With the release of Terminator Genisys (or as I like to call it, Terminator Spellcheck), Arnold Schwarzenegger has acted in a total of 38 feature films. It’s lucky we’re only ranking his top 10, because most of them aren’t that good.
Please enjoy yourself, tell me what I hit or missed on, and marvel at the number of characters named John that one man can play:
Arnold is: John Kruger
Guarding a woman (Vanessa Williams) in witness protection, Arnold finds himself betrayed by his agency and on the run. She’s the key to connecting arms dealers and Congressmen who just want Arnold dead.
Most underrated: Bumping True Lies off this list (I’m sure that won’t be controversial), Eraser is one of the more underrated action movies in Arnold’s career
Best Line: [After shooting a terrible CGI alligator in the face] “You’re luggage.”
Arnold is: Ben Richards
Arnold has been wrongly convicted of a massacre, and is sentenced to death by game show. Think of it as The Hunger Games without the political or social commentary, but with a lot more Gilligan’s Island jokes.
Best Rogues Gallery: A cast of wannabe Mortal Kombat characters such as Fireball, Sub Zero, and Captain Freedom are played by such luminaries as Jesse Ventura and Jim Brown.
Best Line: [After chainsawing an enemy in half] “He had to split.”
Arnold is: John Matrix
A black ops commando wants to start a revolution and return a South American dictator to power. Instead of using his vast personal army to do so, he kidnaps Arnold’s daughter so Arnold will do it. Needless to say, the vast personal army gets to meet Arnold face-to-face. As ’80s as it gets, the best feature is James Horner’s musical score featuring fast-paced steel drums.
Worst Villain: The black ops commando Arnold matches up with at the end is an overweight, middle-aged man wearing a mesh tank top over a black sleeveless T-shirt. It’s anticlimactic.
Best Line: “I eat Green Berets for breakfast, and right now I’m very hungry.”
Arnold is: John “Breacher” Wharton
A DEA task force just took down a drug cartel. There’s only one problem: The money they seized is missing. Someone on his team stole it, and now his team is being killed one by one.
Best Performance by Arnold: Written and directed by David Ayer (End of Watch, Fury), Sabotage is more mystery than action movie. It boasts the best cast Arnold’s worked with – Olivia Williams, Sam Worthington, Terrence Howard, Josh Holloway, and a beautifully disturbing performance by Mireille Enos (The Killing). Studio edits butchered the final product – it’s very worth watching, but I dearly hope a director’s cut will one day piece back together a movie that in its current state sits on the border between nonsense and brilliance.
Best Line: [Mireille Enos steals all the best lines here] “Sweetheart, you’re so in over your fucking head. You need more than a Glock and sensible shoes.”
Arnold is: Dutch
Arnold’s team of commandos are taking out drug dealers in Central America, when an invisible alien decides to hunt the commandos for sport instead.
Alternate Theory: The Predator was really taking them out for their acting. Carl Weathers? Jesse Ventura? Sonny Landham? Shane Black? How could you not? Hell, I’m feeling twitchy right now.
Best Line: “You’re one ugly motherfucker.”
Runner-up Best Line: “Get to dah choppah!”
Arnold is: John Kimble
No-nonsense cop Arnold has to go undercover as a kindergarten teacher. Why? Because it’s funny. Oh, and because a student’s father is a drug dealer bound to kidnap the boy.
Funniest Arnold: This has a 6.0 on IMDB. How does that happen? It’s Arnold’s best comedy and the action is tense and meaningful. I’ve lost faith in you, internet mobs.
Best Line: “We’re going to play a wonderful game called ‘Who is my daddy and what does he do?’”
Arnold is: Conan, the Barbarian
Arnold is tracking down James Earl Jones and the cult that murdered his parents when he was young. He also gets drunk and punches camels.
Best Swords & Magic: Conan hit a nerve that countless films tried – and failed – to copy. This included the lackluster sequel Conan the Destroyer. This film was simply lightning in a bottle, not perfect, but perfect for what it needed to be.
Best Line: [After a Mongol general asks Conan what is best in life] “Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.”
Arnold is: The Terminator
Arnold plays the villain, a machine sent back in time to kill the mother of a resistance leader still fighting the machines in Arnold’s time.
Best of the Franchise? Terminator 2 may possess better action, but the first is arguably the better film, combining a greater sense of mystery and horror. John Cameron’s last excursion into lo-fi filmmaking, before Titanic and Avatar, makes me wish he’d return to that place every now and again. The first Terminator remains the best storytelling he’s done.
Best Line: [To a desk sergeant, shortly before smashing a truck through the police station] “I’ll be back.”
Arnold is: The Terminator
Arnold’s back, this time in good guy flavor! He plays a machine sent back in time to protect a young resistance leader and his mother from another machine sent back in time to look really cool in sunglasses. People forget that this film won 4 Oscars.
Best Performance: Linda Hamilton holds onto the best performance in any Schwarzenegger film. Traumatized by her experience in the first film, her Sarah Connor has buffed up and become the first soldier in a war that hasn’t even begun. It’s not the physical appearance that’s extraordinary – her personality has done a complete 180, too.
Best Line: “Hasta la vista, baby.”
Arnold is: Douglas Quaid
Arnold possesses a secret about a Martian colony, but he’s erased it from his memory. He needs to escape capture on Earth, get to Mars, discover an ancient secret, and save the mutant underclass.
Best Plot: Is Arnold betraying his prior self? Is he a better person with his memory erased than he was with all his past experiences intact? Do the most heroic portions of the film really even happen? Is the entire film really a delusion? This is the most ambitious Arnold film, and his best.
Best Line: [On killing an enemy with a giant drill] Screw you!
What’s your favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger movie? Do you agree that Total Recall is his best?