My Top 8 Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger Movies

Arnold Schwarzenegger — aka “Ahnuld” — just turned 70 years old! Can you believe it?!

Ahnuld posing for *Sabotage*

For a man who is thick on accent and light on acting talent (though both have improved over time), Ahnuld has amassed an impressive number of movies over the past 40 years or so. He is one of the biggest action-movie icons of all time, not to mention a favorite of comedians and impressionists, and his success shows what big muscles, snappy one-liners, a handful of memorable roles, and a lot of hard work and ambition can earn you in Hollywood. Plus, he has that Ahnuld charisma. Despite his faults, he seems like a decent chap, too.

I wouldn’t say I’m his hugest fan, but I *do* like him and have seen (and mostly enjoyed) many of his films. So, I thought it might be fun to come up with a list of my favorites and share them with you. Sort of like what I did with Kurt Russell, but with a little less emphasis on the roles specifically and more on each movie as a whole. I limited myself to those that he (co-)stars in (as opposed to small supporting roles or bit parts).

You will notice that there aren’t any comedies on my list. This simply isn’t Ahnuld’s strong suit. I mean, he has some of the best one-liners in his action movies, but his “comedic stylings” just aren’t enough to carry a movie. If pressed to pick one comedy, I’d go with Twins, in which he co-starred with Danny DeVito. Certainly it was better than Junior (also paired with DeVito), Kindergarten Cop, or Jingle All the Way. (I never saw The Villain (1979), aka Cactus Jack, but I understand it wasn’t so great, either.) I hope the upcoming sequel, Triplets, which adds Eddie Murphy to the mix, will be reasonably entertaining and not rely on too much crude humor or stupidity.

You’ll also notice, I’m sure, that I don’t have either of the Conan movies (or Red Sonja) on my list, either. His first starring role was as Hercules in New York (1970), but the Conan role 12 years later was his first success as an action movie star. For some people, especially those who followed him as a bodybuilder, too, the Conan flicks are “classics”. Personally, I never got too much into the ’80s swords-n-sorcery subgenre (with a few exceptions), even those with a comic book tie-in. Another sequel, The Legend of Conan, has been announced, which will bring Ahnuld back into the title role. Do we really want to see a septuagenarian Conan fighting monsters and barbarian hordes? Hmmm, as long as he’s in decent shape, maybe…

OK, my Top 8 in chronological order…

The Terminator (1984): Any Ahnuld fan has to put this film in any Top X list. I mean, this is the one role that launched him to superstar status. Of course, visionary writer/director James Cameron and the rest of the cast — including Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Paul Winfield, et al. — were also instrumental in creating this amazing sci-fi/action film. But, it was Ahnuld’s portrayal of the time-traveling, cyborg juggernaut that helped to define this movie. I can’t imagine anyone else in the role that would have had nearly the impact. (I have, however, tried re-casting it with a more current crop of stars, much as I recently did for Predator.) There were so many great, memorable scenes! Ahnuld’s Austrian accent wasn’t much of an issue, either, since the Terminator didn’t say much. And, of course, “Ah’ll be back.” has become such an iconic quote that everyone one knows it’s Ahnuld, even if they aren’t sure which movie it’s from.

Commando (1985): I wrote many months ago that I’d like to see a sequel to this film. Ahnuld played Col. John Matrix, a “retired elite Black Ops Commando [who] launches a one man war against a group of South American criminals who have kidnapped his daughter.” Co-starring Rae Dawn Chong, Dan Hedaya, Alyssa Milano, et al., this was the kind of story that makes you root for the hero to “get the girl” and show the baddies that he’s one guy they definitely should *not* have messed with. He brutally punches, snaps, stabs, slices, shoots, and blows up the bad guys in order to find and rescue his young daughter. Violent? That’s an understatement. Plenty of clever (or silly) one-liners, too. (Fun Fact: One of the writers was Jeph Loeb, who went on to write tons of comics and write/produce things like “Smallville”, “Lost”, “Heroes”, and many Marvel productions.)

