James Cameron has undoubtedly left his massive footprint on the movie industry. Aside from producing high-grossing films such as Titanic and Avatar, he also impacted the sci-fi scene with a killer sequel to Ridley Scott's Alien and, of course, kickstarted the Terminator franchise with the two best films in the series. However, the Terminator films are more than desperate heroes attempting to survive an unstoppable killing machine.
At the core of the series, there is a beating heart underneath that shiny exoskeleton. By nature, the fight against machines elevates the tragic human story within the films. But it's that very struggle that brings us some of the best action sequences we've seen from sci-fi films in the past few decades.
10 Motorcycle Chase Scene - Terminator 2: Judgment Day
This is likely the first scene that fans think of when they think of the Terminator movies. In the early stages of T2, John Connor, the leader of the future resistance, finds himself caught in the crossfire of two bad dudes who can absorb bullets like sponges. To John's horror, he is the target (for one of them, at any rate).
After seemingly escaping the sinister liquid metal Terminator on the back of a motorcycle, the T-1000 rejoins the fight driving a semi-truck. After a bit of damage to the truck and public property, the truck explodes from its own leaking gas tank, and John and the T-800 make their getaway.
9 Bathroom Destruction - Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Do you remember that time a couple of Terminators completely wrecked a bathroom? No, not the aftermath-of-a-heavy-bean-burrito-dinner kind of "wrecked" either. In the third act of Terminator 3, John Connor and his future wife Kate head to the USAF base, believing the Skynet system can be shut down from there. Of course, the killer T-X portrayed by Kristanna Loken arrives to stir the pot a little.
The 800 series model sent to protect John and Kate throws down the gauntlet and starts an intense CGI-heavy brawl by throwing the T-X into the bathroom. At one point, the guardian Terminator wields a toilet like a baseball bat and beats the T-X with it -- as anyone would do in a bathroom fight, of course.
8 Skynet Lab T-800 Fight - Terminator Salvation
Christian Bale portrayed the famous leader of the resistance for a hot minute. In Terminator Salvation, Bale's John Connor arrives at a Skynet lab where he witnesses the tattered remains of humanity surviving as slave labor for the machines. Inside the laboratory, however, he receives a blast from his past. A hulking T-800 wearing the skin of a much younger Arnold Schwarzenegger emerges just in time to make John's day sour a little.
What happens next is nothing short of the T-800 tossing John around the lab like a rag doll. In the commotion, John manages to collect himself and he runs into Kyle Reese. Their meeting is cut short by the T-800, as John lights it up with a few shots of his grenade launcher. The weapon didn't end the Terminator then, but it eventually did when Kyle hit it with one finishing blow.
7 The Bar Scene - Terminator 2: Judgment Day
It's hard to qualify this as an "action" scene as there was nothing here that the T-800 couldn't handle with ease. But it's still an iconic scene that sets the tone of the film. In typical Terminator fashion, the T-800 enters a local bar wearing nothing but the skin his Skynet makers gave him. Instantly, he demands the leather digs and motorcycle of one unsuspecting biker.
After a joke and an attempt to burn the Terminator with his cigar, the biker and his pals learn quickly that this would be a losing battle. Tossing one biker through the bar window, another on top of the open oven burners in the kitchen, and stabbing one unlucky soul through the shoulder with his own blade, the Terminator cemented his dominance and took what he came for.
6 Desert Highway Chase - Terminator Salvation
Marcus (Sam Worthington), a Terminator in denial of his own nature, fights for the good of humanity in Terminator Salvation. At one point, he crosses paths with Kyle Reese and a young girl named Star. Quickly, they have to evade a hulking three-story machine, which they attempt to dispatch by blowing up a fuel truck.
The machine survives the explosion and sends two motorcycle-style Terminators after the trio as they barrel down the highway in a tow truck. In a pulse-pounding scene, they manage to demolish both Terminators and a Hunter-Killer. Despite their efforts, though, Kyle Reese and Star are still captured by the machines and forced into slave labor.
5 The Police Station Attack - The Terminator
Perhaps one of the most harrowing escapes from the destructive force of a Terminator happened in the original film. Sarah Connor, still very innocent and naive when it came to the hard realities of her destiny, sought safety within a Los Angeles police station. Meanwhile, Kyle Reese was detained for his talk of an indestructible killer machine sent from the future.
It wasn't long before the Terminator was uttering its famous line to the officer at the front desk. "I'll be back," the cyborg said, and a short moment later came careening through the front entrance of the police station in a car. What ensued was a deadly hunt for Sarah. Thankfully, Kyle was able to get free of his cuffs and escort her to safety.
4 T-800 Vs. T-1000 - Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Sarah, John and their Terminator protector find themselves inside a steel mill after fleeing the T-1000. It is here that the T-1000 meets its end, but not before one last battle. At first, the Terminators go at it, but the T-1000 gets the upper hand and crushes the T-800's arm with a rotating gear. When the T-1000 turned its attention to the Connors, that didn't stop the T-800. The resilient cyborg simply severs the limb entirely and continues the pursuit of its liquid-metal foe.
After another brief brawl, the T-1000 incapacitates Arnold's Terminator by slowly crushing him with a steel beam. Finally, the T-1000 delivers a finishing blow by impaling the struggling Terminator through the floor. Thankfully, because it's a movie and the good guys must win, the T-800 reboots and uses a conveyer belt to help him obtain a clean shot on the T-1000 that sends him to his doom in the molten steel below.
3 Arnold vs. Arnold - Terminator Genisys
While Terminator Genisys wasn't received very well by critics, it still had a few fun moments. This one, in particular, was perhaps the best in the entire film. Terminator Genisys confuses the entire saga by injecting a boatload more time travel on top of everything that had already happened in the series.
Convoluted, yes, but this did bring old Arnold and young Arnold (both as the 800 series model) together for a quick brawl in the Los Angeles setting of 1984. Sarah Connor ends the fight by sniping the young version with a single shot through the chest. Wait, did Sarah just quickly (and easily) end the unstoppable terror that relentlessly pursued her in the first film?
2 Infiltrating Cyberdyne Systems - Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Sarah Connor, the T-800, and the creator of the future Terminators' neural net processor, Miles Dyson, hatch a plan to break into Cyberdyne systems and destroy his work in order to prevent an apocalyptic future.
An alarm is tripped that causes an entire police force to arrive, alongside the T-1000. The T-800 efficiently incapacitates the entire police force without killing a single soul (as per John's orders).The cyborg does this by removing the gas masks of some of the officers and destroying their vehicles with a minigun.
1 Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor Vs. The Terminator - The Terminator
In the final moments of the original film, the Terminator's pursuit of Sarah Connor comes to a head. While these films fall in the sci-fi genre, this scene had the DNA of a horror film ever-present. After Kyle Reese causes the Terminator to lose all of its flesh from a pipe bomb explosion, its 'true' form pursued the couple through a factory.
Kyle eventually sacrificed himself by blowing up the Terminator with another pipe bomb. Despite his sacrifice, the upper half of the Terminator was still active and crawling toward the injured Sarah Connor to end her. We all know what happens next: she crushes the machine with a hydraulic press, ending the terror she just endured... for now.