Warning: SPOILERS for Terminator: Dark Fate.
The Terminator is one of Hollywood's greatest movie villains (and heroes) but the unfortunate truth is Skynet's perfect killing machines only have a 35% success rate. Created by James Cameron, the titular cyborg assassin debuted in 1984's The Terminator and instantly became iconic thanks to its star-making portrayal by Arnold Schwarzenegger. After five sequels over the next 35 years, Skynet, the A.I. that doomed humanity to a post-apocalyptic future, has sent multiple Terminators back in time to kill Sarah (Linda Hamilton) and John Connor (Edward Furlong). But despite the Terminators' lofty reputation, their track record has been abysmal.
Officially, Skynet sent four Terminators back in time: the original T-800 in The Terminator, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the T-X (Kristanna Loken) in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and John Connor/the T-3000 (Jason Clarke) in Terminator Genisys. In Terminator Salvation, Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) was a human/hybrid Terminator that failed to kill John Connor (Christian Bale) in the future. Terminator: Dark Fate has revised the future apocalypse so that a different A.I. named Legion is humanity's enemy, but Legion also ordered a Terminator called the Rev-9 (Diego Luna) to time travel and kill Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes). Despite their different names, Skynet and Legion are essentially the same thing. And yet, despite each new Terminator being more powerful than the previous model - indeed, the Rev-9 combines the abilities of the T-800 and the T-1000 and can split itself into independent components - the Terminators routinely fail their Skynet/Legion-mandated missions.
If Skynet and the Terminators were capable of embarrassment, they should be, because the results don't lie: the original T-800 failed to kill Sarah Connor in 1984 and was destroyed by Sarah and Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn). The T-1000 failed to kill John Connor in T2, and the nanobot-infused John Connor/T-3000 in Terminator Genisys also failed to kill his mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke) and Reese (Jai Courtney). In fact, in Terminator Genisys, Skynet sent even more Terminators, including a T-1000, to kill the young Sarah and they all failed, thanks in part to Pops (Schwarzenegger), a T-800 who saved Sarah and decided to raise the girl himself. In Terminator Salvation's future, Marcus Wright also defied his Skynet-mandated orders and helped John Connor destroy the prototype T-800 instead. Finally, Terminator: Dark Fate's Rev-9 utterly failed to murder Dani Ramos.
However, Skynet has scored some big wins over John Connor too: In Terminator 3, the T-101 (AKA the T-850) killed John Connor (Nick Stahl) in the future before his wife Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) reprogrammed the cyborg and sent it to protect her from the T-X in the past. And in Terminator Genisys, the T-5000 killed John Connor in 2029 and then turned him into the T-3000. Finally, Terminator: Dark Fate revealed that the T-800 who would later take the name Carl successfully assassinated John Connor in 1998. Since T3, Salvation, and Genisys were wiped out of canon by Dark Fate, this means that Carl is the lone successful T-800 Terminator in the revised timeline.
Overall, the T-800s have a much more successful track record when they're reprogrammed to be 'good'. The T-800 succeeded in its primary mission to protect John Connor in T2, the T-101 saved John and Kate Brewster in T3, and Pops also saved Sarah and Kyle in Genisys. When Carl also decided to join up with Sarah, Dani, and her augmented human protector Grace (Mackenzie Davis) in Terminator: Dark Fate, the T-800 also succeeded in keeping his friends alive and destroying the Rev-9. Even though the 'good' T-800s are always destroyed in the process, their excellent success rate can't be faulted.
Meanwhile, Skynet's most successful Terminator model is actually the T-X. In Terminator 3, the Terminatrix's primary mission was to assassinate the future leaders of the human resistance in the past. The T-X killed every target except Kate Brewster and John Connor, but since the female murder bot also ensured that Judgment Day took place, Skynet came online, and 3-billion humans were annihilated by nuclear weapons, it's safe to consider all of that a big victory for Skynet - even if Kate and John lived to fight another day. All in all, the T-X has to be considered the best Terminator when judged by the stellar results it delivered. Skynet really dropped the ball by only making one instead of mass-producing the Terminatrix.
- Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) release date: Nov 01, 2019