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You're terminated, f***er!
~ Sarah Conner, to the original Terminator

Sarah Jeanette Connor is the main protagonist of Terminator, the tritagonist of Terminator 2: Judgment Day and the deuteragonist of Terminator Genisys, and the mother of John Connor. She is also the love interest and later the wife of Kyle Reese.

She was portrayed by Linda Hamilton in the films and by Lena Headey in the television series.

Character Biography

The Terminator

At the age of 19, she worked as a teenage waitress at Big Jeff's family restaurant and shared a two-story apartment in the Palm District with her roommate Ginger Ventura while studying at college. But everything Sarah had ever known was to change that year in 1984. By the events of The Terminator, Sarah finds herself pursued by a relentless cyborg killer, the Terminator; a Series 800 Model 101 Infiltrator unit (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger), for reasons completely unknown to her.

She is rescued from the Terminator by time-traveling soldier Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), who explains that in the future, an artificial intelligence called Skynet will be created by military software developers to make strategic decisions. The program becomes self-aware, seizes control of most of the world's military hardware (including various highly-advanced robots), and launches an all-out attack on human beings. However, a man named John Connor eventually leads the human resistance group Tech-Com to victory, only to discover that in a last-ditch effort, Skynet had researched time travel and sent a robotic killer back in time in an effort to destroy John Connor's family before he can be born.

John Connor is Sarah's future son, and Connor sends back a trusted sergeant (Reese - who, unbeknownst to him, is John's father) to protect his mother at all costs. During their brief time together, Sarah falls in love with Reese. Reese becomes the only thing protecting her from the Terminator, and her only companion as they flee together.

The Terminator kills a number of people in order to get to Sarah Connor, including her mother. Initially, she is unaware that Reese himself had been in love with her from afar, having been given a picture of her by John Connor, and having always admired her legendary strength and resilience. They share a night of intimacy that results in the conception of John. Their relationship is cut short when Reese dies fighting the Terminator in a Cyberdyne factory; Sarah in turn crushes the Terminator in a hydraulic press.

Though Reese's death deeply saddens her, his sincerity and courage inspires Sarah to carry on and develop the necessary skills and abilities that would make her a suitable mentor and teacher to John. She drives into Mexico and gets some gasoline. A child at the gas station tells her that there is a storm coming and she grimly replies that she knows (thinking about Judgment Day) before driving into the storm clouds. 

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Going into hiding, Sarah gave birth to John on 28 February 1985, and immediately entered into a semi-criminal lifestyle, beginning his training and learning from whoever would teach them. The two lived as nomads, spending a lot of time in South and Central America. It was not until she attempted to blow up the local offices of some computer corporation, getting herself caught by the police that she was seen again by the authorities. Upon trying to warn of the impending Judgment Day, Sarah was handed over to the custody of Dr. Peter Silberman at the Pescadero State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, a prison facility that cares and imprisons people with mental problems. She was diagnosed with acute schizo-affective disorder and institutionalized, her son John being put into foster care.

When Sarah was 29 years old, another Terminator, this time a T-1000, was sent back to eliminate Sarah's ten-year-old son John. Sarah broke out of her room and assaulted Douglas' incapacitating him and stole his keys. She then knocked out another staff member and broke Dr Silberman's arm, and threatening to poison him to get the other staff to release her by unlocking the security doors. However, a back-up member released Silberman and Sarah escaped to the elevators, while the staff desperately chased her all the way. 

When the T-800 tells John that the T-1000 will likely copy Sarah and then kill her, he and the Terminator go to rescue her. At Pescadero, Sarah has escaped from her prison cell and kills Douglas (one of Dr Silberman's staff) with a broom handle when she breaks his neck. Next, she knocks out a staff member, breaks Peter Silberman's arm and takes him hostage, holding him with a syringe full of industrial grade poison. She uses him to force the other staff to release her by opening all the security doors. However, on the opposite corridor, an Italian staff member creeps behind Sarah's back and releases Dr Silberman. She then runs down the corridor to the elevators.

