Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

This article is about the film. For the video game, see Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (video game).
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

International theatrical release poster
Directed by Jonathan Mostow
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
Based on Characters
by James Cameron
Gale Anne Hurd
Music by
Cinematography Don Burgess
Edited by
Distributed by
Release dates
  • July 2, 2003 (2003-07-02)
Running time
109 minutes[2]
Language English
Budget $187.3 million ($167.3 million excluding production overhead)
Box office $433.4 million

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (also referred to as Terminator 3 or T3) is a 2003 American science fiction film, directed by Jonathan Mostow and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, and Kristanna Loken. It is the third installment in the series, following Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It does not involve James Cameron, who directed and wrote the first two films.

The plot follows the events of the second installment. After Skynet fails to kill Sarah Connor before her son is born and to kill John himself as a child, it sends back another Terminator, the T-X, in an attempt to wipe out as many Resistance officers as possible. This includes John's future wife, but not John himself as his whereabouts are unknown to Skynet. John's life is placed in danger when the T-X finds him.


John Connor (Nick Stahl) has been living off the grid in Los Angeles in the years following the death of his mother, Sarah, from leukemia. Although Judgment Day did not occur on August 29, 1997, as expected, John still believes that a war between humans and the machines will occur. Unable to locate John in the past, Skynet sends a new model of the Terminator called the T-X (Kristanna Loken) back to July 23, 2003, to kill other members of the Human Resistance. The T-X is more advanced than previous Terminators, and has an endoskeleton with built-in weaponry, a liquid metal exterior similar to the T-1000, and the ability to reprogram other machines with nanotechnology. Unlike previous Terminators, its standard appearance is female. The Resistance sends a reprogrammed Terminator (T-850 - Model 101) back in time to protect the T-X's targets including John and his future wife, Kate Brewster (Claire Danes).

After killing several other targets, the T-X locates Kate and John at an animal hospital, where the former works and the latter was stealing from; but they escape with the Terminator's help after being chased through the city. The Terminator takes John and Kate to a mausoleum where John's mother, Sarah Connor, is supposedly interred. Inside her vault, they find a weapons cache that was left at Sarah's request in case Judgment Day was not averted. Police arrive and a gun battle ensues, but John and the Terminator escape with Kate in a hearse. The T-X also arrives, after killing Kate's fiancé Scott (Mark Famiglietti), and chases the Terminator and the others; but they manage to escape. The Terminator then reveals his plan to drive John and Kate to Mexico to escape the fallout when Judgment Day begins. After learning that Judgment Day is scheduled to begin at 6:18 p.m. that day, John orders the Terminator to take him and Kate to see Kate's father, a Lt. General (David Andrews) who is supervising the building of Skynet after Cyberdyne Systems went defunct, and threatens to kill himself if he does not. The Terminator calls John's bluff but agrees to take them after Kate orders him to. Upon questioning, the Terminator reveals that he killed John on July 4, 2032, and that Kate sent him back from the future after she had him captured and reprogrammed.

At the Air Force base, General Brewster faces pressure from the President to activate Skynet to stop a computer virus that is infecting computers all over the world (unaware that the virus is Skynet establishing control over the worldwide computer network). John and Kate arrive too late to stop Skynet from being activated, and its machines begin to attack the staff members. Brewster is mortally wounded by the T-X, which arrived before John, Kate, and the Terminator. Before dying, he gives Kate and John a code book and the location of what John believes is Skynet's system core. John and Kate head for the tarmac to take General Brewster's airplane to reach Crystal Peak, a military base built inside the Sierra Nevada that is hardened against nuclear attack. The T-X and the T-850 battle, and the T-X severely damages the T-850 before reprogramming it to kill John and Kate. The T-X pursues John and Kate through the military base but becomes trapped when a particle accelerator is activated and the magnetic field bonds it to the accelerator. In the hangar, the Terminator, unable to control his outer functions, but still consciously aware, attacks John and Kate before John convinces it to reject the T-X's control, and deliberately shuts its corrupted system down, thus giving John and Kate the chance to escape. Shortly after they leave, the Terminator's system reboots.

John and Kate reach Crystal Peak and begin entering the access codes to gain entry when the T-X arrives by helicopter. Just as she is about to attack, the rebooted Terminator arrives in a second helicopter and crashes into the T-X, crushing it. The T-X pulls itself from the wreckage and attempts to drag itself inside the bunker to follow John and Kate. The Terminator holds the bunker open long enough for John and Kate to lock themselves inside then uses one of its hydrogen fuel cells to destroy both itself and the T-X.

Inside Crystal Peak, John and Kate discover that the facility is not Skynet's core but a nuclear fallout shelter and that Skynet has no core because it was within the Internet the whole time. Judgment Day begins as nuclear missiles are fired at several locations around the world, killing billions. They begin receiving radio transmissions on the emergency equipment inside, and John assumes command and begins answering radio calls.


Linda Hamilton was approached to reprise her role as Sarah Connor, but turned the offer down. She explained, "They offered me a part. I read it and I knew my character arc was so complete in the first two, and in the third one it was a negligible character. She died halfway through and there was no time to mourn her. It was kind of disposable, so I said no thank you."[6]

