Top Five: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Ever since his fateful arrival on the shores of the United States in the late 1960′s, Arnold Schwarzenegger has worn many professional hats. With nick-names ranging from “The Austrian Oak” to “The Governator”, Arnold has again and again shown an insatiable zeal in the pursuit of a wide array of personal passions. From his fine work as the governor of California (the state possessed an almost 30 billion dollar deficit when he left office in 2011) to his (formerly) record-holding seven wins at the the “Mr. Olympia” body-building competition, it is sometimes difficult to remember that, once upon a time (during the swinging 90s) Arnold Schwarzenegger was also the biggest movie star on the planet.
Having appeared in a diverse mixture of different genres, Schwarzenegger has often times refuted the unfair label of a simple, muscle-bound action star. With comedies, science-fiction films, dramas, documentaries and meta-film satires literring his resume Arnold cannot be accused of bowing to exterior pressures intent on pigeonholing him or resting on his laurels with already proven formulas. With his enormous charisma and expert comedic timing, this mountain of muscle has provided his loyal fans with hilarious knee-slapping moments, iconic catch phrases and electrifying cinematic spectacle for over three decades. Thus, this titan of the screen is long overdue for a profile through Filmophilia. This is Top Five: Arnold Schwarzenegger.
5. Twins – 1988 (Dir. Ivan Reitman)
The first in the unofficial “comedy trilogy” of films (which also includes Junior and the classic Kindergarten Cop) forged under the dynamic collaboration between director Ivan Reitman and star Arnold Schwarzenegger is also easily one of the best films either of the two men have ever put out. Featuring inimitable chemistry between Arnie and his diminutive co-star (Danny DeVito) which works on both a comedic and dramatic level and a heart-warming look at the importance of family, Twins proved to be an excellent platform for Schwarzenegger to showcase his range and produce an innocent and sensitive character which was the total opposite of the brutal killing machines from the Terminator franchise and Commando.
With too many classic lines to count (“I ain’t got time to bleed.”, “Get to the chopper!”), the presence of two future (and now former) governors and with a supporting cast that included Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) Predator would be an enjoyable science fiction romp even without Arnold’s considerable presence. However, Arnold is absolutely essential to the overall lasting success of this 80s action-fest – lending an incredible sense of authoritative albeit humorous leadership to his rag-tag band of beefcake soldiers.
Going toe to toe with the film’s titular extraterrestrial warrior, Arnold’s role in Predator includes many of the actor’s staples, including: an indomitable spirit and a devil-may-care attitude in the face of certain death (“Come on! Do it! Kill me!”) in addition to being the central focus of massive visual effect shots (such as when Arnold runs away from an incredible explosion caused by the alien at the conclusion of the film). This film (along with #2 on this list) helped establish Arnold as the premier action star of his era, which laid the groundwork for his leap to super stardom in the 1990s.
3. Kindergarten Cop – 1991 (Dir. Ivan Reitman)
A genius piece of comedic filmmaking, Kindergarten Cop is a critical film in Arnold’s filmography because it epitomizes the actor’s greatest strength – that is, delivering an action-based story distilled through tongue-in-cheek humor. As in his other films, Cop contains vintage Arnold one-liners (“I’m da party poopa.“, “My name is John Kimble and I love my car.“) and also moments so outlandish and incongruent with the actor’s action-star persona that they border on surreal.
The hidden strength of a film like Kindergarten Cop is that it showed how a carefully tailored on-screen persona (Schwarzenegger’s death machine characters) could still contain a degree of malleability. While Arnold’s character, John Kimble, may stalk through decrepit urban night-clubs, blasting away with his shotgun like a T-800, the film is able to manage his action star proclivities and elicit genuine humor and sensitivity out of his bizarre pairing with a bunch of young kindergarten students.
2. Commando – 1985 (Mark L. Lester)
If you frequent Filmophilia then you will know that there is very little about this film which I haven’t already said in my earlier review of Commando. Still, I will add just a few reasons for why Arnie’s performance in Commando stands as the penultimate entry of this particular list. Commando is an unbridled blast of entertainment; a film which is so single-minded, so resolute in its desire to provide a glorious action extravaganza that all rules pertaining to good taste, physics, and sensible screenwriting choices are thrown out the window and then incinerated in a nuclear explosion of awesome.
Arnold is John Matrix – a man trying to get his daughter back from some punks who kidnapped her. In his quest Arnie is once again in top form – killing everyone involved with the kidnapping plot (or if someone just looks at him wrong) and creating property damage on a level that makes U.S expenditures in Iraq seem paltry in comparison. This incredible action movie is a once-in-a-lifetime event because the film seems conscious of its absurd nature and eager to celebrate the myriad of genre clichés found within its story. This was one of the earliest examples of how Arnold differentiated himself from his action-star peers. By involving himself in films like Commando Arnold seemed to be saying that he was in on the joke and in doing so, became peerless.
The Terminator is synonymous with Arnold Schwarzenegger and his image and influential performance looms powerfully over the entire franchise. With both roles containing little more than a handful of lines of dialogue for Arnold’s cyborg it is the actor’s dominant physicality which takes center stage. His predominantly mute performances (particularly in the first film) are striking examples of physical acting. Consider the scene in the first film where the T-800 must make repairs to his damaged face in his gritty hotel bathroom. While Arnold is dramatically assisted by the sublime make-up and effects at work, it is the superb mechanical movements that the actor makes with his body which actually lend the scene a shocking sense of credibility and hypnotic power. Also, while he speaks very little, Arnold’s performances are actually the clearest communicators of Cameron’s thematic interests, which focus on the importance of human empathy and the dubious nature of both fate and free will.
What did you think of the list? Were any of this action master’s great films unjustly omitted? Let us know in the comments section below. We want to hear your thoughts! Don’t be a party poopa! Do it! Come on! Kill me…
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