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Terminator (character)

This article is about the character portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. For other "terminator" characters, see Terminator (character concept). For the comic-book character once named "Terminator", see Deathstroke.
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Terminator character
Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Resistance Infiltrator Prototype variant in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
First appearance The Terminator
Created by James Cameron & Gale Anne Hurd
Portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger (1984, 1991, 2003, 2015)
Roland Kickinger (2009)
Aaron V. Williamson (2015)
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Aliases Uncle Bob
Manufacturer Cyberdyne Sytems

Series 800 Terminator Model 101 (first, second, fourth and fifth film)

Series 850 Terminator Model 101 (third film)

The Terminator, or T-101 (an abbreviation of its designation as Terminator T-800 Cyberdyne Systems Model 101, and its Resistance Infiltrator Prototype T-850 Model variant)—a cybernetic organism,[1] initially portrayed as a programmable assassin and military infiltration unit, and then as a bodyguard—is any one of a number of fictional characters portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. "The Terminator" character first appeared as the titular antagonist in The Terminator, a 1984 film directed and co-written by James Cameron, and its sequels. The first film in the series features only one cyborg: the one portrayed by Schwarzenegger, although a second T-800 played by Franco Columbu is shown in a future flashback scene. In the first two sequels, Schwarzenegger's Terminator is pitted against other Terminators; it appears briefly in the third sequel as a CGI model. In the sequels, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator Genisys, Schwarzenegger reprises the role, but with a twist: Schwarzenegger is the hero instead of the villain, playing a different but visually identical Terminator in each of the three films.

Within the Terminator universe created by Cameron, Terminators of the same "model" share identical characteristics. In the production of the films, this has allowed multiple Terminators to be portrayed by Schwarzenegger (with varying model iterations accounting for Schwarzenegger's physical aging as the series has progressed). In the context of the stories, this plot device provides a certain continuity for the human characters by exploiting their emotional familiarity with a particular "human" visage.

"The Terminator" is the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger's character in the credits of the five Terminator movies. At different times, the character is given more specific designations such as model and series numbers, in efforts to distinguish Schwarzenegger's character from other Terminators. The Terminator appears in Terminator Salvation. Schwarzenegger reprises the role via facial CGI (he was unable to appear in person as he was Governor of California at the time), while the character itself is physically portrayed by Roland Kickinger. Schwarzenegger is set to reprise his role in the fifth instalment Terminator Genisys - a reboot of the Terminator franchise focusing on an alternate timeline wherein the T-800 is originally sent to protect and train Sarah Connor when she was a child. The title has also been used as a generic name for other human-simulating characters in the "Terminator" universe, notably the liquid metal shape-shifting T-1000 antagonist in the sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day and a T-X in the sequel Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

The Terminator from the original film was ranked #22 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains list of villains and was also ranked #14 on Empire's list of the 100 Greatest Movie Characters.[2] The Terminator from the second film was ranked #48 on AFI's list of heroes.

Character nomenclature

The end credits of the first three Terminator films list Schwarzenegger's character as simply "The Terminator". Later films call the newer terminator characters by their series numbers (T-1000, T-X, etc.). The only consistent name for Schwarzenegger's Terminator character has been "The Terminator". Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Schwarzenegger's character in Terminator 2 refer to it as a "Cyberdyne Systems Model 101". In Terminator 3, the Terminator refers to itself as a "T-101", which could be an abbreviation of its model number.

In Terminator Salvation, the T2 Extreme Edition DVD, and the Terminator 2 video game he is referred to as an 800 series and a T-800.[3] The T3 extras refer to him as an "850 series Model 101", a "T-850", and a "T-101".

Additionally, most merchandising for T2 and T3 - both at the time of their original releases and retroactively - (e.g. Action Masters miniatures, Cinemaquette statues, Sideshow Collectables replicas, Hollywood Collectibles statuettes, ArtFX kits, Medicom figures, Hot Toys, and McFarlane Toys) have all used the T-800 and T-850 nomenclature, contributing to this designation having arguably the most popular and widely disseminated usage, especially in direct juxtaposition to the explicitly named T-600s and T-1000. Terminator Salvation has the first on-screen usage of the term T-800, when John Connor sees blueprints of said series' endoskeleton.

In the T2 commentary, Cameron states that the Model 101s all look like Schwarzenegger, with a 102 looking like someone else, leading to speculation that the 101 refers to the physical appearance while the 800 refers to the endoskeleton common to many models. A scene deleted from the theatrical cut, but restored in the Terminator 2 Special Edition, lends the most credence to this explanation. In this scene, John and Sarah shut down The Terminator for modification according to his instructions. When he reboots, the upper-left of his HUD reads "Cyberdyne Systems Series 800 Model 101 Version 2.4". Additionally, the original Terminator 2 teaser trailer further verifies this on a display monitor during cyborg tissue generation, referencing the Series 800 Model 101.

