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?

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Fan-Cast: Terminator Reboot

Yes, I know it’s already been cast, shot, and is currently in post-production for a scheduled release on July 1, 2015. But, when the Terminator reboot was just in the planning/scripting stages, I couldn’t help myself but to start thinking about who might be good choices to cast in the main roles. Of course, I didn’t know how closely, if at all, the writers would be sticking to the original plot of the first movie; but, I assumed the main plot threads and characters would still be there. (For example, I was expecting a T-800 series Terminator but not a T-1000.) Here are some names I came up with….

Sarah Connor

Using the original as model, Sarah is a pretty, fun-loving (but law-abiding), single gal, not particularly athletic and with no particular survival skills. (At least, in the first movie.) She is in her mid- to late-20s and of average height (~5’4″ – 5’7″?), though being slightly taller (5’9″?) or shorter (5’2″?) wouldn’t be a big deal, as long as she is still of medium build. Preferably blonde and White (to be consistent with the original), but that’s not a necessity. Possibilities include Brie Larson (5’7″,b.1989) (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, 21 Jump Street), Margot Robbie (5’6″,b.1990) (Vigilante, “Pan Am”, upcoming genre films), Gillian Jacobs (5’4″,b.1982) (“Community”, “Fringe”, “Tiny Commando”), Chloe Bennet (5’5.75″,b.1992) (“Nashville”, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”). I also considered Emilia Clarke (5’2″,b.1986) (Triassic Attack, “Game of Thrones”), when I heard she was up for the part.

But, my two favorites of those I looked at are Maggie Grace (5’9″,b.1983) and Elisha Cuthbert (5’2.5″,b.1982) — even though they are at opposite ends of the preferred height scale and already in their early 30s. In the movie, we know Sarah will do a lot of running around scared, getting scraped & banged up a lot. Grace and Cuthbert both have a bit of experience doing this. (Not that it takes a lot of “experience” to pull that off. Just sayin’…) Grace is probably best known for her roles in “Lost” and the Taken movies, but she has also appeared in The Fog, Knight and Day, Faster, Lockout, and both parts of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. Cuthbert probably became recognizable to Canadian audiences from the last couple seasons of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”. But, she’s probably best know to genre fans as Jack Bauer’s daughter, Kim, in “24”. She was also in the short-lived “The Forgotten” series. Either of these two lovely ladies could make a great Sarah Connor.

Maggie Grace in Lockout

Maggie Grace in Lockout

Elisha Cuthbert - on the run in 24

Elisha Cuthbert – on the run in 24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kyle Reese

Again based on the original film, Reese should appear as a physically fit, scruffily-handsome, battle-hardened rebel soldier, ready to die to complete his mission of saving Sarah Connor from the deadly Terminator. He is in his late-20s to early-30s and probably around 6′ tall, give or take a couple inches. (F.y.i., Michael Biehn is 5’11.75″.) I considered a shorter list for Reese, which included Boyd Holbrook (6’2″,b.1981) (The Host, Gone Girl) and Garrett Hedlund (6’2.5″,b.1984) (Eragon, TRON: Legacy). But, as with Sarah Connor, I’ve narrowed it down to two candidates.

Jake McLaughlin (6’1″,b.1982) was recently seen in the short-lived series “Believe”, which is where I first saw him. He has also been in “Heroes”, Safe House, as well as playing military types in In the Valley of Elah, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and episodes of “Leverage” and “Scorpion”. He does the no-nonsense, extremely competent soldier role quite well. Then, of course, there is my favorite choice: Stephen Amell (6’1″,b.1981). Amell has legions of fans as the eponymous hero of “Arrow”, where he has proven he can play very serious characters and is up for a lot of action. Prior to his current hit show, he had appearances in many series, including “Dante’s Cove”, “Flashpoint”, and various American shows with “CSI” and “NCIS” in their titles. Either McLaughlin or Amell would be a great choice to play our hero-from-the-future, Kyle Reese.

Jake McLaughlin on Believe

Jake McLaughlin on Believe

Stephen Amell on Arrow

Stephen Amell on Arrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Connor

John is, of course, the future son of Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese and destined to be the inspirational leader of the human resistance (in L.A., at least) against the machines. We only see him briefly in T2: Judgment Day, though a reboot may choose to give him more screen time. He appears to be a handsome (though scarred), physically fit man in his mid-40s. Is this about when he sends Reese back to save Sarah? I can’t remember the timeline well enough to be sure. When Christian Bale played John in Terminator Salvation, he was 35. So, depending on the determined timeline for a reboot and at what point they decide to show John, he could probably be played anywhere from mid-30s to mid-40s. As for height, the original actor (Michael Edwards) doesn’t have his listed, but Bale is 6′, which is a good baseline.

