Happy Birthday, Arnie! John J’s Top 10 Schwarzenegger Films

By August 2, 2013

Arnold Face

This week marked the 66th birthday of one of (in my personal opinion) the greatest action movie stars of all time. Jason Statham? He wishes. Sylvester Stallone? Ooh… close. Tommy Wiseau? Wha-… no, shut up. The Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger celebrated his 66th on July 30th. What better way to celebrate him than to break down my top 10 fav Arnold films?

Disclaimer: John J. has a very warped taste in movies, so if you don’t see something on this list that you like, don’t panic… it’s not you.  

10: Jingle all the Way (Directed by Brian Levant, 1996)

Jingle All The Way Poster

While not my favorite Arnie film, out of 10 movies it’s probably one of the few I’ll watch from time to time. In this (obvious) Christmas movie, Arnold plays Howard Langston, your typical 9 to 5/5 Day a Week guy in a dead-end job trying to support a family (if in fact “typical” includes that you’re a musclebound Austrian man.) His son (played by a pre-Anakin Skywalker Jake Lloyd,) wants desperately to get the brand new Turbo Man action figure for Christmas. But of course, like all in-demand Christmas toys, getting a Turbo Man becomes a serious task.

In order to impress his wife (played by Mrs. Tom Hanks,Rita Wilson,) and deter his womanizing neighbor (played by the late Phil Hartman) from stealing her, Howard will stop at nothing to get Turbo Man to appease his family. This, of course, includes matching wits with local postman, Sinbad, as well as staying out of the way of local lawman (played by the ORIGINAL Jim West, Robert Conrad.) Again, the movie isn’t the greatest Schwarzenegger film of all time, but it has its moments. Unfortunately the best ones aren’t cataloged on YouTube, and I’ll just say that hearing Howard describe Turbo Man “Wit dat rockem sockem jetpack!” is one of many random quotes in the film that will make you chuckle.

9: Twins (Directed by Ivan Reitman, 1988)

Twins poster

The first of three films where Arnold teamed with Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman (two of which co-starred Danny DeVito). Arnold plays Julius Benedict, a man raised on an island by a scientist (played by the late Tony Jay, who you may remember as a prominent voice actor in the 80’s and 90’s, most memorably as Megabyte on Reboot) who informs him that he was part of a science experiment, and that his twin brother, Vincent (DeVito) lives in California.

Vincent, however ends up being a con man, worming his way through life by making money doing odd-jobs while trying to stave off the local gang of brothers, determined to get money owed to them by Vincent any way possible. Upon meeting Julius, Vincent isn’t convinced that they’re twins (for obvious reasons,) but after accidentally borrowing a car containing $5,000,000.00 worth of merchandise in the truck, he manages to con Julius and their respective girlfriends into taking a trip with him down to the Texas area, under the pretense that they would make a stop in New Mexico to find their mother. Vincent ends up splitting off from Julius and the women to take the device to its owner and collect the $5 mil, only to be intercepted by Webster (played by Marshall Bell…another Arnold movie guy who I’ll get back to later), the original deliveryman who has been tracking Vincent in order to reclaim the part, collect the money, and kill Vincent. However, Julius manages to find Vincent (using his TWIN POWERS!) and saves him from Webster. Ultimately, everything works out in the end, Julius and Vincent collect a portion of the money, and reunite with their mom. Plus, they end up having twins of their own!

Rumor going around is, a second Twins film is being developed by Arnold and Reitman which will bring back DeVito as well as Eddie Murphy as a third twin they had no idea about…I’m not sure how to feel about that.

8: Kindergarten Cop (Directed by Ivan Reitman, 1990)

Kindergarten Cop poster

The film that launched a thousand flash-based soundboards as well as an equal amount of prank calls to Indian restaurants.  Arnold plays L.A. Detective John Kimball (FYI: He’s a cop… YOU IDIOT!) Kimball is determined to book and lock up his greatest rival, drug dealer Cullen Crisp. After learning that Crisp had an estranged wife and a son, Kimball and his new partner Phoebe O’Hara (played by Pamela Reed) head for Astoria, Oregon to search for them. En route, O’Hara (who is set to pose as a substitute kindergarten teacher,) falls ill due to food poisoning, leaving Kimball to replace her in the school. That’s when silliness occurs.

