Terminator’s Sunglasses: Iconic Eyewear with a Fascinating History

Examining the Origin, Look, and Legacy of the Sunglasses Arnold Schwarzenegger Wore in the Terminator Movies

The science fiction movie franchise ”The Terminator” revolves around a cyborg killer named the Terminator who goes back in time to assassinate Sarah Connor, a woman whose unborn child would play a significant role in a conflict against artificial intelligence. In the first three movies of the series, which were released in 1984, 1991, and 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger portrayed the Terminator.

Due to the constant pursuit of its prey, grim appearance, and motto “I’ll be back,” the Terminator has become a cultural figure. The Terminator is portrayed in the movies as a heartless killer, yet he eventually comes to respect human life and defend Sarah Connor and her son John.

A Fascination with Sunglasses

One aspect of the Terminator’s character that has gained a cult following is his sunglasses. The sunglasses are a distinctive feature of the character, and they have become almost as iconic as the character itself. The sunglasses are often associated with the Terminator’s cool, emotionless demeanor, and they contribute to the character’s tough, menacing appearance. 

The sunglasses also serve a practical purpose in the films, as they help to conceal the Terminator’s eyes and obscure its true identity. The Sunglasses have become so popular that they have been referenced and parodied in various forms of media (see below), and they have even inspired fashion trends and eyewear designs. The sunglasses worn by Schwarzenegger as the Terminator has become an indelible part of the character’s identity, and they have helped to cement the character’s place in popular culture.

Modern examples of the Gargoyles ANSI Sunglasses

The Sunglasses in the First Terminator film (1984)

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character can be seen sporting a pair of Gargoyles ANSI Classic Sunglasses in the original 1984 version of “The Terminator.” The Gargoyles sunglasses were a well-known style created by Goargoyes in the 1970s and 1980s. They were renowned for their premium components, including polycarbonate and Grilamid, which make them durable and able to withstand breaking and bending. Because Gargoyles has a reputation for making durable and useful eyewear, many people choose the brand for their busy lifestyles. Unfortunately, Gargoyles just stopped making eyeglasses bearing that brand name, thus locating an authentic pair of Gargoyles ANSI Classics will gradually get more and more challenging.

Brand and Logo of Gargoyles Eyewear.

The History of Gargoyle Eyewear

Dennis Burns, the founder of Gargoyles, unveiled a ground-breaking new lens technology in the late 1970s that would forever alter the eyewear business. He observed that the curved lenses of the day led to visual distortion and eye strain and that conventional flat sunglasses exposed the eyes to the elements. In an effort to improve the situation, he set out to develop the Toric lens technology, which would later serve as the basis for Gargoyles Performance Eyewear.

His cutting-edge invention was so far ahead of its time that the U.S. Army even accepted it for ballistic protection. Even after more than 40 years, Gargoyles pushed the limits of innovation and outperforms industry norms in terms of performance and safety. Their ANSI Z87.1+, Protection +, and Tactical + sunglasses feature unmatched optics and polarisation in addition to exceeding the highest ballistic requirements. Additionally, they are able to attain very high visual clarity and resolution while offering a clear and undistorted vision by utilising extra ANSI requirements.

Unfortunately as of 2023, and after more than 40 years in business, Gargoyles eyewear has ceased production and distribution of Gargoyles branded eyewear. No information as to why has been given, but it’s most likely due to dwindling sales. 

The Iconic Movie Poster for the Original Terminator Film
Where to buy Terminator Sunglasses & Alternatives

As stated previously, Gargoyle’s Eyewear recently discontinued the production of glasses. Their parent company, Foster Grant, is still in operation and you may be able to find similar Terminator Sunglasses from here.  That being said, many different brands produce a wide variety of sunglasses that look and feel similar to Gargoyles. Below are just a few of our recommendations at varying price points. 

If none of these are to your liking then you can also consider the likes of eBay and Etsy for vintage Gargoyles. A quick search and we were able to find authentic Gargoyle’s ANSI Classics from around $100 – $250. One example can be found on ebay here

Taken from 1991 classic: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

The Sunglasses in Later Terminator Films & Beyond

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character can be seen sporting a somewhat different pair of sunglasses than the ones he did in the first Terminator movie in the sequel and third instalment. The Terminator can be seen sporting a pair of Persol Ratti sunglasses in the 1991 film “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (the 58230 Model). These sunglasses have a similar look to the Aviator sunglasses from the previous movie, but they have a larger frame and a more angular form (they are very similar to Ray-Ban Predators). Although the lenses on the Persol Ratti sunglasses are likewise mirrored, they are a different colour from those in the Aviator sunglasses.

Luckily Persol is still in business so getting your hands on a pair of Persol Ratti Sunglasses isn’t as tricky as the original iconic pair of shades. That being said, the Ratti 58230, the one worn by the Terminator, has been discontinued so finding a new pair is nearly impossible. Again, your best bet is to shop vintage stores online (the likes of Retro Spectacles & The Vintage Sunglasses Shop are a great place to start) and through auction websites. 

Bart Simpson Parodying the Terminator

Terminator: Parodies and Cultural Impact 

The Terminator film franchise has been so well received that it’s often seen in other pieces of media parodies or paying homage to the cult classic films of the 80s and 90s. Below are just a few examples of where the Terminator Sunglasses have been seen in other pieces of media over the years:

  • The Simpsons: The character of Bart from the animated TV show “The Simpsons” can be seen rocking a pair of sunglasses that resemble those worn by the Terminator in the film series. Bart Simpson wears the sunglasses and acts out a similar scene in the episode ”I love Lisa” (season 4, episode 74).
  • Arrested Development: The character of Tobias Fünke is depicted in the television series “Arrested Development” as donning a pair of sunglasses that are a distorted replica of the sunglasses worn by the Terminator. Tobias wears the sunglasses to show off his want tobe tough man persona. They have big lenses and a thick, garish frame.
  • Video Games: Many video games, such as the “Grand Theft Auto” and the “Saints Row” series, have made reference to The Terminator’s sunglasses. The sunglasses are frequently worn by characters in these games as a representation of their tough, threatening characteristics.
  • Online Memes: Numerous internet jokes and memes have also made fun of The Terminator’s sunglasses. These memes frequently include sunglasses being worn by strange or ridiculous characters, including animals or cartoon characters, in amusing or hilarious circumstances. One such example is
Glasses that Last the Test of Time

Overall, the sunglasses favoured by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator character have developed into a recognisable and enduring part of culture and popular media. The sunglasses, which in the first movie were initially a pair of Ray-Ban Aviators, have experienced a few minor design changes in the subsequent movies, but they have remained a distinctive and recognised feature of the character’s image.

The sunglasses worn by The Terminator have served as an inspiration for eyewear and fashion trends, and they have been made fun of and referenced in a variety of media. The popularity of the Terminator’s sunglasses is a sign of the character and movie series’ persistent influence, and they will probably remain a memorable and significant element of popular culture for years to come.