Predator (1987): In a lot of ways, I suppose Major “Dutch” Schaefer could have been called Col. John Matrix. They are both muscle-bound, highly-skilled commando leaders trying to survive extremely difficult situations against deadly foes. (Kinda like a certain “John J. Rambo”.) This was another iconic film in the sci-fi/action subgenre, and one in which Ahnuld got to fire big guns, smoke big stogies, and show off his big muscles. Some pretty good quotes, too. (For example, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”, “Get to the chopper!”, and “You are one ugly m____rf____r.”) Great cast, cool concept, and Ahnuld gets to match wits, weapons, and muscles with a monstrous alien trophy hunter. What’s not to like?

The Running Man (1987): This one might surprise you, since it isn’t one of Ahnuld’s better known films. But, it sticks in my mind for at least two reasons. First, it’s one of those stories where the protagonist has to fight his way through a number of individual opponents to survive, but this time it’s a deadly game show. Second, the main villain of the piece is played by the original host of the “Family Feud” (1976-1985), Richard Dawson. (I don’t know who thought of that bit of casting, but Dawson actually did a decent job of it.) Maria Conchita Alonso and Yaphet Kotto are in it, too. The costumed and specially-armed foes Ahnuld’s character has to fight are Subzero (Professor Toru Tanaka), Buzzsaw (Gus Rethwisch), Dynamo (Erland van Lidth), Fireball (Jim Brown), and Captain Freedom (Jesse Ventura). Fun, fun, fun!

Total Recall (1990): I never read the original short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick, but I very much enjoyed the first big-screen adaptation, Total Recall. (The 2012 remake? Not so much, though it was OK.) Ahnuld’s ‘Douglas Quaid’ is just some working-class guy who suddenly gets his world turned upside-down, not knowing what’s real and what’s implanted memory. The answers seem to lie on Mars, so off he goes! The near-future looks a lot like today — a mix of shiny and grimy, pretty and nasty — but with some mutated humans and some cool tech thrown in. (You need to overlook a scientific impossibility or two, though.) Nice combination of sci-fi, action, and mystery/thriller, with a terrific supporting cast (i.e., Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, Rachel Ticotin, Michael Ironside). You can just watch it for the action or ponder the deeper, moral & existential questions raised. A real rollercoaster ride and definitely worth the time, imo.

Ahnuld and Jamie Lee in *True Lies*

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991): Ahnuld returns as another T-800, but this time one who is programmed to keep the target of another Terminator alive. Very similar yet different from the first one, the film was one of those rare sequels that is arguably as good as its predecessor. (Some might even say better. Not me. But some.) Of course, Robert Patrick’s portrayal as the nigh-unstoppable, liquid-metal T-1000 was a breakout role for him. But, it was still Ahnuld’s (and Linda Hamilton’s) movie. Lots of great action and suspense, along with some humor. Overall, a great movie, sequel or not.

P.S. Can you believe that Edward Furlong, who played young John Connor, just turned 40?!

True Lies (1994): I’m not exactly a fan of Tom Arnold, but he did a fair job here. I like Jamie Lee Curtis OK, and she made a surprisingly good wife for Ahnuld’s secret agent, ‘Harry Tasker’. Throw in Bill Paxton, Tia Carrere, Eliza Dushku, and even Charlton Heston, and you have a pretty solid supporting cast. Harry has to track down stolen nuclear weapons that are in the hands of fanatic terrorists, while also trying to keep his wife out of danger and still maintain his civilian identity. Loads of action and hilarity ensue, of course, and Ahnuld does well as a globe-hopping secret agent. It feels like a cross between James Bond and a classic Disney caper. Fun for all! (Well, maybe not youngsters.)

