All 34 Arnold Schwarzenegger Movies Ranked From Worst To Best
Love him or hate him, Arnie is a cultural icon. Incredibly recognizable in both stature and voice. People of all ages are aware of him or familiar with his work. Everyone seems to be born with their own impression of the man. He his a true phenomenon and the ultimate proof that the ‘American dream’ is possible.
He has, however, fallen from his previous relevancy, with a few career missteps since his departure from politics. But his career has delivered some of the greatest action movies of all time. Some of which will be hard to match for years to come. His name alone, makes a movie poster look ‘badass’ This is a look at the best and the worst of the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
34. Hercules in New York (1970)
What were they thinking when they made this film? For those of you who don’t know, this film is Schwarzenegger’s first step into the movie industry. A big deal for him at the time. Arnold describes it in his autobiography as his big break. At least that’s what he thought. He was playing the God Hercules. He couldn’t believe his luck. His own movie. But it was awful. Worse than awful. Firstly they changed Arnie’s name for the credits. They had deemed his birth name, too long. So he became, Arnold Strong.
Secondly, this was at a time when Arnold was new to America. His English was quite broken, still learning and picking up the language as he trained with other muscle men. His delivery was deemed unusable for the final cut by the studio and was overdubbed at the last hour. You can still find it on the internet if you’re interested. And the original audio is still available. So enjoy listening to Arnie struggle with the script.
Lastly, it’s just a dreadful film. Herc rebels against Zeus. Goes to New York. Meets a stereotypical Jewish guy. Jewish guy sees a financial opportunity in Herc. Waffle, waffle, waffle. Bad joke, bad joke, offensive joke. The end. It’s so bad that Arnie did everything he could to make sure it wasn’t seen by American audiences. But its out there. Admittedly, it is nice to see how far Arnold has come, and where he came from. But this is not a career highlight.
33. Junior (1994)
This one was very nearly ranked last. Arnie is pregnant. That’s the film. Nothing more to it. Just. Awful. Most Arnie fans will avoid this one. And for good reason. The only highlight is an Arnie montage…..of Arnie being pregnant. It doesn’t have the charm of the previous entry, and it’s so deep into Arnie’s movie career, there’s really no valid excuse why this film saw the light of day. AND Danny De Vito is in it. A great actor.
It’s just so difficult trying to understand how this film got made. Why? Why would you make this? It makes no sense. The plot does establish that they are scientists, but why is this something that they have been researching? What purpose was there to their research? Are they being paid to research the viability of male insemination? No? Then why are they bothering to look into it? Just for the challenge? The thrill of science? It’s a head-scratcher. A very easy film to hate.
32. Raw Deal (1986)
This is one of the only forgettable films that featured Schwarzenegger in the 80’s. This was a time where Arnie was at the height of his powers. This is after Terminator, Conan and Commando. But not many people have seen it. It doesn’t make much of an impact, that’s for sure. There’s some plot about the Mafia and the FBI. It’s just an excuse to see Schwarzenegger blow s**t up.
The marketing of the film was centered around “Never give Schwarzenegger a Raw Deal”. The studio chose to rely on his star power rather than a substantial plot, script, or anything with substance. That tells you all you need to know. This is a bad movie. Definitely a product of its time. The trailer makes the movie look better than it is. But don’t take my word for it, check it out. But you shan’t be blamed if you decide to skip this one.
31. Cactus Jack/The Villian (1979)
This is a silly film. It wants to be silly. A Western that’s trying to emulate a similar style to Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles. And not getting it right. Poor Arnie. His jokes don’t land at all. He has one good joke and they recycle it a few times. He plays a character called Handsome Stranger. Every time someone points out how unusual his name is, he smiles and responds, “I was named after my Father”.
Also starring Kirk Douglas, the central character, and main antagonist to the plot. It’s essentially a live-action remake of the Road Runner and Willie Coyote cartoons. Kirk Douglas keeps trying to confront them, but he is rarely noticed, as each plan cartoonishly fails. It’s worth a single watch, but not a movie you will likely return to. Possibly the reason Arnie likes doing comedies. Which isn’t always a good thing.
