Terminator 2: Judgment Day (also referred to as simply Terminator 2 or T2) is a 1991 American science fiction action film co-written, produced and directed by James Cameron. The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick and Edward Furlong. It is the sequel to the 1984 film The Terminator, and the second installment in the Terminator franchise. Terminator 2 follows Sarah Connor (Hamilton) and her ten-year-old son John (Furlong) as they are pursued by a new, more advanced Terminator, the liquid metal, shapeshifting T-1000 (Patrick), sent back in time to kill John Connor and prevent him from becoming the leader of the human resistance. A second, less advanced Terminator (Schwarzenegger) is also sent back in time to protect John.
After a troubled pre-production characterized by legal disputes, Mario Kassar of Carolco Pictures emerged with the franchise's property rights in early 1990. This paved the way for the completion of the screenplay by a Cameron-led production team, and the October 1990 start of a shortened 186-day filming schedule. The production of Terminator 2 required a $102 million budget making it the most expensive film made up to that point. Much of the film's massive budget was spent on filming and special effects. The film was released on July 3, 1991, in time for the U.S. Independence Day weekend.
The film's visual effects saw breakthroughs in computer-generated imagery, including the first use of natural human motion for a computer-generated character and the first partially computer-generated main character. Terminator 2 was a critical and commercial success and influenced popular culture, especially the use of visual effects in films. It received many accolades, including four Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Makeup, and Best Visual Effects. The highest-grossing film of 1991 and Schwarzenegger's career, Terminator 2 has since been ranked by several publications such as the American Film Institute as one of the greatest action films, science fiction films and sequels of all time.
In 1995, John Connor is living in Los Angeles with foster parents. His mother Sarah Connor had been preparing him throughout his childhood for his future role as the Human Resistance leader against Skynet – the artificial intelligence that will be given control of the United States' nuclear missiles and initiate a nuclear holocaust called "Judgment Day" on August 29, 1997 – but was arrested and imprisoned at a mental hospital after attempting to bomb a computer factory. Skynet sends a new Terminator, designated as T-1000, back in time to kill John. The T-1000 is an advanced prototype made out of mimetic poly-alloy (referred to as "liquid metal") that gives it the ability to take on the shape and appearance of almost anything it touches, and to transform his arms into blades and other shapes at will. The T-1000 arrives under a freeway, kills a policeman and assumes his identity. Meanwhile, the future John Connor has sent back a reprogrammed T-800 (Model 101) Terminator to protect his young counterpart.
The Terminator and the T-1000 converge on John in a shopping mall, and a chase ensues after which John and the Terminator escape together on a motorcycle. Fearing that the T-1000 will kill Sarah in order to get to him, John orders the Terminator to help free her. They encounter Sarah as she is escaping from the hospital, although she is initially reluctant to trust the T-800. After the trio escapes from the T-1000 in a police car, the Terminator informs John and Sarah about Skynet's history. In addition, it would create machines that will hunt and kill the remnants of humanity.[N 1] Sarah learns that the man most directly responsible for Skynet's creation is Miles Bennett Dyson, a Cyberdyne Systems engineer working on a revolutionary new neural net processor that will form the basis for Skynet.
Sarah gathers weapons from an old friend and plans to flee with John to Mexico, but after having a nightmare about Judgment Day, she instead sets out to kill Dyson in order to prevent Judgment Day from occurring. Finding him at his home, she wounds him but finds herself unable to kill him in front of his family. John and the Terminator arrive and inform Dyson of the future consequences of his work. They learn that much of his research has been reverse engineered from the damaged CPU and the right arm of the previous Terminator. Convincing him that these items and his designs must be destroyed, they break into the Cyberdyne building and retrieve the CPU and the arm. The police arrive and Dyson is shot, but he manages to trigger several explosives, destroying the lab and his research while sacrificing himself. The T-1000 relentlessly pursues the surviving trio, eventually cornering them in a steel mill.
