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The Least Successful Terminator Movie Of All Time

Back in 1984, few could imagine that James Cameron's low-budget science fiction movie "The Terminator" would become such an iconic franchise (via Box Office Mojo). Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, and Michael Biehn, the film was successful enough to get a sequel made a few years later, this time with the kind of budget to allow Cameron's true vision to come to fruition. The result was 1991's masterpiece "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," which cleaned up at the box office, and the rest is history (via Box Office Mojo). The next three films in the series saw mixed results, with little involvement from Cameron, whose golden touch continued with "Titanic" and "Avatar."

But of the six "Terminator" films, which was the least successful? This is a trick question, of course, since success can be measured in a number of ways. It's not always about dollars. "CODA," for example, was released on a streaming platform and hasn't made a dime at the domestic box office. It also just won the Academy Award for best picture. Hard to argue that's not a success story.

For the purposes of this discussion, though, let's look at the "Terminator" movies through the lens of box office returns (and critical reception, for additional perspective). This is where things get really interesting for the franchise.

Terminator success is complicated

On the surface, the least successful "Terminator" movie was the 1984 original, which only made $38 million at the domestic box office (via Box Office Mojo). This is of course ludicrous, so we're off to a good start! If we're going to do this in a fair way, we have to adjust the returns for inflation. Under that metric, "The Terminator" actually made $103 million, says the Numbers. Additionally, that first installment currently has a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and it's widely considered one of the best and most influential sci-fi movies of all time. There's no universe in which it makes sense to argue that the original "Terminator" is the least successful.

So which sequel gets the dubious honor here? Oddly enough, the most recent incarnation, 2019's "Terminator: Dark Fate," gets the prize with a $62 million take, despite a respectable 70% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes. As for the most successful of the bunch? "Terminator 2" targeted (an adjusted) $441 million domestically and enjoys a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (via The Numbers). It was also the top-grossing movie of 1991 (via Box Office Mojo). It's so good that even the deleted scenes are amazing. That's success. Even a machine wouldn't argue.