Top 10 Arnold Schwarzenegger Films
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Written by Ian Astraquillo
One of the greatest action heroes of all time has a variety of movie roles under his belt, but what ranks as his best of all time! WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Arnold Schwarzenegger Films! Will it be Predator, Total Recall, or Terminator 2: Judgment Day? Watch to find out!
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Ladies and Gents, he’s back! Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.
For this list, we’re focusing on movies in which the Governator stars in a central or significant role. However, we’ve excluded Arnie’s cameo roles, as well as his TV or documentary appearances.
#10: “Conan the Barbarian” (1982)
Based on the pulp magazine narratives of Robert E. Howard, “Conan the Barbarian” is filled with non-stop action glorified by beautiful handcrafted sets, wieldable props, and awesome costumes. “Conan” was indeed the quintessential testosterone-driven high-fantasy flick of Hollywood’s pre-CGI age. Throw in James Earl Jones as the story’s villain, and you’ve got one hell of a can’t-miss action movie. Although the film initially drew criticism for its hefty use of violence, it has since become a crowning classic for its epic-poetry style and well-aged visuals. And those who don’t like it, well, tell ‘em, Conan!
#9: “Last Action Hero” (1993)
This self-aware action comedy stars Schwarzenegger as himself playing fictional LA hero-cop Jack Slater. The film follows a young boy who’s transported inside his favorite movie series through a magical theater ticket. While this premise may sound laughable on paper, the comic fantasy achieved its goal of non-stop laughter with its satirical tone on the action genre, parodying numerous clichés and predictable plotlines along the way. “Last Action Hero” may have underperformed at the box office and reeled in a whopping six Razzie nominations, but it remains a favorite among Schwarzenegger fans for its cheesy antics and clever fourth-wall gags.
#8: “Kindergarten Cop” (1990)
With Arnie taking on the role of a badass cop who is forced to go undercover as a kindergarten teacher, the premise of this fun and kooky comedy was one for the Hollywood textbooks. Dramatic, funny, and filled with a lot of heart, “Kindergarten Cop” beautifully showcases Schwarzenegger’s dynamic acting skills, proving that there’s more to him than just muscles and guns. But don’t worry tough-guy Arnie fans, there’s some of that too. Despite garnering a PG-13 rating, “Kindergarten Cop” served as Schwarzenegger’s first foray into family films and was released shortly after his own firstborn child, Katherine, turned 1 - adorable, right?
#7: “Commando” (1985)
If you were a retired Delta Force Colonel whose daughter was kidnapped by government-overthrowing mercenaries, what would you do? Well, if you’re Arnie, you take a temporary leave from retirement - gunning, blasting, and ass-kicking to ensure your child’s rescue while making some nice quips along the way. To this day, “Commando” continues to be appreciated for its non-stop action narrative, explosive practical effects, and cheesily quotable one-liners. With such a strong and dedicated following, it’s no surprise that Fox has been prompted to attempt a reboot of this hit. But it won’t be the same without Arnie.
#6: “Twins” (1988)
Following the outrageously hilarious story of two immensely different separated-at-birth twins that are reunited on their 35th birthday, this heart-filled adult-comedy was a funfest waiting to happen. Marking Schwarzenegger’s first major role in a non-action film, “Twins” initially drew minor skepticism from the actor’s fanbase, despite comedic geniuses Ivan Reitman and Danny DeVito’s names being attached to the project. Cynics were put to rest, with Schwarzenegger showing his brilliant acting skills to be as rounded and playful as the titular characters. Garnering unexpected box office success, a sequel tentatively titled “Triplets” was eventually announced by Universal in 2012, with Schwarzenegger and DeVito said to reprise their roles alongside Eddie Murphy. We’re still waiting for that project to get off the ground, however.
#5: “True Lies” (1994)
As his third collaboration with visionary director James Cameron, “True Lies” took the same explosive rushes of the “Terminator” films and adjusted them for a modern action-comedy setting. A loose remake of the French film “La Totale!”, “True Lies” follows counter-terrorist operative Harry Tasker. A family man by day and super spy by night, Harry’s double life sets the audience up for cinematic comedy gold. With Arnie sharing the screen with an ensemble of talents, including Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton, and scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis, the film further solidified Schwarzenegger’s capacity to tackle comedic roles and absurd plots. Crazy stunts and pyrotechnics fused with even crazier characters, the film was everything we loved about a Schwarzenegger film - and more.
#4: “The Terminator” (1984)
You know that a movie has done something right when it manages to have audiences both loving and fearing its villain. A sci-fi action-thriller unlike any other, “The Terminator” follows Schwarzenegger as a cyborg sent back in time to execute the mother of a future soldier leading a resistance against sentient machines. Praised for its tone, pacing, and impressive action, “The Terminator” proved that epic budgets were not necessary for an epic story. A major critical and box office success, the film spawned an entire franchise of sequels, comics, and video games, and is considered to be the movie that cemented both Schwarzenegger’s acting and Cameron’s directing careers.
#3: “Total Recall” (1990)
Based on a short story from sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick, “Total Recall” puts Schwarzenegger in the boots of Douglas Quaid, a construction worker who discovers he’s a secret agent that had his memory wiped. Or so it seems, as the last place that Quaid visits before the plot thickens is a company specializing in memory manipulation. Regardless, the audience is buckled up for a thrilling journey loaded with alluring practical effects and sets. It was one of the most expensive films ever made upon its release, but reeled in impressive ticket sales and has since become both a classic Schwarzenegger and sci-fi film.
#2: “Predator” (1987)
Appropriately set in a remote jungle, “Predator” shadows Schwarzenegger as Major Dutch Schaefer, who is tasked with a Special Forces unit to rescue survivors from a downed helicopter - er, choppa. However, they soon discover that there is another party in the jungle aside from themselves and their guerilla enemies, one with technologically advanced weapons and gear that allows it to move unseen. If this sounds like the premise to a horror film, it is, as the commandos are picked off one at a time by the unseen predator. Though the film received mixed reviews upon release, today it is praised for its intense action, narrative structure, and realism, courtesy of on-location sets and Stan Winston’s creature effects.
Before we get to our obvious top pick, let’s have a look at a few honorable mentions:
“Red Heat” (1988)
“Escape Plan” (2013)
“The Running Man” (1987)
#1: “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991)
Taking top honors is one of the greatest sci-fi, action, sequels, ah, hell… one of the greatest movies of all time! An action-packed roller-coaster ride that could be called a two-hour chase, “T2” sees Arnold returning as the intimidating cybernetic organism from the future, but this time around, he’s the hero. A visual and storytelling masterpiece, “Judgment Day” saw numerous breakthroughs in CGI. Exploding at the box office, it even saw a theme park ride for Universal Studios. To this day it stands as his highest grossing and without a doubt his best film.