The unprepared Kimball is met with countless questions (as well as a rather subtle declaration about male and female genitilia by the kid from New Nightmare and Mercury Rising,) and unspeakable terrors like having to accompany children to the bathroom. Eventually, Kimball falls in love with the 1st grade teacher (who ends up being Crisp’s ex,) and tries to get her to testify against him. Crisp is eventually let go (after the only witness ODs,) and finds his wife and kid in Oregon. After a gunbattle with Kimball, Crisp is killed and they all live happily ever after. Plus, Phoebe gets married to a chef… because her character loves to eat (and also risk getting food poisoning, apparently).

I should mention this is the second of three Arnold-Reitman films. No need to worry, I have zero intentions of reviewing Junior… mainly because I’ve never seen it nor do I have any intention of doing so. LOL, Pregnant Arnold.

7: Last Action Hero (Directed by John McTiernan, 1993)

Last Action Hero poster

From the director of such Box Office Hits as Die Hard and Predator, John McTiernan teams up with Arnie on this tongue-in-cheek look at action films. Austin O’Brien (the kid who was in My Girl 2… and not much else…) plays Danny Madigan, a boy who lives in the slums of NYC with a single mom (played by the infinitely more well-known Mercedes Ruehl, subjected to a small role in this film) and spends his time cutting classes to go see action movies, such as “Jack Slater” (the character portrayed by Schwarzenegger).

Danny’s (seemingly only) friend, the theater’s projectionist, Nick (Robert Prosky) holds an early screening of the latest Jack Slater film for Danny himself. Nick also bestows on Danny a golden ticket (not a Willy Wonka one, mind you,) that he claims was given to him by magician Harry Houdini. Obviously since Houdini was a magician, the ticket magically sends Danny into the world of Jack Slater where he ends up assisting Slater on his latest case, to find out who killed his cousin (played by the late Art Carney).

Slater isn’t fully convinced that Danny is from the “real” world, calling him a mental case a few times during the film. Danny attempts a number of times to convince Slater, for example… they visit a local Blockbuster Video (remember those?) to find Arnold’s library of films, only to be met with a cardboard standee of Terminator 2… with Sly Stallone as the lead, rather than Arnie. Eventually, Slater takes down all the bad guys, save for one… Benedict, a henchman with a glass eye (played by Game of Thrones actor Charles Dance) who unlike Slater, believes that Danny is from another world. In an attempt to take him down, Benedict escapes using Houdini’s ticket with Slater and Danny in tow. This ultimately leads to a showdown in the real world between Slater and both Benedict as well as “The Ripper” (played by Tom Noonan) the villain of the third Slater film who ends up murdering Slater’s son. It also leads to Slater coming face to face with Schwarzenegger himself. In the end, the film pretty much teaches (kinda?) how real life is sadder than movies, even featuring a cameo by Death himself (portrayed by Sir Ian McKellen). By as much as I’ve written about this one, you can probably guess I think this is an underrated Arnold film… maybe.

6: Conan the Barbarian (Directed by John Milius, 1982)

Conan Poster

Arnold’s first starring role in a box office hit. Arnold plays the titular character who swears an oath to the the god Crom that he will seek vengeance against Thulsa Doom (played by James Earl Jones) the man responsible for slaughtering his tribe, as well as his parents. The movie is based in fantasy and has plenty of magic spells and wizards morphing into snakes. I think the best way to explain this movie fully is to watch the accompanying video where Conan the Barbarian is turned into a Broadway Musical. Regardless, Arnold kicks some serious butt as Conan who believes what is best in life is to “crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women.” (Whatever that means…)

Milius as well as director Oliver Stone penned the screenplay for Barbarian. It was such a hit, it spawned a sequel…that wasn’t very good and isn’t worth mentioning… even though I just did. Arnold is also set to portray Conan once again in a future title (possibly called King Conan).

