There are few sequels in the history of cinema that are considered better than the originals that preceded them, but James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day is widely considered to be one of them. Indeed, the 1991 time travelling action epic is up there with the best films of all time, and some people view it as the greatest sequel ever made. Let’s examine what made T2 so perfect as a follow up, and what other films could stake a claim for being the paramount sequel.
T2 is One of the Most Iconic Films Ever
The Terminator was Cameron’s breakthrough film in 1984, with the legendary director having previously made Piranha II: The Spawning in 1982. The sci-fi offering with Arnold Schwarzenegger was a game changer for time travel flicks, now one of the most popular sci-fi offshoots. From a meagre budget of just $6.4 million, it grossed $78.3 million at the worldwide box office. Despite being a surprise hit, there were still numerous problems with the film. Due to lack of heavy investment, the special effects were rudimentary in parts, with some scenes featuring miniature models and stop-motion animation.
When Cameron revisited his story about the machines taking over the world, he had already established himself as one of the leading filmmakers in Hollywood. After making his name with The Terminator, he then directed Aliens in 1986 and The Abyss in 1989. He returned to his sci-fi franchise with the backing of TriStar Pictures and a budget of $100 million to splash.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day was such an incredible improvement on its predecessor, it was almost unbelievable. Cameron finally had the budget to show what he could do, and the picture enabled him to cement himself as one of the elite action directors in the business. The sequel made $520 worldwide and was met with resounding positivity from critics. Roger Ebert awarded it 3.5 stars out of 4, and had nothing but praise for the acting, story, and action sequences. Almost every critic said the sequel outdid the original in every department.
T2’s legacy has lived on in other forms of entertainment despite the other sequels that came after it, highlighting how fans treasure the 1991 film and desperately want to relieve its best moments. One of the best games that came about after T2 was The Terminator: Future Shock in 1995, developed by Bethesda Softworks. A more recent offering that fans of the 1991 flick still enjoy is Terminator 2 at Betway Casino. The reel spinner from Microgaming is one of the most legendary film-based titles in the history of slots and is still among the most popular years after its release.
1991 Picture Tainted by Later Offerings
At the time of its release and for many years after, T2 enjoyed recognition as one of the greatest sequels in the history of cinema. Numerous publications, including Maxim, have made this claim. However, with the emergence of several sequels in the years since T2, the memory of the 1991 movie has been tainted somewhat.
Even the most loyal Terminator fans agree that the titles that followed T2 never lived up to the Cameron film. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines dropped more than ten years after its predecessor, but it wasn’t worth the wait. It effectively undid the ending of T2, where the heroes defeated Skynet, and was built on the preposterous premise that the war with the machines was inevitable, anyway. The 2003 picture was followed by Terminator Salvation in 2009 and Terminator Genisys in 2015.
Paramount Pictures pretty much admitted that all three of these were substandard when it released Terminator: Dark Fate in 2019. This was supposed to act as a reboot of the franchise and was billed as a direct sequel to T2. Although it erased the timeline of the three films that came before it, Tim Miller’s offering was a flop as well and only grossed $261 million against its $185 million production budget.
Perhaps the failure of these later films is a testament to just how good T2 was, with none of them able to live up to Cameron’s second outing. However, the experience of watching Judgment Day after having seen the sequels is not as enjoyable. This is because viewers know that the plot of the picture is nullified in the next film.
What Other Sequels Are Among the Best Ever?
To assert that Terminator 2 is the greatest sequel of all time, it would also be fair to mention some of the other amazing second acts that have come over the years. The films that often crop up in this discussion include Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back by Irvin Kershner. The worthiest contender for the crown is The Godfather Part II, though, which many people believe is even better than its award-winning predecessor.
Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 crime drama was the first-ever sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and it also picked up five other Oscars. The Godfather only won three Academy Awards, so the sequel was more successful in terms of honours. Still, as noted, there is a hot debate about which one is better between the 1972 and 1974 offerings, so it’s hard to say that The Godfather II is the best sequel ever.
When it comes down to the best sequel of all time, it’s a tough choice between The Godfather Part II and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Thanks to the sheer improvement on the original, however, it’s fair to argue that Cameron’s film should win the battle. You will see in our other post that Cameron is busy working on his Avatar sequels now, perhaps with the intention of creating another offering worthy of the best sequel ever.