'Terminator 2: Judgement Day' - the Film

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The Terminator Film Series
The Terminator | Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines | Terminator Salvation | Terminator Genisys
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Affectionately known as T2, this is one of the most successful sequels of all time. At the time of release it was the most expensive film yet made, with the budget believed to be $100 million. It also revolutionised filmmaking with its use of computer effects.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day is an action-packed, haunting cautionary tale. An innocent, likeable man inadvertently is responsible for the end of the world, a robotic killing machine becomes the ideal father figure, a child is haunted by his destiny while his mother sacrifices her humanity in a bid to save the human race. It also contains one of cinemas most iconic images, Arnold Schwarzenegger astride the Harley Davidson Fat Boy motorbike, as well as one of the most haunting; a child's playground burning in apocalyptic flames, filled with skulls.


32 years after an artificial intelligence called Skynet started a nuclear-apocalypse known as 'Judgement Day' to wipe out the human race on 29 August 1997, the human survivors led by John Connor have all-but won the war against the machines. Two Terminators, assassin robots designed to look human, are sent back in time to the early 1990s; one programmed to kill John Connor as a child, the other to protect him.

Back in the early 1990s the 29-year-old Sarah Connor has been incarcerated in the Pescadero State Hospital, a Mental Institute. She had been arrested trying to destroy a computer factory in an attempt to prevent Judgement Day, yet her attempts to explain the future have left those around her convinced she is mad. The two Terminators track the young John Connor down in a shopping centre which leads to a chase along the LA River. Connor is rescued by the Terminator sent to protect him and discovers that this is a T-800 Model CSM1011, the exact type of Terminator that tried to kill his mother before he was conceived. However sent to kill him is a far more advanced model, the T-1000, which is an advanced prototype with a liquid-metal mimetic alloy skin that allows it to change shape into anything it touches. It murders John's adopted parents and disguises itself as his adopted stepmother in the hope that John will return home but when it realises that John is not going to fall into that trap, plans on killing Sarah Connor. Realising this, John orders the Terminator2 to help him rescue her and instructs him not to kill anyone.

Sarah Connor is partway through escaping from the mental institute, where she has been abused, when John Connor and the Terminator arrives, followed quickly by the T-1000. The Connors manage to escape and head to Sarah's friend Enrique. On the way Sarah learns that Skynet's creation was largely the responsibility of Miles Dyson at Cyberdyne Systems, using the previous Terminator's damaged CPU chip and arm as a template for his work.

Although Sarah Connor realises that the Terminator is an ideal father figure who will never stop to keep John safe, she has haunting nightmares about Judgement Day. Sarah decides to kill Dyson to prevent Judgement Day; yet when she sees Dyson with his son, she can't. For all her toughness, Sarah isn't a Terminator, but a human. Instead, the Connors show Dyson that the Terminator is a robot and persuade him to help stop the future. Using Dyson's access, they raid Cyberdyne in a plan to destroy chip and all Dyson's research, but the police are called and the T-1000 alerted. Dyson is shot but sacrifices his life to save the future.

Can the Connors survive a final encounter with the T-1000, and can they ensure that no trace of future technology remains?


Characters and actors in Bold appear in other Terminator films.

The TerminatorArnold Schwarzenegger
Sarah ConnorLinda Hamilton
John ConnorEdward Furlong
T-1000Robert Patrick
Dr SilbermanEarl Boen
Miles DysonJoe Morton
Tarissa DysonS Epatha Merkerson
Danny DysonDe Vaughn Nixon
Enrique SalcedaCastulo Guerra
TimDanny Cooksey
Janelle VoightJenette Goldstein
Todd VoightXander Berkeley
'Twin' Sarah ConnorLeslie Hamilton Gearren
Kyle Reese3Michael Biehn

Making Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Terminator 2: Judgement Day was made seven years after The Terminator, a film conceived, co-written and directed by James 'Jim' Cameron. There were two reasons why making the sequel was delayed for so long; financial and practical. Half of the intellectual property rights to The Terminator had been sold to Hemdale Film Corporation in order to raise enough money to finance the first film, while the other half was owned by Gale Anne Hurd4 and her production company Pacific Western. Yet by the late 1980s Hemdale Film Corporation were in financial difficulties and had numerous lawsuits regarding unpaid bills. In 1990 Schwarzenegger used his influence to persuade Mario Kassar the head of Carolco Pictures5 to purchase Hemdale's Terminator rights and finance the film. Hemdale declared brankruptcy a year later.

