In the original Terminator film, the eponymous villain procures a pair of dark glasses in order to hide his damaged eye socket and red eye.

In T2: Judgement Day, the T-800 makes a great show of stealing a pair of glasses from the biker bar owner, despite having no eye damage to cover.

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So why did he take the guy's glasses?

  • 86
    Because he's bad to the bone, obviously
    – Valorum
    Jun 27, 2015 at 23:44
  • 48
    Because lens flare. (He just came back from 2009, where he tried to watch a JJ Abrams film.)
    – Praxis
    Jun 27, 2015 at 23:51
  • 9
    The Rule of Cool.
    – Andres F.
    Jun 27, 2015 at 23:53
  • 19
    Interesting theory buried on this page: they hide the Terminator's unnatural eye movements Jun 27, 2015 at 23:58
  • 24
    This seems dupie, but I can't find the original. Must be in another timeline. Jun 28, 2015 at 0:04

8 Answers 8


Emphasizing character transformations of Sarah Connor and the T-800

The Terminator wears sunglasses to create a parallel when Sarah wears them later:

James Cameron (writer / director / producer): We wanted T-800 to change, and we wanted Sarah to change; she starts out one way, becomes fixated on that, ends up becoming more of a machine that he does. We wanted the two of them to change characters as the film went on: she becomes the Terminator while he becomes a human being. And it's partly through the Terminator's transformation that she understands what humanity really is.

Mali Finn (casting director): Jim Cameron's movie (T2 ) does have all of those special effects but still is a character driven piece and has wonderful characters. We've got to have good actors as they're playing against all the special effects. That’s what distinguishes his action movies from other people’s action movies.

Mario Kassar (executive producer): He's a great storyteller who can always take a plot to much higher levels. As the movie progresses, Sarah becomes the Terminator. The sunglasses and use of red dot for targeting accent the transition visually.

As Cameron himself explains, there are two transitions occurring: over the course of the film, Sarah becomes the Terminator and the T-800 becomes a human being — both of which are symbolized by the sunglasses (or lack thereof).

The sunglasses are an important story device in The Terminator and T2. In the first movie they meant to dehumanize T-800 more and more as the movie progresses and as he takes on more damage, becoming less and less human-like in appearance. In T2...the sunglasses have an even deeper meaning and message. The sunglasses symbolize his gradual transformation — he wears the sunglasses in the beginning when he is nothing more than a killer with a blank mind and loses them when he's starting his journey to become more human...

(Source: James Cameron Online, "T2 Complexity")

  • 7
    I like the last part. An out-of-universe answer is always interesting.
    – Valorum
    Jun 28, 2015 at 0:14
  • 1
    Thanks. I figured it would be okay to supply an out-of-universe answer, based on the wording of the question. :-)
    – Praxis
    Jun 28, 2015 at 0:19
  • 1
    You have my +1. I'm always intrigued by Director interviews...
    – Valorum
    Jun 28, 2015 at 0:26
  • 3
    @A.L: Pretty sure you mean "'Jim' is a nickname of James Cameron". Jun 29, 2015 at 17:22
  • 3
    @A.L: FWIW, "Jim" is the conventional short form of "James". See also: James T. "Jim" Kirk. If nothing else I'm not aware that it's ever used as the short form of anything else. Jun 29, 2015 at 17:37

This is answered in the Randall Frakes novelisation for the third Terminator film; T3: Rise of the Machines. In short, the T-800 has been supplied with extensive information (and detailed imagery) by John in order to help him look as much like the original Terminator as possible so that his earlier self will recognise the Terminator from the description supplied to him by Sarah and his own recollections.

Since we know that John had access to this info in the future, there seems no good reason that he wouldn't have also given the same information and instructions to the T-800 seen in T2: Judgement Day.