As she waits for an elevator, the T-800 walks out. Initially, Sarah is terrified by the Terminator and runs back, but the staff trip her up after chasing her. Dr Silberman, having enough of Sarah's escape attempts, killing Douglas, injuring his staff and trying to poison him, he gets the syringe and attempts to poison Sarah while his staff pin her down to the floor. But as soon as the syringe gets close to Sarah, the terminator comes, hoists and then knocks all the staff unconscious, including one member thrown at a door window and a shard of glass stabs him. Dr Silberman is left unharmed, shocked by the terminator. But the T-1000 arrives and Sarah watches the terminator fight off the T-1000 and seeing that John has accompanied it, she leaves with them. The T-1000 chases them down the highway but fails to capture and kill them.

Later, while hiding out in an auto repair garage (in a deleted scene), John and Sarah remove the T-800's processing chip, which controls it's systems. Sarah, still mistrusting of the machine, sees an opportunity to render the terminator completely inert by destroying the chip but John stops her at the last second, telling her they need it's help. Sarah is reluctant but listens to John when he tells her that he'll one day be a powerful leader & that his decisions will one day be important. She agrees not to destroy the chip and the terminator is reactivated.

As they escape the city, the Terminator tells her about the future of Skynet, the sentient computer that will destroy humans. He tells her about its creator, Miles Bennett Dyson (Joe Morton), who designs a learning computer that is entrusted with command of all military force. When Skynet becomes "self-aware", it launches nuclear missiles to destroy most of humanity, an event referred to by the survivors as "Judgment Day". While watching John teach the terminator a game, Sarah reflects on the fact that the terminator makes a good father-figure for John. Being a machine, the terminator would never be abusive or abandon him & would unreservedly let itself be destroyed while protecting him. In turn, John teaches the terminator to be more human.

Eventually, Sarah, John, and the Terminator arrive in the desert at the camp of Enrique Salceda, who has preserved an underground weapons cache in the event that the war actually happens. Sarah plans to take John and flee over the border into Mexico. During the time at this camp, John bonds more closely with the Terminator. Sarah falls asleep and suffers her recurring nightmare where she sees herself playing with children on a playground. An nuclear bomb suddenly explodes in the distance and Sarah, her double and all the children die in the intense heat of the blast. Sarah wakes up, seeing that she's carved the words "NO FATE" into the table she fell asleep upon.

Sarah now believes that by assassinating Dyson she can prevent Skynet from being invented, preventing Judgment Day and the war with the machines. After she leaves, John and the Terminator find the message she'd left on the table and quickly figure out what she is going to do and drive after her. At Dyson's home, Sarah tries to kill Dyson with an M4 rifle and misses when Dyson's son distracts him from his computer monitor. Sarah is unable to hit her target and marches into Dyson's home. She draws a pistol, shooting him in the shoulder, but finds herself unable to kill him in front of his family. When John and the Terminator arrive, they inform Dyson of the consequences of his research. When he says he'll discontinue his research and quit Cyberdyne the next day, Sarah and the Terminator convince him that they must destroy everything related to his chip design including the CPU and arm from the previous Terminator immediately.

Sarah, John, the Terminator, and Dyson break into the Cyberdyne Systems building and retrieve the parts from the first Terminator. While preparing explosives to destroy all of Dyson's research, security alerts the police who show up in force. When the SWAT team enters the building, they fatally shoot Dyson who stays behind to trigger the detonator.

Sarah, John, and the Terminator escape in a SWAT van, with the T-1000 in pursuit, first in a helicopter then a tanker truck. The truck crashes into a steel mill, causing the tank to rupture and liquid nitrogen to spill everywhere, freezing the T-1000. Even though the Terminator shatters him, the pieces thaw and reassemble. The T-1000 and Model 101 begin to fight, and the T-1000 stabs him through the power cell with a metal pole, deactivating him. The T-1000, disguised as Sarah, goes to hunt John. As John is confronted by two Sarahs, the Terminator, who had reactivated itself using an alternate power source, finally destroys the T-1000 by shooting it with a grenade launcher which causes it to deform and lose balance, and ultimately fall into a vat of molten metal which destroys it.

