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I thought of this question after reading another one.

Kyle Reese explains to Sarah Connor why he couldn't just shoot the terminator before it tried to kill her in the original movie.

REESE: Pay attention. The 600 series had rubber skin. We spotted them easy. But these are new. They look human. Sweat, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot. I had to wait 'til he moved on you before I could zero him.

He was in the dance club watching her and looking around for the terminator. Reese should have recognized the terminator before it made a move.

Wouldn't he know what Arnie style terminators look like?

Skynet made hundreds of them. Reese even admitted in the original movie that the new ones looked human and had bad breath. He would either know that from personal experience, because somebody told him, or whatever. He might even have had a photo of one since the resistance would probably take pictures of it and send the pictures to other resistance cells with a note, "New terminator model from Skynet. Shoot on sight."

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    I would imagine its because a terminator could look like anyone. The T800 (if that's the right series) wouldn't be a good infiltrator if they all looked the same, – illage4 Jan 25 '17 at 7:40
  • @illage4 But the point is that all T-800 terminators looked the same. – RichS Jan 25 '17 at 7:44
  • They looked the same, but they can have different hair cut or beard cut (I'm not sure if the hair works on T-800)? – Bebs V Jan 25 '17 at 7:48
  • And don't forget that in Genisis the same Kyle, from the same timeline (as far as we now) immediately recognized "pops". I admit I'm not sure if his skin was damaged at this time revealing his nature. – Hothie Jan 25 '17 at 10:13
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    @RichS - that's incorrect. T-800's did not all look the same. While the ones we saw mostly had that face, there were other variants. Also, that could have been the first deployment of that particular model with that particular face. – Tim Jan 25 '17 at 19:59
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Wouldn't he know what Arnie style terminators look like?

Not necessarily. The T-800 is an infiltration unit. As has been mentioned in the comments above, it wouldn't make a lot of sense to make all infiltration units look like a single individual, because the first one that's found out would blow cover for all of them and render the model's purpose obsolete.

Skynet made hundreds of them. Reese even admitted in the original movie that the new ones looked human and had bad breath. He would either know that from personal experience, because somebody told him, or whatever.

All of this is true and sound logic, however, none of it establishes a reason to think that all T-800 Terminators look like Arnie. They can "look human" and "sweat" and "have bad breath" without necessarily having the same face.

Consider this:

Of all the T-800 model Terminators we see in the first three movies (I haven't bothered watching anything beyond T3 myself), only the first one was actually sent by Skynet. The T-800s seen in T2 and T3 were both reprogrammed by the resistance and sent back to help John Connor. It's entirely possible that the Resistance chose the Arnie-faced version of a T-800 on purpose to make it familiar to John in the past.

Even if Kyle Reese had seen an Arnie-faced T-800 in the future before the events of the first movie, there's no indication that he knew in advance which specific face Skynet had chosen to use on the T-800 they sent back to kill Sarah. (Actually, the very quote you bring up suggests that he did not.)

He might've known dozens of different possible faces, but he wouldn't know which one he was looking for in the past. Far more efficient to stake out Sarah Connor and wait for the Terminator to make a move, than to try and scour 1980s Los Angeles for any of a few dozen known T-800 faces.

  • We agree that it doesn't make sense for all infiltration terminators to look alike, but they all don't look different either. There was only a limited number of models, which makes it easy for the humans to identify them. – RichS Jan 26 '17 at 5:45
  • @RichS it's probably hard to come by face recognition cameras, the necessary servers those days. It's also probably hard to mail a picture around and to make sure that guy coming sneaking into the dark entrance with you is one of them guys on the pictures. Of course, the did often enough recognize them or the resistance would have failed. – Frank Hopkins Dec 6 '17 at 20:53
  • I remember also a line, I think from T3, where the "good" T-800 explains that he was chosen to infiltrate and kill John, because of John's familiarity with the model. Even if that just meant a T-800 was chosen it indicates there being a lot of similar models, maybe T801 to T899 ;) – Frank Hopkins Dec 6 '17 at 20:55
  • "Reese even admitted in the original movie that the new ones looked human and had bad breath." How does one even get within kissing distance of a terminator to smell the breath? – RichS Dec 16 '18 at 8:01
  • Steve: "The T-800s seen in T2 and T3 were both reprogrammed by the resistance and sent back to help John Connor. It's entirely possible that the Resistance chose the Arnie-faced version of a T-800 on purpose to make it familiar to John in the past." John would not have been familiar with it though because in T-2, he had no idea what a T-800 looked like. Your quote would make sense if you were writing about T-3 however that was a remake, not intended to be approved by James Cameron. I am thinking it was just a unit that they were experimenting on and had to send back. – Wanting Answers Jun 3 at 12:16
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In The Terminator (1984), the "Arnold" T-800 comes back in time... but in one of the flashbacks, we see a very different Terminator model attacking a resistance base. This "Future Terminator" (as IMDB credits him) is played by Franco Columbu:

enter image description here

Image source

As @Steve-O pointed out in his answer, it doesn't make sense to have readily-recognizable infiltration units.

Real difference between this and other answers is the addition of Franco Columbu.

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    I was going to post this. It is only in the later movies that any claim is made that they look like Arnie, and that's only so Arnie could be in the movies. In the original, they clearly show them as looking different, and I assumed they all did specifically so they wouldn't be spotted. – Maury Markowitz Jan 25 '17 at 16:39
  • If anyone tries to be smart and point to the "Sgt. Candy" scene from T3 (youtube.com/watch?v=kayFrIR-Qfw), don't do it. Even if you don't consider T3 to be bad fan fiction, as I do, it's a deleted scene and can't be considered canon. – Ben Osborne Jan 26 '17 at 16:00
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    Arnie is a T-800 Model 101, so presumably there could be 100 other models out there that may look different. – Jason K Jan 26 '17 at 17:56
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There is no consistent continuity for the Terminator franchise, or even consistency about how time travel works. So that means that there are likely to be multiple conflicting answers to questions like these, based on different versions of the continuity.

I prefer the answer implied in the original movie (which I personally believe stands best on its own): All the terminators looked different (or at least there were enough different appearances that they couldn't just be memorized), so there was no way Reese could have recognized him at all.

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The Arnold Terminator is model t101 and all 101s look like him. 102s look like somebody else and so on. I was said by James Cameron in the commentary of terminator 2. I'm sure there are hundreds if not thousands of different faces stored on Skynet. They probably just brought back t101 in every movie for Arnold's sake.

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