The other delay was due to the practical constraints involved in bringing Cameron's vision to life. Having seen what could be achieved with Computer Animation when making The Abyss (1989), Cameron knew that it was now technically possible to realise his vision, although it would be pushing the boundaries of film effects. It also would prove extremely expensive, and though T2 was originally conceived as costing $60 million, costs kept escalating until the true cost was over $100 million. Some of the money was raised using product placement, particularly from Miller Beer and Pepsi whose logo frequently appears throughout the film. A teaser trailer was designed to show how the Terminator was the same make and model but different individual Terminator from the original film, with one showing Terminators being constructed in a factory. This was also used to gauge interest in the film, which soon proved extensive.

Although Arnold Schwarzenegger was billed as the film's star, Cameron agreed to make T2 only if Linda Hamilton agreed to return; he felt her character was central to the whole story and it could not be made without her. Once she had signed, a release date was set for 3 July 1991, giving the team less than a year to make the film. Cameron quickly co-wrote the script with William 'Bill' Wisher, with whom he had co-written The Terminator. The original inspired much of the sequel, for example a scene in which Sarah Connor wanted to attack the technology company responsible for creating Skynet had been deleted from the first film, but would now form part of the plot. A liquid metal villain had been conceived for The Terminator, this villain was now incorporated into the sequel. Despite the time limit, great care was used to ensure that the plot was scientifically plausible, for example Apples' Larry Yaeger was used as an AI consultant.

Much of the story and appearance of Terminator 2 had been determined by the first film, with many of The Terminator's key personnel returning. This included special effects company Fantasy II who did the miniature (model) work for The Terminator and Stan Winston, whose studio designed the fearsome Terminator endoskeleton.

The initial draft for Terminator 2 was 140 pages long, which was completed on 10 May 1990. It was soon realised that this was too long, and it was edited down by 15 July to 124 pages. One of the most ambitious sequences was the future fight scene set in 2029, which mirrored similar scenes in The Terminator only on a much more lavish scale. Even so this sequence was heavily cut back from what was originally conceived, which included new Terminator models6 that never made it into the finished film. The interior of Skynet had a design that was inspired by Forbidden Planet (1956) while the Time Displacement Device time machine design of three rotating circles was later used in Contact (1997). The future war sequence was also intended to include the production line seen in the teaser trailer.

The character of the T-1000 had to be cast immediately due to the special effects requirements. As this advanced Terminator morphs into various people and objects, effects company ILM7 required extra time to complete any shots requiring these boundary-pushing effects. This meant that numerous scenes featuring the T-1000 were filmed months apart; shots that would require effects work were filmed up to three months before the rest of scene that did not. Robert Patrick was cast as it was felt that he would be the Terminator-equivalent of a fast, agile Porsche compared to the slower, heavier tank personified by Schwarzenegger.

One minor problem was that Edward Furlong who played John Connor had his voice break during the making of the film, and so his dialogue had to be re-recorded or digitally altered at the end to ensure it sounded correct.

Cameron oversaw the whole film and was in many ways a perfectionist, determined to ensure every detail was correct and knowing exactly how to create his vision. He provided the vocal of the T-1000 dying as he knew exactly how it should sound. He even, with his brother Mike, developed a new camera viewfinder, called the Helmet Integrated Display or HID for short, to use when making the film in order to best capture his vision.

Location Filming

Filming began on 9 October 1990 and ended on 24 April 1991. As filming finished only two and half months before the release date, Jim Cameron made the unusual decision of having three editors. Much of the filming took place at real locations. The shopping centre that John Connor is seen playing video games in was the Santa Monica Place, with an empty restaurant transformed into the arcade using games provided by the company creating the Terminator 2 video game. The LA River canal system is also a genuine location that had previously appeared in various films, such as Grease. When filming Salceda's compound, all the vehicles, motorhomes, satellite dishes and even the helicopter were borrowed from people living in the local area.

The Lakeview Terrace Medical Centre served as the hospital that Sarah Connor was incarcerated inside. This was an abandoned hospital that had closed after it had suffered seismic damage. When preparing for filming, the crew erected a real barbed-wire fence erected and signs reading 'Criminally Disordered Retention Facility'. This led to a local protest as it was so convincing the neighbours believed it was opening for real. The interiors were a film set, but one based on Atascadero Hospital, a genuine facility.

A real building was used as Cyberdyne's headquarters, which was the empty Renco 38 building in the Bayside Technology Park, Fremont, California. A fake floor was constructed at the top of the existing building in order for it to appear to be completely destroyed. A real SWAT team was filmed storming the Cyberdyne headquarters, as they made it look more realistic than extras with no experience. The motorway chase took place on the 47 Terminal Island Freeway, which required 10 miles of electrical cable in order for the sequence to be lit. A helicopter flew under a bridge along the freeway for real, and a real-size helicopter was crashed into van.

The climax was filmed in a genuine former steel mill in Fontana, California. This was shortly before it was dismantled and shipped to China. The actual temperature there was very cold, with vats of water, powdered sugar and mineral oil with 400 flickering orange lights beneath used to give the impression of molten steel. The steel mill grounds where former foundry buildings had been torn down were used as the shattered landscape of the future.

