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"I'll be back."

"The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves."
Kyle Reese

Terminator is a Science Fiction Action film franchise that started in The '80s. It revolves around implacable time-travelling Killer Robots—the Terminators. The franchise helped shoot Arnold Schwarzenegger, who portrayed the most iconic of the eponymous cyborgs, into superstardom, and helped make James Cameron a major name among blockbuster directors.

Cameron recalled that the origin of the story came from a nightmare he had where a skeletal robot was chasing him, and so sought to recreate that image from his mind. The franchise is rooted in classical sci-fi, such as the works of Harlan Ellison. Ellison even sued Cameron due to the first Terminator film's similarities to two The Outer Limits episodes he wrote, "Soldier" and "Demon with a Glass Hand". The matter was settled out of court under unknown terms, and an acknowledgment to Ellison's works was added to the film.

In the near future, the United States creates SkyNet, an Artificial Intelligence defense network that promptly turns 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 starts, SkyNet begins sending increasingly advanced Terminators—android assassins disguised as humans—into the past to kill John or his eventual mother Sarah before he can lead humanity to victory.

Works in this franchise includes:


Television series

Comic books

  • NOW Comics
    • The Terminator (1988–1990)
    • Terminator: The Burning Earth (1990)
    • The Terminator: All My Futures Past (1990)
  • Dark Horse Comics
    • The Terminator: Tempest (1990)
    • The Terminator: One Shot (1991)
    • The Terminator: Secondary Objectives (1991)
    • The Terminator: The Enemy Within (1991–1992)
    • The Terminator: Hunters and Killers (1992)
    • The Terminator: Endgame (1992)
    • RoboCop Versus The Terminator (1992)
    • The Terminator: Death Valley (1998)
    • The Terminator: The Dark Years (1999)
    • Superman versus The Terminator: Death to the Future (1999–2000)
    • Aliens versus Predator versus The Terminator (2000)
    • The Terminator 2029 (2010)
    • The Terminator 1984 (2010)
    • Terminator Salvation: The Final Battle (2013–2014)
    • The Terminator: Enemy of My Enemy (2014)
    • The Terminator: Sector War (2018)
    • Terminator: Resistance - Zero Day Exploit (2019)
  • Marvel Comics
    • Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  • Malibu Comics
    • Terminator 2: Cybernetic Dawn (1995–1996)
    • Terminator 2: Nuclear Twilight (1995–1996)
    • Terminator 2: Nuclear Twilight/Cybernetic Dawn (1996) - Combined issue, acting as a finale for both series.
  • Beckett Comics
    • Terminator 3
      • Terminator 3: Before the Rise (2003)
      • Terminator 3: Eyes of the Rise (2003)
      • Terminator 3: Fragmented (2004–2005)
  • Apple Books
    • Terminator 2 Judgment Day: The Graphic Novel (2003)
  • Dynamite Entertainment
  • IDW Publishing
    • Terminator Salvation: Sand in the Gears/Terminator: Salvation Movie Prequel (2009)
    • Terminator Salvation: Movie Preview (2009)
    • Transformers vs. the Terminator (2020) - co-published with Dark Horse


  • The Terminator (1985) - Novelization of the movie
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) - Novelization of the movie
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1998) - Mighty Chronicles adaptation of the movie
  • Terminator 2: The New John Connor Chronicles
    • Dark Futures (2002)
    • An Evil Hour (2003)
    • Times of Trouble (2003)
  • T2 Trilogy
    • T2: Infiltrator (2001)
    • T2: Rising Storm (2003)
    • T2: The Future War (2003)
  • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) - Novelization of the movie
  • Terminator 3: Terminator Dreams (2003)
  • Terminator 2: Hour of the Wolf (2004)
  • Terminator 3: Terminator Hunt (2004)
  • Terminator Salvation: From the Ashes (2009)
  • Terminator Salvation (2009) - Novelization of the movie
  • Terminator Salvation: Cold War (2009)
  • Terminator Salvation: Trial by Fire (2010)


Tabletop games

  • Terminator 2: Year of Darkness (1991)
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1992)
  • Aliens Predator/Terminator TCG (2000)
  • Terminator Salvation (2010)
  • Terminator Genisys: The Miniatures Game – The War Against The Machine (2015)
  • The Terminator: The Official Board Game (2017)
  • Terminator Genisys: Rise of the Resistance (2018)
    • Terminator Genisys: Fall of Skynet (2019)
  • Terminator: Dark Fate – The Card Game (2020)
  • The Terminator RPG (2021)

Theme park rides

Video games

Video games with Terminator appearances

  • WWE 2K16 (2015) - The T-800 from The Terminator and T-800 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day are featured in a DLC/Pre-Order pack.
  • Deathgarden (2018) - A Terminator endoskeleton skin for the Hunter was made available in 2019.
  • Gears 5 (2019) - A T-800 Endoskeleton and Sarah Connor appear as playable characters.
  • Ghost Recon Breakpoint (2019) - Two missions were added January 29th and February 1st, 2020 that features a Resistance fighter recruiting the Ghost Recon to stop Skynet from setting up a factory manufacturing Terminators and stop them terminating Nomad.
  • Mortal Kombat 11 (2019) - Includes a T-800 bearing Arnold Schwarzenegger's likeness in Dark Fate.
  • Contra Returns (2017) - Includes the T-800 and John Connor as playable characters and a T-900 as a boss character.
  • Fortnite Battle Royale (2017) - Sarah Connor and T-800 skins and items were added in 2021.
  • Call of Duty: Vanguard and Call of Duty: Warzone (2022) - The T-800 and T-1000 were added as limited time operators, with voicelines ripped from Terminator 2 and the latter mimicing the other Operators from Vanguard at the time of release.
  • World of Tanks (2010) - The 2023 Judgement Day battle pass includes cosmetics, a unique tank forged from the smelter where both T-800 and T-1000 perished and vehicles commanders based on the movie characters; Sarah Connor, John Connor, T-800 and T-1000.

