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The Deleted Terminator 2: Judgment Day Scene That Would Have Changed Everything

James Cameron's 1991 masterpiece "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" is one of the greatest sequels of all time. It was an epic summer blockbuster, and the biggest movie of the year, raking in over $500 million (via Box Office Mojo) at the global box office — in the pre-Marvel world, that was impressive. Once again starring Arnold Schwarzenegger — at the height of his fame — and Linda Hamilton, it became one of the rare films to outshine its predecessor. That was no small task since many consider 1984's original "The Terminator" to be one of the best science fiction movies ever made — in fact, it has a perfect 100% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes. To be fair, "Terminator 2" had a much bigger budget that really allowed Cameron to set a new bar for special effects, something he went on to do again with "Avatar."

Continuing the story of Sarah Connor (Hamilton) against evil machines from the future, the sequel saw a new, more evolved T-1000 Terminator (played by Robert Patrick) sent back in time to kill Sarah's young son John (Edward Furlong) before he can grow up to lead humanity to victory in the coming post-nuclear war. This time, the older T-800 model Terminator (Schwarzenegger) is sent back as the human protector, a twist woven brilliantly into the movie that was absolutely ruined by studio marketing materials that gave it away. This, after all, was long before the internet made spoilers a criminal offense.

The theatrical version of the film is so good that even scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor are fantastic, including a powerful dream sequence that brought back original hero Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn). But there was one deleted scene that could have been a game-changer.

Terminator 2 almost had a happy ending

The theatrical version of "Terminator 2" ends with a glimmer of hope, though it suggests a future that is still very much not set. However, James Cameron toyed with a different epilogue that would have served as a more definitive ending to his vision.

A final scene was shot that featured a much older Sarah reflecting on the nuclear holocaust that never came to be. Sitting in a park, watching her now-grown son play with her grandchild, she talks about how Judgment Day came and went — and no one but her (and John) knew about the dark fate humanity narrowly avoided. It's a bittersweet moment for Sarah, but about as upbeat an ending as she could possibly hope for. The war against the machines never happened, and that's something the theatrical ending stops short of revealing. 

Whichever ending you prefer (and they're both pretty great), it's hard to argue the deleted one wouldn't have altered the trajectory of the franchise in some way — and many fans argue that would have been for the best. Regardless, its mere existence provides one more intriguing "what if" scenario to the story.

While Cameron has moved on to exploring new frontiers in his long-gestating sequels (plural) to the alien world he created in "Avatar," we can only wonder where the "Terminator" franchise might have gone if he continued to write and direct more installments. But if he knew "Terminator 2" would be his last real take, would it have ended differently?