The T-1000 and the Terminator engage in physical combat, with the advanced model severely damaging its adversary. The T-800 is seemingly shut down until its emergency backup system brings it back online. The T-1000 nearly kills John and Sarah until the T-800 appears and shoots it into a vat of molten steel with an M79 grenade launcher, destroying it. John tosses the arm and CPU of the original Terminator into the vat as well. As Sarah expresses relief that the ordeal is over, the Terminator explains that to ensure that he is not used for reverse engineering he must also be destroyed. It asks Sarah to assist in lowering it into the vat of molten steel, since it is unable to "self-terminate", although John begs the Terminator to reconsider his decision. It bids them farewell as it is lowered into the vat. The Terminator gives a tearful John a final thumbs-up as it disappears into the molten steel and shuts down. Sarah looks to the future with hope, musing that "if a machine ... can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too."
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator / T-800 (Model 101):
An android, built as a synthetic organism composed of living tissue over a titanium "hyperalloy" endoskeleton, reprogrammed and sent back in time to protect John Connor, becoming his surrogate father in the process. Schwarzenegger was reportedly paid $15 million for the role.
- Edward Furlong as John Connor:
The ten-year-old son of Sarah, given survival training from a young age, but taken into foster care after his mother is institutionalized. Furlong was discovered by casting director Mali Finn while visiting the Pasadena Boys and Girls Club. Furlong, who had no acting ambitions at the time, stated, "I fell into [acting], it wasn't something that I planned". The adult John of 2029 AD is played by Michael Edwards.
- Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor:
Mother of John, the future leader of the Resistance in the war against Skynet. Hamilton reprised her role from the 1984 film for a salary of $1 million. In preparation for the role, Hamilton underwent an extensive thirteen-week training regimen with personal trainer Anthony Cortes, training for three hours each day, six days a week before filming began. She additionally lost 12 pounds (5.4 kg) on a nonfat diet, conducted throughout the film's six-month shoot. Actor and former Israeli commando Uzi Gal provided her with training for her action scenes. On her work with Gal, Hamilton stated that she undertook "judo and heavy-duty military training" and "learned to load clips, change mags, check out a room upon entry, verify kills." Hamilton's twin sister Leslie Hamilton Gearren also portrayed Sarah when it was required that there be two of the character in the same shot
- Robert Patrick as the T-1000:
An advanced shapeshifting prototypical Terminator composed of liquid metal sent back in time to assassinate John. Cameron stated that he "wanted to find someone who would be a good contrast to Arnold. If the 800 series [the model played by Schwarzenegger] is a kind of human Panzer tank, then the 1000 series had to be a Porsche.
- Joe Morton as Miles Bennett Dyson:
Director of special projects at Cyberdyne and a destined creator of Skynet.
- Earl Boen as Dr. Peter Silberman:
Sarah's psychiatrist, skeptical of her prophecies of machines destroying humanity. Boen is also reprising his character from the 1984 film.
The cast was rounded out with Jenette Goldstein and Xander Berkeley, who portray John's foster parents, Janelle and Todd Voight. S. Epatha Merkerson plays Tarissa Dyson, the wife of Miles Dyson. Cástulo Guerra plays Sarah's friend, Enrique Salceda, who provides her with weapons. Danny Cooksey plays Tim, John's friend. Michael Biehn returned to the series as Kyle Reese, a soldier from 2029, in a short appearance in Sarah's dream. Biehn's scene was not featured in the theatrical release of the film, but it was restored in extended versions of the film. Hamilton's then-twenty-month-old son Dalton plays her on-screen son in a dream sequence set in a playground. Sven-Ole Thorsen played a security guard when John is at the Galleria with his friend Tim. DeVaughn Nixon played Danny Dyson, the son of Miles and Tarissa Dyson.
On August 29, 2016 —August 29, 1997 being the date when Skynet becomes self-aware in the films— it was announced that the film would be digitally remastered in 3D to commemorate its 25th anniversary, with a worldwide re-release planned for summer 2017. DMG Entertainment and Studiocanal worked together with Cameron to convert the film using the StereoD technology. The 3D version premiered on February 17, 2017 at the Berlin International Film Festival, with the theatrical re-release being scheduled for August 25, 2017.