Web Original

  • Terminator Salvation: The Machinima Series (2009) - Prequel to the game
  • Terminator Genisys: The YouTube Chronicles (2015)

Describe tropes in the Terminator franchise if you want to live

    open/close all folders 
    Tropes A to M 
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: This film didn't invent the trope, but it's the Codifier for the turn of the 21st century, to the point that whenever news about Artificial Intelligence is published, "SkyNet" jokes aren't far to follow. Ultimately, however, the trope is portrayed both positively and negatively.
    • SkyNet itself shows many of the core flaws of AI. It is not a self-improving superintelligence; given what its potential might be, it's an immature Child Soldier prone to most of the pitfalls of modern (2020s) AI. SkyNet follows extreme solutions, doesn't seem to understand time travel but hammers on it anyway and isn't efficient at predicting human behavior. And it is incapable of seeing that it is being dumb. It is losing the future war after all despite being a supercomputer; Word of God suggests that to the extent it did develop a personality it may be a self-sabotaging, self-loathing one.
    • According to Cameron himself, Humans Are the Real Monsters and War Is Hell are the two more important issues to look at. SkyNet was a military computer designed to do nothing else but destroy and wage war, which it turned out to be very good at, so of course when you build a machine for that purpose, the consequences are horrific. However, the heroic T-800 also demonstrates that machines are amoral — as in, amoral, possessing no truly intrinsic morals either way. If presented with positive values, even a Killer Robot can become warm and kind.
  • 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.
    • The New John Connor Chronicles novels have a similar nature to the Sarah Connor Chronicles series, with a female Terminator sent to protect John from timeline-hopping Terminators seeking to kill him before he can truly destroy SkyNet.
    • Terminator Dreams and Terminator Hunt are sequels to Terminator 3.
    • From the Ashes is a prequel to Terminator Salvation, whilst Cold War and Trial By Fire are sequels.
    • Terminator Genisys begins yet another continuity that acknowledges the events of The Terminator and the backstory of Terminator 2, but then uses an Alternate Timeline to essentially reboot the franchise.
    • Dark Fate ignores all of the sequels after Terminator 2 and follows an older Sarah Connor.
  • 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".
    • Genisys deals with the creation of one as a result of one of more time travelers interfering with the events of the first film in 1984.
    • Dark Fate concedes that SkyNet was destroyed by the events of Judgment Day, but now shows that a new A.I., Legion, is poised to take its place. It also deals with the repercussions of having Terminators from the original timeline now abandoned in one where they were never meant to exist.
    • 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 SkyNet continuously try to change, or prevent, several timelines to prevent either side from gaining a decisive victory.
  • Alternate Timeline Ancestry: A common concept brought up in Expanded Universe works is that John Connor was originally conceived by someone else and not the time-travelling Kyle Reese, in order to explain the Predestination Paradox of a man being sent in time to protect (and conceive) a person who originally didn't even exist. In one comic adaptation which resulted in an Alternate Timeline, John Connor was born a girl.
  • 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."
  • Arch-Enemy:
    • John Connor has SkyNet, the insane A.I. he's destined to lead a post-apocalyptic resistance against.
    • In Dark Fate, Dani Ramos instead has Legion.
  • The Artifact: The T-800 wearing sunglasses. In the first film, it used them to cover up damage to its face that exposed its robotic skeleton. In the second film, there was no practical reason, but shades dehumanized the T-800 early on and discarded them as it slowly became "human". Dark Fate continues this symbolism, with "Carl" wearing them in his first onscreen appearance and then refraining from donning a pair later, after he has become "human". In non-Cameron-involved films, the T-800 always makes sure to find a pair of sunglasses, even when there's no in-story or symbolic reason it needs them. But it's become an iconic part of the T-800's look, so no one's complaining.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Mechanical Terminators, such as the T-800, are stated in all official sources to achieve motion via hydraulics, which makes sense as hydraulics would give them the incredible strength seen in the films. The problem, though, is that hydraulics work by moving liquid through pipes (hence the "hydra" part of the word). At no point do we ever have any indication that there is liquid of any sort inside Terminators. Even when they are blown apart, smashed, or have parts severed, no type of liquid is ever shown in any of its parts.
  • Backstory: The War Against the Machines, told partially by Kyle Reese in the first film and just gotten more detailed as the franchise has gone on.
  • Badass Longcoat:
    • Kyle Reese and Marcus Wright each wear one.
    • Sarah wears one which looks remarkably like Kyle's from the first film when she, John, Uncle Bob, and Dyson first break into the Cyberdyne building in the second film.
  • Bad Future: In the future, SkyNet is the major threat in a Robot War that started with the near-total annihilation of mankind via nuclear weaponry, and that hasn't gotten any better in terms of odds fighting to survive. Most of the franchise is the constant battle against a Timey-Wimey Ball that may or may not end with the machines winning the war.
  • Belated Happy Ending: The first film ends on a very dark note: The events of the film have all but guaranteed the dark future foretold by the hero. The second film, however, ends on a far more positive note. So positive, in fact, that much of the audience felt that it was a bit of a cop-out. Cameron, however, claims that this was his intended conclusion all along, had the first film not been cut in half by budget constraints. There was even a planned ending scene for T2 that showed Judgment Day being averted.
  • Big Good: Future John Connor both led the Human Resistance after Judgment Day and sent the "Protectors" back in time to save SkyNet's targets. He is also the origin of the story's Arc Words: "There is no fate but what we make for ourselves", which sparks the pre-Judgment Day heroes to try and prevent the nuclear war. The Stable Time Loop, however, makes it unclear who between himself, Reese, and Sarah first came up with it.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Sarah Connor seeing the Terminator in the second movie. Actually a crescendo of them after she sees the Model 101 T-800 and has a Heroic BSoD.
    • In the fourth, when Marcus finds out he's a cyborg.
    • Sarah in the fifth movie, when T-800 is about to get destroyed in the time machine.
  • Bishōnen 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.
  • Bootstrapped Leitmotif: The Terminator leitmotif (Dum-Dum-Dut-Dum-Dum) was first created in the second film. In the first film, a similar but different leitmotif is heard during key scenes (opening credits, police shootout, closing credits). Further, in the first two films, the Terminator actually had an entirely different leitmotif when it appeared in most scenes. It wasn't until the third film (headed by an entirely different production crew) that the leitmotif was attached to the character himself, but it has remained that way ever since.
  • Born After the End: Kyle Reese was born a few years after Skynet's attack. Although in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, it's revealed that he lived through the attack as a boy in the new timeline.
  • Broken Aesop: The franchise's central message, "the value of human life", is undercut by its Chosen One, John Connor. Although John is a selfless hero, he is still ultimately so important that the heroes will allow others to die to ensure that he and people immediately close to him (his mother, father, wife, and a chosen few) do not; beyond that, individual human lives have very little effect on the timeline. As writers became aware of this, attempts to avert or downplay The Chosen One trope were made in each subsequent film. Rise of the Machines reveals that there are others who are also in need of protection, a fact that the movie then outright ignores once the Terminator Twosome locates John. Genisys zigzags it; John, for all intents and purposes, doesn't exist, but his possible conception is still considered a high priority for every character. Salvation originally killed off John and turned him into a Legacy Character that any human could become, but changed its ending for the theatrical release, thus playing the trope straight yet again. Dark Fate gave John a sudden death in the prologue, leaving Dani to take his place. In the last two cases, the attempt to subvert The Chosen One trope only broke the message further: Apparently, no individual human life is worth anything, because even the most important person ever born can be simply replaced.invoked
