Action hero, bodybuilder, businessman, and governor: Arnold Schwarzenegger is a true testament to the American dream. Born in Austria in 1947, he was driven at a young age by his harsh upbringing and societal pressure to conform. His father, a cold and rigid policeman, expected him to follow in his footsteps and join the force, but Arnold vowed to never let anybody tell him who to be. Starting at the very young age of 15, Schwarzenegger began his physical and psychological training, which would eventually turn him into a weightlifting and bodybuilding master. With his first Mr. Universe title in 1967 at the age of 20, he began to taste stardom and proceeded to win the next 4 years in a row. Many people know him for his physical and psychological feats, but everyone else knows him for his career in front of the camera, telling you “I’ll be back,” and you know that he will.
Everyone may know the essentials when it comes to the Schwarzenegger films, but for those of you less versed in his career, let’s go through the best, starting from the bottom at number 10.
10. The Last Action Hero (1993)
Full of self-aware jokes and expected one-liners, Last Action Hero is one of those movies seemingly written for Arnold specifically. When a cinephilic, day-dreaming teenager goes to his favorite theater to see the latest Jack Slater (Schwarzenegger) film release ahead of schedule, he is given a very special ticket that magically sends him into the movie universe. With ridiculously over-the-top action sequences and classic bad guy character tropes, this movie isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s sure to give you a good laugh. Cameos are another highlight of this flick, some subtle and some over the top, like Slater pointing to a cardboard cutout of Stallone as The Terminator and saying, “That’s his best role,”.
9. Kindergarten Cop (1990)
In one of his more light-hearted movies, Schwarzenegger plays an undercover cop who is trying to protect a mother and her son from a killer, but he encounters his greatest challenge yet: (you guessed it) teaching kindergarten. Don’t worry, it’s still the same Arnold we know and love, but this time it’s not solely built on quick quips and rocket launchers. Fun and yes, a bit charming, Kindergarten Cop is great for a night in with your family, a bag of popcorn, and maybe a cocktail.
8. Commando (1985)
Classic and quotable one-liners, flailing stunt dummies, and some sincerely kickass action sequences are just a few reasons to enjoy this Schwarzenegger anthem. When the retired Special Forces Colonel John Matrix has his daughter (Alyssa Milano) stolen from him, he has 11 hours to single-handedly take down his former squadmates and all the goons they have placed in his way. Got nothing to do on a Tuesday night? Turn this flick on to see Arnold lift a phone booth over his head and swing through the mall like Tarzan while fighting security guards.
7. Conan the Barbarian (1982)
An epic tale of fierce beasts, damsels in distress, and brawn, Conan the Barbarian is a great way to regain any testosterone you may have burned off during your day of work. When a warlord and sorcerer’s army kills his parents and enslaves him, Conan must rise up and spend his life preparing for his revenge. In Arnold’s breakout role, he thrills audiences with his rippling physique and kickass fight scenes, never shying away from bloody scenes of swordsmanship and dismemberment.
6. Twins (1988)
In a totally new playing field, Arnold takes on the comedy genre with an unlikely partner in crime: Danny DeVito. When a group of scientists get together to make the most physically, mentally, and emotionally perfect human being, they create Julius, but they didn’t expect another child (DeVito) to come along as well. Separated at birth, Julius goes out into the real world for the first time to find his long-lost twin brother, but he really isn’t what he expected. Arnold surprised audiences when he came on the comedy screen, showing more promise than expected and gaining yet another demographic of fans.
5. True Lies (1994)
In one of his later James Cameron films he starred in, Schwarzenegger takes to the screen in the most successful action-romance film of his career. When a secret agent starts to suspect that his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) is having an affair, he decides to use his training (and government equipment), to track down the scumbag ruining his family life while also preventing a terrorist organization plot. With plenty of entertaining action and familiar Arnold scenes, this movie hits all the sweet spots, but Curtis really helps to tie this film together with their on-screen chemistry and relationship flaws. If all of this doesn’t convince you, then watch it for the awesome appearance by Bill Paxton as the sleazy car salesman.
4. Total Recall (1990)
Fun, amusing, and strange all at once, Total Recall is another popular Sci-Fi movie on his list of more memorable features. When a construction worker (Schwarzenegger) in the future wants to experience something more, he seeks out a place called Rekall that implants fake memories into people’s minds. Our protagonist chooses to use it to simulate a trip to Mars, a vacation destination of the future, but they accidentally strip away his memories, revealing that his whole life has been a lie and somebody wants him dead. As a fairly confusing and consistent identity trip with some timely sci-fi effects, this conceptual surprise made our list of best action movies on Netflix.
3. Predator (1987)
One of the more interesting concepts Arnold got to star in, Predator is a Sci-Fi thriller where we get to see his action scenes set in a deep jungle pitted against unthinkable odds. When a squad of hardened commandos are finishing up a mission in the Central American jungle, they notice something isn’t right: It was too easy. After finding scattered remains of enemies and a slowly dwindling squad, they realize that they are being hunted by a superior someone or something. Full of action, suspense, and intensity, this film is on top sci-fi movie lists all around the internet and will hold its nostalgic place on the shelf of anyone who experienced it at an impressionable age.
2. The Terminator (1984)
In his first James Cameron film debut, Arnold takes on a much more thrilling role as a cold, calculated killing machine bent on destroying all humans. Sent back to 1984 from 2029, a human soldier (Michael Biehn) attempts to protect a young woman who would give birth to the key to human salvation, but a near-invincible cyborg is sent back simultaneously to cease the bloodline at any cost. Chillingly emotionless and terrifyingly ruthless, Schwarzenegger’s killer cyborg portrayal is absolutely unforgettable. Just two years after his debut Conan the Barbarian, Arnold still boasts his superior physique as the murderous machine, showing that he never quits and will stand up to any challenge laid before him.
1. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1992)
One of the many great sequels in film history, Terminator 2: Judgement Day is an encore that takes this Sci-Fi story above and beyond. (Spoiler alert) When the terminator failed to kill the Connor family line, he was reprogrammed and sent back to protect a young John Connor from a new and terrifying threat: the T-1000 (Robert Patrick), which is more efficient in every way possible. With an elevated theme of light-heartedness, it only adds to the increased contrast of sheer terror when facing the new terminator as a young John Connor begins to build a bond with his former pursuer. An unforgettable score and a new slew of quotable one-liners are just a few elements that make this film solidified in sci-fi history as one of the greats.
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