The Top 15 Terminator Robots, Ranked
Whether we like every Terminator movie or don’t (let’s face it, most of us don’t love at least one of them), we can usually all agree that the robots are cool. But how cool? The Arnold Schwarzenegger cyborg clearly commands the most popularity, but where does he rank in terms of actual effectiveness? We’re going to bring the fake math and work it out, by ranking the top 15 Terminator robots to appear on the big screen. Note: this list only includes the movie Terminators. The Sarah Connor Chronicles and the comics are their own thing. And while we dig Cameron and the Robocop vs. Terminator dogs, we had to draw the line somewhere!
Incomplete/Honorable Mention: Skynet T-5000 (Genisys)
Matt Smith might have played the most amazing, powerful Terminator of them all…had Genisys actually started a new trilogy. According to the writers, he was a dimension-hopping Skynet in humanoid form who traveled the multiverse to fix the timelines in his favor. That’s a perfectly ironic bit of casting. Unfortunately, based on what he actually does onscreen, we can’t say very much about him, save that he turned John Connor. That’s a twist — but doesn’t offer much idea of what he can really do.
15. Marcus Wright (Salvation)
Marcus Wright’s story has a great hook. A prisoner on death row donates his body to science, then wakes up in the apocalypse. Later, he finds out he has been turned into a cyborg and an unwitting spy, with a conveniently donation-ready human heart. Whatever you think of him as a character, though, he sucks as a Terminator. Skynet would have done just as well to plant a bomb inside him instead. And they definitely blew it by making him the same blood type as the one guy they’re definitely trying to kill.
14. T-1 (Rise of the Machines)
Basically just mildly intelligent miniature tanks. They barely qualify as Terminators, but since they’re officially the first ones, they count.
13. Hydrobot (Salvation)
Robot snakes that can swim are creepy, but ultimately more effective as drain cleaners than human killers. Unless humans hide in drains and sewers. Then they’re great. But on land, definitely inferior to humanoids.
12. Endoskeletons – T-700 and T-800 (Every installment)
The icon of the franchise, besides Arnold Schwarzenegger in sunglasses. Endoskeletons were an instant creepy classic since their introduction. With a look that’s both a throwback to walking-skeleton ghost stories and an echo of future mechanization fears, they strike a primal nerve. However, in the future war, they’re basically cannon fodder.
11. T-600 (Salvation)
They make terrible fake humans, but these rotting rubber-skins with big guns look supremely creepy. It’s everything scary about Terminators combined with every suppressed fear of mannequins and dolls. The biggest disappointment with Salvation not being a great movie is that we never got good consumer-grade toys of these guys. (Mega-expensive Hot Toys figures aside.)
10. Giant Terminator Mech (Salvation)
Infiltrating is tossed out the window with this one. Giant robots make for great intimidation tactics, but they also make much bigger targets. With humans waging guerilla warfare against Skynet, giant war machines prove less effective than ground-level soldiers.
9. John Connor T-3000 (Genisys)
The ultimate fusion of man and machine, the nanocyte T-300o is theoretically the most powerful shape-shifter and best infiltrator in the arsenal. It would also have been the most shocking plot twist if trailers hadn’t spoiled it. But ultimately all it succeeded in doing was accidentally turning the Arnold Terminator into a T-1000, giving Skynet an even more powerful enemy. Way to go. Had he been more human, he might have known: it’s not the size of your powers, but what you do with them that counts.
8. Medusa Endoskeleton (Dark Fate)
The new infantry of the future, these endoskeletons up the ante by having all the powers of Dr. Octopus. Spider-Man would have his hands full, and humans barely have a chance. It takes cybernetic upgrades for even a fighter as gifted as Grace to have a real shot against them. The downside is they’re not well suited to be infiltrators, because where would the tentacles fit inside a human skin?
7. Moto-Terminator (Salvation)
Humans can run from an Arnold Terminator, because he’s slow and deliberate. Nobody can run faster than a robot motorcycle. But because bikes are loud, potential victims will hear them coming, which helps.
6. Hunter-Killer – Aerial and Ground (The Terminator)
Are these vehicles piloted by robots, or just giant vehicle-shaped robots? Nobody knows for certain. But they’re invaluable to that whole future war atmosphere, just by hanging in the sky or crushing skulls on the ground, and looking badass.
5. T-1000 (Judgment Day)
The original liquid metal shape-shifter is like a robot Johnny Knoxville — it just keeps moving forward no matter how many times it gets blown apart or knocked down. And it even has a mildly impish sense of humor to boot (that finger wag rules). But its vulnerability to extreme heat and cold needs work. As the director’s cut of T2 reveals, he was already starting to mess up before the Connors and their cyborg pal messed him up forever in that molten steel. The next generation of variants learned from his mistakes.
4. Cyberdyne Systems 101 Series T-800 (The Terminator)
He just keeps coming back. The original Arnold model appears in nearly every film (we’ll get to the main exception in a couple more entries). And it’s because he’s the most popular. As T2, Genisys, and Dark Fate reveal, he’s also capable of learning at least a facsimile of compassion, and functioning as a father figure. The problem is he also usually gets destroyed at the end of each adventure, so his real super power is just having multiple bodies that keep being sent back in time. It’s kind of like The Prestige, except robots don’t care so much about dying again and again.
3. The T-X (Rise of the Machines)
Skynet’s major backup plan if their first Terminator failed seems to primarily have been to send back several more. But not until the T-X did they realize that maybe programming two plans into one Terminator was a good idea. So she’s not just here for John Connor, but also to ensure Skynet’s creation, plus she has a blaster under that liquid skin. And as we see in Dark Fate, they probably should have thought of that of all for the T-800s as well. Silly Skynet — you retconned yourself out of existence. Your flaws are officially Legion.
2. Rev-9 (Dark Fate)
Most Terminators can be taken out with the extreme heat of a plasma weapon, or at least crushed in a hydraulic press or melted in red hot steel. But not the Rev-9, whose flexible skeleton never breaks and whose processor cannot be crushed. Specifically vulnerable to nothing less than an electromagnetic pulse, this guy can also split in two and hack any computer system with his fingers. He’s the threat Ultron should have been to the Avengers, if JARVIS/Vision hadn’t immediately matched him move for move.
1. T-850 (Rise of the Machines)
Why the T-850 over the T-800? Simple. The slightly older Arnold was the first Terminator to successfully kill John Connor. More impressively, it was the future Messiah, height-of-his-powers John Connor. Assuming we can take the Terminator’s word for it, of course. He did tell us to “Tawk to da hand,” after all.
Which Terminator model would you rank at the top? Let us know in the comment section below!