With an almost unpronounceable surname and a thick Austrian accent, who would have ever believed that a brash, quick talking bodybuilder from a small European village would become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, marry into the prestigious Kennedy family, amass a fortune via shrewd investments and one day be the Governor of California!?
The amazing story of uber-star Arnold Schwarzenegger is a true “rags to riches” story of a penniless immigrant making it in the land of opportunity, the United States of America.
It’s his birthday today, July 30th 2015, and I listed some of the top movies that made Arnold the living legend that he is today:
Until Twins came out in 1988, Arnold Schwarzenegger had only made action films. Nobody knew if he had any comedic ability or if audiences would accept him as anything but a muscly killing machine. It turned out that he was hysterical, and people loved to watch him mix it up with Danny DeVito.
‘The Running Man’
Take a 1982 Stephen King novel written under the pseudonym Richard Bachmann, then throw in Family Feud host Richard Dawson, football great Jim Brown, two future governors (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura) and choreography by Paula Abdul. The result is one weird movie. Running Man takes place in the impossibly distant year of 2017, a time when America has devolved into a police state where criminals fight for their lives on a reality show. It grossed just $38 million.
‘Last Action Hero’
John McTiernan knows how to direct an action movie. The man gave the world ‘Die Hard’ and the criminally underrated ‘Die Hard With a Vengeance’. Arnold Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, knows how to star in an action movie. Throwing them together, right near their primes, should have resulted in one of the greatest ever made.
In Total Recall, Sharon Stone plays the woman Arnold believes to be his wife, shortly before ‘Basic Instinct’ made her wildly famous. The movie grossed $261 million, and Arnold’s own fame would grow the next year when he returned to the character that made his movie career.
Much like Rambo, John Matrix is an extremely reluctant warrior. The retired special agent lives in a mountain home with his young daughter, but when she’s kidnapped he’s forced to get involved with a South American revolution. The ultimate lesson – as is the case in many Arnold Schwarzenegger movies – is don’t fuck with Schwarzenegger. He’s handy with a rocket launcher and can easily take on an entirely army by himself. Bullets magically go around him while he hits every single time. Nothing about this movie seems even remotely plausible, but it was 1985 and this is what Hollywood did back then.
‘True Lies’ is basically the only film in the James Cameron library that’s not insanely ambitious. He wasn’t trying to push the boundaries of computer graphics, sink the Titanic, find a way to top the original Alien or create a distant planet full of giant blue creatures. This is simply a movie about an American secret agent who poses as a computer salesman.
‘Conan the Barbarian’
Before he starred in 1982’s Conan the Barbarian, the public knew Arnold Schwarzenegger simply as a bodybuilder with a weird last name and a thick accent. The Conan producers saw greatness in the young Austrian and offered him the breakthrough title role. The script, which was written by Oliver Stone, places Conan in a magical prehistoric world where a warrior seeks revenge against the sorcerer that murdered his parents. It was a huge success, and a sequel came just two years later. There’s been talk of a third movie called The Legend of Conan, but it has yet to get an official green light.
In one of the great ironies of Hollywood history, the studio originally wanted O.J. Simpson to play the Terminator – until James Cameron pointed out that nobody would believe the football star as a remorseless killer. Arnold was hot after the huge success of the original Conan movie and had to be convinced that he should work with a first-time director on a little movie about a cyborg from 2029 sent back in time to kill the mother of a future resistance army leader. Thankfully, he signed on and the rest is history. It was eventually overshadowed by its sequel, but the original Terminator remains a brilliant low-budget action film that only gets better with repeat viewings.
One year before he essentially created the modern action movie with Die Hard, John McTiernan directed this frightening film about a group of special ops soldiers being stalked by a killer alien. It’s a riveting hour and 45 minutes, but sadly the series has been watered down by a disappointing sequel and spin-off films in which the entity battles the creature from Alien. Forget all those exist and just watch the original Predator.
‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’
In the sequel of Terminator, Arnold wass sent back to protect her and her son from an even more advanced Terminator. This thing can only be destroyed if it’s submerged in a giant vat of molten metal. Conveniently located steel mills aside, this is one of the greatest sequels in film history. It dramatically expands the universe of the original, while never once feeling like a retread. It should be studied by any screenplay writer when thinking about following up a classic.
These are my top 10 movies that I think made the action superstar…did I miss out on any of his outstanding works? Let me know in the comment section below.