Arnold Schwarzenegger is arguably the greatest action star of all time. I grew up in the era of the machismo, muscled bound action bonanzas. Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Willis, Van Damme, and all the rest. They don’t make them like they used to, but that’s probably for good reason. I don’t think Arnold ever recaptured the magic after turning to politics, but he’s certainly tried. With Terminator: Dark Fate about to be released, it got me thinking of all of Arnie’s best movies. Here are my top 9 Arnold Movies from the 80s and 90s:
9. Last Action Hero (1993)
Last Action Hero doesn’t get the credit it deserves. The highly satirical movie picked apart action tropes of the time and moviegoers didn’t get it. To be fair, I don’t think I got “it” at the time. I thought it was enjoyable back in the day, and never understood why people hated on the movie. The jokes landed, the commentary was great, and Arnold looked badass as always. I hated the kid in it, but I hate the kids in most action movies.
8. Kindergarten Cop (1990)
Kindergarten Cop was something special. The biggest action star in the world was taking on a classroom of five-year-olds and it worked. There was comedy, action, suspense, and charm. We’d already seen that Arnold could do comedy with Twins, but Kindergarten Cop brought it to a new level. It showed that Arnold had the heart to go along with the biceps. Everything about that movie clicked and gave audiences some memorable one-liners that are repeated to this day.
7. True Lies (1994)
True Lies was Arnold’s bounce back from Last Action Hero and it is arguably his last great movie. Sure, he had Eraser in 1996, but before and after he did Junior, Jingle All the Way, and Batman & Robin. The three movies that I’m sure he’d like to forget. True Lies reteamed Schwarzenegger with director James Cameron for one hell of a ride. The movie was funny, had great action scenes, and good chemistry between Arnold and co-star Jamie Lee Curtis. This was also a time when people still thought Tom Arnold was funny. Let’s not forget the great performance by the late Bill Paxton. This was a movie that did everything right and it worked.
6. Commando (1985)
What can be said about Commando besides the fact that it was awesome? Arnold is a one-man army hellbent on rescuing his daughter (a young Alyssa Milano). The dude is ripped, carries more guns than is humanly possible, and everything blows up. EVERYTHING. The one-liners are flowing, and the action is delicious. The music was pure 80s magic. If you haven’t watched Commando lately, go ahead and get reacquainted.
5. The Running Man (1987)
The Running Man is sometimes overlooked but never forgotten. Arnold is in a fight for his life after being framed for murdering countless unarmed civilians. As Arnie takes out his TV show opponents one by one and takes down the corrupt system, you can’t help but smile ear to ear. Richard Dawson’s game show host is perfection and the arena sets are gorgeous. This movie also reunites four Predator actors, a movie we will get to later.
4. Total Recall (1990)
Total Recall is a classic. There’s a reason why you don’t remake Schwarzenegger movies, especially without Arnold. No one asked for the Colin Farrell reboot, and as such, no one went to see it. All the magic that was in the original was sucked out. It didn’t even take place on Mars!! The original had a great cast, awesome set pieces, memorable dialogue, and an ending that actually made you think. Was it all real or just a part of a well-crafted delusion? We’ll never know.
3. The Terminator (1984)
The Conan movies may have been first, but it was The Terminator that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a household name. James Cameron’s direction along with the chemistry of stars Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn was gold. Arnold had very little dialogue in the movie, but when he was on screen there was this presence about him. It’s funny to think that Arnold was hesitant to take the role initially due to not wanting to be the bad guy. He obviously did take the role, and it changed science fiction forever. The Terminator is a pop culture sensation that has inspired countless wannabes, copycats, and some decent work homages. It makes me laugh to think about the rumor that OJ Simpson was almost cast in the role.
2. Terminator 2 (1991)
If The Terminator was genre-defining, then T2 was pure perfection. James Cameron crafted a masterpiece that not only built upon his original story but made it even better. Linda Hamilton was back and more better than ever. Arnold was the good Terminator battling against an enemy even more awesome than his own in the first. From a killer story to a tear-inducing ending, T2 was just about the most perfect piece of cinema I can think of. The special effects were awe-inspiring in 1991 and they still hold up 28 years later. It was a near-flawless movie and I dare anyone to say otherwise. It’s only a shame every Terminator movie since has been meh or utter trash.
Predator brings me to my happy place. From the moment Dutch gets off the chopper, you know it’s on. The military team is simply badass and the Predator himself is legendary. Here was an alien creature who hunted for sport and could lift Arnold Schwarzenegger up with one hand. We hardly got to see the Predator until the climactic final battle. This decision paid off in strides and the final reveal was iconic. Just as Dutch was in awe of his opponent, so was the audience. I happen to like Predator 2, but it never came close to the original. All subsequent sequels have been a waste of film stock. Hollywood has never been able to recreate the magic that was in the original, so maybe it’s time for Dutch to come back and show them how it’s done.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is 72 years old. He is clearly way past his prime, but who cares. That man can crank out movie after movie until he can’t walk, and I’ll still go see them. I really hope Terminator: Dark Fate does well, but we all know it won’t compare to T2. There’s a rumor that King Conan is on its way, and Arnold has said he’d make sequels to True Lies and Last Action Hero. I say as long as Arnold can entertain, he should keep doing just that. Seriously though, bring back Arnie for a new Predator movie and pretend all the others didn’t happen.