We strive to bring you the best featured content in the timeliest manner possible, but sometimes we lock horns and cannot stop debating a particular list until after our scheduled release. If we had a time machine this would have gone out on Friday, but sometimes the best things in life require a little bit of patience.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is without a doubt one of the most legendary action heroes to ever walk the Earth. He has battled foes with everything from swords to robotics, saved women and children of over a dozen ethnicities, and blown up pretty much every form of property a person or government could own, all in the name of entertainment. He may have taken a lengthy sabbatical from the world of film to foray into politics, but it is clear with the release of The Last Stand this weekend that he still has a lot to offer.
While discussing our excitement for Arnold’s return to the silver screen it dawned on our staff that many of our younger readers may have little-to-no idea of his contributions to the history of film. Prior to his momentary appearance in 2010’s Expendables, Arnold had not appeared on screen since 2004’s Around The World in 80 Days, and his last turn as an action hero was in 2002’s Collateral Damage. Realizing this, we quickly put our heads together and began furiously debating the 10 essential films in Schwarzenegger’s history that every fan of cinema should be required to watch. Our selections can be found after the jump along with previews of each release. Click through, read our recommendations, and comment to let us know if you would pick the same titles!
The Last Stand is in theaters now and should be considered a must-see for any Arnold Schwarzenegger fan.
1. Jingle All The Way
I know what you’re thinking. You’re read through this whole list, seeing Total Recall, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Predator, and others, you’ve been trying to figure out what the top of the list, and you see that it’s Jingle All The Way. “What? Where’s Running Man? Where’s Commando? Where’s Hercules in New York?
Here’s the thing, not every movie that gets made is a good movie. Commando kind of sucks and you do too for liking it. There are some movies out there that get made and you can tell that no one really anticipated it to be Citizen Cane. You can’t pop in Slither or Batman & Robin and really think the people involved really felt they were doing the best movie, but you can get a positive energy from them. The people involved threw the criticism and just had fun with it. That energy shows through, the fun behind creating it. No one on Ang Lee’s Hulk was allowed to be anything but somber and that negativity flows through the movie. Plus if you were truly a huge Schwarzenegger fan, you really aren’t looking for the next Memento. You sit down, unplug, and have fun. That’s what this movie give you: fun.
It’s also physically impossible to hate a movie with Phil Hartman in it. He definitely bumped this movie up a few notches.
2. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Terminator 2: Judgement Day is quite simply one of the best action movies ever. Period. There is really no discussion to be had about that. With one of the most iconic car chases, a terrifyingly brutal villain, and a fantastic final fight scene, Arnold steps up to the plate and absolutely kills it in his most memorable role as The Terminator. Also, Linda Hamilton.
3. Last Action Hero
Last Action Hero is one of this rare films that is simply unlike anything that came before or after its release. On paper it may seem like another excuse for Arnold to show off his power and over-the-top acting chops, which it is, but with a closer look viewers will find the genius buried in this send up of Hollywood’s love for explosive sequences. I don’t know a single guy who didn’t connect with and long to the boy that sees his action hero come to life, and it’s safe to say that feeling will still hit each and every young eye that views this feature for the first time.
4. Batman And Robin
Remember when The Dark Knight came out and it was all anyone could talk about? As good as that Batman movie was is how bad Batman and Robin was. Released in 1997 due to the money making power of Batman Forever (which also sucked), Batman and Robin has Arnold Schwarzenegger playing Mr. Freeze. What was so special about this film that made it worthy of this list? It has the best one liners in Arnold’s history. Almost every other word out of his mouth is an ice based pun. We have classics like “Let’s kick some ice.” and “What killed the dinosaurs? THE ICE AGE!”. You know what, here they all are in one minute long video.
5. Total Recall
– Total Recall is the movie that solidified Schwarzenegger’s success. While he had already played title roles in Terminator, and the two Conan movies, but Total Recall was something special. It was directed by Paul Verhoeven as his follow up to his other ultra-violent science-fiction classic RoboCop (a formula he’d continue with Hollow Man and Starship Troopers). How huge was Total Recall? It was the highest grossing movie of 1990, a year that gave us Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Misery, Goodfellas,and Home Alone. If you haven’t seen this movie, then here’s the plan: get your ass to Mars.
Fun Fact: Predator started as a joke. In 1985, after the release of Rocky IV (the highest grossing Rocky movie at the time), people would joke about how if a Rocky V were made, he would have to fight an alien. Well, a couple guys saw this joke movie and decided to write a script based on it. That script would eventually evolve into Predator.
Predator was directed by John McTiernan, who became famous for this movie, Die Hard, Hunt For Red October, and Die Hard with a Vengeance, so it’s obvious that the guy knows what he’s doing (except for the whole jail time thing, that’s him being stupid). The movie instantly became a science-fiction action classic (which is Schwarzenegger’s bread and butter), spawning sequels, spin offs, videogames, comics, and more. It’s very hard for a movie to take something and instantly put it into pop culture, but Predator did that, creating one of Hollywood’s most famous monsters of the past few decades.
Plus, at its core, don’t you really want to see Rocky VS Predator? Of course you do and this is the closest you’ll get.
7. Kindergarten Cop
It may seem hard to believe in this age of remakes, sequels, and prequels, but once upon a time in the lates 80s/early 90s there were studios in Hollywood willing to take a chance on offbeat stories that delivered on an emotional level that average theatrical attractions could not. It was during this period that Arnold explored the limits of his acting abilities, often with great success. One of the biggest highlights of his career during this time was his turn as a hard cop who is challenged with task of masquerading as a a kindergarten teacher in order to find a drug dealer. It sounds as ridiculous as the setup plays out, but director Ivan Reitman was able to turn what could have very easily been a dismissible comedy misfire into a now classic dramedy that will likely be remade to death in the years to come.
8. Conan The Barbarian
Conan The Barbarian is one of the most perfect fantasy action movies ever made. In it we have Arnold playing the titular character, whose mission in life is to get vengeance for his parents death at the hands of James Earl Jones. This movie has been praised for its style and content while also being condemned for being too violent and having a lead who barely speaks english. The reason people did not like Conan The Barbarian is exactly why it is amazing. If you watch an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie for acting and pacifism what are you even doing with you life? Arnold’s portrayal of a barbarian on a quest for blood is perfect. He’s strong and has a sword, what more could you ask for?
Here’s a bit of trivia: how many Arnold Schwarzenegger movies have been nominated for Academy Awards? Answer: not many, but Eraser is one of them. While it’s not for Best Picture or Best Imaginary Football Girlfriend (is that a category? I know who’d win this year), it was for Sound Design.
Schwarzenegger plays a US Marshal who finds himself over his head, but the plot isn’t important. The important part is that this movie has a sequence straight out of Saints Row where James Caan tries to hit Schwarzenegger with a commercial airliner. It’s one of the most ridiculous action sequences in any Schwarzenegger movie, and if you think that’s isn’t a valid reason to see a movie, then you’re lying.
10. True Lies
While T2, Predator, and Total Recall helped Arnold build a reputation in the action world, it was True Lies that took his level of celebrity to their 90s peak. Paired alongside a pitch perfect (and sexy as hell) Jamie Lee Curtis, Arnold and director James Cameron once again partnered on this big budget tale of deception and created something far more grandiose than was ever warranted. It may not hit all the right notes, but nineteen years after release there are still sequences from this film being imitated in major releases, and that certainly says something. If there is such as thing as “mature Arnold,” this is it.