Twenty years ago today, Judgment Day happened…Skynet became self-aware and tried to wipe out humanity. Or, Skynet would have done had the T-800, Sarah Connor and John Connor not prevented it. Today, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is being re-released in 3D to “celebrate” the twentieth anniversary of the avoided Judgment Day. Personally, I would have had Terminator 2 re-released last year for the 25th anniversary of it’s release. But what do I know? I’m not James Cameron. But it will be glorious to see Arnie and co on the big screen (I never had the opportunity to see T2 on the big screen!). It got me to thinking…what are my favourite Arnie films? He’s been in some of the all-time greats, and some of the most terrible films committed to celluloid. He’s done it all, from becoming a mega movie star to being Governor of California. I’m sure more than a few people would prefer him to be President over Mr. Trump. But, alas, that’s not possible. So all I can offer is my list of Top 10 Arnold Schwarzenegger Films!
- Jingle All The Way
Arnie’s 90s foray into comedy after his action-heavy 80s came as a surprise. It’s fair to say it wasn’t a success. I shudder when I think about Twins or Kindergarten Cop. However, I’ve always had a soft spot for this Christmas film. It’s not great, or even good, but there’s a healthy dose of pessimism about Christmas in this film that makes the holiday season bearable for me. Arnie plays it just right, eliciting genuine laughs from a mediocre script. Jingle All The Way is the height of enjoyable trash, made complete by Arnie. All together now: “Put the cookie down!”
- The Running Man
I’m all up for a remake of The Running Man that sticks closer to the source novel than the Arnie version of it. However, for now, the Arnie version is all we have. It’s a typical 80s film, with oodles of cheesiness and one-liners to spoil the terrifying dystopian future it presents. I re-watched it a few nights ago, and there’s plenty to dislike about it. The plot is simplistic, and most of the nuance of the dystopian future is lost in translation. Arnie’s one-liners veer from funny (“You must be very proud of yourself!”) to cringeworthy (“Here’s Sub-Zero, now Plain-Zero…”). But it has a brilliant villain, Arnie plays it cool, and it’s a cautionary tale about what 2017 could have looked like.
- Last Action Hero
Yes, this fourth-wall breaking action satire doesn’t work as well as it should. It loses itself in its own satire, wanting to have its cake and eat it. But as an early example of an action film satire, it’s worthy enough. Arnie shows his comedic chops again, sending up his 80s self tremendously. I’ve watched it a few times, and I still don’t really understand what happens and what is fiction or reality. But that’s the point. Few action films follow any kind of logic, and Last Action Hero takes this to the extreme. Satirizing action films is popular nowadays, but we should salute the film that started it all.
- Pumping Iron
A documentary still counts, right? Who’d have thought that a bodybuilding documentary could be entertaining? I didn’t, before I watched it for the first time this year. Arnie wasn’t in it as much as I thought, but that leaves room for another important story. How much is real, and how much is fake? I reckon about 30/70. But that doesn’t take away from anything. It certainly doesn’t take away from Arnie’s performance. Here, he’s a charismatic villain, playing mind games with the future Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, as they compete for th2 1975 Mr. Olympia title. He’s a character you love to hate. He’d fit right into Game of Thrones. For a deeper insight into bodybuilding, it’s fascinating, but it’s a wonder to watch Arnie.
- True Lies
Although this isn’t an action satire, this action comedy elicits bigger laughs than Last Action Hero. It doesn’t try anything new, or send up the action genre like Last Action Hero attempts, but it’s very, very funny. Arnie and Jamie Lee Curtis work wonders with each other, bouncing zingers off each other with ease. James Cameron directs the action scenes with typical aplomb. It’s as absurd as Last Action Hero, but that’s another one of its qualities. It’s just Cameron and Arnie putting on a spectacle, and it is spectacular.
For me, this is one of the archetypal 80s action films. One-liners? Yes, and the majority create laughs (“You’ll have to excuse my friend. He’s dead tired!” Cheese? Tonnes of it, such as the 80s song that plays over the credits. Body count? Very high. Arnie? On top form! We follow Arnie’s Matrix trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter from some dodgy South Americans and an Auzzie guy (who really needs to let off some steam). The plot is simple. Everything about this film is simple, but there’s beauty in its simplicity. Because we fight for love.
John McTierman redefined the action genre with Die Hard, but he gave science fiction a classic alien in the form of the titular Predator. Stan Winston yet again gave us a horrific creature to fear. Predator is a blend of science fiction and horror, one that’s not entirely successful due to the need to have Arnie quip occasionally. It shouldn’t work, really. In horror films, aren’t the victims supposed to be teenagers? Not massive soldiers? However, there’s an eerie atmosphere in the first half of Predator, glimpses of the titular character giving us reason to fear what’s coming next. It’s also full to the brim with pure entertainment. It’s another MACHO MAN movie from Arnie, oozing with testosterone. But that’s one more reason to love it.
(Click here for my full review)
- Total Recall
Perhaps Philip K. Dick’s short story deserved an actor who looked ordinary. But the remake proved that wrong. The tale of Douglas Quaid and his dive into the break between dreams and reality is one of the great science fiction films. Yes, it may rely on action more than thought-provoking discussion. Yes, it may rely on extreme violence (but all Verhoeven flims do! That’s the point!). But sometimes you don’t need verbosity to explain a concept. You need Arnie, a few one-liners, and to get your ass to Mars. Your eyes will pop out at the special effects, which still hold up today. But for a film about the reliability of memory, it’s a wholly memorable film.
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day
It’s the eternal battle, isn’t it? Which is better: T1 or T2? For my money, T1 just about edges the victory. Think about it: T2 is a glorified remake of The Terminator, with a bigger budgets, bigger explosions, and an inflated running time. However, that doesn’t take anything away from its quality. Gone is the horror element of The Terminator, added is the heightened action element. And boy, does that action deliver. Cameron knows how to put together thrilling action scenes, and nowhere is this more apparent than T2. It ticks all the boxes that a sequel does, but never forgets that it has a heart. That heart is, ironically, the now-good T-800. Arnie plays it for laughs when necessary, but pulls the heart strings as well. This is how to do a sequel.
(Click here for my full review)
However, you sometimes can’t beat the original. This is true of The Terminator. It’s lean, menacing and dripping with fear and tension. The evil T-800 is Arnie’s best role, the emotionless cyborg who will stop at nothing to kill Sarah Connor. Yes, the science fiction is there: cyborgs and time travel. But the horror is the prevalent film, and Arnie is just as scary as Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger. He’s coming to get you, and there’s nothing you can do. It’s a little rough around the edges, but that’s part of its greatness. The Terminator is one of the seminal science fiction films, and Arnie is a vital part of it.
(Click here for my full review)
Agree or disagree? Any you’d take away or add? What is your Top 10?