Over the last few years Arnold Schwarzenegger has made some ok movies like Escape Plan and The Last Stand, but these are not the movies he’ll be remembered for. Arnold was box office gold in the 1980’s and 1990’s with a string of huge hits like Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator and Total Recall. His champion bodybuilder physique and larger than life personae made him the perfect embodiment of a Hollywood action hero. In 2015 he was given the opportunity to take on a more dramatic role with his performance in Maggie. Arnold played a grieving father trying to cope with the horrifying idea that his daughter will turn into a zombie.
15. Hungry Man
To Arnold in a movie a couple of years before he became a genuine movie star check out Stay Hungry released in 1976. The champion bodybuilder plays a gym owner named Joe Santos so the role isn’t exactly a stretch. However, he does have a chance to show off his charisma and work with actors like Sally Field and Jeff Bridges. Although it was a small role it gave Arnold some valuable experience in the industry. This was experience he would need when Hollywood started to offer him bigger roles.
14. Seeing Red
The 1988 action Movie Red Heat was released in the waning years of the Cold War, but it didn’t feel like it at the time. Arnold’s Ivan Danko is a no-nonsense Soviet police officer sent to Chicago to apprehend one of Russia’s most wanted criminals. Jim Belushi played a tough Chicago cop assigned to help officer Danko and their clashing personalities provides a lot of the humor. Red Heat is a combination buddy cop and a fish out of water story that takes advantage of the straight man and comic relief potential of Schwarzenegger and Belushi.
13. Old Timers 2
Arnold plays a character named Trench in the 2012 release The Expendables 2. Sylvester Stallone is the driving force behind this series of throw back action movies and he gathered a dream team of action stars. In addition to Arnold, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Jet Li and Jason Statham among others all make appearances. The three The Expendables movies feel like a homage to the no holes barred action movies that made Arnold and the rest stars in the first place. Even though Arnold has a small role its worth a watch to see him on screen with all the other action stars.
12. Run For Your Life
Based on a Stephen King short story, 1987’s The Running Man portrays an America that has become a police state. Arnold’s character, Ben Richards, finds himself on the wrong side of the law. He is sentenced to appear on an outlandish television show where contestants must fight to the death. Famous game show host, Richard Dawson, nails his scenes as the slimy, but charismatic host of the deadly television show. Arnold must do battle with a colorful collection of gladiators including Jim Brown and Jesse Ventura.
11. The Last Magic Ticket
A little boy uses a magic ticket to get dropped into the fictional world of action movie character Jack Slater in 1993’s The Last Action Hero. Although the movie was not particularly well received by critics or fans at the time this movie should not be underestimated. It is a funny and sometimes clever send up of the action movies that made Arnold such as big star. The accomplished cast includes Art Carney, Mercedes Ruehl and F. Murray Abraham. Some action movie fans resist Arnold’s comedic roles, but his charisma is full display and makes this one a must watch.
10. Hasta La Vista, Baby
Even though 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day is a little too self-serious it is an effective follow-up to the 1984 original. This movie takes place more than a decade after the events of the first movie, but Sarah Connor and her son John are still in danger from the future. This time two killer cyborgs are sent back in time, but Arnold plays the one that has been reprogrammed to protect John. This pairing is the set up for several funny scenes between John and his new cyborg. There is heartfelt scene where Sarah Connor realizes the terminator is acting as the father figure John never had growing up.
9. Benedict, Arnold
Arnold and Danny DeVito play Julius and Vincent Benedict in the 1988 release Twins. As the title suggests the characters are twin brothers separated at birth who were part of an experiment to create genetically superior humans. Arnold was the program’s success story while DeVito was sent to an orphanage. When Arnold seeks out his brother mayhem ensues as the pair must contend with the fact they are complete opposites. Arnold and DeVito pull off some effective brotherly chemistry and get a lot of laughs from the physical differences between them.