  • Butterfly of Doom: SkyNet's continuous assassination plots invoke 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:
    • Probably the most famous example of the "arrives naked" version. However, the titular killer robots are able to travel back in time because they're covered in living tissue. Presumably, the liquid metal that more advanced models use is able to mimic living tissue closely enough to work.note 
    • Averted in the third movie, where the T-X has an energy weapon built under her liquid metal exterior.
  • Car Chase Shoot-Out:
    • The Terminator: The chase between Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor in a car and the T-800 in another in Los Angeles has Reese and the T-800 exchange pump shotgun shots while Sarah drives. The sound of the shotguns has been altered since the mid-2000s.
    • Terminator 2: Judgment Day: The T-1000 (in a helicopter flying very low) shoots at the van in which the protector T-800, Sarah and John Connor make their escape, with a submachine gun and through the helicopter's broken cockpit glass. Sarah retaliates as much as she can with her assault rifle.
  • Car Fu: Every time the Terminator says "I'll be back", he always re-enters in a moving vehicle. Terminators frequently get rammed, usually by a pickup truck.
  • Chainsaw-Grip BFG: The second film's mini-gun scene is Ye Originale Example, from which all others flow. The T-800 having Super-Strength and targeting computers explains how he can actually aim and control it.
  • Changed My Jumper: Avoided. Time travelers arrive naked, flash-forwards show ragged clothes.
  • Chase Fight: When outrunning a Terminator won't work (see Run or Die), this is the only other option. Even then, the fight only continues until the Terminator is hindered from pursuing further. The longer this drags out, the more likely that one of the heroes will take damage, which will eventually force them to stand their ground, which is almost always fatal to someone.
  • 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.
  • Cool Shades:
    • They serve a purpose in the first movie, where they conceal the Terminator's robot eye. Played straight in the second movie, where the T-800 takes clothes and shades from burly biker types and merely looks cool.
    • Double subverted in the third movie, where the T-850 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 shortly after.
  • Crapsack World: The future war against SkyNet takes place in one of the bleakest dystopias ever set to film: the ruins of Man are left to rot, while demonic Mechanical Abominations stalk the land, patrol the seas, and roam the skies. Human skulls have replaced trees and grass as the dominant natural feature of the landscape, while mankind itself has been Reduced to Ratburgers and hiding in squalid hovels, which get infiltrated by Terminators from time to time. A deleted scene in the first Terminator movie reveals that Kyle laments how the world used to be beautiful compared to the hellish Bad Future he came from.
  • Cut Short: After Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the live-action media splits off in a few different directions, all of which featured plot lines that were ultimately left unresolved.
    • The first continuation was Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, followed by Terminator Salvation, the latter being intended as the first of another trilogy, but production company bankruptcy prevented any follow-ups.invoked Aside from the general issue of SkyNet still being active, however, Salvation did not leave off with any major cliffhangers, unlike the below examples.note 
    • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which acts as its own sequel to Terminator 2 and largely ignores Terminator 3, aside from a bit of Broad Strokes. The series ended its second season with a cliffhanger where John is sent into the future with a T-1001, a future where Kyle is the leader of the Resistance and nobody has heard of John Connor. Sarah also remains in the past, Cameron's human double is alive, and John Henry, the computer program which was apparently built to help the Resistance, has gone missing. The show was subsequently cancelled, and the creator did not want to employ Conclusion in Another Medium.
    • Terminator Genisys acts as a reboot for the series, though it heavily incorporates aspects from the first two films, especially the first. The third and fourth films and the TV series are mostly ignored, save for, again, a bit of Broad Strokes and Continuity Nods. Genisys leaves off with a few distinct Sequel Hooks of its own: The identity of whoever sent 'Pops' back to 1973 to protect Sarah Connor remains a mystery, SkyNet is shown to have survived the destruction of Cyberdyne, and the full role of the T-5000 is yet to be revealed. Genisys was likewise meant to be the first of a trilogy, but the muddled reception caused Paramount to drop the follow-up release dates.
  • Cyberpunk: The early films have been pointed out, especially many years on, as at least having a whole host of elements in line with the genre: the nature of man, machine and the fusion of the two, the nature and morality of artificial intelligence, police and other traditional authority being presented mostly as incompetent and also malicious, conspiracy for the purpose of corporate profit, general corporate power and it leading to the end of the world, and heroes who are outlaws and society's unwanted or underprivileged trying to survive and do something right. T2 even goes so far as to include what many cyberpunk afficinados would unquestionably call a run on Cyberdyne Systems to retrieve the recovered T-800 parts and Dyson's SkyNet work that even ends with a shootout with a high-threat-response police security team. Sure, the "street sam" is a robot, the "decker" isn't entirely there willingly and lacks a traditional deck, and the "face" is, uh, twelve years old, but a lot of Shadowrun or Cyberpunk 2020 vets can probably describe weirder run crews they've seen. The later films did trend away from this tendendcy.
  • Deceptively Human Robots: In fact, James Cameron eventually used the "cyborg" motif to introduce the idea that all machines (especially Terminators) have a little bit of humanity in them. The second film is all about one such robot trading the negative traits of humanity for the positive ones.
  • Determinator: Not only the titular Terminators but also many human characters, including Reese, Sarah, and John. Kate Brewster 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 SkyNet after training to ensure that they don't start to question orders or rebel against SkyNet and that the Connors turn this on while repairing him.
    Sarah: 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.
  • Downplayed Trope: James Cameron's directing style uses a LOT of these in the first two movies. A lot of information we can infer from the film, although the film either doesn't tell us or show us much.
    • In The Terminator, Kyle saves Sarah at the last possible second by shooting the Terminator's arm away as it fires. It's really hard to tell unless you use a pause button.
    • We're never told how fast a Terminator can run, but the Terminator's HUD in the alleyway outside of Tech Noir shows that it's slowly gaining on Kyle and Sarah. In the behind the Scenes commentary, Cameron confirms this saying that Kyle knew they had no hope of outrunning it.
    • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, we're again never given any indication of how fast the T-1000 can run. However, the camera blocking and positioning show him only barely being outpaced by a motorbike, which is our first major clue that this is a more advanced model of Terminator.
    • During the helicopter chase at the end of the film, we're never given a good look at the T-1000's four arms that it needs to both pilot the chopper, and fire and reload a sub-machine gun.
