Welcome to Movie DNA, a long-running series in which we take a new or popular movie and recommend a bunch of other movies that have the same vibe, inspired the new film’s creators, or just pair well. In this edition, we present a guide to the movies you should watch if you like Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Three years ago, I recommended movies to watch after you see The Terminator. Now, with the sequel back in theaters for a 3D re-release, it’s time for a list of movies to watch after you see Terminator 2: Judgment Day. As usual, the picks are limited to stuff that came out prior to the movie at hand. Some might have been influences on T2, while others are just forebearers of certain tropes or similar stories and are chosen to give fans of the 1991 sci-fi action classic some historical context and enjoyment.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
After crushing an evil menace, a woman is visited by another being who is similar, but a good version. She then must defeat another evil menace, who ultimately dies by melting. That breakdown describes both T2 and the classic MGM musical adaptation of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” But this movie deals in witches rather than cyborgs. Dorothy kills a wicked witch, is visited by a good witch who guides her on an adventure, during which she kills another wicked witch, who melts when water is thrown at her.
Mostly it’s the ending of both movies that are linked. The T-1000 (Robert Patrick) melting when propelled into a vat of molten steel, flailing about as he appears to scream and morph into various forms, is very reminiscent of the Wicked Witch of the West’s demise (any more obvious and he’d be screaming “what a world!”). And that’s probably not by accident. The Wizard of Oz is one of T2 writer-director-producer James Cameron’s favorite movies from childhood, and he’s admitted its influence, at least on his later movie Avatar. L. Frank Baum’s original book would later be referenced a lot in the TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, in which it’s said to be John Connor’s favorite from childhood.
The Invisible Boy (1957)
At its heart, T2 is just the story of a boy and his robot friend. Same as this sort-of sequel — a spin-off, really — to Forbidden Planet (which I recently recommended you watch after Alien: Covenant), also from MGM. In both movies, said robot is from the future and is ordered not to kill anyone, and in both movies, the duo has to stop a military supercomputer that has gone rogue and plans to take over the world. There are more differences than similarities, however, as T2‘s John Connor (Edward Furlong) is never turned invisible, nor does he take a rocket to space.
Robby the Robot, from this movie, is one of the most iconic robots in all of pop culture — following his appearance here, he continued to be kind of a Hollywood star in his own right (he even has his own IMDb page as an actor, not a character), showing up in all kinds of TV shows (including Wonder Woman) and other media. The T-800 of the Terminator movies is also iconic, but part of that is thanks to it being played by Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger (of course, you could argue that Schwarzenegger is a huge star in part because of this iconic character, and others). It’s up for debate which of the two stars gives the more mechanical performance.
Old Yeller (1957)
One of the original movies to feature the basic premise of “a boy and his…whatever” is the 1943 MGM production Lassie Come Home, an adaptation that spawned a giant franchise. That’s something to watch for an early example of the trope, while E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is recommended for being one of the best. The latter is about a boy and his alien friend, and it’s all sad at the end when E.T. has to go home and the pair are separated. But at least neither of them dies.
The robot friend in T2 does die, and so the proper comparison is this live-action Disney classic that’s sort of like the Lassie movies except for the fact that — spoiler alert — the titular dog dies in this one. And it’s not just that Old Yeller dies but his friend is forced to kill him, for everyone’s safety. See, Old Yeller’s parts could wind up in the wrong hands and be used to influence technology that will lead to the near-annihilation of humanity. Wait, no, that’s why the T-800 has to be put down. Old Yeller just has rabies. Either way, you’re crying at the end of both movies over a fictional non-human character’s demise.
The Time Machine (1960)
T2 is an upgrade for is franchise in a number of ways, one of which is in its depiction of the future where man is at war with machines. There’s also a nightmare sequence showing the nuclear devastation of Los Angeles on Judgment Day, which is when the computer system Skynet becomes self-aware and causes nuclear armageddon. In the Terminator franchise, this fate is proven to be inevitable, with only the dates of the events changeable.
In George Pal’s The Time Machine, based on H.G. Wells’s genre-pioneering novella of the same name, we also see a future that appears to be fixed. The protagonist of the story (Rod Taylor) invents a time machine and travels forward into the future, witnessing the first two world wars, then nuclear war and other disasters that concern him but not in a way where he seems intent on going back and warning people about them. He keeps going forward until he finds two clashing groups. Rather than humans and machines, they’re separate humanoid species that evolved from man following nuclear war. The time traveller befriends one of the “good” species but in the end he has to go back home (just like E.T.).