After giving Ridley Scott’s Alien one of the greatest sequels of all time with 1986’s Aliens, James Cameron gave his own The Terminator one of the greatest sequels of all time with 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day. While the original was a scaled-down neo-noir with intimate stakes, T2 was a large-scale action extravaganza in which the human race was at stake.
At the time of its production, T2 was the most expensive movie ever made, and Cameron put that money to good use creating an explosive cinematic ride. The T-1000 was brought to life with groundbreaking CGI effects, but the majority of the action was done for real.
10 “I Need Your Clothes, Your Boots, And Your Motorcycle.”
When the naked T-800 arrives in the present day, he goes into the nearest sleazy biker bar and tells the biggest, baddest guy in there, “I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle.” The bikers try to laugh him out of there, but he stays. So, they pick a fight with him, which turns out to be a big mistake.
After the T-800 is done snapping all the bikers’ bones – not to mention grilling one of them – the leader is more than happy to hand over the keys to his bike. Then, “Bad to the Bone” kicks in as the now-leather-clad Terminator hops on the bike and hits the road.
9 Blowing Up Dyson’s Lab
Following Sarah’s assassination attempt on Skynet creator Miles Dyson, she explains why he has to die and he agrees to help her blow up his lab and ensure that the Terminators will never be created.
Accepting his role in the seemingly inevitable Judgment Day, Dyson gives his life in the hopes of preventing it. He sticks around with the detonator and allows himself to be blown up with his lab.
8 Sarah’s Bad Dream
Sarah is inspired to kill Miles Dyson by a bad dream in which she sees herself in a park with some kids from behind a chain-link fence and watches on in horror as the nuclear apocalypse wipes out herself, the kids, and everything else in the park.
This haunting sequence justifies Sarah’s commitment to doing whatever it takes to ensure that Judgment Day isn’t going to happen.
7 The T-800 And The T-1000’s First Shootout
After his friend tells him about a cop looking for him, John sneaks out of the arcade into a hallway behind the scenes of his local mall. At one end of the hallway, the T-1000 approaches him with a gun drawn. At the other end, the T-800 approaches him, also with a gun drawn.
And then, the T-800 plants a bullet in the T-1000’s chest. The two Terminators battle it out, blowing chunks out of each other as one tries to kill John and the other tries to protect him.
6 The Helicopter Chase
The protagonists of T2 have a long road between Dyson’s lab and the steel mill where the big finale takes place. Along the way, they have to change vehicle a couple of times as the T-1000’s relentless pursuit continues.
To give this sequence its tangible sense of danger, Cameron and co. did as much of it practically as possible. Someone actually flew a helicopter under a bridge for this set piece.
5 Sarah Breaks Out Of The Mental Hospital
In the first act of Terminator 2, it’s revealed that Sarah Connor’s ramblings about killer robots from the future got her institutionalized. She’s been separated from her son and the orderlies are shockingly abusive, so the audience is rooting for her to escape.
Then, one fateful night, she orchestrates a particularly brutal escape attempt. She pulls it off perfectly – and it just so happens to be the same night that John and the T-800 are breaking in to break her out, so there’s a riveting cross-cutting element.
4 The Steel Mill Showdown
The big finale of T2 takes the characters to a steel mill. The malfunctioning T-1000 is frozen solid by liquid nitrogen, then the T-800 shoots him into a million pieces. (This was actually not a great idea, because the smaller pieces would melt faster.) By the time the T-1000 reanimates, Sarah has gotten John to safety.
She takes on the T-1000 alone before the T-800 shows up on a conveyor belt and delivers a couple of swift shotgun blasts that blow the more advanced Terminator into a vat of molten steel.
3 “Human Casualties: 0.0”
When the police show up at Miles Dyson’s lab to stop the gang from blowing it up, the T-800 tells Sarah and John that he’ll get rid of them. But John makes him promise not to kill anyone.
So, he starts by blowing up the squad cars with a grenade launcher to get the cops to retreat, then takes out an M134 Minigun. On the way out, he leaves only flesh wounds. The computer screen in his eye reads, “Human Casualties: 0.0.”
2 The T-1000 Runs After The Car
When Sarah, John, and the T-800 try to escape in a car, the T-1000 simply starts running at the speed of the car until he catches up to them. The scene is filled with nail-biting tension and Robert Patrick’s athletic sprinting is convincingly superhuman.
This sequence has since been brilliantly parodied in The Simpsons episode “Homer Loves Flanders,” in which Homer chases Flanders’ car and latches on with two golf clubs.
1 The Truck Chase
The truck chase is one of the most spectacular and unforgettable action sequences ever put on film. The Los Angeles Drainage Canal System made for a novel setting for a chase, while the juxtaposition of John’s tiny dirt bike against the T-1000’s behemoth Freight liner semi-tow truck perfectly encapsulates the immense threat posed by the Terminator contrasted with John’s slim hopes of defending himself.
Luckily, John’s savior arrives in the form of the T-800 atop a Harley-Davidson, effortlessly cocking and firing a shotgun with one hand.
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