When re-watching The Terminator, I wondered whether it is possible that Kyle Reese is in fact John Connor. The reason for this is that we never get to see John Connor himself, we only see shots of Reese. Moreover, Reese is very focussed on the picture of Sarah, and there seems no good reason for this.

I am totally wrong here? :)

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    When a woman gives birth, she doesn't give birth to the man that got her pregnant.
    – Daft
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 11:44
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    “Reese is very focussed on the picture of Sarah, and there seems no good reason for this.” He’s been told she’s the mother of the man who led humanity to victory against the machines who wanted to wipe them out, and that she’s about to be killed by a time-travelling robot. Is that not reason enough? Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 11:56
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    This is an interesting theory, the above comments aside. I'm having a hard time coming up with anything in only the first movie that would disprove it. Reese does come back with only his say so about who he is and what his motives are. And if I remember correctly, we only ever see the photo in Reese's flashback (or is it Sarah's dream?). He claims he had a photo once, but there's nothing proving that's true either.
    – Plutor
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 12:10
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    @Daft "she doesn't give birth to the man that got her pregnant" She does if the child grows up, time-travels to 9 months before he is born and picks her up at the bar. It's one of the definitions of the predestination paradox.
    – paul
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 14:05
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    The problem is that once you isolate it to the first movie and then assume that Kyle is an unreliable narrator and/or lying, you have to throw it ALL out. That means even the existence of John Connor is possibly a lie, and the truth behind Reese and the Terminator could be ANYTHING.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 16:54

3 Answers 3


No, John Connor and Kyle Reese are clearly two separate individuals.

We are shown our first glimpse of John Connor in the opening minutes of Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The adult John is shown as he watches over a battlefield, and he clearly looks nothing like Kyle Reese from the first movie, being several years older as well as sporting a horrific scar on his face:

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As for Kyle's obsession with the photo of Sarah, this is for two reasons:

  • Kyle loves John like a brother and practically worships the ground he walks on. Therefore, he sees John's mother in a manner similar to the Madonna.
  • Kyle has grown up in a bleak & horrible world. The photo of Sarah represents a better time, a thing of beauty that gives him hope.

Essentially, Kyle fell in love with the IDEA of Sarah Connor long before he ever met the real woman. In fact, his love for Sarah is what prompted him to volunteer to come back:

REESE: John Connor gave me a picture of you once. I never knew why. It was very old, torn... faded. You were young, like you are now. You weren't smiling...just a little sad... I always wondered what you were thinking at that second.

He closes his eyes, reaches toward her. His fingertips trace the contour of her nose, chin, cheeks.

REESE: (continuing) I memorized every line, every curve...

He opens his eyes, looking right at hers.

REESE: (continuing) Sarah, I came across time for you. I love you. I always have.

The paradox of the film is not only that John sent Kyle back, but also that

Kyle's love for Sarah (and therefore the impetus of John's existence) largely stems from a photo that John only gave to him BECAUSE he knew of the relationship to come in the future... er, past. Whatever.

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    I'd personally put less weight in the actors not looking similar than the fact that John meets Kyle in Terminator: Salvation, proving that they are two separate people. (this of course, assumes you accept Salvation as existing.)
    – phantom42
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 17:57
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    For the record, the John Connor in the T2 timeline isn't the same John Connor in the original timeline.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 18:14
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    @Richard assuming you don't believe closed time loops are possible
    – user16696
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 23:48
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    @Richard - In the original movie, I think it was meant to be a closed time loop where John Connor's father was always Kyle Reese (also consider the deleted scene where a part of the Terminator is discovered by Cyberdyne). But even if we go with the branching timeline theory to allow for the "no fate" of T2, it's still possible that the future we saw in T1 was not itself the "original" timeline, but rather one where it was already a part of history that some version of Kyle Reese (perhaps from a prior, different timeline) had appeared in 1984 and gotten Sarah pregnant with John Connor.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 21:13
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    @Hypnosifl - Sorry, I meant the T2 novel, not T2 script. "It wanted a world populated only with endless mechanical refractions of itself, the ultimate egoist, with direct control linkages to automated factories to realize its scheme."
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 21:31

It is very unlikely. If we assume that Kyle isn't a pathological liar, there is no reason to believe that he is actually John Connor. He speaks of John exclusively in the third person (i.e., "he", "him", "John", etc).

