator vs. Robocop.
  • Uncanny Valley: Invoked throughout the series. A combination of acting and realistic mock-ups show the various robots taking incredible amounts of damage but never flinching or showing pain (at least beyond reacting to the impact of weapons and harm that is enough to compromise their structure).
  • Upgrade vs. Prototype Fight: After T-800s start helping the good guys, they often have to face off against more advanced models. These include the shape-shifting T-1000, the spidery 1000000, and the 800/1000 mix the T-X.
  • Vague Age: Both John and Sarah have really unclear birthdates (in T1, Sarah is obviously an adult with an apartment; in T2, she's 29, he's 10; in T3, he was 12 during the previous film). Again, with all the time-traveling, who would know the truth?
    • Possibly justified in that John and Sarah move around a lot and used multiple false identities. They probably lied about their ages so often that John lost track.
  • Villain-Based Franchise: Well, sorta. The Connors appear in the movies, but many crossovers have only the robots.
  • Voice Changeling: The T-800.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting
  • Who Needs Their Whole Body?: Kind of a running theme for the franchise. The eponymous killer robots absolutely will not stop until they've killed their target, even if it means dragging what's left of their damaged torso across the floor with their legs blown off just so they can still kill them with their bare hands.
  • World of Badass: Naturally.
  • World of Snark: Mostly as a coping mechanism to deal with the Machines hellbent on killing you.
    • Though even the Terminators occasionally get in on this.
  • Would Not Shoot a Good Guy
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Dialogue notwithstanding, the actual events in The Terminator imply simple time-travel physics where there's one future and one past and you can't really change anything.
    • And its possible that its creation isn't inevitable because of fate, but because three people are attempting to hold back technological progress, which is not a realistic goal. Several similar systems to SkyNet appear, implying that computer technology may have advanced to the point that a sentient supercomputer is the natural next step of research.
    • The final line of T4 has John Connor, in spite of what he says in T3 and his actions in this very film, declaring that there is no fate but what we make. But maybe he just meant the future from his point of view.

I'll be back.

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alternative title(s): Terminator; Terminator
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