Ranking The Terminator Films


Terminator: Dark Fate is currently playing in cinemas and whilst its had a rather muted reception, I found a lot to like in it. As I have such a difference viewpoint on this series compared to convention, I thought now would be a fitting time to rank the films in the series so far.

Here is my ranking:


6) Terminator Genisys

I found it really difficult to rank the first half of this list as there’s not much in it. However, in last place is Terminator: Genisys. What should have been a success, especially with Arnold Schwarzenegger rejoining the series, ended up tanking both critically and at the box office. Although I admit Terminator Genisys has a number of big problems, the film makes up for it in sheer entertainment factor and a couple of interesting ideas which it just about manages to implement. The film’s pacing is very uneven and clunky and the visual effects are surprisingly for 2015 rather sub-par. Choices that have been made by the marketing team are, to put it simply, baffling as a big plot twist was intentionally revealed in the film’s second trailer and poster, where it revealed that John Connor was the villain. Why this was revealed absolutely defies belief – if the plot twist was left for audiences to experience when watching the actual film, it is possible that the reception that the film has garnered would have been very different. The film’s biggest hindrance is its director, Alan Taylor, who seems to be incapable of having any ideas of his own and instead relies on what the studios force him to do. The first 40 minutes is also not great with a rote opening in the future and then Taylor tries to tick off a checklist with references to the first film. The film picks up after and it’s not bad at all. The film also has a mixed bag of performances, with a welcome return from Schwarzenegger and Emilia Clarke fairing well as a younger Sarah Connor but both Jason Clarke and Jai Courtney are miscast and have no charisma in their interpretation of iconic roles. Although it’s a mixed bag, Terminator: Genisys is good fun overall but it’s easy to see why it didn’t appeal. (My original review here)


5) The Terminator

The first controversial part of this ranking, I don’t think The Terminator, the film that started this series, is that good. There are so many iconic sequences here and Arnold Schwarzenegger is fantastic in the role that kicked off his career. But as a film, it’s a bit of a trudge to get through. The middle is where the film is best where it’s a pure cat-and-mouse chase between The Terminator and Sarah Connor but the ending action sequence isn’t particularly exciting and the first act is a solid build-up to the carnage that then ensues. I think The Terminator was good in that it introduced some key concepts into the series but the franchise peaked later on.

TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES, Kristanna Loken, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2003, (c) Warner Brother

4) Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines 

The third film in the series had a lot to live up to after James Cameron’s first two entries. Whilst the third film doesn’t top the second, it deserves a lot more credit than it recieved. This is another very entertaining entry and there are many action sequences that are well-shot. The film has a formiddable villain in Kristanna Loken’s TX who is a tough match for the characters to face against. I also appreciated the darker ending the film took and it poses some interesting questions. The film does lose a bit of steam in its final act and can’t match the breakneck pace of the first two acts, but overall a very solid entry in the series.


3) Terminator: Dark Fate 

Although rather generic in parts and with a shaky opening, Terminator: Dark Fate is often very entertaining and even elegiac in parts in how it melds the old and new. Director Tim Miller makes a bold decision in the film’s opening which has polarised viewers but I thought it worked. There are some gritty action sequences – the first car chase is particularly good and demonstrates Miller’s visual effects heavy background. The other action sequences are all exciting but one does have to suspend disbelief as there are a couple of distracting breaking the laws of physics, which does lower the emotional investment in the characters a little. The film does feel a little like a soft reboot in its narrative, very much in the vein of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Halloween. That said, much like the latter, it works as the new characters the film introduces, especially Natalia Reyes’ Dani Ramos are sympathetic and well-developed. The question remains though whether audiences have had enough of this franchise or are willing to give it another chance. (My full review here)


2) Terminator Salvation 

Another controversial opinion but I love Terminator Salvation. The decision to set a Terminator film in the future in the height of the Skynet war is a strong departure from the first three films and it really works. Christian Bale and Sam Worthington are great in the lead roles and the action sequences are really well-choreograped and adrenaline-fuelled. The film poses some interesting questions in humanity and I would have loved to have seen this storyline continued in future sequels. A shame that the film was very negatively reviewed, I hope this film gets re-assessed in time.


1) Terminator 2: Judgement Day

The best film by far is Terminator 2: Judgement Day. James Cameron’s sequel is superior in every respect to the original and it’s very impressive how the sequel is very different in its storyline, not just reheasing the first film. The performances by the cast are all excellent and Robert Patrick’s shapeshifting, liquid metal T-1000 is one of the best adversaries in film ever. The film is paced perfectly and never really puts a foot wrong in its lengthy run time. This is the ultimate Terminator film in the series and one that will never be topped.

So that’s how I would rank the films which does differ a little to convention. I do hope we get to see more of this series but as the last 3 films have failed to ignite sequels from their storylines, the signs currently aren’t boding well.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister

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