8. True Arnold
True Lies, released in 1994, takes advantage of Arnold’s action star personae as well as his comedic abilities. The result is a big, loud action movie with a lot of laughs. A talented cast that includes Tom Arnold, Jamie Lee Curtis and Bill Paxton makes it work. The plot hinges on a race to find a nuclear bomb stolen by a terrorist group intent on using it to blackmail the United States for ransom. However, the truly memorable scenes include Curtis’ awkward strip tease and Paxton’s turn as a pathetic used car salesman. Paxton gets more than he bargained for when he pretends to be a secret agent to seduce Curtis.
7. Daddy’s Little Girl
Most movie critics consider Arnold an action star, but a passable actor at best. His dramatic role in the 2015 release Maggie might have made some critics think again. A bearded Arnold plays a man wrestling with the heart ache of watching his daughter slowly turn into a zombie. Explosions and gun battles can’t save her so he is left to wonder if he should put his daughter out of her misery before she becomes a danger to everyone around her. Arnold delivers a sincere performance that makes this movie a must watch.
6. Get Your *ss To Mars
Total Recall was one of the big hits of 1990. Arnold stars in this science fiction thriller as secret agent who has had his identity replaced. When he starts to remember his previous life he becomes a threat to government agents. Arnold must travel to Mars to get answers about his true identity. Along the way he takes out a lot of bad guys, cracks some jokes and gets the girl of his dreams. Arnold holds his own with a talented cast that includes Rachel Ticotin, Ronny Cox and Michael Ironside. The script was adapted from a Phillip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.”
5. I Eat Green Berets For Breakfast
Arnold declares war on the men who kidnap his daughter in the 1985 hit Commando. This set up gives Arnold a blank check to use his elite military skills to plow through anyone who gets in his way as he tracks his daughter to an island hideout. Along the way he gets much needed help from a flight attendant played by Rae Dawn Chong. Arnold uses equal parts humor and ferocity to dispatch bad guys like Bennett played by Vernon Wells. Commando is a great example of the unapologetic action movies that were so popular in the 1980’s.
4. Pump It Up
The 1977 documentary Pumping Iron gave many people their first glimpse of the Austrian bodybuilder we would come to know as Arnold. Although Schwarzenegger was not originally intended to be the focus of the documentary, his confidence and charisma won over the young filmmakers. The documentary is only 85 minutes long, but it is filled with interesting characters like Lou Ferrigno and his father and Arnold’s friend Franco Columbo. The movie tries to build the suspense leading up to the 1975 Mr. Olympia, but Arnold’s victory never seems in doubt.
3. What Is Best In Life?
Early in Conan the Barbarian Conan’s master asks him, “What is best in life?” Conan responds by saying, “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.” These lines set the tone for the 1982 blockbuster action flick that features plenty of clanging swords and squirting blood. Arnold was born to play the role of the muscular warrior destined to become a barbarian king. At the time it was considered a risk to but an Austrian with a name like Schwarzenegger in a big Hollywood movies, but Arnold showed why he was about to become the decade’s biggest action star.
2. Hunting The Hunters
Arnold and his elite military unit are dropped into the middle of a Central American jungle to take down an enemy camp. 1987’s Predator soon makes it clear they are not alone in the jungle. A mysterious alien hunts Arnold’s team with superior technology and skills until he is the only one left to make a final stand. The action scenes and special effects stand up very well even thirty years after the movie’s release. Arnold’s unit is a collection of tough guys that includes Jesse Ventura, Sonny Langham and Carl Weathers. Several sequels have been made but none of them come close to delivering intense action and suspense of the original.
1. I’ll Be Back
“I’ll be back,” is probably one of the most quoted lines in movie history. What could have been a throw away line in 1984’s The Terminator has become a catchphrase Arnold has used for years. The movie’s director, James Cameron, had initially wanted Arnold to play the soldier sent back in time to protect Sarah Connor. Arnold was able to convince Cameron that his imposing physique made him perfect for the relentless cyborg and the rest is movie history. Although he has reprised the role of a terminator three more times, the one that started it all is still a must watch for movie fans.