Eraser (1996): “A Witness Protection specialist becomes suspicious of his co-workers when dealing with a case involving high-tech weapons.” That specialist is Ahnuld… or, rather, U.S. Marshal John ‘The Eraser’ Kruger, who starts out thinking his only worry is his latest assignment — i.e., the relocation of ‘Lee Cullen’, played by Vanessa Williams. Poor Kruger ends up going on the run with Lee, as they try to avoid being captured or killed by some misguided and/or corrupt Marshals and other law enforcement. In addition to Ahnuld and Williams, you have James Caan, James Coburn, James Cromwell, Robert Pastorelli, Danny Nucci, Mark Rolston, John Slattery, et al. It’s another terrific group supporting Ahnuld and making for a gripping, pulse-pounding action/drama/mystery movie. (Oh, and that alligator scene…!) Two thumbs up!

Of Ahnuld’s more recent films, as of this writing I have not yet seen Escape Plan (2013) (with Stallone), Sabotage (2014), Maggie (2015), or Aftermath (2017). I need to add them to my movie queue, I suppose. Who knows? Maybe after watching them, I’ll be able to round out my Top 10….

What are your favorite Ahnuld movies and why?


5 Movie Sequels / Crossovers I’d Like to See

When I originally conceived of this post and started jotting down ideas about a year ago, none of these were in production — or, at least, not publicly known. Now, two of them are about to be released, and another is being considered. As they say, great minds think alike!

10_Cloverfield_LaneCloverfield 2: I thought 2008’s Cloverfield, by writer Drew Goddard and director Matt Reeves, was an enjoyable twist on the monster movie genre. From the shaky camera work — subsequently (over)used by others — to the fact that the monster isn’t fully revealed until near the end (because it is from the POV of a small group of residents), along with the “found footage” aspect, the innovative perspective was… interesting. I was kind of hoping for a sequel but unsure of what that would look like. Same “attack” but with a different group? Another attack years later? NYC or elsewhere? How to make it not just a repeat, especially since audiences have already seen the monster? Anyway, as you probably know, the recently announced 10 Cloverfield Lane appears to be that sequel, and it is scheduled for release in a month! (Producer J.J. Abrams “announced” it with a trailer during last month’s 13 Hours and a second trailer during the just-ended SuperBowl 50.) It looks exciting and adds a creepy twist to it, so it could be just what I was looking for. Let’s just say, I’m hopeful.

Independence Day 2: The original Independence Day (1996) was an awesome alien-invasion flick, and a blockbuster in both cinema and video sales. So, I could never figure out why the powers-that-be didn’t make a sequel. It seemed like a natural candidate, after all. I even had a spark of an idea for it, taking place in the months that followed, showing the aftermath, scientists analyzing the alien technology and adapting it to help get humanity back on its feet, all the while dealing with hundreds of aliens who survived, escaped, and are determined to wreak havoc. Something like that, anyway. Last year, we found out that producer Roland Emmerich was finally putting a sequel together, Independence Day: Resurgence, and he had assembled several of the original cast to return! (Unfortunately, no Will Smith, though.) Part of the official synopsis says,

“Using recovered alien technology, the nations of Earth have collaborated on an immense defense program to protect the planet. But nothing can prepare us for the aliens’ advanced and unprecedented force.”

Sounds good! I was even kinda-sorta-partially right about that whole using-alien-tech thing.

Unbreakable 2: Unbreakable (2000) was another one of those surprising hits, as M. Night Shyamalan gave us his take on a “realistic” superhero/villain movie. Of course, it owes much of its success to the terrific performances by Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson. Everybody wanted a re-match between reluctant hero David Dunn and criminal mastermind Elijah Price (aka Mr. Glass). Or, maybe Dunn could find himself facing another superpowered villain or two? But, at the same time, maybe Unbreakable is one of those movies that should just be left to stand alone. Last May (2015), Shyamalan revealed that he had some ideas for a “sequel”, but he wanted to use multiple media formats.