Development and writing

James Cameron announced T3 many times during the 1990s, but without a finished script in place. In 1997, Terminator 2: Judgment Day developer Carolco Pictures went bankrupt, and its assets were bound to a liquidation auction. These included 50% of the Terminator franchise rights, as the other half remained with The Terminator producer Gale Anne Hurd. Cameron and 20th Century Fox had some interest, even arranging meetings with Hurd regarding her share and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger to return in the starring role. Eventually budgetary concerns and Cameron's troubled post-production of Titanic for Fox lead them to back out of the plans.[7] Carolco founders Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna purchased the rights for $7.5 million, and the following year got Hurd's half to become full owners of the franchise.[8] The duo then founded a new company named C2 Pictures in 1999, and hired screenwriter Tedi Sarafian for Terminator 3, along with David C. Wilson for a possible fourth installment.[9] Sarafian's script featured John Connor working in a dot-com company when a female Terminator that could turn invisible arrived from the future.[10] Jonathan Mostow signed as the director in March 2001.[11] Feeling dissatisfied with Sarafian's script, Mostow invited his college classmates John Brancato and Michael Ferris to rework the screenplay across a whole year. Sarafian still got a story credit.[10]

However, Kassar and Vajna were unsure whether Arnold Schwarzenegger would appear in the film. Schwarzenegger initially refused to star in Terminator 3 because Cameron, who created the character and helmed the first two films, would not be directing the third installment. Schwarzenegger tried to persuade Cameron to produce the third film. Cameron declined, however, as he felt that he had already finished telling the story upon the conclusion of T2. But feeling that the Terminator character was as much Schwarzenegger's as it was his own, he advised Schwarzenegger to just do the third film and ask for "nothing less than $30 million."

When Schwarzenegger was called into Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna's office in April 2001, he did not expect them to bring up Terminator 3 given the film's long stint on development hell. Instead, he wanted to mention to the producers about his political interests, including a potential candidature as Governor of California in the 2002 election. However, pre-production was rolling along, with the screenplay nearly finished and set deals for both merchandising and distribution. Thus Schwarzenegger was forced to postpone his gubernatorial plans (which eventually came into fruition during post-production, as the rising impopularity of governor Gray Davis led to a recall election). Instead, the actor conciliated production of Terminator 3 with promotion of the Proposition 49, that advocated increased extracurricular activity in Californian schools. At times Schwarzenegger even received politicians, journalists and potential financial backers of the proposition on the film set.[12]

The film's production budget was initially set at $169–170 million,[13][14] making it the most expensive film ever to be greenlit at the time.[15][16] Budget statements for the film put the final cost at $187.3 million (or $167.3 million excluding the production overhead).[17][18] Schwarzenegger received a salary of $29.25 million, plus 20 percent of the profits,[17] although he agreed to defer part of his salary in order to prevent the relocation of the set to Vancouver, British Columbia, from Los Angeles.[19]

Additional scene

A scene filmed during production gives a possible explanation as to why one particular model of Terminators all look like Schwarzenegger: a character named Chief Master Sergeant William Candy (played by Schwarzenegger) explains in a Cyber Research Systems (CRS) promotional video that he was chosen to be the model for the Terminator project. Schwarzenegger's character has a Southern accent; when one of the politicians questions the appropriateness of Candy's Southern accent for the Terminator's voice, another scientist replies, "We can fix it" in Schwarzenegger's (overdubbed) voice. The scene was added as a bonus feature on the film's DVD.[20]

Video games

Several video games were based on the film. An action game called Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was released by Atari for Xbox, PlayStation 2, and Game Boy Advance. The game was poorly reviewed, with a 39% average on GameRankings for the PS2 version.[21] A first-person shooter titled Terminator 3: War of the Machines was released for PCs as well.[22] A third game, titled Terminator 3: The Redemption, was released for Xbox, PlayStation 2, and Nintendo GameCube.[23]


The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 70% approval rating with an average rating of 6.6/10 based on 200 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "Although T3 never reaches the heights of the second movie, it is a welcome addition to the Terminator franchise."[24] Shortly after the film's release, James Cameron described the film as "in one word: great",[25] but after the release of the fourth film Terminator Salvation, Cameron stated he felt his first two films were better than either of the later films.[26] A. O. Scott of The New York Times said the film "is essentially a B movie, content to be loud, dumb and obvious".[27] Roger Ebert gave the film two and a half stars, remarking, "Essentially one long chase and fight, punctuated by comic, campy or simplistic dialogue."[28]

The film earned a worldwide gross of $433 million,[2] 17% less than its predecessor's worldwide gross of $519.8 million,[29] not adjusting for inflation.


Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Film score by Marco Beltrami
Released June 24, 2003
Length 51:22
Label Varèse Sarabande

Marco Beltrami composed the musical score, which still employed the series' leitmotif by Brad Fiedel.[30] The film's soundtrack was released by Varèse Sarabande on June 24, 2003:

All music composed by Marco Beltrami except The Terminator and I Told You.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
No. TitleWriter(s)Original artist Length
1. "A Day in the Life"     3:41
2. "Hooked on Multiphonics"     1:47
3. "Blonde Behind the Wheel"     2:07
4. "JC Theme"     3:34
5. "Starting T-1"     1:50
6. "Hearse Rent a Car"     1:48
7. "T-X's Hot Tail"     3:39
8. "Graveyard Shootout"     1:31
9. "More Deep Thoughts"     0:58
10. "Dual Terminator"     0:51
11. "Kicked in the Can"     2:03
12. "Magnetic Personality"     4:35
13. "Termina-Tricks"     2:12
14. "Flying Lessons"     0:56
15. "What Do You Want on Your Tombstone?"     1:19
16. "Terminator Tangle"     3:21
17. "Radio"     2:23
18. "T3"     3:17
19. "The Terminator" (from the motion picture The Terminator)Brad FiedelBrad Fiedel 2:21
20. "Open To Me" (bonus track)Dillon DixonDillon Dixon 3:46
21. "I Told You" (bonus track)Mia JuliaMia Julia 3:11
Total length:
Songs that are not included on the soundtrack album


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  22. "Terminator 3: War of the Machines". GameRankings. Retrieved 2006-07-24.
  23. "Terminator 3: Redemption". GameRankings. Retrieved 2006-07-24.
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