Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines' ending was almost scrapped by the studio. Love or hate the third installment in the Terminator series, it is generally agreed upon by many that the film had a fantastic finale. Though it, along with most of the series, are no longer canon, it can at least be recognized how important this film's third act was at the time. Up to that point, the franchise had made a habit out of letting the good guys win in the end, always defeating Skynet before they could destroy the human world. However, in this instance, this would be far from the case: Judgement Day had finally befallen the heroes and the rest of the Earth in a powerful down note for the series.

Up to this point in the Terminator series, the bad guys had always gotten their comeuppance at the hands of Sarah Connor, John Connor, Kyle Reese, and the T-800 in such fashion that the end of the film truly felt like the finale. Crisis was avoided and the world was saved before the credits rolled. In this scenario however, the protagonists would lose in the ultimate way, paving the way for Skynet to destroy humanity as was hinted at in previous films. This was a dark conclusion, and yet it was for the good of the franchise at large, as well as the movie in question.

Yet, this ending was nearly rejected, and in turn ruined, by the powers that be. Surely, audiences as well as film studios have in common that they both want the best version of a film to see the big screen. Thankfully, in this instance, the right call was made on both ends. Had this grim end elicited a negative reaction from test audiences, there was another, less risky and far more bland, alternate ending on the back-burner just in case. For more reasons that one, it is a good thing this one was not the one that the studio chose to round out the original Terminator trilogy.

Why Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines' Ending Is So Great

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines has one of the strongest endings compared to its counterparts in the franchise. In their attempt to defeat Skynet once and for all, John Connor and Kate Brewster arrived at Crystal Peak. Thought to be the core of Skynet, it was believed that was where the two could stop it and Judgement Day. Though the T-101 (which also looks a lot like the T-800) is able to defeat the T-X, the heroes are not as successful on a large scale. However, John and Kate didn't know that Skynet had no core and had already sent out nukes across the world. Thus, they were unable to stop the apocalypse and were left with an uncertain fate as they braced for the worst inside a nuclear fallout shelter.

This dark ending did something new with the series, finally giving viewers a look at Judgement Day and allowing the heroes of the series to lose. The film left the series as a whole on a cliffhanger, with John and Kate left to accept their grim fate as the world literally crashed down around them. They both survived of course, but Skynet ultimately won and was in total control of what remained. While this doesn't provide for the happiest of scenarios to end the film on, it is arguably the most important finale of the Terminator series.

In finally allowing Judgement Day to happen, the series was able to go virtually wherever it wanted to from that point forward. Not only that, but interest in the franchise could only increase as the speculation on where future films could go from there would dominate the minds of fans. The story of John Connor could continue as he was still alive; however, now it could delve into his role in the human resistance. Inverse of what happened with the follow up film, Terminator: Salvation, the Judgement Day event breathed new life into the series while giving this particular film a different edge to it.

How Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines' Ending Could Have Been Awful

Had the studio pushed for the alternate ending, the finale of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines could have been terrible. Not only from the standpoint of the film in and of itself, but also in how the series could have moved forward from there. According to scriptwriter John Brancato, the decision to finally show Judgement Day in the final act "justified the film's existence" and not doing so would make the film appear "safe, expected" or "paint-by-numbers." It was a shot in the arm that the terminator franchise, so often referenced in popular culture, would need to live on; however, the studio was far more hesitant to let this ending fly.

In the event of poor reaction from test screenings or push-back from studio executives, director Johnathan Mostow shot an additional scene involving a T-850 Terminator model arriving inside the nuclear bunker with John and Kate in order to avert Judgement Day at the last possible moment. This alternate, safer ending was an emergency countermeasure in case the intended ending did not resonate with audiences, as well as those paying for the film to be made.

An ending like this would have returned the franchise to the status quo in such a way that it would have only become more difficult to justify why Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was made in the first place. Sure, it helped continue along the story passed down from the first two films, but Terminator 3 needed something different in order to contribute to the franchise's overall narrative. Without the shock finale it would have felt generic, appearing more as an epilogue as opposed to a true sequel that moved the franchise into new territory.

Furthermore, the alternate ending filmed for Terminator 3 would have negated any reason for a continuation of the franchise. In a series where franchise fatigue has become very apparent, the epic conclusion of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was not only a great way to make the series seem alive again, but it gave an otherwise decent sequel some much needed flare.