Role in the series

A Series 800 terminator, a robot-only version of the cyborg played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

A Cyberdyne Systems series T-800 Model 101 Terminator with living tissue over a metal endoskeleton, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, is the main antagonist in The Terminator, the original Terminator film. An identical Series 800 Model 101, having been reprogrammed by the resistance in the future, is one of the protagonists in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Schwarzenegger plays an updated T-850 unit, with the same outward appearance as the Series 800. His character is destroyed at the end of each of these films. The fourth installment, Terminator Salvation, reveals the origin of the 101 Model. Roland Kickinger was cast as the principal actor but CGI was used to superimpose Schwarzenegger's face from the original 1984 film.

The Terminator

The original Terminator was sent to terminate a single target, Sarah Connor, in 1984, to prevent the birth of her son, John, the future leader of the human resistance. It survives being caught in a truck explosion, though its flesh cover burns away and it is fully revealed as a machine. The Terminator was finally crushed in a hydraulic press by Sarah after a lengthy chase. However, its damaged main CPU and right arm were recovered by Cyberdyne. The remains of the first Terminator were used in Cyberdyne's research to radically advance the company's technology, paradoxically creating the technology entity Skynet. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the first Terminator are recovered by John Connor and destroyed in a pool of molten steel.

This Terminator returns in Terminator Genisys, but it is intercepted by the Guardian Terminator, who confronts it in the same place it arrived in the past.

Judgement Day

Schwarzenegger's Terminator's role was reversed in the second film. He was reprogrammed by the future John Connor and sent back to 1995 to protect his younger self from the T-1000. While interacting with the Connors as they work to try to prevent Judgment Day, this Terminator is taught how to speak in slang-like terms, such as "Hasta la vista", developing into an almost fatherlike role for John Connor, with Sarah reflecting that the Terminator is the first male figure John has ever had in his life who can be guaranteed to always be there for him. At the end of the film, he orders Sarah to lower him into a molten metal vat in order to destroy the CPU, though John wanted him to stay with them, the Terminator recognizing that he has to be destroyed to ensure that Skynet cannot be recreated in the future using his technology.

Rise of the Machines

In the third film, he is again portrayed as the hero, this time protecting John and his future wife Kate Brewster from a T-X. He tells John that his efforts in the second film did not stop Judgment Day, but merely delayed it. They are also running from Judgment Day, trying to postpone it again, but they fail, thanks to the counter-efforts of the T-X, a new, highly advanced Terminator designed to be capable of defeating other Terminators; on one occasion, it manages to infect the Terminator with nanites that take control of its body and force it to attack John and Kate, but John is able to 'convince' the Terminator to reboot by reminding it of the conflict between its current actions and its programmed mission to ensure John and Kate's survival. As John and Kate retreat to an underground bunker to wait out the now-inevitable nuclear war, the Terminator is destroyed when it jams its remaining hydrogen fuel cell into the T-X's mouth (with the famous line "You are terminated!"), resulting in a massive detonation that destroys them both. This Terminator also is revealed to hold a very important role in John's future: he is the one who kills John in 2032 after being chosen due to John's emotional attachment to his model, based on the events of Terminator 2. The Terminator was then captured, reprogrammed and sent to the past to make sure that young-adult John and Kate would survive the start of the war. As a result of John's death in the future, he follows Kate's orders rather than John's, unlike the Terminator in Terminator 2.


In the fourth film, the Terminator has a small role, though once again as an antagonist. Being the very first T-800 produced, it engages John Connor in battle during Connor's attempt to rescue Kyle Reese from the Skynet base in San Francisco. John holds his own with his advanced weaponry, but is unable to stop the Terminator until it is drenched in molten metal and then liquid nitrogen, freezing it temporarily. As John begins planting hydrogen fuel cells (similar to the ones powering the model seen in Terminator 3), human-cyborg terminator Marcus Wright arrives to stall the Terminator, able to match its strength due to his own metal endoskeleton, but due to Marcus harbouring biological organs, the Terminator is able to incapacitate him long enough to stab John through the heart from behind, fatally wounding him. Marcus retaliates by jamming the same metal bar through the Terminator's neck and twisting it until its head rips off, destroying it instantly. The hydrogen fuel cells are set off as John and Marcus escape, destroying the base and taking thousands of unfinished Terminators with it. Marcus later gives up his own heart to save John's life.