““Could you do a six-episode Unbreakable series on Netflix or HBO? Yeah! That’s cool. I even had an idea of doing a story that goes in one form, and a second part that’s in another form, and a third one’s in a different form. You never do the same form,” Shyamalan told IGN. “It would be like, movie, then, let’s say, cable, to TV, whatever, and then a play; it goes straight online, and it finishes like that. It’s in four different forms, and it never goes back to the old one. It could be kind of cool.”

I understand his enthusiasm, but I don’t like the idea of having one “chapter” as a play. Most of us don’t/won’t go to plays. (Hear that, J.K. Rowling?) Anyway, subsequent reports had the writer/director saying he was ready to consider a sequel just in film form, as long as he can come up with an un-traditional sequel, a “completely original take… unexpected.” He also said he has an idea “percolating” that “doesn’t feel at all like a sequel of any kind. It’s just a whole new movie.” Jackson has indicated he would be interested in a sequel, too. Count me in!

Commando movie posterCommando 2: Commando (1985) is of my favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Full of R-rated violence and humorous (and often corny) one-liners, it was the epitome of 1980s action flicks! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! I just think it’s high time we saw retired elite Black Ops Commando John Matrix (Ahnuld) shooting, slicing, and blowing stuff up again. Bring Alyssa Milano back as his daughter Jenny, either as a damsel-in-distress or maybe to do some butt-kicking of her own. Heck, could even have Rae Dawn Chong come back, too. I don’t care. Just make it happen!

Rambo vs. Predator: Speaking of 1980s action… This one would obviously be not only a double-sequel but an unusual crossover of franchises. Certainly less obvious, and hopefully more successful, than the Aliens vs. Predator crossovers were. I first thought of this several years ago and came up with a basic premise, as laid out here…

Opening scene has Rambo working as either a wilderness guide or teaching survivalist training on a large nature preserve (e.g., Montana? Colorado?). A small group (4-6) of Predators observes him and decides he is worthy prey. When he is alone one evening, they capture him and string him up on the edge of a clearing, where they landed their ship. But, rather than slaughter him right away, the bored hunters decide to play with their prey, while giving themselves a little bit of a challenge. They then cut him down, strip him naked, and, using recorded sound-bytes, one tells him, “No ship… no gun…” (as they lay aside their shoulder-mounted weapons) “20 minutes… we hunt… trophy” (and points directly at Rambo). The message is clear: these creatures are giving him a 20 minute head-start before hunting him down! Nice of them to even the odds a little by not using their ship or their shoulder-cannons, but he had seen enough to know they had plenty of other weapons — like those nasty gauntlet blades! — and armor-tech. He takes off running at full speed!

After a few minutes, Rambo comes to a stream, heads up it a ways, circles back around, then proceeds to use natural cover from which to watch the Predators (who are too cocky, at least at first, to use their invisibility cloaks). This may be one of the toughest, not to mention oddest, situations he has been in. But, his instincts kick in and he begins to formulate a plan. After all, this isn’t the first time he has been hunted. Plus, he has “home-court advantage”, having hiked over every inch of the preserve several times in the last 8 years. He also has weapons at his cabin and a few caches of supplies scattered over the preserve that will come in handy.

Meanwhile, after 20 minutes most of the Predators set off at a jog in the direction Rambo ran, where they will soon split up to hunt on their own. It’s a contest, after all. However, the one who “spoke” (first among equals?) heads off in a different direction to climb the largest nearby hill. He changes positions a few times during the hours that follow but manages to keep track of Rambo (sometimes) and his fellow Predators. He watches appreciatively as Rambo first evades, then stalks & picks off the others one by one. This is truly a worthy prey….

With the right production team and Stallone heavily involved, I think this could be a great tribute to both franchises and an awesome action flick in its own right!

There ya go. Do you have any sequels that haven’t been announced but you are dying to see? Let me know below…