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Sarah Connor is the rare action character who not only gets more and more badass as the years go on, but more and more interesting too. That’s in large part, of course, to Linda Hamilton, who has chiseled out the Terminator franchise’s merciless matriarch three memorable times on the big screen (not counting voice work). From being hunted by Arnold Schwarzzenger in 1984’s The Terminator, to defending her world-saving progeny alongside Arnold in 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, to finally saving another would-be world saver in 2019’s Terminator: Dark Fate, Connor has proven herself to be one of the most durable and dangerous heroes of genre.
Granted, Hamilton’s been a genre badass since her feature film debut as Susan Swayze in 1982’s Tag: The Assasination Game. From there she went on to star as Vicky Baxter in the 1984 Stephen King adaptation of Children of the Corn; as Doctor Amy Franklin in 1986’s not quite legendary King Kong Lives (1986); and as Mayor Rachel Wando in Dante's Peak, arguably the best volcano movie of 1997. Beyond slaying the silver screen, Hamilton landed Emmy and Golden Globe noms for playing Catherine Chandler in 1987’s Beauty and the Beast series. She’s also flourished in recurring roles as CIA mom Mary Elizabeth Bartowski on NBC's Chuck, and as Pilar McCawley in SYFY’s 2013 series Defiance, among a host of other steady work.
Soon, Hamilton will be back commanding the small screen yet again, finally getting the promotion she’s always deserved as head honcho General McCallister, who’s leading the charge to root out “little green men” in SYFY's new sci-fi/comedy, Resident Alien. While looking forward to her big debut this Wednesday, we thought it might be fun to look back at her most iconic character, with these top five classic Connor moments over the years.
05. Sarah Connor makes Dyson question everything he ever knew
By the time Sarah gets to Miles Dyson’s (Joe Morton) house in T2, it’s safe to say she’s built up a lot of rage at what his company, Cyberdyne, has wrought. So she can be forgiven for having a heavy trigger finger, even while Miles’ family lingers unsafely about. Here we can see not just Sarah’s transformation from the first movie to the second, from the sheep to the revenge-hungry wolf (and a sculpted and well trained one at that!). But we also see that Sarah hasn’t turned into the machines she’s trying to destroy. Her motherly humanity takes over before she can finish Dyson off.
Of course, she doesn’t let him off easy, as she lays into him while he’s being patched up with a monologue that has a much to do with scaring him away from his weaponized ways as her assault rifle: “F***ing men like you built the hydrogen bomb. Men like you thought it up. You think you’re so creative, you don’t know what it’s like to really create something… to create a life… to feel it growing inside you. All you know how to create is death and destruction.”
04. You’re terminated F***er
I don’t know what I’d do if all the day’s news revolved around the brutal slayings of random Adam Pockrosses across town, particularly as a 19-year-old, but after young Sarah Connor figures out everyone with her name is being hunted, she turns herself into a hydraulic-press hunter over the course of a damn good sci-fi movie. She goes from someone who desperately needs saving, to saving herself from a red-eyed mechanical psychopath, all while dragging her limp, shrapnel-filled leg behind her. But while most badasses would be satisfied with just squashing those red eyes flat and lifeless, Sarah went ahead and did it with one of the best hero catch phrases ever emotionlessly uttered: “You’re terminated, f***er.”
03. T2 SNL Monologue
It takes guts of steel to host Saturday Night Live, as Hamilton did on November 16, 1991, in support of T2. But beyond that, her monologue also gives insight into Hamilton’s steely upbringing, which perhaps gave her the inner strength to play Sarah Connor in the first place. After all, it’s hard not to be hardened if every building, car, and agent you grew up with is prone to blowing up. It’s not a Sarah Connor moment per se, but it is a worthwhile exploration of the kind of character it takes to play such an esteemed character.
02. Terminator: Dark Fate Intro
Though not enough people saw it in theaters, Dark Fate gave us the best franchise installment in years, in no small part due to Hamilton’s triumphant return to the role, as an even more grizzled, dangerous, and zero-F’s-giving Terminator terminator, who’s apparently been killing off a different model every couple of years. With son John’s existence essentially made moot, it’s up to Sarah to save the rest of the lucky would-be leaders futuristically selected for termination. Which is a good thing for Grace (Mackenzie Davis) and Dani (Natalia Reyes), as Sarah shows up right on time in her urban assault vehicle, toting perhaps her two biggest guns yet, and blows several holes into the latest greatest REV-9 Terminator model (Gabriel Luna). All while reclaiming, as unmoved as The Terminator himself, one of the other great catch phrases from the franchise: “I’ll be back.”
01. T2 Intro
After playing the victim waitress in the original Terminator, Hamilton told writer/director/producer/submarine driver James Cameron that if she was going to return for T2, she’d want to play Sarah Connor as “crazy.” And as you can see in the BTS footage above, when her character is reintroduced to audiences seven years later, Sarah Connor is not only maniacal looking, she’s also pumping out perfect chin-ups and ready to kick some serious T-1000 booty. And ever since, it’s been impossible to think of Hamilton as anything but the A-list action hero she is.