30. Collaterol Damage (2002)
One of his last films before his jump into politics. This was the turn of the millennium Schwarzenegger, and this was not a good era for him. And this is certainly the most forgettable of the bunch. This was a time where audiences wanted to see something different from Arnie. He was making some interesting movie choices leading up to this flick. But this was disappointing. A result of studios wanting to make an “Arnie Film”, rather than a unique action flick starring Schwarzenegger.
The films that have made Arnie so iconic stand out against the usual studio cash grabs. Not generic action. And this film is as generic as it gets. Very by the numbers. And shamelessly taps into the fear caused by 9/11 (just a year earlier), surrounding terrorist attacks. Sure, Arnie kicks ass in this movie. Some decent action, and some nice appearances from John Leguizamo and John Turturro. But it’s not very good. It had potential. But the execution lets it down. It’s just very basic. Nothing special about it.
29. Batman and Robin (1997)
Possibly the most hated entry into the Batman franchise. And it’s not very difficult to see why. Incredibly cheesy and incredibly embarrassing. I’m sure George Clooney will always be embarrassed by it. But objectively speaking, Schwarzenegger made a good Mr. Freeze.
Admittedly, his dialogue was awful and leaned far too heavily on being ice-based puns. But this Batman villain was a character who finally had a unique motive rather than just being bad for the sake of being bad. A dying wife that he will do anything to save. This was the first time a villain had an origin like this since De Vito’s Penguin.
There is a scene where he is watching back old wedding videos. He tries to cry, but the tear freezes before it can fall from his cheek. Super cheesy. But a nice scene. And Arnie plays it well. There is a decent performance underneath the campy mess that is this movie. George Clooney certainly deserves another go at the character. With a better script, there might have been a good movie in here. At least good enough to not kill the franchise. Alas. It’s terrible. But good fun if you’re under 12.
28. Killing Gunther (2017)
This is only a cameo performance from Arnold, even though he plays the title character. If not for the fact that the whole film revolves around the plot of trying to kill Arnie’s Gunther, I would not have included this on this list at all. He’s in it for 5/10 minutes at most. It’s a fun film. I’m only ranking it low on the list because it’s not a true, Schwarzenegger movie. It’s currently on Netflix and worth checking out, just for Arnie’s cameo alone.
27. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
People hate this movie. It very nearly killed the franchise. Some people say it should have killed the franchise to spare fans of the trauma of the next two films. But this is easily the worst Terminator movie. It does have some moments that belong in a much better movie than this. Some of the effects are great. Some ideas were solid. But for the most part its a bit of a mess. There are far too many jokes and the tone feels muddled. It was trying very hard to be a blockbuster movie, perhaps too hard. Simply trying to emulate the success of the previous movie.
Again, this is a film that leaned too much on quippy one-liners from Arnold. Most of his films around this period suffered because of the expectation for quotable Arnold puns. King of the one-liner. The scene with the star sunglasses is embarrassing. It’s trying too hard to be “well” loved. And fails tremendously. It doesn’t help that the casting of the peripheral characters was uninspired, performed with little finesse from anyone.
John Connor comes across as whining and pathetic, not the kind of man that is easy to envisage becoming a leader of the resistance. At least Christian Bale had some gravitas to bring to the role. You need to watch this film, but only once. And only so you can say you have watched all the Terminator movies. But this is not a movie anyone will want to go back to once they get to the end. Don’t worry, it’s not too long.
26. Sabotage (2014)
This movie isn’t bad. Good little ensemble cast. Acceptable plot. But that’s it really. It’s just, okay. It doesn’t try to do anything new. When it does try to do something “different” or “unexpected” it’s not particularly original. The climax isn’t the surprise it is meant to be, and there is nothing that makes this film stick out. Having said this, it was a nice entry in Arnie’s VERY SLOW return to stardom.
There are some really slick fight and gun choreography, and its achieved on a minimal budget, so the action is grounded, with real weight to it. This film is easily forgotten but has moments of pure Arnold goodness. It’s not groundbreaking, it’s not offensive, its fine. If you’re itching to watch an Arnie movie, best skip this one. You won’t get a good enough scratch out of it.
