Terminator villains
More info i
Credit: Paramount

Debate Club: The best Terminator villains (who aren't Arnold)

Contributed by
Oct 30, 2019

Welcome to Debate Club, where Tim Grierson and Will Leitch, the hosts of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, tackle the greatest arguments in pop culture.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-800 is one of the great science fiction villains of all time: imposing, terrifying and seemingly indestructible even when he turns into the good guy. When you have a specimen as formidable as the T-800, you have to come up with some pretty scary/tough robots for him to come up against.

So today at Debate Club, we rank the best non-T-800 villains from the Terminator movies.

***WARNING: Mild SPOILERS for Terminator: Dark Fate herein.***

Robot John Connor from Terminator: Genisys (2015)

Considering that Terminator: Dark Fate erases Terminator: Genisys from the timeline, you can be forgiven for not remembering that in this film, John Connor is in fact... a robot!

It's very confusing, but apparently, Skynet turned the real John Connor into the T-3000, and now he's back fighting 'Pops' (Arnold) to kill his real-life son. Or something.

Jason Clarke is an excellent actor, but there really isn't anyone who could do justice to Robot John Connor. We'll happily let this be erased.

T-5000 from Terminator: Genisys (2015)

One of the things we find endlessly amusing is that, despite being this super-advanced A.I., Skynet names its Terminator upgrades the same way that we humans do. You thought the T-800 was an awesome killing machine? Wait till you see... the T-5000!!

Matt Smith played that particular Terminator, and he has just the right amount of steely menace for the part. The former Doctor Who star had a crucial role in what was going to be a major rewrite of the franchise's storyline — he turns John Connor bad — and the actor gave us a robot who was lethally smug about wiping out humanity.

Apparently, if you can afford the T-5000 Pro Max, that model includes a triple-lens camera and shatter-resistance glass.

Rev-9 from Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

Because the new film creates a parallel storyline — we no longer fear Skynet but, rather, Legion, an equally terrible A.I. bent on our destruction — Dark Fate's robot assassin has a few wrinkles we haven't seen before in the franchise.

For one thing, its outer skin and inner metal skeleton can operate independently, which makes him doubly dangerous. Also, because he's played by S.H.I.E.L.D. actor Gabriel Luna, we have our first Terminator actor of Mexican ancestry.

Luna's is the most no-nonsense of the non-Schwarzenegger Terminators. He's not here for quips or scene-chewing. He just wants to carry out his deadly mission — and nothing's going to stop him.

T-X from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

This generally underrated film has a generally underrated villain, with the T-X (colloquially called 'the Terminatrix') having many of the skills of the T-1000 from Judgment Day but focused on killing both Terminators and humans.

As played by Kristanna Loken in a performance that's funnier and lighter on its feet than it's given credit, the Terminatrix is both unstoppable and unfazed by everything. It's fun to have a Terminator who can kill you with a laser cannon and also a withering glance.

T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

How did Robert Patrick, then a relatively unknown actor, land the coveted role of the unstoppable machine in Terminator 2? James Cameron later told the actor that in his audition, "You were the only one who gave me a little scare there." Patrick brought the same intensity to the film: the T-1000 has an eerie calm, which only belies how ferocious he is.

And as opposed to the T-800, this robot can run. One of the many great surprises of this great film — beyond the fact that the T-1000 is basically liquid metal — is discovering that he can sprint, which proves quite a challenging for Arnold's lumbering robot.

For years after, Patrick would freak out pedestrians just by walking past them. Such is the power of this killer performance.

Grierson & Leitch write about the movies regularly and host a podcast on film. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site.

Make Your Inbox Important

Like Comic-Con. Except every week in your inbox.

Sign-up breaker
Sign out: