Terminator Movie Time Line of Events
With the fourth installment of the popular Terminator movie series coming out in May, viewers may want to first revisit the earlier three films in the franchise in order to best understand the plot. For those of us confused by the multiple time lines contained in the original movie trilogy, below is a brief synopsis of each movie, as well as a breakdown of John Connor’s complicated character growth.
The Terminator 1984
In the first groundbreaking movie, an unstoppable Terminator is sent back through time to kill Sarah Connor, the woman whose unborn baby will grow up to become the leader of the resistance against the Cyborg’s creators. Also sent back through time is a resistance fighter, Kyle Reese, whose mission is to ensure that Sarah Connor’s son, John Connor, can help defeat the machines in the future. While Sarah Connor starts out as a mild-mannered waitress, Kyle teaches her combat survival skills, and together, the duo fights for their lives throughout the movie against the relentless Terminator. In the end, Kyle Reese is killed, and only Sarah can protect her unborn child from the Terminator. Finding her inner strength, Sarah lures the Cyborg into a trap, and crushes it to death in a factory. But even with the Terminator defeated, is Sarah Connor really safe?
John Connor Unborn
While the first Terminator film only talks about John Connor, his origins are revealed in a mind-bending time loop. Though Kyle Reese served under John Connor in the future, because of a romance with Sarah Connor in 1984, he is also revealed to be John Connor’s father. With this revelation, the first movie starts to question the role of fate in all of our futures.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991
Seven years after the first movie, we now find Sarah Connor institutionalized against her will, as nobody believes her stories about the Terminator or the upcoming Judgment Day. John Connor, now ten years old, is also estranged from his mother, whom he believes to be crazy. Just as in the first movie, a killer machine is again sent back from the future to kill John Connor, only this Terminator is far more advanced. The T-1000 is a liquid metal assassin, able to mimic other people, and can also turn its appendages into deadly daggers. Fortunately, another protector is also sent back, this time the same model Terminator as the first movie, only now programmed to save John Connor’s life. Eventually, John and Sarah are reunited, and with the help of the good Cyborg, they work to make it so that Judgment Day will never happen. But even with all remnants of the advanced killing machines destroyed, is Judgment Day really prevented?
John Connor as Teenager
In the second movie, John Connor is shown in flashback and flash-forward as both a child and a man, but is predominantly featured as a teenager. Understandably, John is a reckless youth with issues of abandonment and authority, but finally arcs into somebody who is responsible and caring. With the belief that there is no fate but what we make, John tries his best to stop Judgment Day, but as we all know, the story continues from here.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines 2003
In the third movie, while Sarah Connor has unfortunately died from disease, John Connor is now in his twenties and lives the life of a drifter. Though both John and Sarah did everything possible to stop Judgment Day, John has his doubts, and remains anonymous so he cannot be found. However, just as before, an even more advanced Terminator is sent back through time, this time with liquid metal covering a variety of combat weapons. Also like before, another inferior Terminator is sent back to protect John, with the goal being to lock John away in a bomb shelter. Unlike the last movie, this third entry reveals that Judgment Day is inevitable, and that humans are ultimately responsible for their own destruction.
John Connor as Outcast
In the third movie, John Connor is now bitter and frustrated, and wants nothing to do with leadership. Having lost everything, John would rather be a total nobody, and feels guilt and remorse when the horror starts again. However, while Judgment Day does indeed happen in this movie, John lives through the ordeal, and finally accepts his position as leader.
Terminator: Salvation 2009
In the latest Terminator movie, the dreaded future has finally occurred, and John Connor is now engaged in daily combat against the machines. But while details are scarce about the fourth movie, new revelations are sure to be made, and John Connor’s evolution into a soldier will continue his intriguing character arc and this franchise will keep giving us the best in action movies.