last stand Our 10 Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Roles

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, there were few stars in Hollywood who could contend with the mass international appeal and box office stamina of Arnold Schwarzenegger. His films – rife with over-the-top action and memorable one-liners – defined a generation of moviegoers.

Now, a decade after his last starring role, the Governator returns to the spotlight as Sheriff Ray Owens in The Last Stand. Before checking out Schwarzenegger’s comeback role, join Screen Rant as we revisit some of our favorite characters that the “Ahnuld” has brought to life. LISTED IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER.

conan2 Our 10 Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Roles

Appearances: Conan the Barbarian (1982), Conan the Destroyer (1984)

Why The Role Matters:

The tale of a Cimmerian warrior was Schwarzenegger’s big breakthrough as an American action star, and in many ways, Conan the Barbarian sets the tone for his career. Few words punctuate this bloody tale of revenge, as Conan slays, loves and (in one surreal moment) punches out a camel in his quest to hunt down the sorcerer (James Earl Jones) that slaughtered his family and his people. The film remains one of the most acclaimed sword-and-sorcery epics, and while its 1984 sequel (and Schwarzenegger-less 2011 reboot) failed to match that success, the star is attached to return to the character in The Legend of Conan, currently expected in 2014.

Defining Moment: The Crom Speech

Every showdown needs a great introductory speech (just ask Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings), and Conan the Barbarian features a wonderfully dramatic (and dramatically over-the-top) speech that encapsulates everything Schwarzenegger fans would come to expect.

t2 Our 10 Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Roles

Appearances: The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Why The Role Matters:

The Terminator franchise is among the most iconic film series of all time, and consequently, its title character is by far the most recognizable role Schwarzenegger has played. A killing machine sent back in time to kill (or protect, depending on the film) the Connor clan, the Terminator goes from a character we fear to one we actually root for. Terminator: Salvation tried (and failed) to continue the series without Schwarzenegger, and even that film tried to shoehorn a computer-generated imitation of the star into its final act. Rumors continue to swirl about a Schwarzenegger return to the franchise in a proposed Terminator 5, but thus far, nothing solid has materialized.

Defining Moment: “Come with me if you want to live.”

From “I’ll be back” to “Hasta la vista, baby,” the Terminator films are filled with too many classic moments to choose from. However, the moment in Terminator 2: Judgment Day that a horrified Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) comes face to face with the menace that tried to kill her in the first film is among the best. In one fell swoop, the character goes from villain to hero, and audiences get their first taste of some bonafide Terminator on Terminator action.

commando Our 10 Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Roles

Appearance: Commando (1985)

Why The Role Matters:

After conquering the worlds of fantasy and science fiction, Schwarzenegger made the jump into straight-up action as a retired Black Ops soldier trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter. In doing so, audiences discovered not only that the star could take down the bad guys, but that he could actually be funny while doing so. Commando was the first movie to truly establish the great art of a Schwarzenegger one-liner, and it has been a campy classic ever since. It may not be high art, but it sure is a lot of fun.

Defining Moment: Arnold Lies

After telling one of his enemy’s henchmen that he would take him out last, Schwarzenegger comically goes back on his word. This is just one of the many memorable moments in a thoroughly entertaining film that is as much a dark comedy as it is an action thrill ride.

predator5 Our 10 Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Roles

Appearance: Predator (1987)

Why The Role Matters:

While this film’s sequels focused more on the terrifying alien creatures of the title, action and sci-fi geeks alike have never forgotten the Predator’s initial showdown with the Terminator himself. Dutch is the ultimate movie badass, outliving the rest of the film’s cast of tough guys and turning the Predator into prey. Alas, the character has never been revisited in any of the subsequent films, nor the two cross-over features that tie into the Alien mythology. However, for sheer will to survive and for introducing the line “Get to the chopper!” to the pop culture lexicon, Dutch has earned his spot on this list.

Defining Moment: Arnold vs. Predator

In a last ditch effort, Dutch lures the Predator into a trap of his own making, and man and monster go toe to toe in the film’s final moments.

twins Our 10 Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Roles

Appearance: Twins (1988)

Why The Role Matters:

After a string of smash hits, Schwarzenegger’s career took a surprising turn toward comedy. Unlike his previous badass characters, Julius Benedict is a naïve intellectual with little knowledge of the real world. However, that all changes when he is reunited with his long-lost twin brother Vincent (Danny DeVito). Twins was a enormous hit upon hitting theaters and led to a number of other comedies from Schwarzenegger, though only one other achieved similar success (more on that later). A sequel – Triplets – is currently in development, with Eddie Murphy expected to join the cast.

Defining Moment: In Defense of DeVito

When Schwarzenegger discovers a thug beating up on his newfound brother, he is forced to act. The scene nicely parallels the star’s background in action, while underscoring just how much of a departure the character of Julius is from his usual work.


total recall1 Our 10 Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Roles

Appearance: Total Recall (1990)

Why The Role Matters:

Before director Len Wiseman’s ill-received remake, Schwarzenegger brought the mind-bending tale of construction worker Douglas Quaid to life, portraying both Quaid and his alter-ego Hauser. The film is loaded with smart ideas but doesn’t let Philip K. Dick’s source material interfere with all the classic Schwarzenegger tropes.