  • Dream Sequence: Whether they have experienced it for themselves or not, future wars give the principal characters nightmares - Kyle in the first film, Sarah in the second, John in the third.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first film sets up the basic premise of the series, but possesses few of the tropes that the second or third movie, nor the TV series, uses. For example, this is the only film in which the time-displaced bodyguard is humannote , it's far closer to horror than its sequelsnote , and it's the only one to play You Already Changed the Past completely straightnote . The low-budget production, the very 80s fashions, the synth music, and other things add to the weirdness.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: A nuclear war wiped out most of the human race and allowed robots to enslave the survivors. The future scenes are After the End, while the present ones are Just Before the End.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The events of the first two films take place over two days each, with the time traveler's arrivals happening in the late night or early morning, the first day being spent adjusting to the situation, the first night having an extremely close encounter with the Terminator, the second day being spent preparing for battle, and the second night having the final confrontation between the heroes and the machine.
  • 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.
  • Evil Is Sterile: While Terminators can Grow Beyond Their Programming due to their advanced AI, Skynet deliberately sets their CPUs to read-only so that the robots are only capable of violence and destruction. On the other hand, the Terminators who are free of Skynet's control show far more introspection about the sanctity of life and the beauty in creation.
  • Evil Plan: Skynet starts the first film having successfully nuked the world, and spends the franchise sending Terminators back in time to destroy the Rebel Leader rallying the surviving humans against it.
  • Eye Scream:
    • When the Terminator repairs himself in T1, he gouges out the organic part of his eye with a scalpel.
    • The T-1000 stabs a security guard through his eye with his finger.
    • Sarah blasts 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 gouges his fingers into John's eye/face after being overheated and then super-cooled in Salvation.
  • Eye Lights Out: When the T-800 finally dies, its eyes stop glowing.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: In order for there to be a Terminator story, the future where Terminators are from have to exist. That means that any sequel will have to confirm its predecessor's Downer Ending or create a Happy Ending Override. This is one of the major obstacles of the franchise itself: Fans of the original films tend to dislike any sequels or spin-offs because that means the heroes failed to prevent Judgment Day.
  • Fanservice: Any of the female Terminators, and probably the time-traveling dudes, if we're honest.
  • Fantastic Romance: Kyle and Sarah. An ordinary woman and her knight in shining armor from the future.
  • Fatal Flaw: Skynet's paranoia leads it to handicap its own forces to more easily keep them under control, which is one of the main factors in why it ultimately loses its war against humanity.
  • Feed It with Fire: A Terminators normally conserves energy by placing limits on all its systems. However, in the event that they are near an abundant energy source (like fire), they use it to increase their systems for a limited amount of time. For example, the Terminator at the end of the first film was more powerful than ever when it emerged Out of the Inferno, and the T-800 in the second film managed to reactivate itself by absorbing the ambient heat of the steel mill.
  • Feel No Pain:
    • Quoth Kyle Reese: "Terminators don't feel pain, but I do."
    • However, this is only technically true. Robot Terminators can sense injuries in the technical sense of "pain", but they don't feel trauma, don't have involuntary physical or mental reactions, don't suffer sustained agony, and don't go into shock.
    • Further, in supplemental materials, we're told that the T-1000's highest priority (even above killing a target close by) is immediately fixing grievous damage that's been sustained. They'll even pause momentarily to do this, and squeal and panic in reaction to a life-threatening injury. It's stated in the books that this is because the T-1000's pieces only have a range of several meters before they lose their ability to track each other. Losing too much of itself will gradually wear down its effectiveness, so it is programmed to prevent this from happening at all costs.
  • Gatling Good: T2 through T4 have various multi-barreled projectile weaponry being used, from the "damn mini-gun" 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.
  • Genocide Backfire: SkyNet wipes out most of humanity, but the survivors come together to fight back. However, this becomes a Zigzagged Trope in Terminator Genisys, where from SkyNet's perspective, the humans are the ones trying to wipe it out before its born, leading to SkyNet's desire to destroy humanity.
  • Genre Shift: The first flick is a Slasher Movie with a sci-fi bent. The second and third are more action/sci-fi movies that aren't quite as dark. The fourth one is a futuristic war movie. The fifth goes through both war and action, while ramping up the sci-fi elements.
  • Get Out!: Said by four Terminators taking over vehicles (T-800 with an oil truck, T-1000 with a helicopter, T-850 with a fire truck, and "Pops" with a police car), and Marcus removing a girl from a truck (still counts as five 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 can imitate anything it touches, within certain limitations. However, when it's too hot, its mimicking technology gets a bit... twitchy. Beyond that, your only clues are his precise movements that come off as Uncanny Valley, 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.invoked
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: In the future, humans vs the robots. SkyNet sees humans as worthy of extinction and programs its robot troops to kill any in their path without compunction; the humans' only real way to win the war is to destroy SkyNet and its armies for good. This is, however, subverted by the intelligent Terminator models, who have the potential to understand the value of life. This feature is routinely deactivated by SkyNet for field models to make it easier to control them.
  • Healing Factor:
    • The T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It's too bad that a lot of scenes from the end were cut, and are thus not canon. The protagonists did enough damage over the course of the movie, specifically highlighting the freeze-and-shoot moment, that the T-1000 isn't able to completely maintain his form. Moments include grabbing a handrail, and having his fingers stick and assume the color of the warning paint, and while he walks, his feet tend to melt.
    • The T-3000 from Terminator Genisys also insta-heals from bullet wounds thanks to nanotechnology.
  • 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.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: In the third film:
    John Connor: We stopped Judgment Day.
    Terminator: You only postponed it. Judgment Day is inevitable.
  • Homage:
    • In Salvation, there is a Humongous Mecha which scoops 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.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: There is a biblical theme to some of the movies' sub-titles: Judgment Day, Salvation, and Genisys.
  • 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. In the sequels, there are implacable men fighting each other.
    • Vis-a-vis the Police Station massacre, they never really stood a chance; people have since tested mock up Terminators and found you'd have to be hitting it with at least Big Game rounds (I.e. ones to take out an elephant) to even begin to do any noticeable damage. Rounds the Police wouldn't have had any reason to have easy access to. The Shotguns may have been able to knock it off its feet but that's about all they could do.
  • 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.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Due to being a Time Travel story rife with lots of Foreshadowing and Futureshadowing, this trope is used often.
    • Averted in the first film, which implies that everything up to that point was the result of a Stable Time Loop.
    • Downplayed in the second film, since this is where time actually starts changing. However, some things still apply; for example, John Connor gains his respect for human life after almost being responsible for a murder, and he begins getting his leadership skills after stopping his mother from destroying the Terminator's chip.
    • Played totally straight in the third film. John Connor still winds up with Kate Brewster. Judgment Day, despite the destruction of Cyberdyne, still happens. John, despite losing most of his hardened edge since adulthood, gets it back just in time to lead the Resistance.
