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-Fijustification — 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 —with some similarities to Harlan Ellison's The Outer Limits story "Soldier", though Cameron has disputed that it was intentional or even substantial. (People often mistakenly claim he plagarized "Demon with a Glass Hand" rather than "Soldier".) When Ellison found out, he managed to snag a cash settlement and an official acknowledgment in the credits. (Ellison later said the trouble could have been avoided if Cameron had come to him first and offered a screen credit in the movie, which he would have offered for free).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 so he can find women named Sarah Connor...so 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. While the killer murders two people in Sarah's home in an effort to find her, Sarah hides in a nightclub; when the killer catches up with her there, she ends up rescued by the first individual, Kyle Reese, who 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 promptlyturn 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 the second 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 has reprogrammed to protect his past self. Both Terminators arrive at a time when a ten-year-old John lives with foster parents and 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 figures out 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.Soon after the release of Terminator 2, Cameron lost the rights to the franchise (specifically in his divorce from Linda Hamilton). The rights ended up shuffling around different studios and the franchise itself continued on in a number of different forms; 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 stated after Terminator 2 that he had said everything he wanted to say with those 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:Movies:
In 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 T-850 Model Terminator (functionally similar to the T-800, but powered by hydrogen fuel-cells which explode if ruptured), reprogrammed to protect John Connor, also shows up. John, who resents everything about what his late mother Sarah told him about the future and raised him to become, eventually returns to the fight alongside his wife-to-be, Kate Brewster, and the T-850. After he narrowly fails to prevent the activation of SkyNet, 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, nobody could have stopped SkyNet. The Connors had only deferred, not prevented, Judgment Day. After the initial nuclear strike, John and Kate to use the communications nexus in the bunker to coordinate 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) 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 keeps 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. While John Connor has become a highly respected officer within the human resistance movement, he has not yet risen to the role of leader, as several prominent faction 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: Genesis (2015) will mark the beginning of a stand-alone trilogy, which is an apparent reboot. Arnold Schwarzenegger is confirmed to be returning as the Terminator once again, with The Rock rumored to be appearing as well. Whether the new trilogy takes place in an Alternate Timeline/Universe (in the manner of 2009's Star Trek), or entirely in the future remains to be seen.
The television series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2007) follows the first two films, but ignores the canon third and has no relation whatsoever to Terminator: 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 were produced using assets from the video game. The storyline was set just before the film and follows Blair Williams, voiced by the original film actress Moon Bloodgood, tracking down a hacker who could generate signals that jammed 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:
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T 2 3-D: Battle Across Time
Actor Allusion: Apart from the obligatory T2 references, most of the Terminator's one-liners are references to other movies. For example, when holding a shrieking mini-hunter, he says "Stop whining!"
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.
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.
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.
Channel Hop: First movie: Hemdale (theatrical distribution by Orion). Second movie: Carolco (TriStar). Third movie: C2, a Carolco Spiritual Successor. Fourth movie: Halcyon. (both had Warner in the US, Columbia worldwide) Fifth: Annapurna Pictures. This also leads to the first two being released in home video by a plethora of companies.
Chekhov's Gun: Sarah's photograph, the T-800 arm/CPU, the ATM hacking machine, and the weak point of T-600's.
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.
Defictionalization: Of a very scary sort. The British Ministry of Defence actually operates a satellite network used to coordinate unmanned vehicles - including "Hunter Killer drones" - called SkyNet.
The US Air Force has a unit readiness tracking system called, I shit you not, SkyNet. During exercises, announcements come over the loudspeakers for group commanders to "update numbers in SkyNet".
There is a company called Cyberdyne that is working on exoskeletons. Based in Japan. The version it's getting the most attention for is called the HAL 5. Anyone else see the three problems with this?
If parts of T4 gave you nightmares then just skip this link. At least there's no... teeth
News 4 in Tucson, Arizona has a weather, traffic, and safety observation network called Skynet:  They have billboards for it all over the city and it's a bit unsettling. (Especially when in the Sarah Connor chronicles series the Los Angles traffic system was originally destined to be the "nervous system" of Skynet.)
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.
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."
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 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).
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.
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 Sky Net 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.
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.
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 theBadass 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.
The Messiah: John Connor. As reviewer Confused Matthew notes, despite Sarah having raised him to be a resistance leader, throughout the series John never fails to recognise the value of human life, indeed often putting his own life on the line to try to save people, sometimes who he barely even knows. The fact this is such a consistant and natural part of his character, arguably makes him one of the greatest examples of this type of character in cinema history.
Mordor: The entire world post-Judgment Day, and SkyNet's main base even more so.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Reality Subtext: Remember the orderly that Sarah brutalizes during her breakout? The one who beat her so she could be restrained? The actor kept pulling that blow too much, and Linda Hamilton badly bruised her knees on the hard floor with each take. She took out her frustration on the poor guy. Also Enforced Method Acting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sequel Gap: 7, 11 and 6 years between installments.
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...
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-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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Trailers Always Spoil: T2 is pretty careful to imply the T-101 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.
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.
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.
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.