5 - 1
How do you take on someone whose unlike any real person on the planet? Easy, give him a skilled extraterrestrial hunter as a foe. Schwarzenegger was at his peak of late ‘80s power here, and it shows. He’s rough and tumble during the opening military material and then turns into a one man killing machine once the title terror makes its presence known. That last act confront, with Arnold basically battling a oversized special effect, remains one of the most underrated action sequences in any of his movies. When future fans want to know why many consider him such a badass, this and our choice at number four will answer any and all questions.
This is the non-Terminator Arnold blueprint movie. Rugged ex-something or other is brought back into the world he left behind when his daughter is kidnapped. Taking on the challenge of beating the bad guys, our star quips and rips apart the enemy with a style so solid it’s probably made of Carbonite. Along with way, he picks up a sidekick (Rae Dawn Chong), escapes from a plane in mid-liftoff, and goes “shopping” in an armaments store in a sequence that has to be seen to be believed. Thanks to Mark L. Lester’s direction and the gory cartoon violence, Commando lifted the wannabe actor into the stratosphere and he never came down.
After the blistering, ballsy first film, many wondered where creator James Cameron would take this material. Thanks to the invention of CGI and the ongoing stardom of his lead, the answer was anywhere he wanted. This sequel far surpasses anything done in the original, modifying both the mythology and the visualization of same to give us a liquid metal version of the title monster and a good guy T800 looking to protect, not kill, John Connor. One of the greatest action and/or genre films ever conceived, Cameron proves that there is nothing like well choreographed stunt work, and a well told story, to carry audiences away to another cinematic world.
What happens when a larger than life director teams up with an equally outsized superstar? Wall to wall special effects, more action that you can shake a stick at, and glass shards flying everywhere. Paul Verhoeven’s take on Phillip K. Dick’s VR allegory is nothing sort of insane, complete with Martian artifacts, three breasted mutant prostitutes, and an activist named Kuato whose… well, trust us. You just have to see “it” to understand. Sure this movie is like an adrenalin rush on crack and Arnold is often upstaged by Rob Bottin’s brilliant make-up F/X, but the results is pure escapist bliss, hyperactive and totally terrific.
Want proof that Arnold could actually fill the role of mainstream action man ala James Bond? Look no further than this fascinating effort between the star and his favorite filmmaker, James Cameron. Using the constant threat of nuclear proliferation and the now incendiary role played by the Middle East, the duo dreamed up the story—with the help of a French film named La Totale!—of a seemingly mild mannered family man whose actually one of the CIA’s best and brightest. When a radical threatens the US with nukes, it’s up to our hero, his hefty sidekick (Tom Arnold) and, eventually, his actual wife and child (Jamie Lee Curtis and Eliza Dushku) to try and save the day. A total triumph from beginning to explosive end.