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Top 5 Best Action Films in the Schwarzenegger Canon

Large Association of Movie Blogs

This is my contribution to the LAMBs Acting School 101.  Be sure to go over to the LAMB and check out the other participants work!

Arnold Schwarzenegger is an enigma in my eyes.  I’ve loved his movies since I was a child and maybe it was wrong to let a 7-year-old watch Terminator or Total Recall but whatever, he’s shaped who I am.  I’m also a California resident who saw Schwarzenegger’s “reign” as Governor so personally I despise him.  Thankfully, I can enjoy an actor professionally and still hate them as a person (I’m talking to you Sean Penn).  So when I started to think of what I wanted to put together for the LAMBs Acting School I wanted to include the top 5 action films that I grew up with…and in some places grew to love!

5.  True Lies

I can’t say I’ve seen the entire oeuvre of Schwarzenegger so you might be shocked to know I just saw True Lies for the first time a few months ago!  It’s essentially what Mr. and Mrs. Smith wished it was.  It’s one of the few films of the actor that presents a decent romance and who doesn’t love Jamie Lee Curtis who lets loose (literally in one scene) and plays up the scared housewife to a T.  It makes me sad that director James Cameron is moving firmly into the Avatar universe, because he had a knack for blending the ordinary with the extraordinary and True Lies is proof!

4.  Eraser

I’m not sure where Eraser rates in others views of the best Schwarzenegger films but I’ve grown to love this each time I watch it; which is a lot considering this is always on TNT or TBS.  The film tells of an US Marshal (Schwarzenegger) trying to relocate a witness (Vanessa Williams) into Witness Protection.  There’s just something so intelligent (okay not literally intelligent) about how intricate the world of the film is.  There’s double and triple crosses, people making copies of things, and a pervasive feeling of not knowing what the hell is going on.  It all comes together to make the most prototypical of Schwarzenegger’s films and yet I can’t get enough of it.  This is how you make a Schwarzenegger film: One part government operative + hot leading lady + add danger and a heart of gold + liberally add guns and explosions (and maybe an alligator) for action gold!

3.  Total Recall

When I heard they were planning to remake this I wept, I mean you just can’t remake this film (and from what I read they’re remaking the book so we can say this is safe right?).  Director Paul Verhoven takes his amazing blend of sci-fi and schlock to create a sci-fi adventure that’s never been seen.  I still don’t truly understand Total Recall but I love it.  The different disguises, the world of Mars, Sharon Stone playing a totally kick ass villainess in 80s aerobics wear!  It’s cheesy like a delicious mac and cheese dinner!  This is also the movie that made me realize Schwarzenegger tries REALLY hard to make you believe he’s lived in America his entire life!  I mean from the name of his character, Douglas Quaid, to how he chats with his friends, this movie especially tries to make you forget that accent and everything else about him.

2.  Terminator 2: Judgement Day

The placement of the Terminator films is debatable.  Some will say I made the right choice placing this second and others will say it should be first.  I switched this between one and two for a good ten minutes before deciding to stick it here.  Really you could tie one and two for first in my book.  Either way what is there to say about Terminator 2 that hasn’t been written?  The action, the special effects, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, it all comes together with its finger pressed firmly on the trigger of Judgement Day.  Robert Patrick as the new Terminator is great and this is also the movie that inspired the ride at Universal Studios (which I love purely because it’s connected to this franchise).  This movie is epic, but it doesn’t seem to have the heart of my number one.

1.  The Terminator

I had to put the original Terminator at number one.  This is the first film in the franchise I saw and really it’s the first franchise I ever came to love.  I’ve seen all the Terminators since (and sobbed my eyes out at how atrocious 4 was) and really have a connection to this first movie.  It’s also one of the first movies I had to go buy on Special Edition DVD.  I mentioned Terminator 2 not having the heart as this one and I believe that.  Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) learns that she’s meant to be killed and about her life as the mother of a resistance leader, that’s some heady stuff to realize and we see that realization throughout the first film.  She’s no longer an average woman and she has to deal with that.  The love story is cute (albeit mind-boggling and possibly creepy) and at the end there’s the aura of hope somewhere at the end where two doesn’t seem to have that as much.  Again, this can be tied for first with the second but I love one a tad bit more.

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Kristen Lopez View All

A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.

6 thoughts on “Top 5 Best Action Films in the Schwarzenegger Canon Leave a comment

  1. Hey, you must’ve done something to your blog as it’s loading faster now 😀

    I LOVE True Lies and Eraser, so yay! I think my list might look very similar to yours if I were to do a top 5, minus Total Recall.

    • Really? I don’t know what specifically but let’s go with it lol. Glad to know Eraser has other fans than me! Total Recall is definitely one of the more “love it or hate it” films in the actors canon.

  2. You can’t go wrong with either Terminator in the top spot, but no mention of Predator at all?? That’s probably my favorite movie from him.

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