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The highs and lows of Arnold Schwarzenegger

We take a look at the pumping highs and pitiful lows of Hollywood’s favorite Austrian action man

1/20
Hercules in New York (1969) This cheap swords-and-sandals romp saw a 22-year-old Schwarzenegger appearing under a pseudonym—the wildly inventive "Arnold Strong.” Oh, and his voice was dubbed too. But there’s no mistaking those beefy biceps.
2/20
Pumping Iron (1977) The charm of Arn was first noted in this goofy bodybuilding docudrama in which he stars alongside the Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno. “Bodybuilding is as satisfying to me as having sex with a woman and coming,” enthuses the Austrian Oak. “I am getting the feeling of coming in the gym; I’m getting the feeling of coming at home. When I pose out in front of 5,000 people, I get the same feeling. So I am coming day and night.” That’s what we call stamina. Read review
3/20
Conan the Barbarian (1982) Arnie’s first lead and his first truly iconic role. Conan is one of the few films of the early ’80s epic-fantasy boom to stand the test of time, and Arnie is something to behold in it: at once grim, regal and appealingly self-mocking. The scene where he punches out a camel is a classic. Still, the less said about 1984’s hasty sequel, Conan the Destroyer, the better. Read review
4/20
The Terminator (1984) The role he’ll be forever remembered for—and with good reason. No other actor could have played the role of a psychotic, futuristic, cybernetic brick shithouse with such thunderous grace. Arnie would never be as taciturn or as terrifying again, and it’s hard not to argue that his career has suffered for it, at least in artistic terms. Read review
5/20
Commando (1985) It’s here that Arnie comes closest to embodying his deadpan The Simpsons pastiche persona, Rainier Wolfcastle, as he machine-guns his way through a small South American army tossing off awkward quips and attempting to romance Rae Dawn Chong (despite the fact that she’s approximately one eighth his size). Still, his character is called John Matrix, which is pretty cool. Read review
6/20
Predator (1987) Sure, there ain’t a lot of plot or character development here. But who needs all that highfalutin stuff when you’ve got Ahnold in a camouflage suit lumbering around the rainforest insulting aliens? Sadly, this would be the only time our muscle-bound hero would get the chance to take on a slimy eight-foot reptilian space-rasta. Read review
7/20
The Running Man (1987) With the arguable exception of 1986’s forgettable Red Heat, this was the first time Arnie had attempted to tackle the tricky role of “ordinary guy,” as opposed to Nietzschean superman. But it’s not long before he gets fed up with it and transforms into put-upon hero Ben Richards (see, normal), an all-quipping, all-baddie-flattening human sledgehammer. Read review
8/20
Twins (1988) Arnie does funny! (Sort of.) Pairing the big fellah with human testicle Danny DeVito to play a pair of estranged brothers may have sparked a few chuckles at the first script read. But the resulting film is too awkward for words. For decades, the producers have been threatening a sequel—to star Eddie Murphy as the hilarious third brother. For some reason, no one seems remotely interested. Read review
9/20
Total Recall (1990) Was Arnie miscast in Paul Verhoeven’s magnificent Martian romp? Is his character, blue-collar construction worker Doug Quaid, really supposed to be a regular guy—in which case the performance is a disaster—or is it all part of the film’s twisty, rug-pulling craftiness? The debate rages on. And the film is monumentally entertaining either way. Read review
10/20
Kindergarten Cop (1990) Once you’ve read the title, there’s really no need to see the movie: Yep, it’s about a cop going undercover at preschool. Cue shrieking, hair-pulling and inappropriate swearing—and that’s just the audience. Looking back, we can see that Kindergarten Cop and its ilk were Arnie’s clever attempts to ingratiate himself with potential voters. But at the time, we just thought it was terrible. Read review
11/20
Terminator 2 (1991) This is Arnie back in the role that made his name—albeit a cuddlier, kinder version. It's a much bigger, bolder, scenery-smashier film than its predecessor, and it could be argued that turning Schwarzenegger into a good guy removes most of the character’s edge. But hell, if you’re not able to overlook that and just enjoy the sheer spectacle on offer, you’re reading the wrong feature, pal. Read review
