Terminator 2 is considered by many to be one of the greatest movies of all time, as well as perhaps the greatest sequel of all time. Despite a troubled pre-production, the movie got made under James Cameron. The teaser trailer proved to be a raging success and can be viewed here and even a soundtrack song by Guns N Roses.
Set 10 years after the first movie, the plot revolves around In 1995, John Connor is living in Los Angeles with foster parents. His mother Sarah Connor had been preparing him throughout his childhood for his future role as the Human Resistance leader against Skynet – the artificial intelligence that will be given control of the United States' nuclear missiles and initiate a nuclear holocaust called "Judgment Day" in 1997 – but was arrested and imprisoned at a mental hospital after attempting to bomb a computer factory. Skynet sends a new Terminator, designated as T-1000, back in time to kill John. The T-1000 is an advanced prototype made out of mimetic polyalloy (referred to as "liquid metal") that gives it the ability to take on the shape and appearance of almost anything it touches, as well as knives and other stabbing weapons. The T-1000 arrives under a freeway, kills a policeman and assumes his identity. Meanwhile, the future John Connor has sent back a reprogrammed T-800 (Model 101) Terminator to protect the younger version of himself.
The Terminator and the T-1000 converge on John in a shopping mall, and a chase ensues after which John and the Terminator escape together on a motorcycle. Fearing that the T-1000 will kill Sarah in order to get to him, John orders the Terminator to help free her. They encounter Sarah as she is escaping from the hospital, although she is initially reluctant to trust the T-800. After the trio escapes from the T-1000 in a police car, the Terminator informs John and Sarah about Skynet's history. In addition, it would create machines that will hunt and kill the remnants of humanity. Sarah learns that the man most directly responsible for Skynet's creation is Miles Bennett Dyson, a Cyberdyne Systems engineer working on a revolutionary new neural net processor that will form the basis for Skynet.
Sarah gathers weapons from an old friend and plans to flee with John to Mexico, but after having a nightmare about Judgment Day, she instead sets out to kill Dyson in order to prevent Judgment Day from occurring. Finding him at his home, she wounds him but finds herself unable to kill him in front of his family. John and the Terminator arrive and inform Dyson of the future consequences of his work. They learn that much of his research has been reverse engineered from the damaged CPU and the right arm of the previous Terminator. Convincing him that these items and his designs must be destroyed, they break into the Cyberdyne building and retrieve the CPU and the arm. The police arrive and Dyson is shot, but he manages to trigger several explosives, destroying the lab and his research while sacrificing himself. The T-1000 relentlessly pursues the surviving trio, eventually cornering them in a steel mill.
The T-1000 and the Terminator engage in physical combat, with the advanced model severely damaging its adversary. The T-800 is seemingly shut down until its emergency back-up system brings it back online. The T-1000 nearly kills John and Sarah until the T-800 appears and shoots it into a vat of molten steel with an M79 grenade launcher, destroying it. John tosses the arm and CPU of the original Terminator into the vat as well. As Sarah expresses relief that the ordeal is over, the Terminator explains that to ensure that he is not used for reverse engineering he must also be destroyed. It asks Sarah to assist in lowering it into the vat of molten steel, since it is unable to "self-terminate", although John begs the Terminator to reconsider his decision. It bids them farewell as it is lowered into the vat. The Terminator gives a tearful John a final thumbs-up as it disappears into the molten steel and shuts down. Sarah looks to the future with hope, musing that "if a machine ... can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too."
An alternate ending shows an elderly Sarah Connor watching an adult John, who is a US Senator, playing with his daughter in a Washington playground in the year 2029, narrating that Judgment Day never happened
In 2007, an alternative cut was released on DVD that added 20 minutes of new footage into the movie and these scenes are:
- The orderlies are shown forcing Sarah to take her medication
- Sarah has a long nightmare, involving a visit from Kyle Reese in the hospital leading to a playground/bomb scene outside; this dream happens just before she is seen describing it on tape.
- The T-1000 steals a police car after John and the T-800 get away after the canal chase.
- The T-1000 realizes the dog is not named Wolfy and kills him, after the phone call from John.
- Instead of simply stating that the T-800 learns from humans, there is a long scene in the garage where John and Sarah open him up to change his processor from read-only to learning; Sarah almost smashes the chip to end it all but John talks her out of it.
- John tries to teach the T-800 to smile at the gas/food stop.
- Dyson is seen at home working on the Skynet chip prototype. His wife comes in and reminds him he's promised to take the kids to Raging Waters. Dyson explains to his wife what a neural net processor is and how it will change mankind for the better. (This happens after Sarah asks about Dyson in the first place.)
- At Enrique's house, John and the T-800 are stacking up ammunition. They start to talk about emotions and fear of death. John describes his childhood and his feelings about his mother's previous lovers.
- As John and the T-800 race after Sarah to prevent her from killing Dyson, John explains to him that killing is always wrong and life is important. At Dyson's home at night, a series of restored and rearranged shots show Sarah assembling her weapons (with an alternate line from Tarissa), thus building the tension of her stalking Dyson outside in his backyard.
- At Cyberdyne, the gang destroys the lab; Dyson himself shatters a large scale model of the Skynet chip with an axe. There is a dialogue change as the police arrive, since the police radio dispatch is not continuous anymore. The theatrical edition mentions the 1984 police station shootout, and the special edition focuses more on a repeat/correction of the Cyberdyne address.
- In the factory after the T-1000 is shattered, we see that it's beginning to lose control of its morphing. Its hand takes on black and yellow stripes when it grabs a railing, and later its feet squish and morph into the steel floor pattern on each step. Several minutes later, when it morphs into Sarah Connor, John looks down and notices the T-1000's feet combining with the steel floor right before telling the real Sarah to shoot it.
- After the theatrical credits have run in their entirety, there are special edition credits.
The movie proved to be a major success in all aspects. It was one of the most profitable movies of 1991. It was critically acclaimed by audiences and critics of the time, even saying that it was better than the original.
It has since had numerous releases on home video, comic books, novels, video games, action figures and more modelled after the movie and to capitalise on it's success.