What qualifies me as an Arnold Schwarzenegger expert? I can spell his last name, correctly, on command. Try me.
This list sticks to Arnold’s starring vehicles and action films (or, films that at least have some action in them, like Twins and Kindergarten Cop). The latter is mostly because I wanted to avoid re-watching Junior and Jingle All the Way, but please feel free to debate the plausibility of male pregnancies and intense rivalries with lackluster ‘90s comedians in the comments section. It also eliminates some of his earlier movies.
17. Red Heat (1988)
Arnold plays a Russian cop here, which, unlike many of his films, explains why he sounds like he’s speaking English with ball bearings in his mouth. The rest of this blasé pairing with Jim Belushi is pretty believable too, as long you buy into the standard conventions of generic buddy-cop actioners: widespread destruction of the city, excessive compliance with gender stereotypes, and startlingly poor marksmanship on the part of the bad guys.
16. Kindergarten Cop (1990)
Although Arnold becoming a relatively successful and beloved teacher without any formal training is pretty insulting to a perpetually undervalued profession, Kindergarten Cop at least shows that he’s completely overwhelmed, at first. A realistic, modernized retelling of the story would probably have the kindergarten class failing to meet demanding No Child Left Behind standards, forcing the school to shut down, and thus ruining Arnold’s operation before it could even get started. The students would all enroll in charter schools and Arnold would lose his job and apply to grad school. Still, the lack of robots, aliens, or machine-gun duels makes for a disappointingly plausible flick.
15. Twins (1988)
This film was devised entirely on the inherent ridiculousness that an obscenely bulging Arnold could possibly be a fraternal twin to the diminutive, seemingly half-formed Danny DeVito. However, they do a relatively believable job of justifying the scenario, as their twindom is the result of a secretive genetic experiment to create a perfect child. Also, even though they aren’t twins, the mere fact that Dennis and Randy Quaid are even brothers vouches pretty well for this movie’s credibility.
14. The Running Man (1987)
A TV show that drops convicts into a dangerous battle zone where they’re chased by professional killers to the delight of audiences worldwide? Isn’t this already on Fox’s slate for next fall?
13. Total Recall (1990)
Total Recall is the oddest (and, in my opinion, best) film in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s oeuvre, a potent hybrid of grisly action and mind-probing science fiction. The film is very loosely based on a Philip K. Dick story, and very strongly based on the concept of “Let’s put Arnold Schwarzenegger on fucking Mars.” Director Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Starship Troopers) wisely had the foresight to set the film in the distant future of 2084, because he included a lot of bat-shit crazy elements that (unfortunately) have yet to surface in modern society: vacations that exist only in the mind, slum colonies on Mars, affordable hologram technology, three-breasted hookers, and telepathic stomach mutants.
However, there is the distinct possibility that the entire film is a dream conjured up by Arnold as part of his Rekall vacation – and, by that logic, it could be argued that the film is completely plausible. So, is Arnold really an inter-planetary spy or merely a bored construction worker going through a mid-life crisis? If the answer is the latter, and everything that happens in the film is part of the overly elaborate fantasy that Schwarzenegger has paid for, then you could argue that it is one of the more believable entries in his filmography. Well, except for the part where Mars develops a working atmosphere in, like, 90 seconds – I don’t care if it’s part of his fantasy or not, it’s just freaking ridiculous.
Figures I’ve worked myself into such a tizzy over the film in which Arnold memorably asks, “If I’m not me, who the hell am I?”