Gratuitous violence and nudity abound, as do a barrage of endlessly quotable one-liners and unforgettable action sequences. Schwarzenegger’s Quaid isn’t the least bit believable as your average everyday guy turned action hero, but the mystery surrounding his past supplies the character with the motivation to “get (his) ass to Mars.” Besides, when a film is this much fun, why let a little thing like logic get in the way?

Defining Moment: “Consider that a divorce.”

After discovering that his wife (Sharon Stone) is working with the enemy, Quaid has one last faceoff with her. In the process, Schwarzenegger utters what is quite possibly the best line in the film.

kindergarten cop Our 10 Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Roles

Appearance: Kindergarten Cop (1990)

Why The Role Matters:

Schwarzenegger had fought a sorcerer, gone to Mars, traveled through time and battled a Predator, but in this film, he faces his most fearsome enemy yet: a class of out-of-control children. On the trail of a drug lord, Detective Kimble must track down his enemy’s ex-wife, a vital witness who could put him away for good.

However, to do so, he has to go undercover as an elementary school teacher, an assignment that puts the hard-boiled cop to the ultimate test. Whatever one’s thoughts on the film, it was yet another departure for  Schwarzenegger and paved the way for big screen tough guys to make the transition to family-friendly comedies (e.g. Vin Diesel’s The Pacifier and The Rock’s The Game Plan).

Defining Moment: Classroom Chaos

Kimble loses his nerve when he returns to his classroom to find that his students have run amuck. There’s something about watching a guy as strong as Schwarzenegger flip out over a group of kids that can’t help but make the viewer crack a smile.


last action hero Our 10 Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Roles

Appearance: Last Action Hero (1993)

Why The Role Matters:

In the early 1990s, Schwarzenegger could do no wrong. Then came Last Action Hero. The film – directed by John McTiernan (Die Hard) and written by Shane Black (Lethal Weapon) – should have been a guaranteed hit, but it failed both critically and financially. However, the film is noteworthy for allowing Schwarzenegger the opportunity to poke fun at both himself and his onscreen persona. When a young movie fan (Austin O’Brien) is unwittingly sucked directly into Schwarzenegger’s latest blockbuster, he and fictional hero Jack Slater team up to bring down a sadistic criminal (Charles Dance), both in the movie and the real world.

Viewed seriously, Last Action Hero is understandably a letdown, but when considered as a parody of Schwarzenegger’s filmography and the action genre itself, the film is an underrated gem.

Defining Moment: He Always Says That

Slater and his unwelcome new partner approach the film’s villain at his mansion, and Slater interrogates him, leading to a number of intentionally ridiculous lines (including a parody of Schwarzenegger’s very own catchphrase).


true lies1 Our 10 Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Roles

Appearance: True Lies (1994)

Why The Role Matters:

After collaborating on both of the first two Terminator films, Schwarzenegger and James Cameron re-teamed for this story about a boring computer salesman who – unbeknownst to his family – is actually a James Bond-esque superspy. True Lies was one of the biggest hits of its year, and its balance of a character-focused subplot focusing on Tasker and his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) and the larger, more action-oriented story makes the film feel more well-rounded than the usual Schwarzenegger testosterone fest. A sequel has long been rumored, but Cameron’s focus on his Avatar sequels means any follow-up is a long way from becoming a reality.

Defining Moment: Time to Tango

Undercover at a formal party, Tasker hits the dance floor with a mysterious woman, and the scene – which happens early in the film – intercuts between a suave but no less tough Scwarzenegger and his support team (led by Tom Arnold),  instantly establishing the film’s balance between espionage and laughs.

expendables1 Our 10 Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Roles

Appearances: The Expendables (2010), The Expendables 2 (2012)

Why The Role Matters:

Schwarzenegger’s first role following his tenure as governor of California – and absence from the big screen – was a small but unforgettable appearance in Sylvester Stallone’s action hero team-up film The Expendables alongside Planet Hollywood pals Stallone and Bruce Willis. The film and its sequel – which features an expanded role for Schwarzenegger – are celebrations of the high-octane, over-the-top action extravaganzas of the 1980s and 1990s. Without Schwarzenegger – arguably the master of such films – the Expendables franchise just wouldn’t feel complete. Expect a follow-up appearance in The Expendables 3.

Defining Moment:

Making a grand entrance, mercenary Trench Mauser (Schwarzenegger) vies for the same job as Barney Ross (Stallone), and the scene slyly references the actor’s real life political aspirations. In one instant, the message to moviegoers was clear: he’s back.

last stand2 Our 10 Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Roles

While it remains to be seen whether or not The Last Stand‘s Ray Owens will prove a worthy addition to this list, the undeniable truth is that Schwarzenegger has led an impressive career in action film and created plenty of unforgettable characters in the process. Here’s hoping that his upcoming projects – such as The Tomb (also starring Stallone) and Ten – are up to the challenge of adding to his roster of cinematic muscle.