What you describe as him inexplicably being very focused on the photo of Sarah is actually pretty easy to explain in the context of the movie. Kyle is from a post-apocalyptic future where a war of annihilation is being waged against the machines. He's a soldier, and probably doesn't see a lot of women in his daily life. In the few scenes in which we get a look at life in Kyle's time, we see very few women, and the ones we do see are kind of gross and covered in filth. I can't imagine that they bathe on a regular basis, and they probably own a single set of clothes, which are also rarely, if ever, washed. They are traumatized by the constant threat of death at the hands of nearly invincible robot assassins, and spend their lives huddled in bunkers and surrounded by garbage, death, and horror.

The picture of Sarah is a glimpse of a woman in the prime of her life, and in a world where the constant horror and suffering in which Kyle has spent his entire life is totally unknown. She is fairly attractive, she is clean, she is healthy, she is vibrant, she is smiling, and the sun is shining. She seems to be enjoying a moment of peace and tranquility, at ease and free from any apparent sense of danger, which is something that Kyle has never experienced before.

Everyone Kyle knows is always on their guard, all the time. It seems likely that he has never met a person who wasn't suffering from some degree of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He has spent his whole life surrounded by broken people who don't know what it is like to be comfortable and safe. People in Kyle's world don't know what it means to be happy. The closest they get to happiness is not being dead yet.

The photo isn't just a picture of a pretty girl. It is a tiny glimpse of a better time and place, a world where people aren't being wiped out by Terminators. A world where people live normal, happy lives.

John Connor saved Kyle's life, and Kyle has worshipped him ever since. John's early life was spent with his mother, and very few other people. His mother taught him everything he needed to know in order to become the leader of the Resistance. She is therefore directly responsible for humanity's only hope for survival. I don't mean to sound blasphemous, but it is probably safe to say that John worships Sarah, and Kyle worships John, so Kyle sees Sarah the way many Christians (most notably the Catholics) see the Virgin Mary - the mother of the savior.

Now we need to consider the nature of Kyle's mission: he grew up hearing about the woman who made the savior of humanity what he was. He received the photo of her, and was transfixed by it, and by her. Then his idol, and his best friend, orders him to go back in time to save this woman whom he sees as a saintly figure, and protect her from a threat she can't possibly understand. This is the most important thing anyone could ever be asked to do. He has to ensure that the last hope for humanity is born.

In this light, his fixation on Sarah, and the photo of her, is only natural. He's supposed to save the entire human race from annihilation, so the task couldn't be more important. The woman in question couldn't be more vital to the future of our species' existence. And Kyle fully appreciates all of this, because he understands how catastrophic the consequences will be should he fail to accomplish his mission.

When you're told to save the only person who can give humanity any chance of survival, you don't take it lightly.

And on a side note, I don't think people would be willing to follow a man who they know impregnated his own mother. That sort of thing is more likely to make everyone hate John than accept his leadership. Gross.

I wouldn't normally make reference to the movie Terminator: Salvation, because it is pretty bad, but we actually see John meeting Kyle for the first time in that movie. This leaves little room for doubt - they are definitely, unquestionably, indubitably, two separate people.


Remember that Sarah Connor had a boyfriend in the first Terminator that was killed by the Terminator. Is it plausible to think that the depiction of John Connor the "commander" in the first film was actually the son of Sarah Connor and her original boyfriend killed by the Terminator? To me this makes sense considering if time played out unchanged this would be the only person who could have fathered the original John Connor. And in my opinion Reese going back in time was to counteract this event.

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    That was her roomate's (Ginger's) boyfriend who got killed, along with Ginger. The guy who left the phone message standing Sarah up was never seen or referenced beyond that. Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 16:54

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