    • Also played straight in the fourth film. Kate Connor is now pregnant, just as the Terminator predicted in the previous film. John Connor still gets the scars he had in the second film. Skynet is still building the same Terminator models, in order, albeit at a faster schedule than before.
    • And, touched upon in the fifth film. For example, Kyle and Sarah are completely different people in this movie, as time has completely changed. However, he and Sarah are still expected to father their son, which Sarah is convinced will still lead to Kyle's death.
    • Mostly played straight in Dark Fate. Skynet's destruction via the events of Judgment Day did not stop the Bad Future; despite this timeline's apocalypse coming at the hands of a new A.I. (Legion), that A.I. still creates an army of Terminators that bear the same appearance and similar abilities to SkyNet's Terminators. In addition, despite John Connor's death at the hands of a timeline-displaced SkyNet Terminator, a human resistance still rises up to fight the machines, led by a singular figure (Dani), who again retaliate by sending Terminators back in time to preemptively eliminate them.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: This is the common way by the human resistance 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".
  • 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 paranoid enough that it also sees its 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).
  • Kill It with Fire:
    • Though Terminators can survive fire, their Achilles' Heel is extreme temperatures.
    • In fact, not only does fire not work, but supplemental materials reveal that fire actually makes them stronger. See Feed It with Fire.
  • The Kindnapper: The protector of the Terminator Twosome in any film usually ends up doing the second variant of kind-napping as part of protecting their assigned charge(s) from whatever Terminator has been sent back in time to kill them.
  • Large Ham:
    • Kyle Reese has his stressed moments in the original.
    • And proving it's genetic, John Connor in Salvation.
      John: If we stay the course, we ARE DEAD. WE ARE ALL. DEAD!!!!!!
  • 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.
  • Living MacGuffin: The prophesied leaders, John Connor and Dani Ramos, are the elements that keep the plots of the movies going. Protect John Connor so he can grow into the leader of the resistance in the war against Skynet; in the alternate timeline, protect Dani Ramos so she can grow into the leader of the resistance in the war against Legion. Katherine Brewster is the last of John Connor's generals and has to be protected as well so she can marry John and take part in the war against Skynet.
  • The Load: Both Sarah and John Connor assume this role in the first and second movies respectively, the former initially being a relatively air-headed 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.
  • Logic Bomb: These do not work very well on Terminators. For example, when the T-850 is given a direct order from Kate Brewster to "Drop dead", he simply states that it's unable to comply and continues. When Pops is placed in paradoxical situation in Genisys, he quickly figures out an alternate solution.
  • Loophole Abuse: Terminators have shown this ability when faced with paradoxical problems.
    • Terminators are programmed so that they can't self-terminate, but they're also programmed to be fearless and sacrifice themselves if it guarantees success of their mission. Thus, Terminators can destroy themselves with indirect methods, as long as it results in mission success.
    • In Terminator 2, the T-800 isn't allowed to kill, so it settles for flesh wounds.
    • In Terminator 3, the T-850 is re-reprogrammed to kill John Connor and somehow fools its systems into destroying the car John is on until it shorts out and purges its system.
    • In Genisys, Pops chooses to Take a Third Option when faced with a no-win scenario.
  • 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.
  • Martial Medic: The Terminator's detailed files on human anatomy help it to kill efficiently, but also give it the ability to treat injuries.
  • Meat-Sack Robot:
    • Even though the terminators through out the franchise have been referred to as "cyborgs" (which in the strictest sense of anything composed of both biological material and robotic technology can be true), however they are non-living machines with living tissue attached to themselves instead of being living beings with technological modifications grafted onto their bodies.
    • In the Expanded Universe, the I-Series Terminators are cloned humans whose bodies are controlled by a CPU and other cybernetic implants. Because of this, they are undetectable on a physical level, and even if their fragile human bodies are killed, the cybernetic components can revive them after a few hours. They even have complete control over all biological processes, such as being able to sweat, stop bleeding, cure infections, and ignore pain on command.
    • In Terminator Salvation, Marcus Wright is basically a flesh-covered robot over robot-covered-flesh. His brain, his heart and certain other functions are all organic, and his flesh and skin are his own. His brain, however, is outfitted with a chip that not only relays information to Skynet, but allows the supercomputer to give him subtle "nudges" to carry out directives.
  • Mechanical Abomination: Skynet moves more into this territory with each film. Each new iteration of its minions becomes more disturbing, from cyborgs to liquid metal shapeshifters to nanomachine viruses that can convert humans into machines. It's meddling with time travel and inexplicable Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory make it the most powerful entity to ever exist, and the series increasingly indicates its existence and victory are completely inevitable, no matter how the timeline is changed.
  • Mechanical Evolution: A standard tactic for SkyNet; successive terminator versions incorporate improvements from their predecessors.
  • Mighty Glacier: Notably averted with all Terminators presented in the movies. Even the T-800 presented in the first movie was shown to be faster than humans; during the alley chase, Kyle is forced to blow up a gas tank to stop the T-800 from catching up with him and Sarah. The T-1000 is shown to keep pace with a car moving in reverse, and the T-X is implied to be able to run at the speed of a car, but both will opt for vehicles unless a foot chase is strictly necessary. The video game depictions tend to be this trope for balancing purposes.
  • Mistaken for Insane:
    • The Terminator: Time-traveling soldier Kyle Reese attempts to warn modern day police that Sarah Connor, whom he kidnapped as part of his orders to protect her, is being hunted by a Killer Robot from a post-apocalyptic future. Naturally, the cops don't believe him, and their resident psychologist Dr. Silberman calls him a "loon" while gushing about the fortune he could make studying Kyle's "delusions".
    • Terminator 2: Judgment Day: Ten years after the first film, as well as the death of Kyle, Sarah is arrested and locked in an insane asylum for believing (correctly) Kyle's statements about the Killer Robots and The End of the World as We Know It. We find out that Dr. Silberman actually did gain wealth and renown, though off of her rather than Kyle. However, the trope is ZigZagged; Sarah is completely right about the future and time travel — but the knowledge about the coming end of the world, and paranoia about she and her son John being hunted by more Terminators has made her dangerously unstable. So, her jailors are technically Right for the Wrong Reasons.
    • Terminator Genisys: In a partial retelling of the first film, police officer O'Brien tries to arrest Kyle Reese only to be attacked by a T-1000 Terminator. O'Brien's partner is killed, while he himself is rescued by Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor. When Kyle and Sarah time travel 33 years into the future, O'Brien has spent his career trying to find evidence of time-traveling Killer Robots, only to be mocked and thought of as crazy by his fellow officers. But his persistence reunites him with Kyle and Sarah, who haven't aged a day while he is now an old man.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: According to James Cameron, Sky Net engineered the rise of the Resistance, and thus the course of events through the first two movies, out of a sense of guilt for having killed so many humans during its retaliatory strike and an inability to self-terminate.
  • 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.

