The Terminator movies have run out of ways to reinvent Arnold Schwarzenegger’s original villain, but the series can’t simply kill off the T-800.

Although it might be tempting for the Terminator franchise to kill off Arnold Schwarzenegger’s original T-800, that is not really how the character works — which is part of what makes the villain so effective. When it was introduced in 1984’s original The Terminator, the titular T-800 was an instantly iconic sci-fi horror villain. An unstoppable, un-killable robot assassin that would stop at nothing to kill its targets, the original movie’s Terminator was an implacable villain for the ages.

However, Terminator 2: Judgement Day’s more powerful T-1000 introduced a new villain into the series and turned Schwarzenegger’s killer into a hero as a result. Initially, this was great news for the franchise. Terminator 2: Judgement Day became one of a small handful of sequels that was even more critically acclaimed than its franchise predecessor, leaving audiences excited to see where this franchise went next.

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Unfortunately, the slew of reboots that followed proved that keeping the Terminator franchise fresh was a tall order. Now, after no less than four reboots and five sequels that have all failed to impress critics, it can be tempting to think that killing off the original Terminator could be a clean break for a new Terminator movie. However, killing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 would also be a tricky feat to pull off for one vital reason — the character isn’t a standalone franchise villain. The T-800 is only one of Skynet’s thousands of Terminators, and this is an inherent part of what makes Schwarzenegger’s villain so threatening.

Why Terminator Can’t Kill Off Arnie’s T-800


While the Terminator series could retire the T-800 model, the original T-800 can’t really be killed off the way that most franchise’s leading characters can, since the robot is an interchangeable automaton. The T-800 is imminently replaceable and there are always more borderline identical models in its stead, meaning the original Terminator villain can’t be “killed off” in the traditional sense. This is a tricky issue for the Terminator movies, which have tried to pull off various fresh starts over the decades. The two most recent Terminator sequels attempted to work around this issue by rebooting the entire franchise timeline, but neither found much favor with critics or viewers.

Meanwhile, the underrated Terminator: Salvation at least attempted to tell a new sort of story within the Terminator universe, dropping the contemporary chase thriller formula for a post-apocalyptic war story. The only issue was that the story wasn’t particularly compelling, although Terminator: Salvation did deserve props for doing something new and relying on the T-800 less than any other movie in the series. Even Terminator: Salvation did eventually feature a scene starring (a CGI-assisted copy of) Schwarzenegger’s T-800, however, providing more proof that the series struggles to let go of its most famous face. Thanks to the countless copies of the T-800 that are ready to replace the original movie’s monster, the Terminator movies are never likely to solve their inability to drop Schwarzenegger’s recognizable villain.

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