After John throws the arm and processor chip from the first Terminator into the molten metal, the Terminator tells him that he too must be destroyed to prevent his technology from being used to create Skynet. He tells Sarah that he cannot self-terminate, and she must lower him into the steel. Even as John tearfully begs the Terminator not to leave, he hugs the boy with genuine love while regretting that as a machine he cannot return John's tears. It is at this point that The Terminator finally earns Sarah's respect, as she offers her hand in friendship to a brother warrior, which he graciously shakes. After the Terminator steps onto the rig, Sarah solemnly and reluctantly pressed the "lower button", as mother and son watched the him sink into the molten steel below; he gives a final thumbs up to give John courage and hope before melting into oblivion. As her son inconsolably weeps in her arms for the loss of his friend, Sarah looked into the steel with mournful respect. The film ends with a voice-over from Sarah, in which she describes her hope for the future; for if a machine can learn to love and respect life, so can we the human race.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Three years later, after training John in the ways of warfare and leadership, and ensuring that Judgment Day did not take place on its original date, Sarah Connor finally died in 1997 from Leukemia (presumably, she died on August 29), three years after her initial diagnosis in Baja. (Although one interpretation of the timeline would suggest that this means she would have been aware of her condition at the time of T2.) She was cremated in Mexico, and her friends scattered her ashes into the sea. Never believing that they had truly won even at the end, she had her friends store weapons in a coffin in a mausoleum in the Valley of Peace cemetery.

Terminator: Salvation

Sarah Connor's audio logs she recorded in 1984 assisted John Connor in his fight against Skynet's forces in 2018 which helps John Connor become the leader of the Human Resistance.

Terminator: Dark Fate

Trivia

  • Sarah Connor is 18 years old in the movie. This is proven in the sequel Terminator 2 (1991) where Dr. Silberman says Sarah is 29 years old and T-1000 checks Sarah son's, John Connor's, profile which states he's 10 years old, having been born when Sarah was 19
  • Linda Hamilton broke her ankle prior to production, and had to have her leg wrapped every day so she could do her chase scenes. Those scenes were also moved towards the end of the shooting schedule.
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh was considered for the role of Sarah Connor, but director James Cameron feared she was too young for the part. She was later recast as Ginger but she was replaced at the last minute with Bess Motta
  • Daryl Hannah auditioned for the role of Sarah Connor, but turned it down in order to play Madison in Splash (1984).
  • Geena Davis auditioned for the role of Sarah Connor
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus was rumored to be cast as Sarah Connor, but was forced to turn the role down due to her commitment as a regular player on NBC's Saturday Night Live (1975).
  • James Cameron revealed that Glenn Close was originally chosen to play Sarah Connor, but Close wasn't available prior to the project began.
  • Sarah's middle initial is shown as 'J' in the phone book, but her middle name is never mentioned in any of the Terminator films. The novelization of the movie gives her middle name as Jeanette, possibly a reference to Jenette Goldstein who appears in Terminator 2 (1991) as John Connor's foster mother.
  • Debra Winger successfully auditioned and won the role of Sarah Connor. However, she later changed her mind and turned the role down.
  • The role of Sarah Connor was originally written by James Cameron for Bridget Fonda, who passed on the project. He later replaced Bridget Fonda with Tatum O'Neal. However, James Cameron decided to make the character of Sarah Connor older. He suggested Kate Capshaw for the role of Sarah, but Capshaw was filming Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984). He later suggested Kathleen Turner for the part, but Turner was filming Romancing the Stone (1984).
  • Though she's a registered Democrat, Linda Hamilton voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican candidate, in California's 2003 recall election that saw Schwarzenegger become the state's governor.
  • Lea Thompson revealed in a 2015 interview with Nerdist Podcast that she auditioned for the role of Sarah Connor.
  • Gilda Radner, Susan Sarandon, Glenn Close, Rhea Perlman, Sigourney Weaver, Cybill Shepherd, Jane Seymour, Anjelica Huston, Lori Loughlin, Kim Basinger, Jodie Foster, Melanie Griffith, Christie Brinkley, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ally Sheedy, Jessica Lange, Sissy Spacek, Kay Lenz, Liza Minnelli, Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, Miranda Richardson, Rosanna Arquette, Meg Ryan, Heather Locklear, Jennifer Grey, Madonna, Amy Irving, Teri Garr, Margot Kidder and Tatum O'Neal were all considered for the role of Sarah Connor before it was offered to Debra Winger. However, Winger declined before filming began.
  • Linda Hamilton was first approached to reprise her role as Sarah Connor in third movie, but she turned it down. A line of dialog in the film has John Connor explaining that Sarah died of leukemia in 1997. This is contradicted by Dark Fate, which ignores Rise of the Machines.
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