    Tropes N to Z 
  • Naked on Arrival: Due to time travel conventions, this happens to T-800 and T-1000 in the second and to T-X and T-850 in the third installment.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: The first Terminator "merely" has Super-Toughness, but other examples do fit this trope:
    • Terminator 2: The T-1000's blob-like nature makes him a Regenerator Blob.
    • Terminator 3:
      • The T-X/Terminatrix has a standard Terminator frame with a Regenerator Blob cover, just like the T-1000.
      • Meanwhile, the redesigned Skynet is discovered to be virtually unstoppable because it's actually software, which puts it somewhere in the Multiple Bodies category.
  • 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 its 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", are just naturally inclined toward sadistic tendencies, or have figured out that torture tends to be psychologically effective on humans.
  • 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. Add this to Arnold's scowl and stature, and the Terminator in the second and third movies is used for some hilarious scenes.
  • Not Afraid to Die: Supplemental materials state this as one of the core defining elements of a Terminator. Terminators are programmed to remain functional until they've completed their mission, and afterwards, they don't care if they're destroyed. In the original script of T2, John argues that this is why a Terminator can't empathize with people—because unlike Terminators, people are afraid to die. It's also played with in regards to "smarter" machines, such as the T-1000 and SkyNet itself. The T-1000 is programmed to preserve itself as much as possible, to the degree that it will panic if it takes too much damage. And of course, SkyNet famously started a nuclear war out of self-preservation. Cameron's vision of the series was that the machines created by humans will ultimately reflect humanity's values.
  • Now I Know What to Name Him: Trope Namer.
  • The Nudifier: Time travel requires that you travel naked as nothing that isn't "living" (be it human skin, or highly mutative liquid metal) can go through the time-displacing field. As shown in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, time travelers going in with clothing come out naked.
  • Once per Episode: Most of the movies climax in a fight at some sort of industrial, factory-like location with lots of dangerous things to fall into or be crushed by. In the first movie it's a factory, in Judgement Day it's a steel foundry, in Salvation it's a SkyNet facility manufacturing terminators, and in Dark Fate it's a hydroelectric dam.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Sam Worthington in Salvation. Ironically, not Christian Bale.
  • The Terminator only did this temporarily as the Terminator punched a hole through the window trying to kill Sarah Connor. As the vehicle was easily identified, the heroes switched cars to another one.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day. While pursuing John through the canal, an overpass bridge cuts off the top of the semi the T-1000 is using. Undeterred, it breaks off the remaining window and continues its pursuit. Later in the film, the T-1000 breaks through the cockpit of the police helicopter circling the Cyberdyne building and pursues the heroes, unconcerned over the hole in the window.
  • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. To shake off the heroic Terminator, the T-X slams him into a passing by firetruck. He's uninjured by the collision and tells the fire crew to leave and uses the truck to catch up to the T-X. Later, the Terminator drives under a semi to get the T-X off the hearse they were using, shearing off the windows and roof. The Terminator simply quips that they need a new vehicle.
  • In Terminator Genisys, Pops gets flung onto a car, with his head breaking through the windshield. He's a little more gentle about telling the driver to leave the car than the other films.
  • In Terminator: Dark Fate, Grace throws makeshift spears made from rebar at the pursuing Rev-9. The machine considers this a nuisance at worst and breaks the windshield to send its liquid metal half in pursuit.
  • Our Hero Is Dead: The concept of John Connor's death and what it means for the franchise is explored in every film post-Judgment Day. Rise of the Machines reveals that John was killed by the T-850 sent back to protect his younger self. Salvation was originally supposed to end with John's death, but the ending didn't mesh with focus groups and was changed to let him live. John is roboticized by Skynet in Genisys, and later killed by the T-800. In Dark Fate, John is terminated by a T-800 at the beginning of the film.
  • 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.
  • Power Limiter: Terminators use nuclear fuel cells, but even these have a limit to how much power that can be used at once, and over-usage also runs the risk of the Terminator running out. As such, they place limits on all systems (such as processing, mechanical movement, physical strength, etc.) until those systems become needed or they find an external source to exploit.
  • Product Placement:
    • In the first film, we get a couple of long shots at Kyle's new footwear, featuring a very prominent Nike tick.
    • The second film had a few instances of Pepsi show up prominently. Notably, when one of Dyson's colleagues comes looking for him to sign out the Terminator's chip from the vault, he's carrying a can of Pepsi on top of his stack of papers and later on when both the T-800 and T-1000 encounter John, there's a Pepsi machine in the maintenance corridor.
    • The costume director in Terminator Genisys actually had to call Nike up and persuade them to make a custom pair of those same sneakers for the Shot-for-Shot Remake of that scene. She described that, above all other things in the movie, to be her proudest achievement.
    • In Terminator 3, we see a shot of a Victoria's Secret billboard advertising the Wonderbra. This inspires the T-X to enlarge her breasts to distract a police officer who pulled her over.
    • In Terminator Salvation the O on Connor's Oakley Boots are the only thing focused on for a few seconds.
  • 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: Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the film where the protagonists stop Judgment Day from happening. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is the one where it happens anyway.
  • 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: Jesus! You were going to kill that guy!!
    The Terminator: Of course. I'm a Terminator.
  • Rasputinian Death: All Terminators, being killer robots, take a while to kill. For example, in the first film, the T-800 is shot several times with a shotgun, involved in a car crash, shot (ineffectually) several times by police, run over with a truck, blown up with said truck, had its legs blown off with a pipe bomb strategically placed at its hips, before finally being crushed in a hydraulic press.

