In The Terminator we learn that the Terminator arrived in the past on Thursday, May 12 At 1:52AM. It then starts to find women named Sarah Connor.

In the movie there seems to be no information about show whether it starts killing the next day or not, but in one scene we can see Sarah Connor's timecard which mentions that the date is "5/19".

How many days did it take for the Terminator to find the real Sarah Connor?

Note: the idea for this question came from https://www.moviemistakes.com/film1267/questions


2 Answers 2


The official novelisation of the first film indicates which events take place on day one, day two, etc. after the Terminator and Kyle Reese's arrival in 1984, providing specific time stamps throughout the book.

According to that, the Terminator entered the Tech Noir nightclub where Sarah was awaiting the police at 10:31 pm on the same day it had arrived in 1984.

Tech Noir
10:31 p.m.

There was a slight tremble of activity at the front of the club. It caused the heads of a few near the door to turn momentarily toward it. But the heads soon turned away, intimidated into an intense unconcern.

A man had walked through the front door. A big man in a tight gray jacket a size too small and motorcycle boots. He moved smoothly, looking into the faces of those gathered at the door, just flicking his eyes over them for an instant, then going on to the next. The face he wanted was not there. He rolled past the ticket booth, and the woman inside leaned out-and glared at the impassive back moving away. “Hey!” she shouted to the bouncer. “That guy didn’t pay.”

“Hey, dude,” the bouncer said, slapping a meaty hand on the big guy’s shoulder.

Terminator didn’t even turn around. He sent his left hand to the section of shoulder where he felt the clamping pressure, grasped the other man’s hand, and squeezed. The bones collapsed with a snap. Then he released the mushy lump and kept going. No one heard the bouncer’s gurgling scream, and if they did, they pretended not to.

The Terminator novelisation by Randall Frakes

By 11:03 pm the same day, Kyle and Sarah have already left the nightclub in a stolen car, and the Terminator is pursuing them in the police car he stole from Officer Nick Delaney. So we know for a fact that he found Sarah in a little under 24 hours after he first arrived in 1984.

11:03 p.m.

Unit l-L-19 slowly cruised up Sepulveda and turned right onto Massachusetts. Terminator sat impassively behind the wheel, focusing its twin infrared eye cameras into the darkened shadows of the near-empty street. The cyborg quickly scrutinized the interiors of the cars parked along the curb, flicking its vision into each one, methodically probing for the target.

Suddenly, the abstract pattern of static coming from the unit’s radio was broken by the calm female voice of the police dispatcher.

“All units, all units. Suspect vehicle located at parking garage at Colby and La Grange .”

Instantly, Terminator slewed the police cruiser around in the middle of the street, narrowly missing a red Volkswagen bug loaded with five very stoned teenagers on their way home from a Van Halen concert.

The VW jumped the curb and smacked headfirst into an old oak, crumpling the front of the VW like tinfoil. “Shit!” the bug’s young driver shouted. He saw the police cruiser tearing away and shouted again, pounding the dash in a fury of frustration. Cops were always fucking you up, and now they had fucked up his beloved bug.

The Terminator novelisation by Randall Frakes

The novelisation also clarifies that the scene in which Kyle is interviewed by Dr. Silberman in the West Highland Police Station takes place between 1:06 and 1:09 am the day after the Terminator's arrival in 1984. That's the first scene in the book which is indicated to take place on day two.

  • 2
    Does the other official novelisation also agree?
    – Valorum
    Aug 27, 2023 at 10:26
  • 2
    I don't have that book, but according to this review, it's significantly shorter than Frakes' book, and doesn't offer any additional character or plot detail beyond the script draft it was based on: "Hutson’s TERMINATOR, at 172 pages, is first and foremost shorter than the other book (whose page count clocks in at 240). No extra character or plot detail is offered by Hutson, who follows the script quite closely." Aug 27, 2023 at 10:56

The script for Terminator indicates that it arrived at night. The following morning it stole a car, made its way to a gun shop, then located a phone book and then started systematically killing Sarah Connors during the same day. It catches up with our Sarah that same evening at the Tech Noir nightclub (in the script Stoker's Bar), so the total amount of time taken between its arrival and its first encounter with Sarah would be approximately one day, and probably less than 24 hours. The subsequent attack on the police station takes place early the following morning.

Scene 2 - EXT. SCHOOLYARD - NIGHT [Terminator arrives]

REESE: What day is it? The date...
COP: Thursday...uh...May twelfth.

Scene 19 - EXT. CITY STREET - MORNING [Sarah leaves for work]

Scene 28 - EXT. PAWN SHOP - DAY [Terminator acquires guns]

Scene 33 - EXT. SUBURBAN STREET - DAY [Terminator kills Sarah Connor #1]

Scene 38 - EXT. HEALTH CLUB - DUSK [Sarah leaves work]

VUKOVICH: You gotta be kidding me. The news guys'll be short-stroking it over this one. A one-day pattern killer.

VUKOVICH: If they can get this on the tube by eleven, she may just call us.

ON TERMINATOR, as the shotgun blast hits his arm and he FIRES, simultaneously. Sarah screams as the .45 round blows stuffing out of the booth seat inches from her face.

As regards the discrepancy with the date on her paycard, we can see that it says

"Pay Period Ending 5/19/84".

We don't know how often she gets paid or needs to submit her timecards, but a stamped timecard would typically cover seven days (e.g. from the 12th to the 19th). This doesn't mean that today is the 19th.

No. 5081 | Pay period ending 5/19/84 | Name Connor, Sarah

  • 1
    The 13th to the 19th is seven days, which fits her just starting a week (no entries on the card).
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 27, 2023 at 13:45
  • 2
    @JonCuster - Depending on the make and model of the machine, some can do a fortnight or even 30 days. We don't see it in enough detail to work out what kind of timestamp system is being used.
    – Valorum
    Aug 27, 2023 at 14:19
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    Now a funny thing here is that May 12th 1984 was a Saturday, not a Thursday as the cop says there. If it's a Saturday, then the time card would also end on a Saturday, which I guess might make sense for a weekly card with the US system of starting a week on a Sunday. In 1983, May 12th would have been a Thursday, though.
    – ilkkachu
    Aug 27, 2023 at 20:38

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