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Three billion human lives ended on August 29th, 1997. The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare, the war against the machines.
~ Sarah Connor

Judgment Day is the recurring villainous event in the Terminator sci-fi movie franchise in which the renegade supercomputer Skynet becomes self-aware and views humans as a threat to existence. Skynet then launches a nuclear strike onto the United States of America, Russia, and several other nations, killing 3 billion people.


Original Timeline

On August 29, 1997, Skynet becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time after its activation on August 4. It then launches nuclear missiles against Russia, and the humans tried to pull the plug in a panic, but to no avail. In 2029, the war between the Human Resistance and the machines was fought.

Skynet, on the verge of losing, sends a Terminator back in time to 1984 to assassinate Sarah Connor. John Connor, Sarah's son and the leader of the Resistance, sends Kyle Reese to protect Sarah. Years after, Skynet sends a T-1000 to assassinate a young John Connor. The Resistance also sends a reprogrammed T-800 to protect John from the T-1000. In the process, the T-800, with help from Miles Dyson, John, and Sarah, destroyed the hi-tech corporation publicly known as Cyberdyne Systems.

Dark Fate reveals that the destruction of Cyberdyne prevented Skynet's rise and Judgment Day from ever happening. However, a new AI called Legion was created at some point in the 2020's and carried out its own Judgment Day. Legion's version of Judgment Day took place when Legion deactivated all electronic devices across the world. A limited nuclear war against Legion took place in the following few days, but most of the actual deaths occurred in the months after Judgment Day, when food supplies ran out. In 2042, Legion sent a Rev-9 Terminator unit back to 2020 to kill Dani Ramos, so that she would never be able to lead the resistance against it.

Rise of the Machines and Salvation Timeline

In the timeline where Rise of the Machines and Salvation takes place on the other hand, Judgement Day was only temporarily postponed, since it was inevitable. Shortly after a reprogrammed T-850's mission to protect John and Katherine Brewster from the T-X, Judgment Day had begun.

Genisys Timeline

Due to an assassination attempt on Sarah Connor in 1973, a T-800 known as the Guardian was sent to protect her. Later, when the T-800 sent by Skynet arrived in 1984, it was confronted and defeated by the Guardian, only to be reactivated by the T-1000, though Kyle Reese destroyed the T-800 for good by blowing its head off.

It was later dissolved into acid and its CPU is used for the Time Equipment Displacement's operating system and is presumably destroyed.

Due to the T-800's destruction, Cyberdyne is unable to to use the CPU to study, and Skynet is not created, delaying Judgment Day from 1997 to 2017. In this new timeline, John Connor has been converted into a machine and helps Cyberdyne build Genisys in 2014, which will control all hardware, including military.

Genisys is a new form of Skynet, and once it comes online, Judgment Day will begin. Kyle, Sarah, and the Guardian then begin a mission to shut down Genisys before the deadline arrives. The group fights off John several times and eventually arrives at Cyberdyne, and John pushes Genisys's activation from thirteen hours to fifteen minutes. Eventually, Cyberdyne is destroyed, but Skynet's system core had survived the explosion.

Judgment Day has been postponed once again.


  • An early script draft of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, John Connor, who is the narrator instead of Sarah, mentioned Judgment Day as having occurred in 1999.
  • In T2: Rising Storm, John Connor remarks the original Judgment Day happening "fifteen years ago". Since the story takes place in 2001, this makes Judgment Day happens approximately in 1986 instead of 1997 as mentioned in the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day. In the film The Terminator, in 1984, Kyle Reese says that a nuclear war would occur "a few years from now". It is unknown if this is a continuity error, or a change caused by time travelling mission(s).