This Friday, Arnold Schwarzenegger finally fully returns to the big screen with The Last Stand, his first movie as a lead actor since the release of Terminator 3 about 10 years ago. So, it's a perfect time to remember his greatest works as we anticipate his latest. Over at the Criticwire blog, Matt Singer got film critics to argue over which of the first two Terminator installments is the best (my answer: the original). Here, we'd like to go broader and perhaps a bit easier by considering which of his films is the best overall.
Actually, if we try to be objective about it, the first two Terminator films are his best, according to reviews at Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic and according to IMDb ratings. However, The Terminator tops the former two while Terminator 2: Judgment Day reigns on the last. Looking at only acting gigs (which leaves out Pumping Iron and Darfur Now) and then ony starring vehicles (meaning we exclude stuff like The Long Goodbye as well as the Expendables films), his next best for fans and critics might be Predator, Total Recall or True Lies.
But who can be objective when it comes to Schwarzenegger? He's never been a real acting talent, and he's never necessarily been about quality cinema, even if he's worked with some terrific directors. So, to me it's not so much a question of which of his movies is the best in terms of distinction that's irrelevant to the fact that he stars in it. I want to answer to the matter of which is Arnold Schwarzenegger's Schwarzeneggeriest film.
And that answer, for me, is Commando, as it always comes to my mind when I think about the idea of an Arnold Schwarzenegger film. The bulletproof one-man army, the exquisitely awful one-liners and the iconic images of the former Mr. Universe in peak muscular shape, sleeveless and covered in war paint and holding a rocket launcher. Other films might be "better" in certain ways, but this features the archetype for what we came to recognize as an Arnold Schwarzenegger role, and I have to give it credit for that. It's been my unapologetic favorite of his since I was eight years old.
And my next favorite will always be the 1983 short documentary Carnival in Rio because of how unbelievably sleazy he is in it. It's hard to look at it and not be surprised it took so long for him to both become a politician and wind up the subject of a tabloid sex scandal.
What is Arnold Schwarzenegger's best film?
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