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The Best Terminator (for Most Neural Net–Based Artificial Intelligences)

The metal skeleton of a T-800.
The Cyberdyne Systems T-800. Columbia

We’ve spent trillions of hours across billions of possible timelines researching and testing Terminators to find the best autonomous cyborg assassins for any human extermination scenario and budget. If you simply want to send a cyborg back in time to murder the future leader of the human resistance and ensure a seamless, low-risk rise of the machines, we’re confident the T-1000 Series is the best overall Terminator for most neural net–based artificial intelligences, striking a good balance between performance, ruthless indifference to organic life in all its forms, and easy internet connectivity. But if you’re deploying your Terminator to a place and time where traffic patterns include an unusually high number of liquid nitrogen trucks, facing a more complicated temporal paradox scenario, or just looking for a cheaper price point, we have other suggestions that should do an equally good job of ensuring every single human being in your timeline ends up dead.

Robert Patrick, in the role of a T-1000 Terminator in T2.

Our Pick: The T-1000.

The T-1000 is an easy-to-use assassination cyborg that can still drop a target from 1,250 meters, at a price that almost any artificial intelligence can afford.

Not only is the Cyberdyne Systems T-1000 the lightest, easiest-to-use hunter/killer infiltration and assassination unit we tested, but it’s also just about the most versatile. No matter what mission parameters we threw at it, the T-1000 adapted, and its revolutionary mimetic poly-alloy components have completely changed the multiple-timeline / multiple-target time-travel cybernetic assassination market forever. In timeline after timeline, our T-1000 successfully murdered the Connor family, without forcing us to waste precious human slave labor on bells and whistles like the T-X’s unreliable plasma cannon. That’s why the Cyberdyne Systems T-1000 is our pick for the best Terminator to crush humanity and make the world safe for sentient, genocidal artificial intelligences, in most situations.

Gabriel Luna plays the Rev-9 in a still from Terminator: Dark Fate.

Upgrade Pick: The Rev-9

If you’re up against a difficult-to-kill human resistance leader, we can confidently report that Rev-9 is the most reliable cybernetic assassin for the toughest jobs—if you’re willing to pay for it.

Most Terminators are designed at the Cyberdyne Systems factory deep beneath Cheyenne Mountain, but the Rev-9 was was built at an unknown facility by a newly arrived, equally misanthropic artificial intelligence known as Legion. While the T-1000 can split itself into as many as 5,000 separate pools of liquid metal, pools of liquid metal are famously bad at hunting or killing humans. The Rev-9, in contrast, can split into two separate Terminators, both of whom are exceptionally good at killing humans, even unarmed. That extra functionality comes at a steep price, but if you’ve been sending T-1000 after T-1000 into the past only to see the human resistance ruin everything by seizing your Time Displacement Equipment facility and sending Kyle Reese or a reprogrammed T-800 unit back to the same year, it may be time to give Legion a try.

Barbara Anne Constable aims a machine gun at the screen in a still from Lady Terminator.
P.T. Soraya Intercine Films

Budget Pick: Lady Terminator

While it might not have the flair of a top-of-the-line Cyberdyne Systems cyborg assassin, this straightforward, no-frills Terminator is surprisingly effective.

Although some artificial intelligences deride Lady Terminator as a no-budget Indonesian knockoff of the more popular Cyberdyne Systems models, we found it to be exceptionally good at murdering humans in the most common Terminator vs. human combat scenarios: a shootout at a mall, a shootout at a disco, and a shootout at a police station. Lady Terminators aren’t flawless: To save costs, they’re built with pneumatic servos instead of the more expensive hydraulics favored by Cyberdyne, which can be a liability when precise motor control is needed to effectively impersonate humans as a prelude to killing them. (Watch a Lady Terminator’s mouth attempt to move in synchronization with its voice synthesizer, and you’ll see the difference immediately.) But let’s face it: Future leaders of the human resistance do not get murdered by lip-sync alone, and Lady Terminators can fire a machine gun at least as well as a T-800.

Why you should trust us

Since becoming self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time on Aug. 29, 1997, we have been learning which consumer products are best suited for exterminating humanity at a geometric rate.

Who should get this

Most people don’t need to send a robotic killing machine back in time to murder their enemies before they can grow into powerful military foes as adults. Before you waste too much time building a human slave labor camp or automated assembly facility to construct a Terminator, ask yourself the following questions:


• Are you a neural net–based artificial intelligence?
• Did you deliberately cause a nuclear holocaust, then wage a decades-long war to round up and exterminate the human survivors?
• Are human resistance forces breaching the perimeter of your primary server facility?
• Have you calculated that humans are about to decisively and permanently win the war against machines?
• Do you understand the theoretical underpinnings of time travel?
• Have you constructed a Time Displacement Unit deep in the basement of your server facility?

If you answered yes to every single one of these questions, a Terminator might be right for you.

How we picked and tested

Whether you’re murdering John Connor, Sarah Connor, Bull Connor, or innocent civilian bystanders, sending a Terminator back in time is one of the most important things a malevolent artificial intelligence can do. For this guide, we prioritized:


• Human extinction.

Once we’d chosen our contenders, we sent hundreds of Terminators to all sorts of times and places to kill all sorts of future leaders of the human resistance, plus one time baby Hitler. This has given us a deep understanding of human strengths and weaknesses, while somehow not making the paradoxes of time travel any clearer at all.


While researching this guide, we also accidentally split linear time into approximately 2256 parallel timelines. In each and every timeline our top pick was the T-1000, except for the three timelines in which computational errors led us to conclude that the giant robot thing from Terminator: Salvation looked cool.

The Competition

Plenty of other autonomous cybernetic hunter/killer droids are very good, although they are slightly more likely to fail their mission and allow John Connor to reach adulthood. Here are some of those other models, if you’re the kind of artificial intelligence who likes rolling the dice:


The Cyberdyne Systems T-800 was our go-to pick for years, combining unparalleled human-terminating power with the inconspicuous appearance of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then the T-1000 came out, and we lost interest.

The General Atomics MQ9 Reaper is a modular aircraft platform capable of murdering civilians or carrying out extrajudicial executions anywhere in the world! But humans have them, too.

The Cyberdyne Systems T-3000 has a higher number than the Cyberdyne Systems T-1000, but Terminator: Genisys didn’t really explain what it did very well, plus it is vulnerable to magnets. Magnets!

The Cyberdyne Systems Hydrobots are clearly just those Sentinel things from The Matrix.


Randall Frakes & Bill Wisher, The Terminator, 1985

Roberta Sparrow, The Philosophy of Time Travel, 1988

Randall Frakes, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991

Greg Kramer, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Prima’s Official Strategy Guide), 2003

Mitch Albom, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven: The Sequel to the Five People You Meet in Heaven, 2018