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Very few action movies can compare to the Terminator franchise. The second movie especially is one of the most acclaimed films that, nearly three decades later, hasn’t received a satisfying follow-up. Terminator 2: Judgment Day set the bar high in terms of dialogue, action sequences, and special effects. And it didn’t come cheap. However, the film wasn’t supposed to cost $100 million, and the producers were worried about what the studio would say.

Critics called out ‘Terminator 2’ for its violent themes

terminator 2
The movie “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”, (alt: T2) directed by James Cameron. Seen here, Arnold Schwarzenegger (as the Terminator) on a motorcycle. Theatrical wide release July 3, 1991. Screen capture. Paramount Pictures. | CBS via Getty Images

A sequel to 1984’s The Terminator, Terminator 2 follows artificial intelligence Skynet which sends a highly advanced killing machine T-1000, back in time to kill the future leader of the resistance when he is a child. After learning about Skynet’s intentions for its leader, John Connor, the resistance sends a similar but less advanced machine to protect the child and ensure humanity’s future is secure. As the boy, his mother, and the robot go on the run, the child forms a bond with the robot.

Upon its release, the movie received critical acclaim, but some people felt it glorified violence. Some reviewers were critical of the film, with some referring to its themes of violence as “reckless indifference” to human life.

Though the less advanced T-800 doesn’t believe in killing people, he does harm them. This didn’t sit well with some critics who felt that the robot’s decision to maim its victims condemned them to a life of pain. Even the film’s director James Cameron described it as “the world’s most violent anti-war movie.”

‘Terminator 2’ cost significantly more than intended

The first Terminator movie cost significantly less to make but exceeded expectations by earning over $78 million against its modest budget of $6.4 million. The film’s success solidified Arnold Schwarzenegger’s leading man status and essentially made Cameron’s career.

It took nearly a decade for The Terminator to get its sequel. There was animosity between Cameron, Schwarzenegger, and the company that owned the film’s rights, Hemdale Film Corporation. Schwarzenegger and Cameron convinced Carolco Pictures to buy the rights from Hemdale for $15 million. And Carolco set the release date for 1991, leaving the director with barely two months to work on the script.

Filming began in October 1990 lasting until March the following year. The film cost around $102 million to make due to the extensive special effects, which included the first-ever use of a CGI lead character in a blockbuster film. Its budget made Terminator 2 the most expensive film ever made at the time.

However, the movie wasn’t supposed to cost that much, and the producers at one point felt overwhelmed. In an interview with GQ, Cameron said he initially set out to make a $50 million movie. But with all the CG work, the budget rose to $80 million and kept going up.

“It was over 80 million, and I thought, ‘Holy crap,'” he said. Cameron added that Carolco didn’t have a problem with the increasing budget at first. But the more money they had to fork out, the more worried they got. “As production went on, it crept up, and as it was approaching $100 million they were blanching. They thought they were screwed,” Cameron said.

‘Terminator 2’ was a massive success


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Fortunately for Cameron, it all worked out. Terminator 2 earned over $520 million against its $102 million budget, making it the highest-grossing movie of 1991. The film won several awards, including BAFTA, Academy, and Saturn Awards. Since its release, the movie has received critical praise and remains beloved to many.

Terminator 2 holds a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Cameron considered the film to be the conclusion of the Terminator series. However, four more Terminator movies have followed, although none have been able to replicate the success of Terminator 2.