The 6 Terminator movies ranked – from worst to best

Is Terminator: Dark Fate really a return to form?

Terminator movies (Sky, Fox)

As Terminator: Dark Fate comes to cinemas, fans of the franchise have reason to be worried. After all, for the last few years Terminator sequels have been, shall we say, less than impressive, with many turned off by the diminishing returns of every follow-up.

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But for our part, we can confirm that Dark Fate is something of a return to form for the franchise – and with that in mind, we thought it was time enough to put it in its place within the pantheon of Terminator movies that started with James Cameron’s classic 1984 original.

In other words, yes, this is a ranking, and you may disagree with us. But we doubt they’ll be many to fight us on the lowest entry…


6 – Terminator: Genisys (2015)

Emilia Clarke plays Sarah Connor in TERMINATOR GENISYS from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.Sky pics, TL
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An attempted reboot that rewrites the story of earlier, better movies, Genisys is a fairly charmless rehash that coasts on nostalgia without offering any real substance, while stars Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtenay can’t match the star power of original leads Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn.

And the fact that the movie’s big twist was spoiled in the trailers certainly didn’t help matters…


5 – Terminator Salvation (2009)

While transporting the story to the long-feared Skynet apocalypse was an interesting move, the storytelling of this follow-up ended up more robotic than the T-800 himself.

Featuring tiny cameos for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton and an all-new cast, all of Salvation’s impressive effects, bells and whistles couldn’t match the first two movies’ heart and soul. Plans for sequels were accordingly scrapped.


4 – Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800 and Kristanna Loken as T-X (Sky)
Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800 and Kristanna Loken as T-X (Sky)
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Look – it’s not as good as the first two, the TX was nothing on the earlier Terminators and it was a shame to have so few of the original cast back in action – but compared to some of what came later, T3 is a fun popcorn movie with some great action and a suitably downbeat ending. It could be worse!


3 – Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

Yes, it’s only just come out, but Linda Hamilton’s long-awaited return to the Terminator franchise is easily the best sequel since T2 and the most enjoyable Terminator movie in decades.

Bringing back the original Sarah Connor and Arnie’s T-800 alongside new characters (played by Mackenzie Davis and Natalia Reyes) and a deadly new foe, Dark Fate takes the franchise back to basics with the benefit of modern filmmaking techniques and effects, with the end result of a brilliantly entertaining and often moving cinematic outing.

Though of course, it still can’t overtake the classics.


2 – The Terminator (1984)

The Terminator

The film that started it all, made a lifelong career for Arnold Schwarzenegger and revolutionised sci-fi cinema – but we only put it in second place?

Well, it was a tough decision, especially given how well The Terminator stands up. With a steely Ahnuld in the role that would define him and Linda Hamilton giving good damsel-turned badass, the Terminator was a brilliantly original, visceral and genuinely scary movie when it was released in 1984, and no matter how badly the visual effects age it hasn’t lost its impact.

Put simply, it’s a classic – but it’s not the best Terminator movie.


1 – Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

Terminator 2: Judgement Day
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No, instead that honour has to go to the first and best Terminator sequel, which ramped up the stakes and the spectacle to deliver one of the greatest sci-fi/action adventures ever made.

From Hamilton’s newly beefed-up Sarah Connor and Edward Furlong’s streetwise John to Schwarzenegger’s more complex T-800, this was Terminator in its prime, more mainstream and fun than the original and with a huge mechanical heart thrown into the bargain.

And if you can keep a dry eye in that final thumbs-up melting scene, well, you might just be a killer robot yourself.

But of course, you’re welcome to disagree with our order, so let us know – which is your favourite Terminator movie? Did we give the wrong entry the top slot, or have we grossly misjudged your personal favourite?

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Terminator: Dark Fate is in UK cinemas now