The Terminator franchise is a legendary series of sci-fi action movies, comprising six in total, starting with The Terminator in 1984 and with the most recent installment being Terminator: Dark Fate in 2019.
It covers a war between a synthetic intelligence called Skynet – a self-aware military machine network – and the survivors of the human race who form a resistance against it.
As with most movie franchises, the movies in it vary greatly in quality – and we’re going to rank them while showing you where you can watch them all online.
While you’re here, why not check out our list of upcoming Marvel movies you can watch online in 2022?
6. Terminator: Genisys (2015)
The fifth movie in the Terminator franchise, Terminator: Genisys is also the worst. Directed by Alan Taylor, it stars Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke alongside what appears to be an impressive supporting cast – including a returning Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The movie sees Kyle Reese sent from 2029 to 1984 to prevent Sarah Connor’s death. When he arrives in the past, he finds an altered timeline in which Sarah has been raised by a reprogrammed Terminator sent to protect her.
Frankly, it’s a bit of a muddled mess. The original 1984 Sarah Connor being played by a different actress in a new timeline feels unnecessary, undermines the original story, and completely confuses things – especially for the casual viewer. It categorically lacks the depth and intelligence of the better installments, but still has plenty of action and terminating to keep die-hard fans entertained – for instance, the final battle is a creative and explosion-filled extravaganza!
5. Terminator: Salvation (2009)
Only slightly better than Genisys, Terminator Salvation is the fourth movie in the Terminator franchise. Directed by Joseph McGinty Nichol (aka McG), it stars Christian Bale and Sam Worthington – and it’s the only one not to feature Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Set in a post-apocalyptic 2018, it focuses on the war between Skynet’s machine network and humanity, seeing the remnants of the world’s militaries united to form a resistance in order to fight said war.
Even with the Oscar-winning Bale in the lead role, the movie lacks the heart of the franchise’s earliest movies. The story is dull, being about a guy who dies, gets brought back to life using technology, then fights. It’s just that for two hours, which is insanely predictable. It also seriously misses Arnie – a man who’s synonymous with this franchise. You might say it’s as robotic as Skynet’s army. It does, however, dazzle with some fairly amazing special effects, which is always nice.
4. Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003)
The third movie in the Terminator franchise, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is the one that split opinion most. Directed by Jonathan Mostow, it starred Nick Stahl and Claire Danes, as well as the beautiful Kristanna Loken as a new and deadly Terminator model – the T-X, a clear advancement on the T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
It sees the original Terminator model sent back in time from a post-apocalyptic future, to protect John Connor and his future wife from the T-X, in order to ensure they both survive.
Slightly campy and featuring very simplistic dialogue, Terminator 3 is still a welcome inclusion in the franchise. It’s essentially one big, loud, explosion-filled exhilarating chase – and that’s all action fans really need – although Linda Hamilton’s absence leaves very big and obvious hole.
3. Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
The sixth and most recent Terminator installment, Terminator: Dark Fate was directed by Tim Miller and stars Mackenzie Davis and Natalia Reyes alongside a returning Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The movie focuses on an advanced Terminator, designated Rev-9, being sent back in time to 2020 to kill a young woman called Dani Ramos, whose fate is strongly connected to the future.
It’s the first movie in the franchise since the first sequel that can genuinely and unequivocally be described as “good”. It reintroduces the original classic story, following on directly from what happened after Terminator 2: Judgment Day while introducing some exciting new ideas, such as the T-800 developing a conscience, taking the name “Carl” and adopting a human family. It’s exhilarating with great special effects.
2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Watch on: Amazon Prime (Rental)
The best sequel in the franchise by some distance, Terminator 2: Judgment Day could quite easily have been top of this list! It’s up there with Aliens as one of the best sci-fi sequels ever made.
Directed by a returning James Cameron and starring Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger alongside a young Edward Furlong, the movie sees the liquid metal T-1000 sent back to 1995 from 2029 to kill John Connor. A reprogrammed Terminator follows it to protect Connor and ensure the future of humanity.
With special effects that still hold up fairly well to this day – the liquid metal effects look fantastic – T2 is a brilliantly crafted movie. Robert Patrick plays the high-tech villain superbly and there’s enough action, humor and heart to keep absolutely anybody entertained – and Arnie’s final scene is a bona fide tearjerker.
1. The Terminator (1984)
Watch on: Amazon Prime (Rental/Purchase)
The Terminator – the iconic movie that started it all – is still the best installment in the synonymous franchise, edging out T2 only slightly. Directed by James Cameron, it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn.
It sees the T-800 Terminator sent back from 2029 to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor, whose unborn son will one day save mankind by leading a rebellion against the machines. A soldier from the future named Kyle Reese is also sent to protect Sarah (and, in a bizarre and intriguing twist, he ends up being John Connor’s father!).
A brilliant and original idea at the time, The Terminator has improved with age. Granted, some of the special effects don’t look great these days (when a prosthetic Schwarzenegger makes an appearance, it’s actually quite farcical), but this is a slick, action-packed and deliciously violent movie with great dialogue and superb performances from its lead actors. It’s a must-see movie for any true fan of cinema.