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Schwarzeneggenomics: Ranking Every Single Arnold Movie

by Matt Singer
January 16, 2013 4:09 PM
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"Red Heat."
I've written a lot of stuff about Arnold Schwarzenegger. I've done reviews, features, and lists; I even devoted part of the comprehensive exam required to get my Master's degree to his relationship with Maria Shriver and her impact on his films. People tell me I'm obsessed, and I'll tell you the same thing I tell them as I scramble to cover up my T-800 neck tattoo: you're crazy.

As perhaps the leading scholar in the field of Schwarzeneggenomics that I just invented, the one thing I've never written and get asked for a lot is a full ranking of Arnold's movies. It's not an easy task. Some people might compare it to a parent picking their favorite child. I look at it the opposite way. A parent picking their favorite child is relatively easy compared to naming my favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. But in honor of this week's release of "The Last Stand," Ahnuld's first big starring role in a decade, I decided it was finally time to man up get this over with.

The question at that point became: how do you rank the movies? For most people it would just be a simple matter of arranging from most to least entertaining. It's a bit more complicated than that for me. Some Schwarzenegger movies that the average fan might find quote-unquote "boring" are amongst my favorites for the ways they reflect on Schwarzenegger's evolving persona and his filmography as a whole. "Collateral Damage," for example, is a middling action movie and a really intriguing part of the last phase of his movie career (before his comeback), when his previously invincible hero suddenly and repeatedly fails to protect everyone around him (a phase that directly coincides with his heart surgeries and, as we now know, his affair with his housekeeper). So I'm not just looking at these things for the action sequences or the one-liners -- I'm taking the long view as well.

Ultimately, here's how I did this: I imagined a scenario where every single movie in Schwarzenegger's filmography was placed in front of me. In a vacuum, which would I watch first? Which would I watch last? I let that be my guide. The best movie is both the most engrossing and the most stimulating. The last is the least on both counts. I left out the two early Schwarzenegger rarities -- you'll forgive me, I hope, for still having never seen the out-of-print "Scavenger Hunt" and "The Jayne Mansfield Story" -- along with his television work, voiceovers, and occasional cameos in movies like "The Long Goodbye" and "The Rundown." Everything else is here.

You may not agree with my list. I encourage you to share your own favorites and to question mine. If you're wondering why I like a particular Schwarzenegger movie, I'll be happy to explain. If you want to read my thoughts on "The Last Stand," you can find them at ScreenCrush. And now, here are my definitive Schwarzeneggenomics rankings:

The Films of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ranked From Best to Worst

1. "The Terminator" (1984)
2. "Total Recall" (1990)
3. "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991)
4. "True Lies" (1994)
5. "Commando" (1985)
6. "Predator" (1987)
7. "Conan the Barbarian" (1982)
8. "Pumping Iron" (1977)

9. "Kindergarten Cop" (1990)
10. "The Running Man" (1987)
11. "Red Heat" (1988)
12. "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (2003)
13. "Collateral Damage" (2002)
14. "The 6th Day" (2000)
15. "Eraser" (1996)
16. "Raw Deal" (1986)
17. "Last Action Hero" (1993)
18. "Junior" (1994)
19. "End of Days" (1999)
20. "The Expendables 2" (2012)
21. "The Last Stand" (2013)
22. "Batman & Robin" (1997)
23. "Twins" (1988)
24. "The Villain" (1979)
25. "Stay Hungry" (1976)
26. "Red Sonja" (1985)
27. "Conan the Destroyer" (1984)
28. "The Expendables" (2010)
29. "Hercules in New York" (1969)
30. "Jingle All the Way" (1996)
31. "Around the World in 80 Days" (2004)

Think I gave your favorite Arnold movie a raw deal? Want to give me some red heat for a pick you don't like? Leave me feedback in the comments below.

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More: Arnold Schwarzenegger


  • Ah-nold Fan | October 4, 2013 11:43 AMReply

    1. T2
    2. Commando
    3. Terminator
    4. Total Recall
    5. Running Man
    6. Predator
    7. Twins
    8. End of Days
    9. Conan the Barbarian
    10. True Lies

  • Lou | February 3, 2013 9:10 PMReply

    1 Predator
    2 Total Recall
    3 T2
    4 Running Man
    5 Commando

  • David | January 28, 2013 10:53 PMReply

    The Expendables 2 before The Expendables, that is very odd.

    My ten favorites:

    1. Total Recall
    2. The Terminator
    3. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
    4. Predator
    5. Pumping Iron
    6. Commando
    7. True Lies
    8. The Expendables
    9. (it's getting hard to find decent one) The Running Man
    10. Stay Hungry

  • Joe | January 18, 2013 4:15 PMReply

    Switch the rankings of the 2 Terminator films and we've got a deal. I would also put the 6th Day a little higher. Maybe.