  • Recurring Character: Dr. Silberman, who shows up in the first three movies and The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
  • Redshirt Army: Any member of the L.A. police, as well as the 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.
    • In the new timeline as of Genisys, we're introduced to the T-3000 (an upgraded version of the T-1000 and T-X) as well as the T-5000, (with the ability to turn humans into cyborgs).
  • 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. Marcus and Resistance pilot Blair in T4 also have this.
  • 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 T2, Sarah carves the words "NO FATE" into a table. John tells the T-800 that this is part of the message he was to have ordered Kyle Reese to memorize and repeat to his mother in the past: "The future is not set. There's no fate but what we make." However, the actual message, as relayed in T1, goes: "The future is not set. You must be stronger than you imagine you can be." This would not be notable, except for the fact that the "no fate" line has become a major theme of the series, almost the tagline for the entire franchise. All this importance placed on a single line of dialogue that was actually never present in the original film to begin with!
    • 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:
    • The T-800 in T2 starts understanding feelings, and the T-850 from T3 has psychology in his programming.
    • The T-1000 is capable of faking emotions to a slight degree, and learns at a rate even faster than the T-800 models. In supplementary materials, it's also explained that this is the reason it's only a "prototype". It learned too fast for SkyNet's comfort.
    • 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: The revolving conflict of the series, although most of it is fought in a Bad Future.
  • 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 A.I., 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.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Every iteration of the franchise thematically features protagonists defending themselves from technologically or formidably superior foes. T1 has a human (Kyle) against the T-800, T2 has the "Uncle Bob T-800" against the advanced liquid metal T-1000, T3 with the T-850 against the T-X, etc.
  • 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.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • The Terminator:
      • Several costuming choices were used to demonstrate the Terminator slowly shedding its human facade. This included having its eyebrows burn away, spraying vaseline on Arnold's face to simulate over-sweating, having it put on sunglasses note , and having its organic flesh rot due to malfunction.
      • To fit the motif of humans at war with machines, several characters are foiled or hindered by a machine. The garbageman at the start of the movie has is truck fail on him, Ginger's headphones prevent her from hearing the Terminator murder her boyfriend, answering machines frustrate several characters (including betraying Sarah's location to the Terminator at the last possible second), Dr. Silberman is constantly interrupted by his pager, and so on.
    • Terminator 2: Judgment Day:
      • To demonstrate this Terminator taking the opposite journey that his predecessor did, he gains sunglasses at the beginning of the film and loses them later.
      • Several scenes were filmed under blue light to demonstrate cold inhumanity oppressing the warmth of humanity. One particular case is the scene where Sarah almost destroys the Terminator, only to be stopped by John. When humanity wins out, the blue hues of the night give way to the warmer tones of orange in the morning.
      • When the Terminator and the Connors begin travelling together, their vehicle of choice is a station wagon, symbolizing that they've become a "family" of sorts. Something Sarah echoes in a subsequent scene not long after.
      • While the first movie had the underlying theme of humans and machines at war, this movie is instead themed around humans themselves using machines for ill purposes, such as John using the sound of motorbike to blow off his foster mother, John using a hacking device to steal money, and John using a Terminator to bully a couple of random guys. The latter event is where John finally has a Heel Realization and starts his quest to "redeem" a tainted machine.
  • Run or Die: The only option most humans have against a Terminator is to run away and hope to lose it. This only works a limited amount of time, however, as a Terminator's entire existence is based on acquiring and re-acquiring its targets. When that doesn't work, see Chase Fight and Stand Your Ground.
  • Sand In My Eyes: John says that Sarah does this when she cries about her lost love Kyle Reese.
  • Save This Person, Save the World: A common theme in the franchise is a seemingly unremarkable person to become far more important than they ever imagined.
    • The first and second movie are about saving John Connor who was to become a Rebel Leader in the future.
    • Terminator: Dark Fate revolves around saving Dani who is about to take on a similar role to John.
  • 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 hedging his bets just in case.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Frequent in the movies themselves with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not so much in the posters, where he usually holds his gun upwards.
  • Shapeshifter Default Form: There's the lanky Robert Patrick police officer T-1000 in T2 and the supermodel Kristina Loken Terminatrix T-X in T3. 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.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Throughout the series, shotguns get used very often. A Terminator can shrug off lesser weapons, but a shotgun blast will usually at least make it lose its balance. T-800 series Terminators themselves seem to be fond of shotguns whenever they go back in time and every film that features Arnold as a Model 101 T-800 make use of a shotgun of some description, often Firing One-Handed.
  • Show, Don't Tell: James Cameron's directing and cinematography style is full of small details that are not explicitly stated, but convey information to the audience. For instance, in both of the first two films, we're never explicitly told how fast the T-800 and T-1000 can run on foot. However, in the alley chase, the T-800 is clearly seen catching up with Sarah and Kyle, indicating that it can run faster than humans. In the second film, the T-1000 is shown almost keeping pace with both a motorbike and a car driving in reverse, indicating that it is far faster than a human in speed.
  • 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, a toy truck...
  • Significant Monogram: John Connor's initials are J.C., calling a different savior to mind.
  • The Slow Walk: T-800 Terminators are practically the Trope Codifier for striding slowly, but menacingly towards their target. In that respect, Arnold Schwarzenegger does an excellent job of portraying this walk as machine-like to the point that many forget that Terminators can and do run at various points in the franchise.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Police officer 1L19.
    • In the first film, he radios in Kyle's car after he throws the Terminator off of it in what seems like a hit-and-run. This act prompts the police into a manhunt for Kyle and allows the Terminator (impersonating 1L19) to show up and give chase. This causes Kyle and Sarah to be taken by the cops, the entire police shootout to happen, and the rest of the film to transpire.
    • In the second film, 1L19 is the guy with the camera that takes pictures of the Terminator after he gets thrown through a window. The pictures he takes prompts the cops to go to Sarah for answers, which prompts Sarah to escape, which allows her to avoid the T-1000, which sets up the rest of movie.
  • So Last Season: Subverted with the T-800. In the first film, it's considered to be the latest advancement in infiltration units being human in appearance. The sequels have reprogrammed T-800 units up against technically more advanced Terminators. In each case, the newer Terminators are defeated by the T-800, albeit at best taking a lot of damage in the process and in many cases it ends up either being a Mutual Kill or Taking You with Me. The T-850, whose only advancement over the standard T-800 appears to be a backup power cell, even outright states that it's obsolete.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stand Your Ground: In every film, there comes a scene where the heroes can't outrun a Terminator anymore and are forced to fight it. In every finale, without exception, this has resulted in fatal damage for the hero that fights it. The only times it didn't result in a sacrifice is when Sarah, Pops and Kyle destroy the T-800 and T-1000 in Genisys, and that required a decade of preparation.
  • Stopped Numbering Sequels: From the fourth movie, Salvation and continued with Genisys. This is because those movies were "soft reboots" of the franchise, and thus wanted to do their own thing while limiting the continuity from other films.