12/20
Last Action Hero (1993) It was supposed to be Schwarzenegger's finest hour: a sharp slice of postmodern metacinema about a movie character who finds himself in the “real” world. Sadly, Last Action Hero turned out to be a bloated, rather nasty and tonally berserk mess (albeit a strangely enjoyable one). Needless to say, it got trampled at the box office by the stampeding herds of Jurassic Park. Read review
13/20
True Lies (1994) Desperate to redeem his box-office rep, Arnie reteamed with his finest director—Terminator man James Cameron—and got back to what he does best: hitting people in the face and joking about it. Big, brash and gripping, True Lies is Schwarzenegger’s sole successful attempt at comedy, though you do have to swallow a whole heap of dubious misogyny and not-so-casual racism to get there. Read review
14/20
Jingle All the Way (1996) In which the wheels really start to come off the Arnie train. Capitalizing on a spate of Christmas toy sellouts (Cabbage Patch Kids, Power Rangers), director Brian Levant and his screenwriters envisioned a festive comedy about a put-upon dad trying to get that perfect gift for his kid. Then, for reasons best left unexplored, they decided to cast the Terminator in it. Read review
15/20
Batman & Robin (1997) After Jingle All the Way, it was safely assumed that Arnie’s career had nose-dived to its nadir. Wrong: As the villainous Mr Freeze, Arnie is probably the worst thing in this so-dire-it’s-not-even-camp Bat-quel—though he faces stiff competition from George Clooney’s rubble nipples. It could be argued that all those punning kiss-off lines were a clever pastiche of his action-man persona. And snowmen might fly out of my ass. Read review
16/20
End of Days (1999) Arnie, the wilderness years. With very few exceptions, the films our oak-smoked hero shot between his post-True Lies slump and his decision to throw it all away for political office are interchangeable crud. Who even remembers Eraser, The 6th Day or Collateral Damage? End of Days just about stands above the crowd because it sees Arnie battling Satan, which is at least theoretically amusing. Read review
17/20
Terminator 3 (2003) Knowing full well that he was on a losing streak, Arnie signed up to this redundant three-quel despite the fact that his old pal James Cameron wasn’t involved. To be fair, it’s far from a disaster: The central car chase is one of the last triumphs of pre-CGI destructo-porn, and the ending is grippingly bleak. But it’s still hard to plead much of a case for its existence. Read review
18/20
The Last Stand (2013) He said he’d be back! Sadly, it was with a whimper not a bang, as the post-political Schwarzenegger returned to screens with back-to-back critical and box-office flops. The Last Stand wins out over the turgid Sly Stallone team-up Escape Plan thanks to Korean director Kim Jee-woon, who at least knows how to marshal an action sequence. The script sucked, though. Read review
19/20
Sabotage (2014) Perhaps realizing he was close to being entirely forgotten by the ticket-buying public, Arnie teamed with Training Day writer David Ayer for this noisy, explosive, abrasive action movie about a band of DEA agents getting picked off by a mysterious killer. Arnie plays the leader (obviously), and gets to romance willowy British beauty Olivia Williams, a plot development no one saw coming. Read review
20/20
Terminator (2015) The title of this long-gestating reboot keeps changing—is it Terminator: Genisys or just Terminator? And if it's the former, will Phil Collins be in it? Anyway, we’re wary of making predictions after the excruciating Terminator: Salvation, but surely the time is ripe for this iconic screen villain to be back. Apparently, the filmmakers have figured out an explanation for the fact that their killer droid has aged considerably—and that we can’t wait for.
By Tom Huddleston |
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He said he’d be back—but Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to the big screen following eight years in politics hasn’t been without its hiccups. We look back over the big man’s iconic ups and forgettable downs.

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