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DPA Blog Presents:The Ten Best Arnold Schwarzenegger Movies

Before you see The Last Stand, catch up on Arnold's greatest successes… and his biggest duds. 

*Let us know if our 10 best are actually your 10 best*
He said he’d be back, and we should have believed him. This weekend, Arnold Schwarzeneggerstars in The Last Stand, his first feature film as a headliner since 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, following a stint as the Governor of California and a string of brief cameos in movies likeThe RundownTerminator: Salvation and The Expendables 1 and 2. Only time will tell if The Last Stand is another classic in the making, but at least it gives us an excuse to look back at the ten best (and five worst) movies Schwarzenegger has made in 40+ year career in motion pictures.
There was a time when the actor was one of the biggest movie stars in the world, an idol for young men, a sex symbol for women and a hot commodity for the industry. He’s starred in some of the best movies ever made, and a handful of the absolute worst. Let’s look back at his career now, starting with The Ten Best Arnold Schwarzenegger Movies Ever Made.
See the 10 best after the cut.....

  The Running Man (dir. Paul Michael Glaser, 1987)
It seemed ridiculous at the time, but The Running Man, based on a story by Stephen King, only seems more prescient as time goes on. Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as Ben Richards, a falsely-convicted man who winds up fighting for his freedom on a TV game show that pits felons against government-sanctioned homicidal maniacs with crowd-pleasing superhero identities like “Subzero,” “Buzzsaw” and “Captain Freedom.” Subversive, violent and clever, The Running Man – directed by Starsky from the original “Starsky and Hutch” (yes, really) – always gets our hearts racing.

 True Lies (dir. James Cameron, 1994)

Arnold Schwarzenegger played an American James Bond in True Lies, one of the lighter-hearted films ever directed by James Cameron. As Harry Tasker, Schwarzenegger takes on an army of terrorists but gets sidetracked when he realizes his absenteeism might be costing him his family, and decides to use his government resources to give his wife a little adventure of her own. True Liesrather famously gets slow in the middle, and the gender politics of the Jamie Lee Curtis subplot are worthy of a long, measured debate, but the action is incredible and Schwarzenegger has rarely been this charming. That’s a fact.

 Kindergarten Cop (dir. Ivan Reitman, 1990)

Arnold Schwarzenegger made a lot of comedies, but none of them have aged as well asKindergarten Cop, a film that deftly evolves from a plausible cop thriller – with Schwarzenegger on the trail of a drug kingpin and his malevolent mother – to a heartwarming family comedy that’s actually pretty danged funny. The bad guy’s searching for his young son, and all Schwarzenegger knows is that the kid is in kindergarten at a specific elementary school. He goes undercover to find the boy and swiftly loses his mind trying to keep order in the classroom, only to ultimately discover that he actually has the chops to be a positive role model, not just a killing machine. Unusually dark for a family film (there are a few scenes they could never get away with today), Kindergarten Copcomes out on top.

 Commando (dir. Mark L. Lester, 1985)

Commando may be the prototypical Arnold Schwarzenegger movie: big, dumb, action-packed and really, really macho. Arnie stars as John Matrix, an ex-black ops commando fighting to rescue his kidnapped daughter (Alyssa Milano) before the bad guys realize he’s ignored their demands to assassinate a South American dictator. Commando is 100% pure testosterone, and so ecstatically over the top that it seems to capture the entire American badass genre in a single film. And oh, those one-liners: “I eat Green Berets for breakfast. And right now, I’m very hungry.”

 The Terminator (dir. James Cameron, 1984)

Before Arnold Schwarzenegger started getting really good roles, The Terminator seemed like the perfect typecasting: an emotionless killing machine. It was a great fit, but luckily for Arnold (and the rest of the world), it was also a really great movie. Schwarzenegger co-stars as a cyborg sent back in time to kill Linda Hamilton, who will one day give birth to a resistance fighter who stops an artificial intelligence that wiped out nearly all of humanity. Michael Biehn stars as the human sent back in time to save her. The action is incredible, but the unstoppable Schwarzenegger feels straight out of a horror movie, particularly as the flesh starts peeling off of his metal endoskeleton, revealing the iconic monster within.

 Conan the Barbarian (dir. John Milius, 1982)

Arnold Schwarzenegger got his first big breakout role with Conan the Barbarian, an adaptation of the hard-boiled fantasy character created by Robert E. Howard. He barely speaks in the film, but his rippling muscles and stoic machismo can be read in volumes. Schwarzenegger takes on cult leader James Earl Jones, beds the sultry Amazon Sandahl Bergman, fights giant snakes, gets totally stoned and punches out a llama. Conan the Barbarian teaches us what is best in life: to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women. And to watch movies like Conan the Barbarian.

 Pumping Iron (dirs. George Butler & Robert Fiore, 1977)

Before he was Arnold Schwarzenegger, action star, he was Arnold Schwarzenegger, bodybuilding champion. George Butler and Robert Fiore’s 1977 documentary Pumping Iron revealed the inner workings of the competitive body building circuit, focusing on the competition for the 1975 Mr. Universe pageant, when Arnold Schwarzenegger took on Lou Ferrigno. Schwarzenegger dominates the film as a larger than life personality, genuinely dedicated to the art of physical fitness while simultaneously and unapologetically sabotaging his competition for personal gain. It’s a complex portrayal of an unexpectedly complex guy, and an excellent documentary too.

 Predator (dir. John McTiernan, 1987)

A sort of horror movie for badasses, Predator introduces a squad of unstoppable mercenaries – led by Schwarzenegger, but also including Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura and Lethal Weaponscreenwriter Shane Black – and then pits them against an alien menace that emasculates and eviscerates them. The scene where our heroes unload thousands of rounds of ammunition and barely wing the Predator has to be one of the most obvious impotence metaphors in the history of fiction. Finally, the battle comes down to just Arnold, the manliest man in movie history, fighting an alien with a Georgia O’Keefe painting for a face. Unusual, exciting and unexpectedly satirical,Predator is the kind of action movie we all pray for.

 Total Recall (dir. Paul Verhoeven, 1990)

In some respects, Total Recall may actually be Schwarzenegger’s best film: a high-minded, action-packed deconstruction of the masculine psyche, pumped full of blood and ingenious ideas. Arnold stars as Douglas Quaid, a working stiff who dreams of a vacation to Mars, and pays a company called “Rekall” to implant memories of being a secret agent on a mission. Sure enough, those memories start coming true, leading to endless debates about whether most of the film is actually just a dream (if you pay attention to the dialogue at Rekall, the answer is actually pretty obvious), but either way, it’s a powerful wish-fulfillment fantasy with unforgettable imagery and one of the best roles of Arnold Schwarzenegger's career.

 Terminator 2: Judgment Day (dir. James Cameron, 1991)

There’s an argument to be made that Arnold Schwarzenegger has starred in better films, butTerminator 2: Judgment Day is the ultimate “Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie.” For a generation of young boys, Schwarzenegger represented a masculine ideal and also a commodity to be purchased with obsessive zeal. Terminator 2 captures both aspects of the actor’s iconic status, turning the unstoppable Terminator into an unlikely father figure and also the ultimate toy for the hero, a young John Connor, played by Eddie Furlong. The movie is exceptional too, extrapolating on the original sci-fi classic, turning the lean-and-mean sci-fi horror story into an epic action extravaganza featuring some of the greatest action sequences ever filmed, and featuring one of cinema’s most distinctive villains, the liquid metal T-1000. Incredibly heartfelt without ever losing the edge of the original,Terminator 2: Judgment will never be found wanting.
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