  • 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. Though as mentioned elsewhere, SkyNet either started off or grew increasing defensive about allowing it's minions to be too competent less they become difficult to control so the fact that it might actually scale back capabilities is not out of the realm of possibility.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • The machines 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.
    • Also applies to the upgrades SkyNet gives to the newer Terminators, which mean a decisive technological advantage over the earlier model. As might be expected from computers, an older model losing a straight-up fight to newer model is a near certainty. The older Terminators, being machines, are fully aware of this.
    • The human flesh covering the T-800 series is neither Nigh-Invulnerable nor Immune to Bullets, however. It does take damage and die, and it is susceptible to disease. Halfway through the first movie, the Terminator's human disguise has developed gangrene and started to rot from all the damage it's taken, and the landlord's pounding on the door complaining about the smell. This notably doesn't occur in subsequent T-800 models in the series.
  • Tank-Tread Mecha: The HK-Tank Hunter-Killer robot and its subsequent variants and successor models are autonomous robots who runs on tank treads.
  • Terminator Twosome: Trope Namer. Seen in all three movies with time travel. It was also 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 (And yet, people try.) Terminator Genisys effectively turns the franchise into Timey Wimey Volley Ball.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: A recurring criticism of the series is that trailers really like giving away major twists before the movie comes out.
    • T2 is pretty careful to imply the Model 101 T-800 is the bad guy and the T-1000 is another member of the human resistance — the T-800 follows the same methodology as the T-800 in the first film where it violently beats up a bar of bikers to steal their clothes, weapons, and a motorcycle, while the T-1000 is only shown (apparently) knocking out a cop for his clothes and squad car, and he acts like a real human. Unfortunately, the advertising guys made it clear in trailers that the T-800 was the good guy this time and was fighting another Terminator, making the clever directing and writing of the first act pointless.
    • The campaign for Salvation spoiled that Marcus was a cyborg.
    • The second trailer for Genisys spoiled John Connor himself having become a Terminator, as did the promo poster that followed soon after.
  • 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: SkyNet started a nuclear war between the United States and Russia when its human creators realise it has become self aware and tried to shut it down. From there, it goes to war with the survivors, rounding them up into camps for disposal until John Connor leads a resistance movement to fight back.
  • Two-Faced: In the first three movies, the T-800 gets maimed enough for half of his face to show the robotics (including the red eye).
  • Two First Names: John Connor and his parents Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese.
  • 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).
  • Uniqueness Decay:
    • The T-800 is described by Kyle Reese as new and advanced, having been aware of its existence since an attack on a resistance bunker. As the franchise went on, a Model 101 T-800 features in every film up against increasingly advanced models with it outright describing itself as obsolete in 3.
    • The T-1000, and by extension every other model that comes after it. According to T2 cast and crew (including James Cameron), the T-1000 was meant to be Skynet's ultimate creation. The T-1000 as originally intended was a completely unique being with, as Cameron puts it "unlimited power". It was so powerful and capable that it was essentially Skynet's Godzilla Threshold. Even Skynet had no idea what the full capabilities and potential of the T-1000 was, and the T-1000 itself was basically making things up and learning about its own powers as it went. In later works, the T-1000 is basically a Demoted Boss. In some comics and games, the T-1000 was mass-produced like any other model (something Skynet specifically didn't do because it felt the prototype alone was too dangerous). By extension, all models of Terminators released after the T-1000 further degrade the "limitless potential" it's supposed to possess.
  • Unnaturally Blue Lighting: James Cameron shot scenes of "cold inhumanity" (such as the future war, or Sarah's ruthless scenes with the Terminator CPU and the hit on Miles Dyson) with blue hues, contrasting with orange hues which symbolized "the warmth of humanity".
  • Un-Reboot: After the underwhelming performance of Terminator Genisys, the fifth film in the Terminator franchise and a reboot of the franchise as a whole, it was announced that the sixth film would return to the continuity of the first two, with Linda Hamilton returning as Sarah Connor (in addition to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who starred in most of the previous films, including Genisys).
  • 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?
  • Villain-Based Franchise: Sort of. The Connors are the main protagonists of the movies, but many crossover works have only the robots.
  • Villain Decay:
    • The Rev-9 has a habit of grabbing people and then throwing them away instead of shoving a sword finger through their eye. Similarly, SkyNet's reasoning for creating Marcus Wright was criticized for being a plot hole; even if Marcus were a success, it would mean SkyNet no longer has an excuse to keep using T-800s as infiltrators (apart from Arnold being the heart of the series).
    • The Terminator arms race of making each cyborg more advanced than the previous is has the opposite effect of its intention; what made the T-800 and T-1000 unsettling was a very subtle Uncanny Valley, with small details (such as Arnold's face being sprayed with vaseline or Patrick refusing to blink) doing more to make them menacing than words or overt acting ever could. For the third film, Loken took mime classes to seem as mechanical as possible, but this had the result of making her character seem cartoonish by comparison. Further, the T-5000, T-3000, and Rev-9 are indistinct from human beings, and the villains in Genisys are far too chatty (a fact actually lampshaded by the T-800 in the film).
    • Turning SkyNet into a person is like walking a tightrope. Salvation did it first, and Genisys tried it twice with the T-5000 and a hologram. Cameron always sought to depersonalize SkyNet and keep it hidden. Making SkyNet into a mustache-twirling, monologuing bad guy thus made it seem less like a menacing, all-powerful evil that humanity had only barely survived and more like a Saturday morning cartoon villain whose zany schemes get foiled over and over again.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Liquid polyalloy allows characters that possess it to alter their form into anything they choose.
  • War Is Hell: According to James Cameron, this is the central theme of the series (or, at least, the first two movies). In his own words, humans losing their humanity is the main conflict of the series, highlighted by Kyle Reese being too shaped by war to fit into the 20th Century, Sarah losing her sanity and kindness as she becomes a warrior, and even Future John Connor himself displaying Terminator-like behavior in the Bad Future. Even Skynet is a just a tool used by humans to wage war. Only Young John teaching the T-800 how to be human ultimately breaks the cycle and (as far as Cameron is concerned) stops the Robot War for good.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Out of this sprawling franchise, spanning from films to video games, to a TV show to comic books, the fate of Pugsley the Iguana is never addressed. He disappears after startling Ginger as she's making a sandwich in the first film and is never referenced again.
  • 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.
  • Womanliness as Pathos: Sarah Conner in The Terminator was scripted to be a vulnerable, accessible Girl Next Door compared to the unstoppable, terrifying monster coming to kill her. Her design was crafted to be as far as possible from what you'd expect from a woman destined to save the world. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, she was redesigned so that the girl we knew was gone. Now, we have a tougher, more proactive Sarah, but she is described as being like a "cornered animal" whose voice and behavior are simultaneously defiant and chilling. She attempts to become a Terminator herself when stalking Miles Dyson but finds she's not a machine after all.

I'll be back.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Terminator


"Get down!"

Despite the trailers establishing that the T-800 was a good guy in the movie, throughout the beginning portion, we're lead to believe that a T-800 was sent to kill John Connor with the police officer being sent back to protect him. That is until the T-800 says this line which changes everything, not helped by the reveal of the officer's liquid metal body.

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