As it happens, all of the actors I considered for this are in their late-30s. If any of them were a few years younger, they could be candidates to play Kyle Reese. Two of them I have fan-cast for other things: Alex O’Loughlin (6’0.75″,b.1976) and Tom Welling (6’2.75″,b.1977). So, while I really like O’Loughlin for this, I decided to showcase my other two choices: Jensen Ackles (6’1.25″,b.1978) and Sullivan Stapleton (6’1″,b.1977). Ackles, as you probably already realize, is best known for his nearly 10 seasons on the very popular show “Supernatural”. I’ve never watched the show, but I know Ackles from his stints on “Dark Angel” and “Smallville”. He has also done voice work on the “TRON: Evolution” and “Batman: Under the Red Hood” video games. I know Stapleton from his work on the UK series “Strike Back”. But, he has also appeared in various TV movies and series (mostly Australian), as well as in genre big-screen movies like The Condemned, Gangster Squad, and 300: Rise of an Empire. He has definitely demonstrated that he can handle action roles. Again, I think either Ackles or Sullivan would be believable — given a few scars and the right lighting — as the legendary resistance fighter, John Connor.

Jensen Ackles on Supernatural

Jensen Ackles on Supernatural

Sullivan Stapleton on Strike Back

Sullivan Stapleton on Strike Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Terminator (T-800 series)

We all know what the T-800 should look like: big and muscular. But, it probably shouldn’t be too tall, lest it stand out in public, which might bring more attention to itself and complicate its mission. So, I limited myself to big guys between 6′ and 6’6″. This person doesn’t need to be much of an actor, since the character is a stone-faced automaton. He just has to play a mostly-silent, well-armed juggernaut. A natural choice would be Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (6’4″,b.1972), but I wanted to consider a few others. Among the better known is Vin Diesel (5’11.75″,b.1967) (Fast and Furious movies, Riddick movies), who is the smallest of my candidates, in terms of both height and bulk. But, I definitely think he could make a great Terminator; he has a great look and voice for it, too. Terry Crews (6’2.5″,b.1968) (Idiocracy, Expendables movies) might be a little bit of an out-of-the-box choice, since he is a) Black and b) mostly known for comedy or comedic-action. But, he certainly has the build for it, and I’m sure he has enough “range” to play an expressionless robot. (sarc)

Now, I couldn’t narrow it down to two this time, so here are my top three potential Terminators. First, we have pro-wrestling legend Bill Goldberg (6’2.5″,b.1966). Actually, he already played a cyborg in Universal Soldier: The Return, which is probably why I thought of him over other wrestlers. (Question: Are T-800s allowed to have facial hair?) He has done a little acting outside of the ring (e.g., The Longest Yard remake, Kill Speed) and knows how to do “menacing”. Next, Rob Archer (6’6″,b.????) is an actor & stunt man who has been seen in such genre fare as “Alphas”, “Defiance”, “Lost Girl”, Kick Ass 2. He doesn’t usually say much, but he is huge (both height and muscles) and often plays scary characters. Sounds about right. Finally, Kim Kold (6’4″,b.1966?) is a former Danish soccer player who turned to competitive bodybuilding. He is massive, as can be seen in Fast & Furious 6, wherein he slugs it out with The Rock. Like Archer, he doesn’t have a lot of real acting experience, but he wouldn’t really need it for this role. Of course, whichever two aren’t cast in the central role could still appear as T-800s in scenes from the post-apocalyptic future.

Bill Goldberg

Bill Goldberg

Rob Archer

Rob Archer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kim Kold

Kim Kold

Kim Kold w/ The Rock

Kim Kold w/ The Rock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, I got thinking that it would be cool to give some of the original cast roles, too, even if just cameos. Possible parts for Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Michael Biehn could be as parent(s) of Sarah Connor, scientists(?) working with the future resistance fighters (which could lead to an explanation for why the T-800 is given Arnold’s face), and cops involved in the “manhunt”. It might be fun to have Lance Henriksen (aka Det. Hal Vukovich), Earl Boen (aka Dr. Peter Silberman), or even Bess Motta (aka Sarah’s roommate Ginger) and Rick Rossovich (aka Ginger’s boyfriend Matt) show up, too! Heck, we could even throw in cameos by Bill Paxton and Brian Thompson, who played two of the punks the original Terminator killed for their clothes. Alas, the great Paul Winfield (aka Lt. Ed Traxler) is no longer with us.

I think any combination of actors I presented here would have made a fine cast, and supporting roles for original cast members would have been a lot of fun for them and us. Regardless, from the trailer I saw of the upcoming Terminator: Genisys, I think we’re in for an interesting story and some pulse-pounding excitement with a great cast!