5: True Lies (Directed by James Cameron, 1994)

True Lies poster

True Lies takes a different turn than your usual Schwarzenegger film. Arnold plays Harry Tasker, a family man and computer salesman…or so his family thinks. In actuality, Tasker is a Bond-like secret agent who travels the world with his sidekick Albert (Tom Arnold) to take down terrorists and such. While Tasker is sent to take down some Palestinian terrorists (and Wayne’s World’s Tia Carrere) by the Agency Head (Charleton Heston), he’s also suspicious that his wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) is somehow cheating on him and has her bugged. Eventually Tasker learns that a sleazy car salesman named Simon (Bill Paxton) is putting the moves on Helen by claiming that HE is a secret agent. Unfortunately for Simon, Tasker really is, leading to Simon getting the pee (literally) scared out of him by Tasker and Albert.

They end up taking Helen in and without her knowing having her spill the beans on why she engaged Simon on his “missions,” the main reason being she was bored with her life. Tasker puts her on a fake mission which he orchestrates to fulfill her dreams of excitement, but unfortunately for the couple, the real terrorists locate and capture them, leading Tasker to reveal to Helen that he is indeed a secret agent. Eventually the terrorists capture Tasker’s daughter Dana (played by an extremely young at the time Eliza Dushku), who ends up rescuing her in a Harrier jet, and taking down the bad guys in true Arnold style.

4: Total Recall (Directed by Paul Verhoeven, 1990)

Total Recall poster

The director of Robocop and Starship Troopers brings you this super sci-fi smash hit, based on author Philip K. Dick’s short story, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.” Arnold stars as Douglas Quaid, a man who works in construction on Earth, and is in a happy marriage with his beautiful wife Lori (Sharon Stone.) Yet, Quaid has dreams of him being on Mars with mysterious women. This leads him to go to Rekall, a place that virtually allows you to live out your wildest dreams. But something goes terrible wrong with his Rekall, and Quaid knows it. Eventually everyone is out to make sure he doesn’t make it to Mars, including Lori, who he learns isn’t his wife but was placed as an undercover agent with him two weeks ago.

After running into someone he worked with on Mars, Quaid learns via a video left to him by Martian secret agent Carl Hauser (also played by Arnold) that they are both the same person, and that the evil businessman Cohaagen (Ronny Cox) had him brainwashed into thinking he was Quaid after discovering he knew certain secrets. (Hopefully you’re still with me on this plot.) Quaid ends up reconnecting – but kinda for the first time – with Melina (Rachel Ticotin), who is revealed to be the woman Quaid keeps dreaming about. Melina ends up taking Quaid to meet Quatto, a mutant psychic who resides in the stomach of a rebel named George (both are played/voiced by Arnold’s Twins co-star, Marshall Bell). Quatto uses his powers to help Quaid remember the secrets to Mars that Cohaagen tried wiping away, before he is murdered by Cohaagen and his henchman Richter (Michael Ironside). Quaid and Melina are then captured and put into Rekall to be brainwashed once again. However they manage to escape and take down Cohaagen and his constituents, while also succeeding in doing what Quaid learned he was able to do…which was essentially terraforming Mars with oxygen.

This is another great film for quotable Arnold lines. Dialogue like “Give dese peopel eeeair!” is classic. You also may have noticed recently that Hollywood took to remaking this film with Colin Farrell portraying Quaid/Hauser, but my advice is stick with the original.

3:  (Directed by Paul Michael Glaser, 1987)

The Running Man poster

A movie starring Arnold, directed by Starsky from the Starsky and Hutch TV series, based off a short story by Stephen King (under his Richard Bachman alias), co-starring the drummer from Fleetwood Mac (Mick Fleetwood), various wrestlers, football players, and the original host of Family Feud (Richard Dawson) as the main bad guy – sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Somehow, it’s not. Arnold stars as Ben Richards, a soldier framed for murdering innocents in Bakersfield, California. It’s also the year 2017 which means it’s a long time in the future (for 1987) which means it’s obviously dystopian with some insane production design. The government not only locks away criminals, but utilizes the biggest and the baddest on game show “The Running Man,” the ultimate kill or be killed scenario, to keep the civilian population entertained and drumming up big ratings for the show’s host Damon Killian (Dawson).

