A Terminator endoskeleton.

The Terminator is a fictional character portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger – a cyborg,[1] initially portrayed as a programmable assassin and military infiltration unit. "The Terminator" character first appeared in the 1984 movie of the same name, 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 Terminator played by Franco Columbu is shown in a future flashback scene. In both sequels, Schwarzenegger's Terminator is pitted against other Terminators.

In the sequels, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Schwarzenegger reprises the role, but with a twist: Schwarzenegger is the hero instead of the villain, playing a different but visually identical cyborg 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. 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 visage.

"The Terminator" is the name of Schwarzenegger's character in the credits of the three 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. However, this is done with several inconsistencies. No definitive canonical explanation is present in any of the films which clarifies what exactly the differing numbers ascribed to the character represent.

The Terminator will appear in Terminator Salvation. Schwarzenegger will reprise the role via voice talent and CGI, while the character itself will be physically portrayed by Roland Kickinger.

Character nomenclatureEdit

The end credits of all 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.

However, other sources contradict this designation. On the T2 Extreme Edition DVD, he is referred to as an 800 series and a T-800.[2] 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 Terminator 3 - 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.

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.


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. To detect the Terminators, who are otherwise indistinguishable from humans, the human resistance uses dogs to alert humans to their presence.

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

A trait persistent throughout the series is the faint red glow of the "eyes" when online, which dim to nothing when a Terminator shuts down. In all three 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,[3] with some even replicating the dimming/reillumination effect that occurs during shut down or start up.[4]


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 run for 120 years on his existing power cells. 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 operates on two hydrogen cells and discards one of them early due to damage. It explodes shortly thereafter with enough force to produce a small mushroom cloud.

Terminator 2 Endoskeleton Arm

Dr. Miles Bennett Dyson examines the Terminator's right hand.

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 machine gun from the hip with one hand, while holding a coffin containing 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." 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 a room-temperature superconducting artificial neural network with the ability to learn.[5] In Terminator 2, The Terminator states that "the more contact [he] has with humans, the more [he] learns." In the 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 catch phrase "Hasta la vista, baby." A line spoken by the Terminator at the end of the movie indicates that Terminators may have the potential to understand emotion: "I know now why you cry, but it is something that I can never do." Sarah muses in the closing narration that the Terminator had "learned the value of human life". This emotion was so strong he was even able to defy John Connor's orders, thus defying his programming, for the greater good.

Organic coveringEdit

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.[6] Although Terminator flesh does contain blood, it only displays very minimal bleeding when damaged and has never been shown to experience any kind of profuse bleeding even from massive lacerations and dozens of gunshot wounds. It is unknown what manner of circulatory system, if any, is employed, nor 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.[7] Terminator flesh heals by itself,[8] and at a much faster rate than normal human tissue[9] 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, at which point it takes on a waxy, corpse-like pallor and begins to decompose.[10] Terminators are able to sense damage to their skin, which the Terminator from Terminator 2 interprets as equivalent to a human's sense of pain.

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.[11] 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 those of the geneticist and subsequently undergo cosmetic surgery to produce a more normal appearance.[12] The theft of the scientist's 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 templateEdit

It has been shown that Terminators' flesh coverings are somehow grown identically, producing many multiple copies of the exact 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, as well as a T-888 model known as "Vick" having a memory of 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.[13]

The music video for the Guns N' Roses song You Could Be Mine shows a T-800 having its flesh covering applied by a large industrial mold. The footage shown in the music video is taken from the film's teaser trailers.


Terminator confronting a biker in Terminator 2.

The 'Arnold' model came to be known as the 101, which refers to its likeness and skin type.

A 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 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. However, the fact that the scene was deleted and its overly humorous nature makes its canonicity dubious. The timeline changes performed in Terminator 2 with the destruction of Cyberdyne and the delay of Skynet's development may account for the continuity change between the first and third films.

Another explanation as to the Model 101 being built by humans as opposed to being new like it was in the first movie was due to the fact that the 101's CPU and hand were discovered, and advanced human technology to the point of where humans actually invented it pre-apocalypse instead of the machines.

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 Rossbach. 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.

Role in the seriesEdit

A Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 Terminator, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, is the main antagonist in the original Terminator film. This character was #22 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains list of villains.[14] An identical Model 101, having been reprogrammed by the resistance in the future, is one of the protagonists in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. This Terminator was #48 on AFI's list of heroes. A similar Terminator is portrayed by Schwarzenegger in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. At the end of each of the above films, Schwarzenegger's Terminator character is destroyed. Each sequel subsequently features another visually identical Terminator, with each one portrayed by Schwarzenegger. The new Terminator Salvation is set to reveal the origin of the 101 Model. Roland Kickinger was cast as the principal actor but director McG has hinted technology will play a part in bringing an authentic 1984 Arnold back to the screen.

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 was crushed in a hydraulic press by Sarah at the end of the first Terminator film after a lengthy chase. However, its damaged main CPU and one arm were recovered by Cyberdyne. These relics were used to dramatically advance the technological level and direction of the research at Cyberdyne, paradoxically leading to the creation of Skynet. At the end of the second film, both new Terminators and the surviving components from the first were destroyed in a vat of molten steel. In the third film, the Terminator is destroyed when it jams its remaining fuel cell into the T-X's mouth, resulting in a massive detonation that destroys them both.

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