Terminator 3 is the best sequel to Terminator 2 – Fight Me

(Nick Stahl, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Claire Danes)

Underrated. Underappreciated. Sometimes hated. Overshadowed. Yep, That’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. But with ground-breaking special effects, non-stop action and “Ahnuld,” it is the best sequel to Terminator 2 and a fine conclusion to the Terminator trilogy.

Fight me.

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In the realm of science fiction franchises, few films have garnered as much adoration and fascination as the Terminator series. Beginning with James Cameron’s groundbreaking 1984 original and its exceptional 1991 sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the franchise set the bar high for action-packed, time-traveling narratives.

However, as subsequent sequels and reboots came into the picture, fans were met with mixed reactions. I’m looking at you Terminator: Salvation, Terminator: Genysis and Terminator: Dark Fate. Of all of these sequels, only Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines stands out as a hidden gem.

The film, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, and Kristanna Loken, has matured like fine wine and deserves recognition as not only a worthy sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day but, in many respects, the best sequel to Judgement Day. And I’m going to tell you why. But let’s look at the trailer first:

Fight me.

A Natural Continuation of the Story

The truth is when we saw the T-800 lower himself into molten steel at the end of Judgement Day, Cameron’s story was complete. There was no need for a sequel. We had the happy ending Sarah and John Connor deserved and earned.

But, what was apparent in T-2 and 3 is that they actually didn’t win. All they did was reset the timeline.

So, Terminator 3, directed by Jonathan Mostow, picked up where Judgement Day left off, effortlessly continuing the saga of Sarah and John Connor, the future of humanity, and the relentless battle against Skynet. Unlike later entries in the franchise, it maintained the narrative integrity and character development of its predecessor.

The film adhered closely to the essence of the original two films. It maintained the core elements of the story—a killer cyborg sent back in time to eliminate future leaders—and carries on the legacy left by James Cameron.

Sophisticated Special Effects

While Terminator 2 set new standards for special effects in 1991, Rise of the Machines continued this tradition in 2003. It boasted impressive visual effects, particularly in the portrayal of the Terminators and the jaw-dropping action sequences. The rise of the T-X (Terminatrix) is a testament to the film’s technological prowess.

From the epic car chase to the final showdown, the film delivered heart-pounding moments that rivaled its predecessors.

A Remarkable Terminator

Schwarzenegger’s return as the T-800 is a standout element of Terminator 3. His performance perfectly balances the character’s robotic stoicism with subtle hints of humanity. It reinforced the emotional connection forged in Terminator 2 and adds depth to the Terminator’s evolution.

His one-liners and interactions with the human characters added a layer of comic relief without undermining the seriousness of the story.

Exploration of Fate and Free Will

Terminator 3 delved into profound themes of fate and free will. It challenged the inevitability of Judgment Day, questioning whether humanity is destined to follow a predetermined path or if there’s room for choice. This philosophical aspect elevates the film beyond mere action spectacle.

Character Growth

While we never got to see Eddie Furlong’s growth as John Connor, (Nick Stahl), coming off the HBO series Carnival, stepped into the character’s shoes easily. Stahl gave us an evolution of a reluctant leader, burdened by the knowledge of the future. His transformation mirrors the maturation of the audience, and his internal struggle is relatable and compelling.

Prescient Technological Warnings

Terminator 3 foresaw the increasing role of technology in our lives. It warned of the dangers of artificial intelligence and the potential consequences of our overreliance on machines. In an era dominated by technology, these warnings resonate more than ever.

Audiences were angered by the lack of James Cameron, the death of Sarah Connor combined with a morbid ending where The Terminator was basically tricking John and Kate into a remote Fall-Out shelter. The last shot of the film was the couple watching the missiles take off. Hello?! The film was called Rise of the Machines. The title told us what was going to happen.

What a plot twist.


While Terminator 2 is undoubtedly a masterpiece, Terminator 3 took the series in a different direction. It acknowledges the inevitability of Judgment Day, a theme that would later be explored in subsequent films. This fresh perspective adds depth to the Terminator mythology.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines deserves to be recognized as an underrated gem in the Terminator franchise. It respects the legacy of its predecessors while offering a thought-provoking narrative, sophisticated special effects, and character growth.

Fight me.

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The Geek is a working screenwriter, director and screenwriting instructor.


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