Total Recall: Arnold Schwarzenegger's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Expendables 2 star.
Making an enjoyable movie about a monosyllabic, sword-wielding barbarian is harder than it might seem -- just ask the folks behind 2011's Conan the Barbarian, who attempted to update Robert E. Howard's classic character for a new millennium and found themselves deluged with bad reviews for their trouble. But it isn't impossible, as John Milius proved with his 1982 Conan, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as the beefy barbarian, Max von Sydow as King Osiric, and James Earl Jones as the wonderfully named Thulsa Doom. It's all very silly, of course, but that's part of its charm; as Rob Vaux put it for Mania.com, "Its magnificence stems from the very properties we should be condemning with all our might."
4. Total Recall
One of Schwarzenegger's most quotable films (not to mention a $261 million box office smash that earned a Special Achievement Academy Award for its impressive special effects), 1990's Total Recall returned its star to sci-fi after forays into buddy cop territory (Red Heat) and comedy (Twins). A mind-bending adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, it took audiences on a fast-paced, set piece-fueled journey from Earth to Mars, dispensing quips along the way -- and proved so singularly successful that no amount of development could produce a workable sequel (or, as we learned earlier this year, a worthwhile remake). "Total Recall is too much," wrote Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman, "but it's too much of a good thing."
3. Pumping Iron
We don't often include documentaries in these lists -- but then again, there aren't many documentaries like Pumping Iron, Robert Fiore and George Butler's fascinating look at the 1975 Mr. Olympia bodybuilding competition. The film introduced a pair of future stars who'd trade in heavily on their physiques: Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno, who went on to green-hued fame as Bill Bixby's alter ego in the Incredible Hulk TV series -- and while Ferrigno achieved his big breakthrough first, Pumping Iron finds him thoroughly manipulated and outclassed by Schwarzenegger, who spends much of the film displaying the physical skill and ruthless savvy that made him one of Hollywood's foremost action heroes. "The movie is a very shrewd mixture of documentary and realistic fiction, put together with both eyes and ears on entertainment value," observed Derek Adams of Time Out.
More often than not, if it takes seven years to put together the sequel to a hit movie, disappointment is just around the corner. In the case of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, however, the prolonged delay worked to everyone's advantage: James Cameron, a relative newcomer when The Terminator was filmed, had spent the intervening years turning himself into one of Hollywood's biggest directors, and one of the few filmmakers with enough clout to secure the $102 million budget necessary to pay for both Arnold Schwarzenegger and the super-cool special effects that turned Robert Patrick into a puddle of molten metal. It was money well spent, as T2's eventual $519 million worldwide gross proved; in fact, despite its slightly lower Tomatometer rating, many fans believe the second Terminator is superior to the original. In the words of Newsweek's David Ansen, "For all its state-of-the-art pyrotechnics and breathtaking thrills, this bruisingly exciting movie never loses sight of its humanity. That's its point, and its pride."
It was made with a fraction of the mega-budget gloss that enveloped its sequels, but for many, 1984's The Terminator remains the pinnacle of the franchise -- not to mention one of the most purely enjoyable movies of the last 30 years. Subsequent entries would get a little hard to follow, but the original's premise was simple enough for anyone to follow: A scary-looking cyborg (Schwarzenegger) travels back in time to kill a woman (Linda Hamilton) before she can give birth to the child who will grow up to lead the human resistance against an evil network of sentient machines. Tech noir at its most accessible, Terminator earned universal praise from critics such as Sean Axmaker of Turner Classic Movies, who wrote, "Gritty, clever, breathlessly paced, and dynamic despite the dark shadow of doom cast over the story, this sci-fi thriller remains one of the defining American films of the 1980s."
In case you were wondering, here are Schwarzenegger's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:
1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day -- 88%
2. Predator -- 83%
3. The Terminator -- 81%
4. Pumping Iron -- 78%
5. True Lies -- 70%
6. Total Recall -- 70%
7. Conan the Barbarian -- 66%
8. Commando -- 65%
9. The Running Man -- 59%
10. Terminator 3 - Rise of the Machines -- 54%
Finally, here's Schwarzenegger looking for love on a 1973 episode of The Dating Game: