The Top 10 Plot Holes in the Terminator Franchise

The release of Terminator Genisys was a big deal for me.  This was a franchise that I had loved for a long time.  It was a franchise that inspired so many others.  However, this latest entry pretty much not only killed the future of the franchise, but was so bad that it went back in time and made even the previous entries seem awful.

There are so many plot holes, that I felt they needed to be catalogued.

If you're interested in reading more about my hatred of the latest Terminator film, here's my reading list:

  • My review of the awful Terminator Genisys
  • My review of the franchise to date
  • My attempt to understand and diagram the Terminator timelines
  • My scene by scene analysis of Terminator Genisys in all its horrific glory
  • My list of the film's many plot holes (this article)

(Despite all of this suggesting the Terminator franchise should die, I recently wrote about those awful overseas audiences who might ensure we see a sixth film.)

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Can You Use the Same Actors, Please?

This first one isn't a plot hole so much as a general annoyance.

We first see John Connor in a flashback at the beginning of Terminator 2: Judgment Day as an old man played by an unknown actor.  Then when he's young, he's played by Edward Furlong.  Then when he's older - in the third film - he's played by Nick Stahl.  In T4, he's played by Christian Bale.  In T5, he's played by Jason Clarke.  The Terminator franchise treats it main character like James Bond, as an interchangeable role that many actors can play - except that unlike James Bond, these films are chronological, each playing off the last.  The result for the audience is confusion, "Wait...who is that guy?  I thought he looked differently!"

Worse yet, the franchise does this with all of its main roles.  Kyle Reese is played by Anton Yeltsin in 4, Michael Biehn in T1 (and flashback in T2) and Jai Courtney in T5.

At least Arnold stays the same in each film.


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So John Connor Exists No Matter What Now?

As Kyle Reese is being sent back in time in Terminator Genisys, he witnesses John Connor get attacked by a hidden Terminator unit.  John Connor is then transformed into a Terminator himself and sent back in time to confront his parents Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor.  After they refuse to join him in his diabolical quest to destroy the world, he attempts to kill them.


The entire franchise was premised on the fact that if Skynet could kill either Reese or Sarah Connors, John Connors would cease to exist.  Yet as soon as John Connor becomes apart of Skynet, suddenly those rules don't apply!  John Connor says as much himself saying something like, "Ahhh, it's all really messy at this point, so let's just say that doesn't matter anymore!"  That was the whole point of all the films, that time could be changed, that by going back in time and killing John's parents, or John as a child, they could prevent the future John from existing.  This was the concept for four films.  It was even the concept at the start of this film, as supported by the idea that a T-1000 has been sent back in time by Skynet to kill Sarah Connor.  Then mid-way through the fifth film, this central conceit suddenly changes.  No explanation.  No logic.  Just doesn't exist anymore.  Now you can kill Sarah Connor and John Connor will still exist.

At what point did the timeline get so confused that time itself just shrugged and got confused and said, "Ehh, we're not following the rules anymore."

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Terminator Salvation No Longer Occurred

In Terminator Genisys, we're shown the first meeting between John Connor and Kyle Reese, and it's nothing like it was shown to have existed in Terminator Salvation.  Apparently, Terminator Genisys is completely disavowing both the third and fourth films of the franchise, pretending that they never existed.  Of course, we're never explicitly told this, it's left to be inferred through questions like how come the first meeting is shown to be different.

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Terminator 2 Does or Does Not Exist Anymore?

Terminator 2
Terminator 2.

In Terminator Genisys, it becomes readily apparent that they're wiping the slate and pretending that the last two films never occurred.  But the film makes lots of references to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, including the doctor that creates Skynet in the past, even referencing events that occurred within that film.  Yet the film itself simply gives us the events of the first film, which means none of the events of the second film could have occurred yet!

Ahhh!  My mind hurts!

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Time Travel Craziness!

The Terminator films always show us the "down side" of the action, back in time, the heroes and the Terminators battling it out.  But I've always wondered about what it was like in the time travel room back in the future.  A single Terminator is sent back for the first film and then Kyle Reese is sent after him by the humans - does this mean the humans seized the time machine from Skynet?  

But then in T2, a T-1000 is sent back...did Skynet re-seize the time machine back from the humans, or did they send the T-1000 back at the same time as the T-800 as a backup?  To which, did the humans then re-seize the re-seized time machine to send back a re-programmed T-800 for the second film?  

And on and on it goes.  

None of this is cleared up by the most recent film where we the audience get to see a T-800 go back in time and then Kyle Reese.  Yet in the film, there's already a T-1000 in the past and the T-800 that Sarah Connor calls "Pops" - when did they get sent to the past?

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The Death of John Connor

At the end of Terminator Genisys, John Connor is killed in the energy field created by a time machine.  Time machines can't send back metal you see, and the John Connor Terminator is metal.  But how did John Connor arrive back in time if he can't enter a time machine's energy field without being torn apart?

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Why Not Give Yourself a Decade to Stop Judgment Day?


In Terminator Genisys, Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese decide to time travel to just days before Judgment Day in order to stop it.  I don't know about you, but if I was responsible for stopping the end of the world, I'd want a decade to make a plan and figure out what to do.  I'm not sure going to just a couple of days off from the deadline is giving you much room to work with.

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How Do Time Machines Send People Across the Country?

This is just a general question that I have about most time travel movies, really.  But if I travelled in a time machine from 2020 to 1982, I would presume that I would appear at the same spot in 1982 that I was at in 2020.  Yet in the Terminator films, those people going back in time are appearing all over the place.  I could write it off as some sort of "distortion field" that makes people pop up in the "vicinity" or something, but in Terminator Genisys they use the time machine in Los Angeles and appear in San Francisco.  Nice!

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Why Do They Always Send Just One Terminator?

This is a question that sort of arises across the whole franchise:  If you have unhindered access to a time machine - as Skynet seems to given the amount of Terminators they send back across all off the films - why not send an army of Terminators back in time?  Sure it'll screw up the main timeline a lot, but there's no way Sarah Connor can outrun a dozen terminators!  But no, Skynet always just sends one Terminator at a time.

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John Connor Knows Things

Sarah Connor

In Terminator Genisys, the film starts with John Connor explaining that they have to take this facility where the time machine is at.  He explains that Skynet, on the verge of losing the war, is going to send back a Terminator into the past to kill his mother.  Once inside the facility, he even knows the exact date that a Terminator has been sent back to.  How does he know all of this?  He claims that his mom Sarah Connor prepared him. 

But in the timeline we're seeing where the first Terminator is being sent back, that John Connor grew up with a normal did the mother in his past know about any of this if she had never seen a Terminator yet?!!