Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Ten Best Movie Roles

Arnold SchwarzeneggerSabotage, out this weekend, stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Mirreille Enos, and others, as members of a DEA task force who are being picked off by a powerful drug cartel. The movie has been called a mush of explosions, action and ridiculous violence. Helmed by David Ayer (End of Watch) the movie feels like a throwback to days of Hollywood-past when the big summer movies were all about big stars, big explosions and high stakes. Though Sabotage has not received the best reviews, it is sure to be fun for anyone looking for a mindless action movie, considering one of the kings of mindless action movies are in it. Arnold Schwarzenegger made his career in these types of roles, and now that he plans to re-start his acting career, let us take a stroll down memory lane to recall the ten best movies the former action hero gave the world, before he left to governate Cal-E-forn-ya.

[Feel free to leave comments below if anyone disagrees with the list; it is just one man’s opinion]

One of Arnold’s most memorable roles, and the one that turned him into a household name, was in 1984, for Terminator. After Pumping Iron and Conan the Barbarian, director James Cameron saw Arnold for what he was; a physical freak that would not stop, much like a robot. This is Arnold’s tenth best movie role because, although iconic, he did little more than walk around expressionless, straight as an arrow, with sunglasses, leather jacket and a shotgun, speaking no more than a sentence at a time as he shot people. He was perfect for the role and terrified audiences around the world as a time traveling, indestructible robot, the size of a bull, bent on destruction. But it shows little of what the great action hero is known for, and he was only a supporting character.

Commando came out in 1985, three years after the first Rambo, and was basically Arnold’s version. He played a retired commando who goes on a one-man killing spree in the jungles of South America, while wearing camo-gear and face paint almost the whole time. It was entertaining, but more of a precursor for what was to come for the action star. If it were not for Arnold laying on the ground, in agony, yelling, “Get to the chopper!” the movie would not have made the top ten . . . but he did, so it is number nine.

Sabotage lands at number eight on this list, mostly because it is the first movie that resembles what the action star used to be, since he stepped down as Governor of California. The Expendables is too crowded with other Arnold-type actors, and is really a Sly Stallone flick, and his other movies like The Last Stand and Escape Plan were horrible. At least in Sabotage he is back to kick’n butt, taking names, and half the things he does in the movie should kill him; just like all his great performances.

In 1996 Arnold stared in Eraser, more of a cult classic, but a thrilling, high-octane ride that came out between Junior and Jingle All the Way; neither of which made the list, the later being very difficult to pass over . . . “put that cookie down, now!” Arnold’s character in Eraser was one of his darker roles as he ‘erases’ any threats to the people he is sworn to protect; he is a cold-blooded killer, and not very likeable. But it still had all the vintage Arnold aspects, including a tag line only he can deliver, “You’ve just been erased,” and nameless bad guys he mows down like nothing.

The sixth best role Arnold did was in 1988. Twins hit the big screen and showed a side of the actor no one thought he had. The movie is about a very simple, larger than life man (literally) who searches out his long-lost twin brother, and it turns out to be Danny DeVito; who is in a world of trouble with loan sharks. Directed by the great Ivan Reitman, the movie is a funny pairing of two completely opposite people on a search to find their mother, as Danny DeVito’s character takes advantage of his twin brother’s stature to get what he wants at every turn. The movie was not received well by critics, but like Robert DeNiro in Meet the Parents, it was Arnold’s first foray into comedy, and he played the role exactly as he should have.

Total Recall (1990) is a cult classic and holds an 84 percent rating on rotten tomatoes. The movie is a sci-fi mind bender revolving around a man who takes a virtual vacation, but while he is under the machine it unlocks hidden memories, revealing he is really a secret agent and is being chased by a group of assassins. He then goes down the rabbit hole trying to find out if the memories are true or if he is still under the machine’s power and dreaming the whole thing up. It was remade (poorly) for a reason; the movie delivers at every turn, and so does Arnold, playing one of his more iconic roles. At number five, half way through the ten best, is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role from Total Recall.

Keeping with the sci-fi theme, number four is Predator (1987). Led by Arnold and Carl Weathers, the movie is about a team of commandos on a rescue mission in South Africa, only to find themselves hunted by an advanced extraterrestrial with dreadlocks. The movie spun off several sequels, but none are as good as the first. It has all the classic Arnold movie criteria, but with a solid story line and excellent special effects; for when it came out. It was the role that solidified Arnold as a true-to-form action hero, and not just the most muscular man on the planet.

Kindergarten Cop is a movie that everyone knows and is number three on this list. It appealed to those who wanted to watch the Terminator kick butt (the beginning and end of the movie), to parents and teachers who wanted to watch other people dealing with difficult children, and the movie was enjoyed by children too. Kindergarten Cop is about a tough as nails cop who has to fill in as an undercover kindergarten teacher when his partner gets a cold; weak excuse, but colds spread like wildfire in a kindergarten classroom. The movie is funny, touching, enjoyable for all, and one of Arnold’s best-acted performances too. He runs the gauntlet of emotions. He acts as a tough guy, as an overwhelmed teacher, and as an in control teacher. He falls in love, becomes a father figure, and almost gives his life to stop a deranged man from stealing his son. This is the quintessential role of a tough guy with a heart of gold that learns to change, and is the one of the few instances that Arnold gets to show character development, and not just act as an agent of destruction.

True Lies is number two on the list because it embodies everything the former Mr. Universe is great at doing; when he is not a machine. Arnold plays a secret agent who has to stop terrorists from blowing up a nuclear bomb; one man against the world. His wife has no idea what he does, but after the terrorists kidnap her she finds out during a torture scene exactly who she is married to. Arnold is like America’s version of James Bond. He is sly, cunning, can sneak into any event, no matter how heavily guarded it is, and rocks a sweet tuxedo. He single-handedly stops the terrorists, going against his orders, and kills the main bad guy by firing a rocket from a fighter jet that the bad guy is hanging from . . . he does it all and does it great. True Lies is number two on the countdown because it is where, as a flesh and blood man, he is at his best.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was put on this earth for two reasons: to lift weights, and pay a terminator. In 1991 he reprised his role in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. After muttering a few words here and there in the original Terminator, he was back for more, only this time he was the good guy and took center stage. This is the terminator that everyone will remember. He was perfect in the role, and the movie itself was a visual effects masterpiece. Arnold’s most famous quotes all came from his movie, including, “No problemo,” “Hasta la vista, baby,” and “I’ll be back.” They made a CG version of him in the last Terminator installment because they needed him to be in it. This is the role and the movie that the world knows him for, and that is why it is number one.

After a zombie movie, Maggie, the next four movies Arnold will be in are all sequels. The Expendables 3 comes out later this year, then Terminator: Genesis, which he just signed on to, will come out next year. There is also Triplets, with Danny DeVito and Eddie Murphy, which is, somehow, a sequel to Twins, and will be directed again by Ivan Reitman. Lastly, he will reprise his role of Conan in The Legend of Conan, which was also just announced.

The former Governor of California was on top of the world when he left acting for politics in 2003. Now he is back, just like he said he would, but it is not the same. It is never a good sign when the only movies an actor gets are sequels of older movies they were in that did well; Hollywood learned this the hard way. Alas, we may never see the old Arnold we once knew and loved. So take comfort, and know that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ten best movie roles are most likely behind him, but just like any aging professional, he may still have a few tricks up his sleeve. Hasta la vista, baby.

Opinion by Chris Dragicevich



Rotten Tomatoes

The Hollywood Reporter

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