In Terminator: Genisys, a Terminator is sent back in time to when Sarah Connor was a child and rescues her from another Terminator sent to kill her and her parents. The now-orphaned Sarah Connor is subsequently raised by the Terminator to prepare for her future destiny, destroying the Terminator from the first movie before it can begin its search for her. However, a T-1000 is sent in its place to hunt down Sarah and Kyle Reese, who must work alongside the aged T-800 to stop both a new T-800 and T-1000 from changing the past, as well as John Connor himself, who has been transformed into a nano-hybrid Terminator T-3000 sent to kill them as well. This is also a soft reboot of the franchise, both retreading and changing events from the first four Terminator films. It is planned as the first film in a trilogy, with Schwarzenegger confirming that he will return for the trilogy's second film.[4]


In the fictional Terminator universe, the Terminator is a formidable robotic assassin and soldier, designed by the military supercomputer Skynet for infiltration and combat duty, towards the ultimate goal of exterminating the human resistance. It can speak naturally, copy the voices of others, read human handwriting, and even genuinely sweat, smell, and bleed. However it has no human emotions such as pity or fear and never stops until it fulfills its mission. To detect the Terminators, who are otherwise indistinguishable from humans, the human resistance uses dogs to alert humans to their presence since their smell is different. It was explained in the first film that the Terminator, particularly the T-800, is an infiltrator unit designed as an alternative for the inferior T-600 models, which, unlike the living tissue Terminator had, used prosthetic rubber skin, which was imprecise and was easily detectable.

The most notable science fiction characteristics are that of an expert system featuring strong AI functionality combined with machine learning, and the system can interpret arbitrary non-formalized tasks. The other notable science fiction component is that of a power source which can last 120 years.

A trait persistent throughout the series is the faint red (or blue in the case of the T-X) glow of the "eyes" when online, which dim to nothing when a Terminator shuts down. In all four movies, the lack of the glow has been used to show when one is out of action. The trait is so characteristic that light-up eyes are often found on Terminator merchandise,[5] with some even replicating the dimming/reillumination effect that occurs during shut down or start up.[6]


A description from Kyle Reese from the film The Terminator states that:

The Terminator is an infiltration unit, part man - part machine. Underneath it's a hyperalloy combat chassis, microprocessor-controlled, fully armored, very tough. But outside it's living human tissue. Flesh, skin, hair, blood, grown for the cyborgs.

File:Terminator 2 Endoskeleton Arm.jpg
Dr. Miles Dyson examines the Terminator's right hand.

As seen in the movies, a Terminator can withstand standard 20th century firearms, crash through walls intact, and survive explosions to some degree. Repeated shotgun blasts have enough force to knock it down and temporarily disable it, while heavy amounts of automatic fire are able to compromise the organic disguise layer. In the second film, the Terminator says he can fully operate for 120 years on his power cell before it drains. In the finale to Terminator 2, his power source is damaged, and he is able to find an alternate source, described on the DVD commentary as heat sinks, harnessing the thermal energy from the hot surroundings. In the third film, the Terminator—an 850 series rather than the 800 series depicted in the first two films—operates on two hydrogen fuel cells and discards one of them early due to damage. It explodes shortly thereafter with enough force to produce a small mushroom cloud.

The endoskeleton is actuated by a powerful network of hydraulic servomechanisms, making Terminators superhumanly strong. For instance, in the third movie, Schwarzenegger's character was able to handle firing a Browning .30 machine gun from the hip with one hand, while holding a coffin containing an alive John Connor and a heavy cache of weapons, showing no signs of the extra weight being any real concern.

Late in the first film, the Terminator is stripped of its organic elements by fire. What remains is the machine itself, in James Cameron's own words "a chrome skeleton, like death rendered in steel."[7] In the later Terminator films, armies of endoskeleton-only Terminators are seen. They are visually identical to the one in the first film, and feature prominently in the "future war" sequences of those films.


The Terminator CPU is an artificial neural network with the ability to learn and adapt. It was also briefly referred to as a room-temperature superconductor.[8] In Terminator 2, The Terminator states that "the more contact [he] has with humans, the more [he] learns." In the original film, he learns how to swear from the punks he encounters in the beginning of the film, and when a janitor of his building visits him to ask about the odor from his room (caused by his eye being blown out, which spreads the dead flesh smell), he says to him: "Fuck you asshole", although this sentence was used for primarily humor. In the second movie's Special Edition, he says that Skynet "presets the switch to 'read-only' when [Terminators] are sent out alone", to prevent them from "thinking too much". Sarah and John activate his learning ability, after which he becomes more curious and begins trying to understand and imitate human behavior. This leads to his use of the catchphrase "hasta la vista, baby". He ultimately "learn[s] the value of human life" as mused by Sarah in the closing narration. The Terminator apologized - something he had never done previously - when John was frantically trying to convince him not to be sacrificed. His last words to John were "I know now why you cry, but it is something I can never do."