  • Mark Walters | January 18, 2013 12:19 AMReply

    Why is THE LAST STAND so low? One notch above BATMAN AND ROBIN? No way. I've seen it multiple times, and it's a lot of fun. There's several on this list I have issues with, in ranking that is. You're saying THE 6TH DAY and COLLATERAL DAMAGE are better than ERASER? I thought ERASER was fun and classic Arnold, whereas THE 6TH DAY seemed to confusing (and boring) for its own good, and COLLATERAL DAMAGE was just forgettable. And what's wrong with TWINS??? How you could rank BATMAN AND ROBIN above that is beyond me. TWINS is a great buddy comedy. PREDATOR should be in the #1 or #2 spot.

  • Nastee | January 17, 2013 6:18 PMReply

    1. "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991)
    2. "The Terminator" (1984)
    3. "Total Recall" (1990)
    4. "Predator" (1987)
    5. "True Lies" (1994)
    6. "The Running Man" (1987)
    7. "Conan the Barbarian" (1982)
    8. "The 6th Day" (2000)
    9. "Red Heat" (1988)
    10. "Last Action Hero" (1993)
    11. "Eraser" (1996)
    12. "Commando" (1985)
    13. "End of Days" (1999)
    14. "Collateral Damage" (2002)
    15. "The Expendables 2" (2012)
    16. "Red Sonja" (1985)
    17. "Conan the Destroyer" (1984)
    18. "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (2003)
    19. "Kindergarten Cop" (1990)
    20. "Batman & Robin" (1997)
    21. "The Expendables" (2010)
    22. "Twins" (1988)
    23. "Junior" (1994)
    24. "Jingle All the Way" (1996)
    25. "Around the World in 80 Days" (2004)

  • Chuck Sambuchino | January 17, 2013 2:15 PMReply

    All I needed to see was T1 at your #1 spot. Yes yes yes. Love this list.

  • nascentt | January 17, 2013 2:14 PMReply

    terminator3 is better than twins now?

  • psknapp | January 17, 2013 1:36 PMReply

    Twins is lower than Junior? And Batman and Robin? I'm not saying Twins was a good movie, but it was miles better than Junior and I'd put Batman and Robin between the Expendables and Hercules in New York.

  • johnson59 | January 17, 2013 11:54 AMReply

    "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (2003)...Awfully high, this is way to low 29. "Hercules in New York" (1969).......This is a great movie, this was the genesis of his career.

  • David Klein | January 17, 2013 11:22 AMReply

    Okay so Jingle All the Way is pretty awful. But worse than Hercules in New York? Come on, Singer!

  • Aaryk Noctivagus | January 17, 2013 10:51 AMReply

    You asked for comment, but I won't be giving you any 'Red Heat' over your selection. I'll just list my 16 that I have both seen and remember well enough to try and judge.

    1. "The Terminator" (1984)
    2. "Predator" (1987)
    3. "Total Recall" (1990)
    4. "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (2003)
    5. "The 6th Day" (2000)
    6. "True Lies" (1994)
    7. "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991)
    8. "Cactus Jack"/"The Villain" (1979)
    9. "Commando" (1985)
    10. "Conan the Barbarian" (1982)
    11. "Conan the Destroyer" (1984)
    12. "The Running Man" (1987)
    13. "Last Action Hero" (1993)
    14. "Twins" (1988)
    15. "Around the World in 80 Days" (2004)
    16. "Batman & Robin" (1997)

  • [A] | January 17, 2013 10:18 AMReply

    You put THE TERMINATOR above T2: Yes.

  • Ryman | January 17, 2013 5:12 AMReply

    Red heat needs to be high and t3 lower for a start

  • Martin Jawncast | January 16, 2013 10:15 PMReply

    I guess I was the only person in the world that enjoyed that version of Around the World in 80 Days.

  • sleestakk | January 16, 2013 5:59 PMReply

    If nothing else, at least you got #31 correct; Around the World in 80 Days is such a terrible movie, not just his role but the entire film is just awful.

    I do love that you made this list.

  • Gerardo Valero | January 16, 2013 5:37 PMReply

    I think "T2" and "True Lies" should definitely be #1 & #2 (I find T1's "fast motion" chases too cheesy) but obviously, it's a matter of taste. My big disagreement with you has to do with "Commando" being placed so high as it is mostly terrible. Loved the "Streets of San Francisco" clip you Tweeted today, I hadn't seen that since its original release as a kid, I do remmeber having been freaked out about it..

  • Haymaker | January 16, 2013 4:34 PMReply

    I would put Predator somewhere in the top 3, but otherwise pretty solid ranking. Maybe Last action hero a few spots higher too.

  • Cristina | January 16, 2013 4:34 PMReply

    Stay Hungry is very underrated! And he is wonderful in it.

  • GeoffieTheKid | January 16, 2013 4:24 PMReply

    That Twins is not in the Top 10 and is placed below T3 is blasphemy of the highest order.

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