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 DEADTerminator
— Kyle Reese
is a Science Fiction
film franchise revolving around an implacable Killer Robot
- The Terminator. The franchise helped shoot Arnold Schwarzenegger
, who was the first to portray the eponymous cyborg, into superstardom.
The series began as a literal fever dream of James Cameron
. While sick, he had a nightmare where a mechanical skeleton emerged from a wall of fire
to chase him. Cameron preceded creating a fiction that would allow him to realize this nightmare on film:In the near future
, the United States creates SkyNet, an Artificial Intelligence
defense network that promptly turned against its masters
and attempts to Kill All Humans
in a cataclysmic event that becomes known as Judgment Day
. However, mankind rallies under the leadership of a man named John Connor, and tries to destroy SkyNet. And so, to crush the resistance before it even gets started, SkyNet begins sending increasingly advanced Terminators — android assassins
disguised as humans — into the past
to kill his eventual mother or John Connor himself, before he can lead humanity to victory.
Works in this franchise include:
- TV series:
- Theme Parks:
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- 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 or 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.
- 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.
- 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. It's also noted that their size was a major tip-off until Skynet became more advanced at retaining the strength and power of the earlier models while reducing the imposing size.
- 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..." There's even a shade of this in the original with the "Fuck you, asshole!" scene.
- Continuity Reboot: The new trilogy is apparently this, though Arnold is confirmed to be return in the title role - and the movie starts in the original continuity only for Kyle Reese to discover the past isn't what it was supposed to be.
- 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. A deleted scene in the second movie would have had the Terminator talk about how they have a "Learn" switch that's explicitly turned off by Sky Net after training to ensure that they don't start to question orders or rebel against Sky Net and that the Conners turn this on while repairing him.
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 ¾ 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.
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.
- 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.
I'll be back.