Organic covering

The flesh-covering that is used on the majority of Terminator models has similar qualities to real human muscle and skin, as well as the ability to sweat, simulate breathing, and produce realistic body odor.[9] Although Terminator flesh does contain blood, it only displays minimal bleeding when damaged and has never been shown to experience any kind of profuse bleeding even from massive lacerations, dozens of gunshot wounds, or even complete removal. In the absence of a circulatory system, the flesh uses a system of "nanobots" which maintain the skin. It is unknown what biological processes take place to sustain the flesh covering, since Terminators do not require the consumption of food. Under 2007-era analysis, this blood is shown to be similar to human blood, using a synthetic oxygen carrier rather than human red blood cells, as Terminator endoskeletons contain no bone marrow.[10] Terminator flesh heals by itself,[11] and at a much faster rate than normal human tissue[12] and has never been shown to bruise or discolor from trauma, even after several days. However, a Terminator's flesh covering can die if it sustains adequately massive damage without maintenance, at which point it takes on a waxy, corpse-like pallor and begins to decompose.[13]

Although clearly not the normal procedure, a bare T-888 endoskeleton is able to grow itself a new flesh covering using 2007 technology (with the assistance of a geneticist and its own knowledge of future formulae) by submerging itself in a blood-like bath.[10] This improvised process results in a deformed covering that has the appearance of a burn victim and lacks its own biological eyes, requiring it to steal some and subsequently undergo cosmetic surgery to produce a more normal appearance (While escaping detection from law enforcement as it was able to undergo this procedure without the use of pain medication).[12] The theft of the eyes suggests that Terminator flesh is capable of accepting some degree of organ grafts from ordinary humans, that it can circumvent transplant rejection, and is capable of sustaining the life of the grafted tissue via its own unknown biological process.

Physical template

It has been shown that Terminators' flesh coverings are somehow grown identically, producing many multiple copies of exactly the same physical appearance, indicating the use of specific physical templates for different variations of a model or series. The most well known is that worn by multiple T-800/850 Model 101 units portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger; a scene in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles displays a memory of a T-888 model, referred to as "Vick", facing a room (presumably in the factory where he was created) of several dozen units sharing an identical template to himself, naked and moving in unison to his direction.[14]

Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator in T2

The 'Arnold' model came to be known as the 101, which refers to its likeness and skin type. A deleted scene from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines reveals that the Model 101's appearance was based on Chief Master Sergeant William Candy, with his Southern accent replaced by the more menacing voice of one of the developers. One part of the scene shows Candy next to a partially complete endoskeleton, indicating that the Terminators were being developed by humans before Judgment Day. This contradicts information from the first film, where Kyle Reese refers to the Model 101 as "new", replacing the older rubber-skinned 600 series, also seen in Terminator Salvation. The T-800 is shown to be stronger physically, tearing a malfunctioning T-600 in half. It's also the first model to be manufactured using a titanium alloy. However, titanium loses strength when heated above 430 °C (806 °F) which later prompted Skynet's decision to use coltan, which is also referred as columbite–tantalite, for better heat resistance as its metal base as stated in Terminator—The Sarah Connor Chronicles; it is also used for the T-850 and T-888 models.

According to Terminator Salvation, the T-800 was the first terminator to have a human styled skeleton built using coltan and titanium alloy. The earlier Terminators had a bulkier appearance.

An entirely different origin of the Model 101's physical and vocal templates was provided in the novel T2: Infiltrator (published prior to T3), in the form of former counter-terrorist Dieter von Rossbach, who meets and joins forces with the Connors in the present (The novel reveals that he was never questioned about the Terminators' actions as his superiors always knew that he was somewhere else during its rampages). The reason stated for copying Dieter was that Skynet was looking in the old military files for someone whose body could effectively conceal the Terminator's massive endoskeleton.

The teaser trailer for Terminator 2 shows a T-800 having its flesh covering applied by a large industrial mold.


  1. an automaton in the form of a human being. - Dictionary Definition
  2. AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains
  3. Terminator 2 Extreme Edition DVD 30-page booklet; DVD interactive documentary titled "Data Core", Chapter 9: "Casting"
  5. Example product with simple light-up feature
  6. Example product with more complex light-up feature
  7. Man of Extremes
  8. Tarissa: "It's a neural-net processor. It thinks and learns like we do. It's superconducting at room temperature." (Terminator 2: Judgement Day Script)
  9. As mentioned by Kyle Reese in The Terminator.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Episode 3: "The Turk", Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
  11. According to the Terminator, when asked by Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Episode 4: "Heavy Metal", Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
  13. As seen in the later scenes of the original film where the Terminator, holed up in his hotel room, is attracting flies and draws an inquiry from the janitor as to whether the smell is coming from a dead animal.The Terminator.
  14. Episode 8, "Vick's Chip", Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

External links