A new Terminator movie is on the horizon – but what about the film series as a whole? How many Terminator movies are there and what order should they be watched in?

I have answers, so let’s take a look.

Viewing Order One – The original series

The original series of Terminator films kicked off with 1984’s The Terminator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton. This film introduced the perils of time travel and saw Arnie take on his most famous role – the almost unstoppable Terminator.

The film was followed by four sequels running between 1991 and 2015. The sequels jumped back and forth across the timeline, creating alternate futures that were all part of the same series.

Arnold Schwarzenegger appears in some form or another in all five movies. Linda Hamilton only appears in two movies.

This viewing order is as follows:

  • The Terminator (1984)
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
  • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
  • Terminator Salvation (2009)
  • Terminator Genisys (2015)

Viewing Order Two – The James Cameron films

For some people, the Terminator series peaked with 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The good news is, you can JUST watch The Terminator and Terminator 2 and finish the story there – and this is thanks to an extended cut of T2.

Released in 2015, Terminator 2: Judgement Day – The Extended Edition is a longer cut of T2 featuring previously trimmed scenes. This version includes an alternate ending to T2, set in the year 2029, and concludes the Terminator story.

This viewing order is as follows:

  • The Terminator (1984)
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day – The Extended Edition (1991)/(2015)

If you watch the Extended Edition of T2 you can finish the story without the need to watch any of the sequels.

Viewing Order Three – The James Cameron films and more

OK, so I’m breaking the rules a little here. This viewing order includes two movies and one television series.

Let me explain.

In 2008, FOX aired a short-lived television series called Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The series was set shortly after the events of Terminator 2 and presented an alternate timeline (ignoring the events of Terminator 3 – 5).

If you opt for this viewing order, you will watch the first two movies then travel down an alternate future via a two season TV show.

This viewing order is as follows:

  • The Terminator (1984)
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)

Is the series any good?

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles starts off promising and has some decent ideas, but sadly it fizzles out before the end. The show also got cancelled, so if you watch it, don’t expect a neat resolution.

Viewing Order Four – The rebooted James Cameron films

Despite the longevity of the Terminator series, the movies have had a turbulent time at the box office and have suffered critically too. As a result, a number of planned sequels were cancelled before they ever got off the ground.

Terminator Salvation was supposed to kick-start a trilogy of Terminator movies, but it never happened. Terminator Genisys was also conceived as the first part in a new trilogy, but that didn’t happen either.

The series is now being rebooted with 2019’s Terminator 6 (aka Terminator: Dark Fate) creating a new(ish) jumping on point for audiences.Terminator 6 is a direct sequel to Terminator 2 and will ignore movies 3-5.

This viewing order is as follows:

  • The Terminator (1984)
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
  • Terminator 6 (2019)

If you opt for this viewing order you simply watch the first two movies in the series then jump to the new film. In this viewing order movies 3-5 (and The Sarah Connor Chronicles) do not exist.

Viewing Order Five – Production Order

And finally, should you just want to watch all of the Terminator movies, then watch them in production order.

This viewing order is as follows:

  • The Terminator (1984)
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) + The Extended Edition (2015)
  • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
  • Terminator Salvation (2009)
  • Terminator Genisys (2015)
  • Terminator 6 (2019)

And now you know!