Richards finds himself on “The Running Man” after escaping prison and grabbing a hostage (and apparently the jingle writer for the game show) Amber Mendez (Maria Conchita Alonzo), who also ends up in the game after uncovering the unedited footage of Richards telling his superiors he would not be responsible for the killings in Bakersfield. Richards and Co. end up being chased by “Stalkers,” the heroes of Running Man who are sent into the game to kill the Runners. The most amusing part about the Stalkers is the fact that each one has his own theme: Buzzsaw (Gus Rethwisch) is a chainsaw wielding Stalker, while Sub Zero (no relation to the Mortal Kombat one, but played by the late Prof. Toru Tanaka), Dynamo (Erland Van Lidth De Jeude), and Fireball (NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown), are all themed around the elements. Captain Freedom (Governor Jesse Ventura) on the other hand…not sure what he was supposed to be.

All the Stalkers are dispatched by Richards (save for Freedom, who chickens out), and a few of Richards’ friends in the game end up dying in order to grab intel on how to jam the network’s signal to put out a pirated signal by Mic (Mick Fleetwood) to tell the populace about Killian and his ulterior motives. In the end, the signal is sent out, Killian is dispatched (in the usual Arnold way) and all is right with the world. Thankfully, no one has (thus far) attempted to remake this film…which, in my honest opinion, still holds up. Of course that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from ripping the movie off. Films like The Condemned with Steve Austin come to mind, but they can’t hold a candle to this one.

2: Predator (Directed by John McTiernan, 1987)

Predator poster

Ah, Predator – the ultimate action sci-fi film of its time. Arnold plays Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer, who leads a ragtag group of soldiers (including his Running Man co-star Jesse Ventura as well as non-Governor-but-should-be, Carl “Apollo Creed” Weathers) into the Central American jungle. Unfortunately, they get more than they bargained for when a mysterious entity starts picking them off one-by-one. Turns out this entity is an alien that wants nothing more than to hunt the worthiest of Earth’s warriors.

After getting rid of Ventura, Weathers, and pretty much everyone else, Dutch politely asks Anna (Elpidia Carrillo), the group’s prisoner/guide, to kindly board the nearby helicopter to escape, so he can take care of the alien menace personally. After finding out the Predator’s weaknesses, Dutch goes all-out Schwarzenegger on it and takes the alien down…but not before the injured alien can set a little mini-nuke of a present for Dutch. While the film ends ambiguously, it’s implied in the 2010 sequel “Predators,” that Dutch has survived. Of course, besides the two films, there was also a not-as-good sequel starring Danny Glover (where the Predator heads to NYC) as well as two poorly-made films where the Predator is pitted against the dreaded Xenomorphs from the Alien films. Neither of those had a “chopper” quote. 🙁

1: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Directed by James Cameron, 1991)

Terminator 2 poster

Before any Avatar films or Titanic, James Cameron directed one of the greatest science fiction/action flicks of the 1990s.  T2 (as it’s usually known) is the direct sequel to Cameron’s 1984 hit The Terminator. The original also starred Arnie as a big bad robot from the future, sent to kill Sarah Connor, the mother of the future human resistance’s leader, John Connor. (Sarah was played in both films by Linda Hamilton, who Cameron also ended up marrying for a short time.) In T2, Skynet – the big bad in the Terminator series –  sends a new model T1000 (Robert Patrick) back to 1995 L.A. to kill John (Eddie Furlong). In the future, Arnold’s T800 model is reprogrammed by future John and sent back in time to protect the younger version of himself.

I can tell you the rest of the plot, but to be honest, if you’re a true Arnold fan, you’ve already watched this film. The movie is rife with action along with a solid story. T2 has spawned two sequels thus far: the third wasn’t that great, the fourth was pretty good (I mean, c’mon it had a throwback to T2 with the GNR song, plus don’t forget Christian Bale’s tirade). An entire new trilogy is also in the works (with Arnold in AT LEAST the first one). T2 also spawned “The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” which was a short-lived TV series (which I thought was awesome) starring Lena Headey from “Game of Thrones” as the titular character.

From fighting robots, aliens, and Santa Claus, we wish you the Happiest of Birthdays, Governator!

And as for yours truly…

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New York-based John J. is the creator/Chief Operating Officer of [adult swim] central as well as the co-founder of ACPN. He is also the host of The Swimcast, co-host of Adventure Club Podcast, and writes for various outlets such as The Other View and GeekNation. John J's favorite movie of all time is Back to the Future and his favorite color is blue. John J. is available for podcast fill-ins, birthdays, and bar mitzvahs. Never submerge John J. in warm water. Email.