4. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
It’s difficult to defend T3 as a good movie, but you can go to bat for it as a really fun one. If you’re looking for undemanding Terminator action to watch with a few beers, this is your guy.
Skynet tries to ensure a dark future once more by sending a prototype cyborg assassin (Kristanna Loken) back in time to assassinate John Connor and his lieutenants. Fate brings drifter John (Nick Stahl) and his future wife Kat (Claire Danes) together and they flee to a place of safety with their new guardian (Schwarzenegger again).
Arnie’s reprogrammed Terminator (different to the “hasta la vista” guy in T2) fights the deadly female TX terminator in a series of entertaining skirmishes including a bravura downtown chase involving him hanging from a crane and being smashed through buildings. It has also got the darkest ending of any of the Terminator movies, which unfortunately jars with the relatively knockabout tone elsewhere. Sadly, Linda Hamilton didn’t return so they had to deal with the elephant in the room of Sarah Connor’s absence off-screen, and they probably ended up relying a little too much on comic, borderline slapstick beats in the fight scenes that are otherwise pretty well put together.
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3. Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
The third best Terminator movie seems a bit of a backhanded compliment, but there genuinely is a lot going for Dark Fate.
An enhanced human guardian (Mackenzie Davis) is sent back in time to protect Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), who becomes key in humanity’s battle for their future. When the most advanced terminator ever built (Gabriel Luna) is sent back to intercept her, two familiar faces must re-join the fight.
Dark Fate actually tries to do something a little different with the Terminator IP. While Mexico had always been a place of refuge for Sarah Connor, the Mexican border represents something far more threatening here. The film’s border guards and internment camps are eerily reminiscent of imagery seen in the dark future and this in turn acts as social commentary on Trump’s wall and US immigration policy. Have we as people become unfeeling, disconnected and cold to those in need, just like the machines that spell doom for our way of life? Dark Fate eventually falls into the usual Terminator formula – run-fight-run-fight – but along the way it provides plenty of tactile action and thanks to the still-impressive skills of Hamilton and Schwarzenegger, a few new angles on the franchise’s most iconic duo.