“Happy Birthday, John!”
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles had some truly great moments in the Terminator universe during its far too short, two season run on TV. In a continuation of the trend established in T2: Judgement Day, the Connor Chronicles explores the ghosts in the machines that are the Terminators (there really is some meaty, emotional stuff hidden beneath those robotic exoskeletons). The most powerful moment in the series comes during John Connor’s birthday. In a twist of fate, John’s Uncle Derek (long story) takes him out for ice cream. As they observe two children playing catch in a park, the younger boy chases a baseball that rolls toward John. As the young boy runs back to play catch, John sees a name across the back of the older brother’s baseball jersey, that reads, “REESE.”
“Fuck you, asshole.”
It’s a funny line in a particularly grim sequence. The T-800 is fixing himself up in a motel room just as the audience is greeted with the revelation that there is a machine beneath Arnie’s musculature and seeming-flesh. We see its targeting programs, and how it chooses what to say and when to say it. It’s sort of like Mass Effect, but more brutal (so basically Mass Effect 2, or the critical reaction to the Mass Effect 3 endings).
“I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle.”
How to describe The T-800’s opening scene in Terminator 2: Judgement Day? An example in an fffortless cool, and a badass introduction to an iconic cinematic hero, spouting an instant classic, one-liner. This is the sort of introduction action stars dream of.
“I’ll be back.”
We got to see how ruthless the T-800 was in the first half of the film as it slaughtered innocent civilians without remorse. It’s not like we should have expected it to do any differently in its handling of officers of the law. Usually in horror movies, the police appear in the finale, or offer some sort of protection, with a few officers outside the potential victim’s house. Here, we have an entire precinct of police officers standing in their place of work before the T-800 slices through them like a lightsaber through butter (not a knife, a lightsaber).
Pulsating ’80s music blasts through the nightclub of Tech Noir, as three shorelines begin intertwining to reshape the landscape of science-fiction. Arnold Schwarzenegger closes in on the isolated and confused Sarah Connor, just as Kyle Reese rushes through an ocean of people to protect her. It’s a masterclass sequence in tension building, before erupting in the face of the audience in a flurry of well deserved, frenetic payoff.
Car chases don’t need to be boring. Fury Road proved you can make a whole movie set around a single car chase, and still be about themes and character first. Sometimes you just need one or two good car chases. Enter the Terminator franchise, which holds several car chases that still make audiences go, “Wow,wow, wow,” until their mouths hurt from exclaiming the film’s praises.
With the Terminator defeated and Kyle dead, there’s only one thing left for Sarah to do: Prepare for the coming apocalypse. People forget that the first movie ends with every character dead, save for Sarah Connor and Dr. Peter Silberman. Only one of them knows the truth about the impending nuclear apocalypse, however, and as Sarah drives through Mexico, she records messages for the future savior of mankind, and a little boy takes the polaroid that her son will one day give to her lost lover, reborn. With that, she drives on into the oncoming storm.
“You’re terminated, fucker.”
Sarah Connor wasn’t always a gun toting, killing machine that would make Rambo wet his undies. From waitress to bonafide revolutionary, Sarah Connor is in the same league of action heroes as Ellen Ripley, John McClane, and Indiana Jones. Everyone remembers Arnie’s lines from T2, but let’s never forget the thrilling delivery of the above phrase from when Sarah Connor crushes the seemingly unstoppable machine with the push of a button in the original film.
“Hasta La Vista, baby.”
Few action movies contain as many quotable moments as the Terminator franchise. It just doesn’t happen as naturally anymore (or possibly ever). Mostly because these aren’t just cool one-liners; they’re topping off crazy, personal character arcs. As the T-800 learns from John Connor throughout the epic two-and-a-half hour runtime of T2, with talk peppered with the lingo and slang of humanity, the T-800 looks upon a recently frozen, T-1000 before uttering his most iconic line and blowing that fucker away; the T-1000 gets back up, but this attempted kill shot is still mind-blowing.
“I know now why you cry.”
While going through the Terminator films for this list, I came to a realization. There was a point in my life where I believed Terminator 2: Judgement Day was the superior film. Then I thought The Terminator was better. Now I’m not sure which film I prefer, but I do know T2 has the better ending. Following the foreboding, melancholy of the first Terminator film, one would expect a sequel to follow the same somber beats. That’s doohickey. This is James fuckin’ Cameron. His sequels are continuously on the list of best sequels (minus Piranha 2, for obvious reasons). Cameron is making more than a statement about humanity’s fallibility with Judgement Day; he’s saying there’s always going to be hope for us, despite the odds we have stacked against ourselves.