- The "burning playground" opening, juxtaposed to Brad Fidel's gentle and heartfelt rendition of the otherwise tragic and bleak original Terminator theme, strikes just the right emotional nerves, not only underscoring the horror of Judgment Day but also reminding us of how important it is to save this world for the next generation.
- The death of John's dog, Max, at the hands of the T-1000note . Sarah had gotten the dog for John some time before her capture and incarceration, specifically for the purpose of protecting him from Terminator infiltrators. It's doubtful how much John believed in the efficacy of his dog's protection after his mother's incarceration, as opposed to just valuing him as a pet, but Max's loud, repeated barking that could be heard over the phone, in addition to "Janelle's" uncharacteristic behavior, was enough to raise John's suspicions and foil the T-1000's attempt to lure John to his death. Though subsequently killed by the T-1000, Max was still able to protect his master at the end.
- Doubles as an In-Universe Tear Jerker: Sarah harshly complains when she reunites with John, who was expecting some warmth and affection, but is instead devastated by her callous response.
- The novelization takes it a step further; Sarah has been desperate to toughen up her son, to prepare him for the war to come, but seeing the hate in his eyes after brushing him off, she laments at how much this whole mess has cost them.
- John and the T-800 watch a couple of kids play with toy guns:John: We're not going to make it, are we? People, I mean.
- As Sarah is about to murder Dyson in cold-blood in front of his family, she realizes that she has become exactly like what she hates the most and collapses, shaken by fear and remorse.
- Sarah is trying to steel herself in killing Dyson by shouting, "IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!" Dyson, bleeding from a previous gunshot wound, innocently utters "What?" He was about to be killed in front of his family and he honestly does not know why.
- When John and the T-800 enter, John checks on his mother and she just starts apologizing for how she's treated him after seeing how Danny protected his father as best as he could, and how Dyson never once scolded his son or yelled at him, instead trying to reassure his son and keep him safe, where she had gotten angry with John, all for caring.
- Sarah's summation of the T-800 about how despite or even because of its inherent inhumanity, it is the perfect father figure for John. Now think of how it sacrifices itself in the hopes of preventing Judgement Day. Sarah's life was forever changed by the few days she knew Kyle Reese, and John's was equally changed by the few days he knew the T-800.Sarah: Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The Terminator would never stop, it would never leave him... it would always be there. And it would never hurt him, never shout at him or get drunk and hit him, or say it couldn't spend time with him because it was too busy. And it would die to protect him. Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine, was the only one who measured up. In an insane world, it was the sanest choice.
- Sarah's nightmare which leads up to the burning playground mentioned above. Even though her voice is silenced for the moment before the explosion, the metallic clashing sound of the fence and the desperation she shows from hitting the fence and trying to yell out to the people is enough to communicate the fact that she's trying to save them... to no avail.
- "I know now why you cry, but it's something I could never do." Grown men cried.
- The bit where he gives John a thumbs-up as he's lowered into the molten steel as well as his viewpoint flicking off for the final time as he's consumed by the molten steel.
- The revelation that the T-800 has to sacrifice himself hits you hard:
- Hell, this entire sequence is a Tear Jerker. It's VERY heartrending to see John pleading with the T-800 not to go. Even after you consider that it was the closest he ever got to have a father figure. Doubles as a Heartwarming Moment when watched back-to-back with Sarah's final speech in the movie.
- The Final First Hug between the T-800 and John is pretty heartbreaking too.
- The T-800 and Sarah are both being The Stoic, as they know that this has to happen in order to prevent the creation of Skynet. John, however, simply descends into Inelegant Blubbering that leads to a truly heartbreaking Heroic BSoD:John: I order you not to go! I order you not to go! IorderyounottogoIorderyounottogo!
- The look on Sarah's face right before she hits the button to lower the T-800 says it all. From the moment she first saw him, despite the fact that John's survival was his mission, she hadn't trusted it, all but vowing to destroy it at the first opportunity. Now, in the end, she has her chance...and she clearly doesn't want to.
- When the T-800 points to himself as the last possible source of the technology to inspire Skynet's creation. It's the point where you can see all of the above coming, and the gut punch doesn't hurt any less because you know it's on its way.
- The ultimate Gut Punch comes from the sequels. This is the father figure for John. He loves him, and Sarah respects him more than any other being in this world. And he must let himself to be destroyed to prevent Judgment Day. Then Rise of the Machines revealed that Judgment Day wasn't averted, only delayed. This Terminator didn't have to die!
- Except, he did. Terminator: Dark Fate, being the canonical sequel to this film, proved that the T-800, Sarah, and John's efforts to eradicate Skynet worked, but it was only Skynet that was stopped. Technology will still march on beyond it, and so another crapshoot A.I., Legion, has already been prophesied to exist in the future. And this time, John won't be there to fight it, as he is killed by another T-800, later named "Carl," just three years after the events of Judgment Day. Skynet is gone for good, but it took its nemesis with it.
- Sarah's last line:Sarah: The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.
- This line from John. Though it shows him beginning to transition from Jerkass to Jerk with a Heart of Gold, it's still sad nonetheless.John: We spent a lot of time in Nicaragua and places like that. For a while there, she was with this crazy ex-Green Beret guy, running guns. Then there were some other guys. She'd shack up with anybody she could learn from so she could teach me how to be this great military leader. Then she gets busted and it's like, "Sorry, kid, your mom's a psycho. Didn't you know?" It's like, everything I'd been brought up to believe was all made of bullshit? [thumps car hood] I hated her for that. But everything she said was true. She knew... and nobody believed her. Not even me. Listen, we gotta get her out of there.
- What makes it especially sad is that, in the original timeline before Skynet's meddling, John never reconciled with his mother. He hated her... until the nuclear war she spoke of happened, and the survivors faced the nightmare of the war against the machines. Cast your mind back to the first film, where Reese memorized a message for Sarah from John: That she was his source of strength and comfort during the dark times. John deeply regretted never believing her again after she was incarcerated.
- Dyson getting fatally shot by a SWAT Team and later succumbing to his wounds. He takes such a painfully long time to bleed out. Oh, and the reason he hangs on until his last moment? So the men who shot him had a chance to get clear before he dropped his detonator and the explosives went off.
- Just the look on Dyson's face when the T-800 explains everything to come. Imagine knowing that something you've been working so hard on for so long, with so much potential to change the world for the better, instead kills billions and becomes the greatest threat humanity has ever faced.Dyson: I feel like I'm gonna throw up.
Tear Jerker / Terminator 2: Judgment Day