He [Terminator] headed directly for it, but caught his reflection in the window of a car. He stopped and looked at his image, bringing up one of the memories that John Connor had supplied of what T-800 had looked like twelve years ago. He took off the stripper's star-shaped sunglasses and tossed them aside. He did the same with the cap and red bandanna. His current image now nearly matched the previous overlay.

In a quote on the JamesCameronOnline site, Jim Cameron confirms that the goal was to make the Terminator as recognisable as possible for his former self and in keeping with his own memories of the timeline. This obviously opens up a massive can of worms as far as causality is concerned.

Connor specifically looked for that model to send because he remembered him as such and wanted to make sure that he's doing what he was suppose to do - send the T-800 that he remembers back in time to 1995 so he can protect him from the T-1000. He knew that for things to go the way they are suppose to, he has to find the terminator that looks like the one that he remembers.

  • 3
    @Richard - He's certainly heard about the first Terminator, but I can't imagine that he's seen pictures of one. Neither Sarah nor Kyle had a camera during the first movie. And it would be a terrible idea for future-John to tell the Terminator in the second movie to imitate the first one, which tried to kill his mother. Resembling something that tried to murder his mom would probably make young John run away from it.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jun 28, 2015 at 1:50
  • 4
    "You need to go back in time and find the young version of me, and make yourself look like a robot assassin who tried to kill his mommy, so the young me knows who you are. Because he'll definitely trust someone who has haunted his every dream for as long as he's been alive. You'll remind him of the thing he fears most, so he'll want to hang out with you."
    – Wad Cheber
    Jun 28, 2015 at 1:53

The quotes are pretty impressive. However, when watching the film, the scene made total sense to me without those theories.

The T800 arrived naked and unclothed and then went to equip himself with a ride, outfit and weapon in proximity. The sunglasses were a perfect complement to the outfit.


The Terminator's "preference for a particular style of sunglasses." ...It is not about his choice. Like in the biker bar, he scans a woman and her clothes matched him in size, but his programming listed it as "inappropriate". Walking around dressed as a woman would not help him blend in. Therefore, the style of sunglasses he constantly chooses are deemed "appropriate" or acceptable for his appearance as a human male to human society.


It is beacuse the Terminators have infrared vision, so any kind of light (natural or artificial) would interfere with the quality of the images their perceive. That's why they need to darken ther field of view as much as possible to basically see in better quality (without being blurred with lights).

  • 1
    This seem plausible(ish) but can you back it up with any actual evidence?
    – Valorum
    Dec 15, 2018 at 21:17

My thought when watching it was that it was an initial sign of the Terminator's incipient humanity — he's vain and thinks it looks cool. By the end of the film, it is strongly implied that his personality has developed more positive emotions too.

  • 3
    Welcome to SFFSE! Do you have any evidence to support your argument? Jun 28, 2015 at 10:52
  • 2
    You could watch the film and see if that makes sense to you, I guess. Even Cameron's opinion isn't actually totally reliable given the convolutions a script goes through to get to the screen and his statements may not reflect the motivation of the person who suggested the sunglasses, merely his motivation for accepting it. The "truth" is a slippery thing in a collaborative effort like a big-budget movie and we can only really try to make sense of the completed work.
    – Nagora
    Jun 28, 2015 at 10:58

my thoughts are that due to the future being much darker because the sun was blocked out by ash and soot in the atmosphere so skynet created the terminators with that in mind, letting as much light as posable so when in the brighter past he uses sunglasses to let in less light so he can see better.

  • 1
    He wears them at night too... :-)
    – Valorum
    Aug 24, 2015 at 7:48

Because he's a Terminator. Terminators are machines and machines don't have the need to blink their eyes.

And Schwarzenegger is a human and as a human has the need now and them to blink his eyes. Which he obviously can't control. So they give him sun glasses so we don't get to see him blink his eyes.

  • 1
    The Terminator repeatedly blinks in the gun-shop scene and indeed every other scene where its shown without glasses.
    – Valorum
    Dec 7, 2019 at 20:47

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