25. Aftermath (2017)
Another movie that has more potential beneath it. Aftermath is a movie about a man, whose family died in a plane accident, and his mission to get an apology from the man responsible. He is offered payoffs and other gratuities, but all he is after is an apology. The climax isn’t too predictable, but it’s not difficult to see coming.
It’s not bad. It’s not great either. It’s a slow burn for an Arnie film. It’s not an action movie. This isn’t the revenge flick that Collateral Damage is. It’s trying to offer something new. The casting of Schwarzenegger instantly makes this movie interesting.
Without someone like Arnie, this movie might not work at all. But an actor known for action films really helps make this film feel unique and defined. It’s not. But it is brave. It’s a decent film and a good little performance from Arnie.
24. Conan the Destroyer (1984)
Another franchise killer. This time though it’s not too terrible. The budget is what let this sequel down. The creature designs and puppetry look awful compared to the effects of its 1982 predecessor. John Milius, the writer/director of the original, had initially planned to make a trilogy of Conan movies. He did not return for the second movie, as the studio didn’t want to make the investment his script demanded.
Instead, they opted for a cheaper route. The sets are still reasonably aesthetically pleasing, and there are decent moments like Mako’s wizard returning. But compared to the original it is a massive let down. A simple, quest and reward, plot. It lacked the depth that Milius’ excellent writing brought to the original. Still a fun watch, and more satisfying than the remake in its own way. Certainly fun for fantasy fans. But a very far step away from the masterpiece that was the first movie.
23. Red Sonja (1985)
Initially, part of the Conan universe from the comics, Red Sonja is essentially the female answer to Conan. A warrior woman. Schwarzenegger is in this movie as a Conan type character. But he’s not playing Conan. He was meant to be, but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. It’s a shame because this film could have kept the franchise fresh had it featured Arnie’s Conan. Instead, he plays Kalidor, a muscular wonderer. It’s not bad at all.
It takes itself far more seriously than Conan the Destroyer, and has a more interesting plot, albeit a revenge plot. Arnie takes a back seat and allows Brigitte Nielsen to shine as Sonja. It’s certainly worth sitting down one night and checking out. A good way to end a Conan movie marathon, even if it isn’t an official Conan movie.
22. The Expendables (2010/2012/2014)
The Expendable movies will count as one for this list considering that Arnie appears as a small character in all of them, culminating in very little screen time. And they are all extremely similar. The first Expendables wasn’t bad. Good fun. But the longer the franchise continues, the worse it gets.
It started out as a fun idea. But it really didn’t have the traction for a movie franchise. But, Stallone knows how to bleed a rock. He’ll squeeze whatever he can, out of any idea of his people like. Can’t really blame him either. He surprises people a lot. He’s actually a very good screenwriter. And Oscar-winning. He knows how to get people on board. But he let Expendables fans down with the sequels.
The follow-ups didn’t have the sharp dialogue of the first movie and felt lazily thrown together. The action became more reliant on special effects which made the movement of the action flow without weight, drifting through the space making every blow seem less threatening.
And the choreography feels more sluggish. They dip in quality with each installment. There are whispers of a new film coming soon called, The Expendebelles, following an all female team. Not sure about that. But hey. They’ll make anything now.
21. Terminator Genysis (2015)
A controversial placement for this film, considering how universally hated it is. But this pick is a little more subjective. This flick is enjoyable. Sure, it’s no work of art. But it taps into the nostalgia of the original from the eighties. There is something so fun in watching an aging Schwarzenegger, fighting a young, youthful, evil Schwarzenegger. The effects get a bit ‘video game-ish’. But it’s fun. And that’s what these movies became. Fun for the sake of being fun.
And this film is the most fun you can have in a Terminator film without watching Terminator 2. It makes the effort to try to be smarter than the previous two. There are some excellent sequences and ideas in this film.
There was meant to be a planned trilogy to be drafted off the back of this entry in the franchise, but the backlash it received from fans has caused the studio to rethink their options. It’s confusing why this film gets more hate than it deserves. There are unanswered questions that more sequels could sufficiently answer. But it is more likely they will go for a soft reboot of the franchise.