10 Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Roles
Two decades before becoming the "Governator" of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austria's own man of steel, stomped into Hollywood and immediately caught the attention of moviegoers the world over. Whether he was traveling through time to assassinate (or save) the world's savior against the inevitable machine-driven apocalypse or substitute teaching a bunch of snot-nosed brats, audiences everywhere went crazy for Schwarzenegger's on-screen antics, quickly evolving him into the prototypical action hero that defined a generation. This list counts down my personal favorite "Ah-nold" characters from his twenty-plus years in the film industry... and please, keep in mind that this article is being judged on the performances and not necessarily the quality of the movie itself.
10. Howard Langston from Jingle All the Way
"Who told you you could eat my cookies?"
Arnold Schwarzenegger was the face of American action cinema throughout the 80s, but like most actors, the time eventually came for him to tackle more family-friendly roles in an effort to appeal to a wider audience (see Batman & Robin... or better yet, don't). Jingle All the Way gave the big man a chance to flex his comedic muscle as Howard Langston, a successful mattress salesman who regrettably disappoints his young son Jamie on a regular basis. Howard misses Jamie's latest karate ceremony but promises to make it up to the little runt by purchasing him the season's hottest-selling toy -- a Turbo-Man doll. The movie jumps off from this point, following Howard on a non-stop scramble to secure his son's dream gift, which has been completely sold out for months. A few memorable moments stand out in this otherwise mediocre Christmas-themed farce, including Howard's constant competition with a nefarious mailman (comedian Sinbad, minus the rad windbreaker suit) over the elusive toy as well run-ins with creepy next door neighbor Ted (played by the late Phil Hartman).
9. Dutch from Predator
"Get to da choppa!"
Most of Arnold's celluloid adversaries appear in human form, but in 1987's classic action /horror /sci-fi adventure Predator, the enemy materializes as a hulking seven-foot-tall creature from another world with an insatiable craving for earthling blood. Schwarzenegger plays Dutch, the leader of a rugged team of commandos on a top secret mission in the cumbersome jungles of Central America. As his colleagues are mercilessly eviscerated one by one by the invisible killer, Dutch switches to survival mode and instantly becomes a master of his surroundings, setting booby traps across the precarious terrain in hopes of trapping and eradicating the alien menace. Watching Dutch go toe-to-toe with the camouflaged monster is an exhilarating experience that showcases Arnold in his prime doing what he does best -- kicking ass and taking names.
8. Ben Richards from The Running Man
"I hope you leave enough room for my fist because I'm going to ram it into your stomach and break your goddamn spine!"
The Running Man gave Arnold devotees little time to recuperate from Predator's awesomeness when it slammed into theaters a mere five months later. Even though it wasn't as successful and isn't as recognized as its predecessor, this movie's atmosphere gave Schwarzenegger more room to brandish his unyielding combat skills as well as the unique cornball sense of humor that would eventually become a staple of any good Arnold film. Our chiseled hero stars as Ben Richards, the latest contestant on a brutal futuristic game show after being wrongly accused of murdering hundreds of unarmed citizens during his previous stint as a police officer. The movie forges ahead as sort of a live-action video game, pitting Richards against various "stalkers," an array of deranged ruffians bent on wasting Ben for the enjoyment of the respective home and studio audiences. As Richards struggles against his enemies in order to attain the ultimate prize of freedom, we are treated to a gaggle of hilariously bad one-liners such as this timeless quip uttered after strangling one of his pursuers with a string of razorwire -- "He was a real pain in the neck."
7. Douglas Quaid from Total Recall
"Come on, Cohaagen! You got what you want! Give those people air!"
Have you ever just wanted to get away for awhile? That's precisely what Douglas Quaid intends to do when the prolonging banality that his life has become drops him onto the doorstep of Rekall Incorporated, a suspicious company that installs virtual getaways into the brains of its clients, leading the customer to believe that they have just taken the vacation of a lifetime. Quaid's obsession with Mars sends him packing to the angry red planet where he finds himself stuck in the middle of a war between control-hungry tycoons hogging the world's oxygen for themselves and an ever-growing resistance of outraged citizens battling for each and every breath. Schwarzenegger's character begins as a simple construction worker who only wishes for a little excitement but ultimately transforms into an unflinching man of the people, standing up to the powers that be and secure a bright future for Mars's inhabitants.
6. John Matrix from Commando
"Let off some steam, Bennett."
Some would say that Commando was where Arnold first started to hone his comedic dexterity. The plot involves the daughter of Schwarzenegger's John Matrix, a retired Army special agent now living in a secluded mountain homestead, being kidnapped by his former cohorts. While the scenario might seem quite serious, Matrix doesn't let the desperate situation stand in his way of delivering some of the most hysterical zingers in film history while eliminating the various baddies that cross his path. In one of my favorite sequences, Matrix is escorted onto an airplane set on a course for a Latin American country where Matrix is to assassinate its president as part of the bargain to have his daughter returned to him alive. Matrix abruptly snuffs the lackey assigned to make sure he completes his mission, snapping his neck and placing a hat over his face. Before making one of the most gloriously over-exaggerated escapes ever committed to celluloid, Matrix asks of the flight attendant, "Don't disturb my friend. He's dead tired." The ridiculousness doesn't stop there -- Matrix gorilla-presses a phone booth with a man trapped inside, independently waxes hundreds of henchmen in an epic gunfight and knocks off Freddie Mercury's brother by impaling him with a steel pipe. What more could one ask for in an 80s action film?
5. Julius Benedict from Twins
"You have no respect for logic."
