The 10 Best Arnold Schwarzenegger Ultimate Action Movies!
UAMC ranks the best movies from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ultimate action movie career!
Whether it’s the pitch-perfect machismo of Predator, the colossus that is Commando or the science fiction-tinged brilliance of the Terminator, when it comes to Ultimate Action Movie Club legends, few compare to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And while Arnie may have ultimately parlayed his box office power into a career in the world of politics, his action movie output ranks among the best in the business.
To further highlight the incredible array of first-rate actioners centred on the Austrian Oak, here is our official ranking of the MOST ULTIMATE ACTION MOVIES ever starring Schwarzenegger. Because no one does action quite like Arnie.
10) Raw Deal (1986)
This rough and ready Arnie effort sees Schwarzenegger take on the role of Kaminski, a once-disgraced FBI agent recruited for an assignment with a difference. Kaminski’s violent tactics got him in trouble the first time round but when an agent’s son is killed by ruthless Chicago mobsters, the FBI can think of no one better to dish out some rough justice.
Going undercover, he soon infiltrates a mob gang with a nasty side line in dispatching government witnesses. Fortunately, this one-man wrecking ball ensures that comes to a swift and entertaining end. An underrated effort in the Schwarzenegger canon, Raw Deal is Arnie at his back-to-basics ass-kicking best.
9) Red Heat (1988)
A criminally underrated addition to the buddy cop sub-genre, Schwarzenegger puts in a stellar turn as the Russian policeman Ivan Danko who is forced to partner up with Jim Belushi’s cocky American cop Art Ridzik in order to solve the murder of his Soviet partner.
Written and directed by Walter Hill, the man behind 48 Hrs., Schwarzenegger’s Danko must navigate the unfamiliar surroundings of Chicago to apprehend the Georgian drug lord who killed his friend in Russia before escaping to the States.
Playing the straight man to Belushi’s wise-cracking Ridzik, the film’s likeable leads, coupled with a fun if formulaic plot that plays on the Cold War tensions of the time make this a gem worth seeking out.
8) True Lies (1994)
Schwarzenegger re-teamed James Cameron for this enjoyable action-led spy romp, playing the role of Harry Tasker, a workaholic computer salesman living a double life as a James Bond-esque secret agent.
Things begin to unravel, however, when Arnie’s Tasker begins to suspect his wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) is having an affair with a man also claiming to be a government spy. Throw in a plot involving terrorists accumulating nuclear weapons and you have all the ingredients for an absurdly enjoyable action effort full of great stunts, pithy zingers and a fine supporting turn from Tom Arnold.
7) The Running Man (1987)
It may not have had much in common with the Stephen King book it was based on but The Running Man was arguably the action movie that saw Schwarzenegger hit his stride.
An inspired concept that would be borrowed/stolen for the Hunger Games movies, Arnie took on the role of Ben Richards, a man convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and forced to run the gauntlet of a game show where survival is the only way to “win”.
Forced to take on a series of suitably daft futuristic gladiators armed to the teeth with a variety of advanced weaponry, Schwarzenegger is in his element, dropping his signature one-liners left, right and centre. Throw in a pumping 80s soundtrack, bucketloads of lycra and Jessie ‘The Body’ Ventura and you have something truly special.
6) Conan: The Barbarian (1982)
A swords and sorcery classic from John Milius, the writing genius behind Dirty Harry and Apocalypse Now, Schwarzenegger lets his actions do the talking as the monosyllabic Conan, a barbarian on a quest for vengeance against James Earl Jones’ terrifying evil sorcerer Thulsa Doom.
A gritty, back-to-basics affair that plays out like every Dungeons and Dragons fan’s wildest fantasy, Arnie is entirely believable as a muscle-bound barbarian of few words. The film that spawned a sequel, spin-off and a remake, this striking, stripped-back effort is far and away the best of the bunch.
5) Total Recall (1990)
This inspired sci-fi actioner combined three winning filmic elements of the 1980s: the dystopian storytelling of Philip K Dick, the visceral and inventive direction of Paul Verhoevn and the simple brilliance of Schwarzenegger as an all-action everyman lead.
Gory, violent and funny in equal measure, Schwarzenegger plays Douglas Quaid/Hauser, a man who embarks on a virtual vacation to Mars but returns with some harrowing memories.
Soon mysterious government types are on his tail and it’s up to Quaid to decide what’s real and who he’s really fighting for. An inventive and absorbing sci-fi tale packed to the brim with action and, yes, more Arnie one-liners.
4) The Terminator (1984)
A historic chapter in the careers of both Schwarzenegger and Cameron, Arnie may not have taken centre stage for The Terminator but he remains the lasting image of an action film that has touches of both sci-fi and horror to it and mixes touches of genuine emotional drama with a surprising dose of humour and some eye-catching set-pieces..
Everyone knows the story: Schwarzenegger plays a cyborg assassin sent back in time to kill the mother of the future leader of the resistance against the army of robots threatening to enslave all of humankind. It’s a terrifying performance that helped cement Schwarzenegger as so much more than just another bodybuilder turned actor. He’s a machine.
3) Commando (1985)
Arnie’s answer to Rambo, Commando is a big, brash and all the better for it. The Austrian Oak plays a retired Special Forces colonel forced back into action after his daughter is kidnapped by a former colleague turned foe.
Arriving with the tagline “Let’s Party” Commando has everything you know and love about Schwarzenegger action movies: crazy bad guys, big explosions, high body counts and those trademark Arnie one-liners. Schwarzenegger has done better action movies for sure, but few are as fun as Commando.
A genuine treat, full of quotable lines, eye-catching action and some inspired writing.
2) Predator (1987)
The testosterone was turned up to 11 for this John McTiernan-directed sci-fi action epic which has stood the test of time and rarely been bettered. Schwarzenegger plays Dutch Schaefer, a black ops soldier leading a crack team of soldiers on a top secret mission in an undisclosed Central American jungle.
Their mission soon becomes derailed, however, when Schaefer and Co. encounter an alien force capable of unspeakable violence. These soldiers aren’t going down without a fight though. Schwarzenegger was in his prime during Predator and ably supported by a cast brimming with talent.
There’s Jesse Venture, Bill Duke and the excellent Carl Weathers to name but a few. Together, they offer up a raft of quotable lines, gruesome deaths and some of the best jungle-based action ever put to film. A genuine masterpiece.
1) Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
How do you improve on a film like The Terminator? Simple: bring back the first movie’s most iconic element, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and make him the good guy. This time around Arnie’s robot assassin has been reprogrammed to protect the future leader of the resistance, a teen John Connor (Edward Furlong). He’s got his work cut out for him though with Robert Patrick’s shape-shifting T-1000 Terminator on their trail.
Two-and-a-half hours of breathless, cutting-edge action ensues, rarely letting up for a second. Schwarzenegger is at his best, finding a way to draw tears and laughter from audiences with a physically demanding performance as the central T-800 robot.
His ability to play these robot roles with such aplomb rarely gets the credit it deserves. In the great debate about sequels that outstrip their predecessors, Terminator 2: Judgement Day begs inclusion.
Want to see where the rest of your favorite action stars’ movies stack up? Check out these ultimate rankings!
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What do you think about our ultimate Arnold rankings? Let us know your Top 10 in the comments or on our Facebook page!