That said, the park overlooking the city was a fake. In fact the area with the fantastic view overlooking the city was really a working landfill site. The crew made a small part of this temporarily transformed into a park.


Terminator 2 is renowned for being a special effects milestone being one of the first films to show what computer animation could achieve. There is, however, far more to the film than that, as in addition to pushing the boundaries of what computers could do, it encompassed traditional methods. Some of the effects shown were created using actors with identical twins – including star Linda Hamilton who has an identical twin sister Leslie. Part of the outstanding nuclear blast sequence was created using breakfast cereal shredded wheat, which simulated crumbling buildings. As for the giant explosions, well, they were giant explosions; wone 250-feet high explosion was filmed in the desert and used as the convincing nuclear apocalypse.

Numerous effects companies worked on the film:

  • World-leading effects company Industrial Light & Magic, known as ILM, created the jaw-dropping computer imagery, especially those involving the T-1000 morphing into various shapes and characters. Their work resulted in 3½ minutes of screen time, overseen by Oscar-winner Dennis Muren.

  • Stan Winston Studio created over 1,000 moulds, mechanical effects and prosthetics for the film. Some of the original Terminator models from The Terminator were re-used, although the knuckles were redesigned to make the hands more streamlined.

    The sequence in which the T-1000 froze and cracked was done using prosthetics worn by a double-amputee Larry Johnson, followed by actor Robert Patrick standing in a hole in the ground to give the impression his legs had cracked off. The studio also did the prosthetics worn to make Arnold Schwarzenegger look robotic, with it taking up to 5 ½ hours to apply the make-up and an hour to safely remove. They also made extensive make-up prosthetics such as masks to make the stunt team resemble the actors, as well as a lifelike animatronic Arnold dummy that was made to be shot at, as well as an animatronic Sarah Connor model that was destroyed in nuclear blast.

  • Fantasy II, a company run by Oscar-winner Gene Warren who had worked on the first film, did the miniatures and opticals, specialising in the Future War sequence. This involved a 50-foot long large miniature, including thousands of model skulls and bricks, filmed at 96fps, which took three months to do. The same Terminator stop-motion model was used and projected behind the full-scale endoskeleton animatronic models filmed in the foreground. They also did the tanker crash.

  • 4-Ward Productions, run by Oscar-winners Robert and Dennis Skotak, specialised in creating the scene showing a Nuclear blast destroying San Francisco. They created a cityscape in miniature for the nuclear blast shot.

  • Pacific Data Images, the studio that evolved into DreamWorks Animation, were used to digitally remove the wires used on the bike jumping into canal motorcycle stunt and other touch-ups.

  • Video Image made the infrared and graphic shots showing Terminator's point of view.

  • Pacific Title also did the traditional optical effects. Terminator 2 employed four minutes of rear-projection, a technique dating from the 1930s that had been largely replaced by chroma key, commonly called blue or green screen.

  • The sound of the T-1000 oozing into different shapes was created using dog food pouring out of cans, while the sound of the liquid metal being shot was created by slamming microphones into yoghurt. The laser gun sounds in the sequence set in the future were re-used from the first film, although pistachio nuts were used to create the sound of skulls being crunched beneath the machines' heels.

During the film over 200 different guns of 30 different types were used, most notably the GE mini-134 mini-gun. In reality this weapon fired far too quickly at a speed impossible for the eye or ear to register individual shots so it was slowed down considerably in order to have a greater impression.

Special Edition

A 16-minute longer Special Edition was released in 1993 following a fan campaign who had noticed numerous scenes in the trailers that had not appeared in the film. As 1991's Aliens and The Abyss Special Editions had been successful, the studio agreed to release a new extended Special Edition version of the film. At the time Cameron emphasised that this new Special Edition was not replacing or correcting the original but instead was a slightly different version that was made in a manner free of theatrical constraints.

One of the major scenes restored for the Special Edition is one in which Sarah Connor is drugged while in the mental home. She sees a vision of her lover Reese, who tells her There is no fate but what we make for ourselves. This sentence had originally featured in The Terminator but had been edited out, even though they are referred to in a later scene in T2.

Another restored scene was a very complicated sequence in which John Connor resets a switch in the Terminator's head to enable him to learn and become more independent. This scene shows how Sarah began to accept her son's leadership rather than insisting he follow her direction. In other scenes the character of Dyson features a little more, specifically showing how he intended his work creating Skynet to be force for good. Dyson wants to make flawless machine free from human error that will keep people safe and at no point foresaw the disastrous consequences.

Not every scene Cameron filmed was restored into the Special Edition, with two scenes remaining cut. One showed the T-1000 searching John's room with his fingertips in order to find clues for Sarah's location, showing that the T-1000 has different senses to a human. The other was a coda set in 2029 showing Sarah, John and John's daughter living in a peaceful, serene future free from apocalyptic destruction.