And now for a change of pace. Twins is another of Arnold's less celebrated titles as it was his first major starring role in a movie that didn't predominately feature tons of loud explosions and gratuitous violence. Schwarzenegger portrays Julius Benedict, the product of a science experiment devised to create the perfect child. The development is disrupted when the cells unexpectedly split into two embryos, one receiving all of the favorable characteristics that the procedure set out to accomplish and the other scraping up all the unwanted genetic leftovers. Julius is raised on a deserted island, far away from the devious influences of the rest of the world, to become a supremely honest and intelligent being, while his twin is sent to the mainland to be brought up in an orphanage. Upon his 35th birthday, Julius finally learns of his sibling's existence and sets off to Los Angeles to establish a brotherly bond with Vincent (played by the always-entertaining Danny DeVito), who has accumulated a massive amount of debt during his years as a bottom-of-the-barrel conman. Vincent immediately takes advantage of Julius's child-like apprehension, using his brother's muscle to weasel his way out of trouble with the local loan sharks. Arnold articulates his lines in such a deadpan style that it's impossible not to chuckle as he taunts the bad guys while simultaneously disarming them of their weapons. All things considered, Twins should be recognized as one Schwarzenegger's most sincere dramatic efforts.
4. Detective John Kimble from Kindergarten Cop
"Stop whining! You kids are soft! You lack discipline! Well, I've got news for you! You are mine now! You belong to me!"
Kindergarten Cop shimmers as an ideal blend of action and comedy, reuniting Arnold with Twins director Ivan Reitman to bring us the story of John Kimble, a take-no-shit detective who reluctantly goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher to nab a malignant drug dealer who has repeatedly escaped the iron hand of justice. Before stepping foot into the classroom, Kimble conceives that this temporary position will be a cakewalk. "They're six-year-olds. How much trouble can they be?" He soon discovers that babysitting a truckload of rugrats for seven hours a day is no simple task, and having some fundamental experience as a substitute teacher myself, it's easy to relate to how the innocent nature of children has the ability to soften even the most unfaltering of men. The interactions between Kimble and his students lead to a myriad of hearty laughs throughout the movie in one of Arnold's biggest comedic achievements ever filmed.
3. The Terminator from Terminator 2: Judgment Day
"Hasta la vista, baby."
Seriously, who hasn't seen this movie by now? Before James Cameron shattered box-office records with the aid of sinking ships and scrawny indigo spacemen, he assisted Arnold in becoming a household name with 1984's The Terminator. While the original Terminator film solidified Arnold's rise to the top of the Hollywood food chain, this sequel would erupt into theaters seven years later and emerge as the greatest cinematic follow-up since The Empire Strikes Back. Every component that made The Terminator such a smash hit multiplied ten-fold with this installment. The first movie featured Schwarzenegger as the indestructible T-800 cyborg killing machine hell-bent on annihilating the future mother of Earth's liberator against a forthcoming worldwide technological disaster, but this chapter took a different approach, introducing the machine as the now-teenaged John Connor's personal guardian (you see, John reprograms the Terminator years later and sends him back in time to protect himself -- duh!). Arnold's Terminator is a cold, emotionless behemoth until John transforms him into the father figure he never had by bonding with him and teaching him street slang while periodically dodging assassination attempts by the vivacious T-1000 (Robert Patrick as one of cinema's all-time most badass antagonists). Without a shadow of a doubt, this iconic character will go down in history as Schwarzenegger's most popular and acknowledged role.
2. Harry Tasker from True Lies
"This is the problem with terrorists. They're really inconsiderate when it comes to people's schedules."
James Cameron is no dummy. He knew that he had a gold-mine in Arnold's uncanny talent for roping in ticket-buyers with his unparalleled machismo in Terminator 2, so why not bring him back as hard-nosed secret agent Harry Tasker in the enormously-underappreciated True Lies? Tasker spends most of the film tailing the forerunner of a Middle Eastern terrorist organization threatening to flatten the American landscape with nuclear force, but sandwiched in between the first and third acts of the movie lies what could have been a separate movie altogether. During this time, Tasker attempts to uncover the truth behind what appears to be an affair between his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) and a slippery used car salesman masquerading as a secret agent himself (Bill Paxton in one of his most outstanding performances). Cameron masterfully combines these two distinctive plot points into one seamless tale that keeps the audience laughing and gasping with excitement for a full 141 minutes. Never before had Schwarzenegger been able to so carefully maintain a balance of action and comedy in a single film... well, except for maybe one exemption...
1. Jack Slater from Last Action Hero
I always believed that 1993's Last Action Hero was somewhat of an underrated gem. Even though it was poorly-received by critics and remains as one of Arnold's only box-office bombs (Jurassic Park being released just one week prior might've had something to do with this unfortunate fact), Schwarzenegger's portrayal of fictional action movie star Jack Slater sticks with me as the most unique roles he's ever tackled. On the surface, Slater seems like a generic carbon copy of any one of the characters that Arnold has played in previous films, but once a magical movie ticket straight from Harry Houdini's marvelous stash of props ejects Slater from his comfortable make-believe realm and launches him into the real world, that's when the film truly ripens into something more than just another balls-to-the-wall slam-bang action extravaganza. The way that Slater comes to terms with the fact that his entire existence was fabricated in the brain of some hot-shot Hollywood screenwriter went unnoticed by moviegoers who would rather witness dinosaurs return to ravage an amusement park. Do yourself a favor and give this movie a(nother) chance, keeping an open mind and hopefully seeing all of the things that make Jack Slater my all-time favorite movie role of the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger.