I'm trying to introduce my girlfriend to the Terminator series before we go to the cinema and see 'Genisys'. We've recently watched both 'Terminator' and 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' and now I have a dilemma whether to show her the other movies or not.

So the question is as follows:

Which films from the Terminator series are a prerequisite before watching 'Terminator: Genisys'? And are there any references in 'Genisys' to 'Rise of the Machines' and/or 'Salvation'?

  • 4
    Required pre-requisite or not, show her the first movie! Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 13:31
  • 1
    @AnthonyGrist I probably should have phrased that better: we've watched the first two Terminator movies already, now I just don't know whether to watch the remaining two or not before 'Genisys'.
    – bartuosz
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 13:40
  • 9
    In no way is it ever recommended to watch Terminator 3 or Terminator: Salvation for any reason, whatsoever.
    – phantom42
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 13:50
  • 3
    Especially Salvation... It adds nothing to the story whatsoever, and feels like just-another-post-apocalyptic-movie.
    – Stark07
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 13:51
  • 1
    You mean it didn't add that Skynet was working on converting humans into terminators, instead of just skin job toasters?
    – user16696
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 14:10

3 Answers 3


It is all a question of how much "inside" or "Easter egg" information you want her to know.

This is all stuff that I have just gleaned from the trailers. So who knows how many more references there are.


  • When the old T-800 says "I've been waiting for you" he is referring to the original T-800 that came back in the first movie.
  • Kyle Reese appears in an alley and evades the police by running into a department store and taking some clothes.
  • "Come with me if you want to live" is the classic line that Kyle Reese says to Sarah Connor when he first finds her.

Terminator 2

  • A liquid metal (T-1000) terminator is introduced.
  • "Come with me if you want to live" is the classic line that the T-800 says to Sarah Connor when he first finds her, to demonstrate to her that she can trust him.
  • The severe scarring on future John Connor's face is first seen.

Terminator 3

  • The liquid metal over an endoskeleton is introduced with the T-X model.
  • The inevitable outcome of Judgement Day is revealed, and why it is futile to try and change the future.

Terminator Salvation

  • It is shown how John got the scarring on his face.
  • Human / Terminator hybrids are introduced.

That being said, James Cameron has said he sees this as the real third film. And the TV show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles also ignored the third and fourth movies and just resumed after T2.

So maybe you only want to watch the first two. Or, just have her read the movie descriptions from the Movies With Time-Traveling Robots blog post.


This review is of the opinion that if you haven't watched any of the Terminator movies (like your GF) you probably won't have any idea what is going on.

  • We see John Connor in T2.
    – calccrypto
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 14:10
  • @calccrypto Totally forgot about that. I've updated my answer. Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 14:12
  • 1
    I liked T3. Arnie with coffin on his shoulder and a minigun in his hand. Classic cinema!
    – Daft
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 14:39
  • Flagging as spam for shameless promotion of your own blog ;) Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 15:04
  • 1
    T2 also introduces Miles Dyson and his young son, who have a role to play in Genisys.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 2:54

According to Word of God (TvTropes), Terminator Genisys is the third movie in the series (Yahoo movies, out of all the places):

Remember the last two Terminator movies, Rise of the Machines and Salvation? Well, James Cameron, who directed and co-wrote the first two Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi classics, is fine if you pretend the latter installments never existed.

So, she should watch the first two movies, both of which are classics to begin with.

From just the trailers for Genisys, I've noticed many references to the first movie, especially the recreation of the first movie with new actors.

  • 1
    That is one terrible shirt James Cameron is wearing. Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 14:17
  • @JackBNimble lol
    – calccrypto
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 14:19

The answer to this question really does have a big matter of opinion ascribed to it. I'll give mine and try to stay objective. The other answers/comments were only recommending to watch the first two, but I would not, so I think people will miss out!

The 5 movies in order (whether recommended or not) are:

  1. The Terminator (1984)
  2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  3. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
  4. Terminator Salvation (2009)
  5. Terminator Genisys (2015)

There are also two seasons of The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009). I can't speak to that, because I only got ~10 minutes into the pilot before I gave up on it. If I give it another try I'll come back here and give more information. (Top commenter on IMDB: "Trust me, the people giving it bad reviews watched only the pilot or two episodes and gave up too quickly. The show evolves and gets much better than the first few episodes.")

Short answer: definitely watch #1, #2, and #3. Probably watch #4 and very-maybe watch #5 (read on for more). Note that this answer is for the actual question (what to watch prior to #5) and also just what to watch in general.

You could consider #1 and #2 to be the classics. You kinda have to watch them, but fortunately they're (mostly) a fun watch anyways, even for their creation date.

#3 does a pretty good job of fitting in with the prior storylines, has an even cooler terminator, and yet still manages to make good use of Schwarzenegger's terminator.

#4 is a little different and doesn't have Schwarzenegger; but, I still highly recommend it. You could think of this one as being like Rogue One (from the Star Wars series) or Logan (from the X-Men series) but for Terminator; as someone said above, it doesn't add much to the storyline, except that instead of cyborgs, men are now being used to make infiltrator-robots. It kind of has elements from War of the Worlds, WarGames, and iRobot mixed in. (Also, it took me a while to realize that there were two main characters, which was confusing, as they kind of look alike and it shifts from one character's story to the other's early on in the movie, so watch for that.)

#5 is a total timeline mix-up and is entertaining but only recommended if you're into that sort of thing. It has different characters for Kyle Reese, Sarah Connor, and John Connor (even from #4), but it does manage to bring Schwarzenegger back into it (and he definitely fits in well and brings back the old Terminator theme). It's pretty obvious that the goal in mind was to go full-blown alternate-timeline for the entire movie, kind of like a Back to the Future movie, except not as excellently. Between that and the different characters, this is why some may not like #5. It wasn't as enjoyable as the prior 4 due to its different characters and all of the randomness going on in order to make the alternate timeline seem really cool, but it still had some entertainment value and may be worth the watch.

Lastly, note that #1 has two really long, uncomfortable sex scenes (with some nudity), and the rest of the movies all have a bit of nudity (#3 especially, in one of the first scenes) - but those instances are mostly brief/non-sexual.

  • The question isn't if the third and fourth movies are worth watching but if it matters if they are watched before Genisys. As such, this really doesn't answer the question asked.
    – Brythan
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 1:37
  • The answer answers whether it matters if they are watched before Genisys. As such, this really does answer the question asked.
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 21:39
  • As a general rule of common sense for those who seem to completely lack it: you have to know what's in a movie and what it's about before you can really understand whether it should be watched.
    – Andrew
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 21:41

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