Much like his breakthrough role Conan the Barbarian, Arnold Schwarzenegger transcended a childhood of neglect and poverty in 1950s Austria, pushing his body over over the top, to become one day the king of the Hyborian Age governor of California. Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding career, begun at age 14, was enough to take him abroad in competitions, and eventually into the viewfinder of Hollywood agents. On this list of Schwarzenegger’s best movies ranked by Tomatometer (alongside the worst), we’re including the 1976 Pumping Iron documentary that helped him land Conan the Barbarian – even though he’s not playing a character, Iron was vital in crafting Arnie’s on-screen image.
Also included, of course, are his star-making ’80s action films, ranging from sci-fi (The Terminator) to horror (Predator) to practically comedy (Commando). He started the ’90s with a bang with mega-violent mind-bender Total Recall, which was followed by the legendary Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The rest of the decade saw him mixing action with more overt comedies (Jingle All the Way, Junior, Kindergarten Cop) to varying success. Schwarzenegger’s side gig as governor kept him off-screen during most of the 2000s, but since then it’s drama (Aftermath, Maggie) that’s he mixed in with minor-comeback vehicles, like The Last Stand or Stallone team-up Escape Plan. And speaking of Stallone projects, we’ve included all three Expendables on this list; Schwarzenegger went uncredited in the first, but was upgraded to a side character in the next two. Considering the Expendables‘ proudly-worn mantle of throwback action, we felt it was right to have them. Otherwise, his cameos (like in The Rundown, in which he officially passed the action torch to Dwayne Johnson) and bit parts, however memorable (watch Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye!), were excluded. So, put that cookie down, NOW, as we rank all Arnold Schwarzenegger movies! —Alex Vo
Critics Consensus: T2 features thrilling action sequences and eye-popping visual effects, but what takes this sci-fi/ action landmark to the next level is the depth of the human (and cyborg) characters.
Synopsis: In this sequel set eleven years after "The Terminator," young John Connor (Edward Furlong), the key to civilization's victory over... [More]
Critics Consensus: In addition to offering an enlightening early look into the world of future star/politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pumping Iron provides a witty and insightful overview of competitive bodybuilding.
Synopsis: This partly real and partly scripted film documents what many consider to be the golden age of bodybuilding that occurred... [More]
Critics Consensus: If it doesn't reach the heights of director James Cameron's and star Arnold Schwarzenegger's previous collaborations, True Lies still packs enough action and humor into its sometimes absurd plot to entertain.
Synopsis: Secretly a spy but thought by his family to be a dull salesman, Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is tracking down... [More]
Critics Consensus: Taut, violent, and suitably self-deprecating, The Expendables 2 gives classic action fans everything they can reasonably expect from a star-studded shoot-'em-up -- for better and for worse.
Synopsis: Mercenary leader Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) and the rest of the Expendables team reunite when Mr.... [More]
Critics Consensus: Like its predecessors, Expendables 3 offers a modicum of all-star thrills for old-school action thriller aficionados -- but given all the talent assembled, it should have been a lot more fun.
Synopsis: Years ago, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) co-founded the Expendables with Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). After Stonebanks became an arms dealer,... [More]
Critics Consensus: Mired in its muddled mythology, Terminator: Genisys is a lurching retread that lacks the thematic depth, conceptual intelligence, or visual thrills that launched this once-mighty franchise.
Synopsis: When John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance against Skynet, sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984... [More]