Only a few actors in their generation are eligible for the title of legendary but that title is more than fair for one of the giants of eighties cinema - Arnold Schwarzenegger. His journey from a rough childhood in Austria to international bodybuilding icon to global film mega star to governor of California is almost mythical.
I could never imagine moving to another country, learning the language, becoming a bodybuilding champion, star in multiple smash hit films and marry into their royal family in one lifetime. It took me three years of Indonesian to remember how to say, “hello my name is” so I’m thinking I’d need about twenty lifetimes to achieve what he has.
Now this won’t come as much of a surprise for people that have been following my post for ages but I’m a big fan of eighties movies, especially Arnie’s works. So, this week, we’re going to look at some of my favourite Arnold Schwarzenegger characters however, first off, let’s get some inspirational music going.
T800 – The Terminator
Easily Arnold's most recognizable character, we’re starting off with the T-800 Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 in all its mechanical terrifying glory. The terminator is, put simply, a killing machine. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and if you’re its target, it absolutely will not stop… ever, until you’re dead.
This character in the original Terminator put Arnie on the map with Hollywood and it’s easy to see why. With hardly any dialogue and stiff acting, he instilled fear and terror into the hearts of audiences with every shotgun shell and dead cop.
His second turn with the character switched up the roles and allowed him to play a more caring and sympathetic cyborg role instead of a ruthless futuristic killer.
Douglas Quaid – Total Recall
Another classic Arnie character, we’ve got the naïve Douglas Quaid from the mind-melding, Inception-esque sci-fi film Total Recall, the 1990 original not the Colin Firth 2012 remake. Douglas Quaid begins the film just as one guy living his life on Mars enjoying life in a way that would be slapped on all the posters for Tesla’s Mars colonies if they could get the rights for it.
One fateful trip to the recall facility later and he’s plunged into a world of lies, double-crosses, espionage, and confusing reality incongruencies with very little explanation. Both Quaid and the audience have no idea what’s going on and it’s so much fun to piece it together along with Quaid throughout the film.
Detective John Kimble – Kindergarten Cop
Jumping from straight-action film characters to more comedic roles, we’ve got police detective John Kimble in the zany position of being forced to teach kindergarteners as he tracks down a criminal’s wife and son to get information about the location of stolen money… man, the nineties were a weird time.
One of the main elements of comedy apart from time and tragedy is juxtaposition and there’s no better juxtaposition than tough cop Arnie and a bunch of kindergarteners that love him and all the wacky misadventures they get into because of this hilarious predicament.
It’s just a really good form of juxtaposition that’s enjoyable to watch yet there’s one film that has even better juxtaposition for comedic purposes.
Julius Benedict – Twins
Yep, you had to have guessed this would be an entry. This 1988 comedy slam dunk features Arnie and professional wrestling villain The Trashman Danny DeVito trying to find their birth mother after they were separated at birth. The juxtaposition?
Well, it turns out that Arnie’s characters had the good genes from each of the donor fathers while Danny DeVito’s character got the scraps of genes that were still left over. This is used to explain the height chasm between Arnie and DeVito and lends itself to most of the jokes in this comedy film.
The most enjoyable part of this film is the chemistry between Arnie and DeVito. They both are good comedic actors, and they sell the situation, so it feels somewhat believable… that and it was the late eighties, and it seems like people were a lot more forgiving of stupid film premises back then.
Jack Slater – Last Action Hero
Now, no Arnie’s list would be complete without this entry. While this film was panned by critics and consumers upon its release, this 1993 film is the ultimate piss-take of Schwarzenegger’s entire film career up to that point.
The film is packed to the gills with easter eggs, call-backs and fourth wall breaks with Arnie playing himself at a screening of his own film with his own character of this film… yeah, it’s not as confusing as it sounds.
Everything about Jack Slater in this film is the quintessential action hero archetype from the catchphrases to the getup to the whole hero rogue cop thing and it’s just so much fun to watch. Arnie clearly thinks so as well as he’s more than happy to take the piss out of himself and laugh at his own expense.
It’s such a fun film to watch just on the fact that Arnie and everyone involved in this were clearly having a blast making this film and it’s a shame it didn’t get as much critical acclaim as it deserved.
Honourable Mention: Mr Freeze – Batman & Robin
This entire list has been full of Arnie’s greatest roles from his long career in Hollywood, yet this hasn’t included the greatest iconic role Arnold Schwarzenegger has ever played… Mr Freeze in the critically panned Batman & Robin.
Yes, yes, I know the film that stars the legendary Chris O’Donnell and this other guy named George Clooney is a dumpster fire of a film but in my opinion, Arnie’s Mr Freeze saves the whole thing from being a complete dumpster fire and instead making it a funny dumpster fire. You know the one you can roast marshmallows over.
That and we also got a pretty catchy dance number from that film so it can’t be all bad.
What’s your favourite Arnold Schwarzenegger character? Is Batman & Robin a complete dumpster fire? Let me know down below.
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