He’s played everything from an indestructible cyborg from the future in The Terminator movies, to a Russian cop in Red Heat, by way of powerful barbarian in RED SONJA – the unmistakable, cinematic force that is Arnold Schwarzenegger, a former bodybuilder turned one-man cinematic industry, whose films, be they fantasy adventure, out-and-out action or science fiction thrillers, have always packed a punch at the box office.
To celebrate the release of RED SONJA on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD on 18th July, (and you can win a copy here) from STUDIOCANAL, as well as Arnie’s 75th birthday this 30th July, here are some of the best action classics starring the man himself!
RED SONJA (1985)
In this adaptation of Conan author Robert E Howard’s story, Brigitte Nielsen (Rocky IV) stars as the iconic, flame-haired heroine who sets out to avenge the death of her family after being granted extraordinary powers by a mysterious vision. On her way to find the tyrannical Queen Gedren, played by Sandahl Bergman (Conan the Barbarian), she meets Kalidor (Schwarzenegger), a powerful stranger from whom she refuses to accept help.
Key scene: Sonja tells Kalidor that no man can have her unless they beat her in a sword fight. Kalidor challenges her to a fight in the woods. Sonja’s fighting prowess – which includes backflips and leaps – impresses Kalidor. They both start to tire – but will Kalidor be able to win, and win Sonja’s heart as well?
Tagline: “Heroes of their time. For all time”
Critical consensus: “If you’re into muscles, mayhem and the clash of steel, Red Sonja will satisfy” Eye For Film
Arnie is John Matrix, a retired Special Forces colonel, whose daughter is kidnapped by a former member of his unit, who is using the abduction as a way of forcing Matrix to come out of retirement to do a political assasination on behalf of Arius, a former South American dictator Matrix removed from power. Naturally, Matrix will stop at nothing – and that means nothing – to get his daughter back.
Key scene: The final set piece in Commando, where Matrix gets tooled up and daubs on cammo paint and attacks Arius’s army at the villain’s island villa, is sheer, unadulterated carnage. Appropriate that his character is called Matrix, the number of bullets he manages to dodge!
Tagline: “Somewhere… somehow… someone’s going to pay”
Critical consensus: “It’s hard not to enjoy this fast-paced comic thriller” BBCi-Films
RAW DEAL (1986)
Former FBI agent Mark Kaminsky (Schwarzenegger) was forced to leave the Bureau due to his excessive brutality. When someone is required to infiltrate Luigi Patrovita’s (Sam Wanamaker) crime organisation in Chicago, Kaminsky is offered a second chance by FBI man Harry Shannon (Darren McGavin). He agrees to take on a job as Patrovita’s bodyguard, and destroy the mob from within.
Key scene: In order to infiltrate the mob, Kaminsky poses as a criminal, and gets a meeting with Patrovita’s right-hand man at a private gambling club. Once inside Rocca’s inner sanctum, Kaminsky has to hold his nerve, act cool of ice, and prove he is better at ‘taking care of things’ than Rocca’s own heavy Max Keller (Robert Davi).
Tagline: “The government gave him a raw deal. Nobody gives him a raw deal.”
Critical consensus: “It delivers every punch it promises” The New York Times
Schwarzenegger plays Dutch, leader of an elite military rescue team who are helicoptered into a South American rainforest for a covert mission. Unbeknownst to them the ‘Predator’ is in the area, and it is in the mood for hunting some humans. A massively strong alien being, equipped with lasers and the ability to become invisible, the Predator starts picking off Dutch’s crew one by one.
Key scene: Running out of ways to kill the alien, Dutch decides to play it at its own game, and become invisible. He disguises himself – as a tree! Covered in body temperature-cooling mud to avoid the creature’s heat-sensitive gaze, he blends into the mossy bark, waiting with baited breath as the huge, seemingly-indestructible creature approaches.
Tagline: “If it bleeds, we can kill it…”
Critical consensus: “Ever-more-grisly death sequences and impressive special effects.” Variety
RED HEAT (1988)
In Walter Hill’s action packed buddy movie, Schwarzenegger is Moscow policeman Captain Ivan ‘Iron Jaws’ Danko. He’s on the trail of Russian drug dealer Viktor Rostavilli in the USA when he is ambushed by the dealer’s gang. When Rostavilli makes his escape, an American cop is killed. Danko teams up with the dead cop’s partner (James Belushi) in a bid to complete his mission, but the resulting culture clash between East and West causes various hilarious problems.
Key scene: Early on in the film Danko enters a Russian bar and attempts to arrest Rostavilli and his cohorts. The gang say they’ve done nothing wrong, and prepare to leave, when Danko grabs one of them and tears off his leg! It turns out to be a false leg, stuffed with cocaine – which means the gang are rumbled, and gunfire ensues.
Tagline: “Moscow’s toughest detective. Chicago’s craziest cop. There’s only one thing more dangerous than making them mad…Making them partners.”
Critical consensus: “Schwarzenegger is right on target, and Belushi proves a quicksilver foil” Variety
TOTAL RECALL (1990)
2084. Quaid (Schwarzenegger) is haunted each night by a dream that he is on Mars looking for the beautiful Melina. He goes against his wife Lori’s wishes and visits the Recall laboratories. They claim that they can help make his dream a reality by offering him an adventurous trip in his mind with a powerful hallucinogenic drug. But the experience has unexpected consequences, the drug awakens a memory that was erased from Quaid’s mind. In fact, he is not Quaid, he is a dangerous terrorist fighting against a Martian despot, Lori is not his wife she is an enemy agent and the red planet is at the heart of a terrifying plot. Pitiless killers relentlessly chase Quaid and he goes to Mars where other memories and other dangers await him, including Melina, the woman of his dreams.
Key scene: Quaid is blasted by gunfire as he enters his apartment – only to discover it is his wife, played by Sharon Stone, attacking him. She reveals their marriage is actually memory implant. It’s difficult to know what Quaid is more rattled by – this revelation or her powerful high kicks.
Tagline: “Get ready for the ride of your life”
Critical consensus: “An action classic – startles and excites” BBCi-Films
TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (1991)
In 1997 the survivors of the nuclear apocalypse fight a merciless war against the robots and machines they created. To finally kill John Connor, the leader of the human resistance, two “cyborgs” are sent to the past. Their mission: kill Connor when he is a child. The first model of the “Terminator” series failed in 1984. The second model made of changeable liquid is more advanced and embarks on a pursuit of the child and his mother, Sarah, in the 1990’s. The men of the future have sent a Terminator (played by Arnie) to protect young Connor. The duel between the robots will take on titanic dimensions. While the child teaches the Terminator about humanity, his mother tries to prevent the creation of the first intelligent machines. With the Terminator they have educated they will fight to change the future.
Key scene: In a replay of the Terminator’s first appearance in James Cameron’s original film from 1983 – where a nude Arnie is confronted by a gang of punks, and ends up taking their clothes – this time around he gets his wardrobe from a fearsome gang of bikers in their biker bar. And also uses one of their motorbikes for transport!
Tagline: “It’s nothing personal”
Critical consensus: “Imagines things you wouldn’t even be likely to dream” San Francisco Chronicle