Terminator Franchise Timeline Recap

Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions released Terminator Genesys, the most recent installment of the Terminator franchise, on July 1, 2015. This latest installment revisits the adventures and Sarah and John Connor. The movie stars Jason Clarke as John Connor, Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor, Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese, and Arnold Schwarzenegger reprises his role as the Terminator turned Guardian, and has some major departures from the original story.

To understand how the timelines differ, let’s take a brief look at the previous installments. You can also find more information from DirecTV’s Terminator alternate timeline.


The Terminator (1984)

The film that started it all. It’s 2029 and machines have taken over the world and enslaved the human race. This is the result of an artificial intelligence known as Skynet becoming sentient in the 1990s and taking over the world. A plucky band of humans have managed to rebel against their robot overlords and are actually winning the war. In a last-ditch effort to turn the tides, the machines try to get rid of John Connor, the leader of the resistance, by sending a Terminator T-800 Model 101, back to 1984 to kill his mother before he is born. Not to be outdone, John Connor uses the same technology to send a human, Kyle Reese, back in time to stop the terminator. At the end of the movie, Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor have defeated the T-800. It also turns out Kyle Reese is also John Connor’s father, so sending him back ensures that John Connor’s existence and the human victory over the machines.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

In the second installment of The Terminator franchise, the machines are still reeling from the defeat in 1984 and have decided to send another terminator back in time to take another shot at the Connor family. This time they go back to 1995, two years before the date that Skynet takes over – also known as Judgment Day. Sarah Connor has fully embraced her role as mother of the messiah and become a total badass (and a little crazy) to the point that Child Protective Services have become involved and John is well on his way to developing some serious mommy issues. The terminator in question is a T-1000, an advanced model that’s made of some kind of shape-shifting liquid metal alloy, and is even more dangerous and unstoppable than the T-800.

Not to be outdone, the future John has captured and reprogrammed a T-800/850 model to go back in time and act as a guardian and protector of 1995 John, while also playing family counselor to bring the estranged mother and son closer together. Just like the first movie they defeat the terminator, with an added twist of Sarah Connor taking the initiative to strike at Cyberdyne (the creator of Skynet) to prevent Skynet from being invented.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

This movie shows the first shift in the timeline from the original. Sarah Connor’s attempt at preventing Skynet’s inception has proven unsuccessful, and the machines still rule the world; however, as of 2003 Skynet has not gone live and judgment day has not yet happened. This installment has the machines from the future setting out to eliminate John Connor, his future lieutenants in the revolution and his future wife, Kate Brewster.

This installment has future John murdered by a T-101 who is then reprogrammed by Kate Brewster to go back and protect young John and Kate from a T-X model terminator. John and Kate also try to prevent Judgement Day from happening, but are unsuccessful. By the end of the movie, Skynet has gone live and Judgement Day happens in 2003.

Terminator Salvation (2009)

This installment shows life after Judgment Day, in the early days of the resistance and the introduction of the T-800. The robot savior in this scenario is a cyborg, named Marcus Wright, who doesn’t realize that he is a cyborg. After a series of misunderstandings, John and the other resistance fighters team up with Marcus Wright to fight the T-800 and destroy a Cyberdyne base during a crucial battle in the war to save humanity.

Terminator Genisys (2015)

Now we come to the latest installment of the Terminator franchise, and major changes to the original timeline. Kyle Reese is sent back to 1984, but this time Sarah Connor is ready for him because she was actually raised by a reprogrammed T-800/850 unit after her parents were killed by another Terminator unit. On the opposing team are another T-800 unit, a T-1000 unit, and a cyborg John Connor (!), all determined to bring about Judgment Day on the original 1997 schedule.