An important theme during this film is that technology itself is amoral, it is its use that is good or evil. This is emphasised by featuring an identical model Terminator from the first film. Just as the model had been designed for evil, John is able to re-programme it into becoming a force for good. The Terminator comes across as the dark side of the human psyche, an uncaring machine capable of doing anything without feeling remorse. The first Terminator sought to destroy, its mirror image seeks to protect. By the end of the film, it has learned the value of remorse as well as sacrifice, understanding sorrow despite being unable to cry.

The Terminator is not the only character to undergo an emotional journey. Sarah Connor too begins as an almost emotionless character, detached from those around her. Has she lost her humanity, purely focussing on training her son to be a fighter? She is distant even from her son. When she is rescued she leans towards John, which he interprets as being the start of a hug, however she is merely checking he is not injured. She later almost becomes an uncaring, emotionless assassin, trying to kill Dyson for what he'll do in the future, just as the young, innocent victim Sarah Connor was targeted by the Terminator in the first film.

In fact there are many moments similar to scenes from the first film. Although the special effects have improved, for instance an energy sphere is now seen surrounding the time travellers, these references to the first film ties them both together. By making the beginnings so similar it makes the different direction the film goes in have more impact. These are especially used to good effect at the start, when the audience is led to believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-800 is the villain while the T-1000 is the hero. Like the original film, the T-800 takes clothes, bike and gun from a rough crowd at night before hunting for the 'target' of John Connor, while the T-1000 is a similar build to The Terminator's protector, Reese. Just as Reese was chased by a policeman at the start of the first film, in T2 a policeman investigates the T-1000's sudden appearance.

Other moments include John's dog Max barking when the T-1000 is near and the reappearance of slimy psychiatrist Doctor Silberman. The line Come with me if you want to live, which is now uttered by the Terminator as his first line to Sarah Connor, having previously been said by Kyle Reese in The Terminator. There are also links to other Cameron films; Janelle Voight had played Vasquez in Aliens and the petrol station that the heroes stop at is the same company seen in The Abyss, Benthic Petroleum.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day is an extremely well-made, violent film. Despite this, a large amount of merchandising was created that was aimed directly at children, including an extensive toy range. Though Cameron ensured that the character of John Connor never pointed a gun at anyone during the film and that the lead character heroically avoided killing humans, the film is not suitable for young children.


The film won four Oscars, for Make-up, Sound, Sound Editing and Visual Effects. It was also on release the most expensive film ever made but a phenomenal box office success and also the most successful sequel at the box office.

The motorbike that the Terminator rides, the Harley Davidson Fat Boy, quickly became a cinematic icon.

The film strongly influenced the films that followed, particularly Terminator Genisys, which used Terminator 2: Judgement Day's deleted sequence in which Connor infiltrates Skynet during the Future War.

It has been announced that Terminator 2: Judgement Day is to be re-released in 3D in August 2017, to tie in with the 20th anniversary of the fictional Judgement Day which was said to take place in August 1997.

Director James Cameron and star Linda Hamilton were briefly married (1997-9).

Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time

This is a 12-minute Universal Studios theme park show made by James Cameron in 1996. Starring Terminator 2's main cast of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robot Patrick and Edward Furlong, it contained Stan Winston's effects. The attraction consists of a pre-show promoting Cyberdyne Systems and the main show, in which live actors dressed like the original characters convincingly interact with a 3D film featuring Terminator 2's original cast. The plot involves the cast travelling backwards and forwards through time, encountering Terminators before finally wiping out Skynet.

'You Could be Mine'

The music video for Guns 'n' Roses' song 'You Could Be Mine', a song that appears in the film, heavily featured Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Terminator sent to kill the band. This included Terminator-style point-of-view effects. In the film, when the Terminator first locates John Connor, he hides his shotgun in a box of roses.

The Terminator Film Series
The Terminator | Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines | Terminator Salvation | Terminator Genisys
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
1The T-800 refers to the type of Terminator exoskeleton while CSM101 stands for Cyberdyne Systems Model 101, which is the design of its human appearance on top of the T-800 exoskeleton.2In the credits and other official material, Arnold Schwarzenegger's 'hero' Terminator is referred to as 'The Terminator' while the 'villain' Terminator is normally referred to as the 'T-1000' to avoid confusion.3Special Edition only4Director James Cameron's second wife (1985-1989).5Schwarzenegger was making Total Recall for Carolco at the time.6These were a four-legged 'centurion', a silverfish trilobyte and a heavy flying HK with four engines nicknamed the 'Four Poster'.7Founded by George Lucas in 1975, ILM have provided the special effects not only for the Star Wars films, but also for such films as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Willow (1988) and Jurassic Park (1993) to name but three.

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