The Tuesday List: Arnold Schwarzenegger Films of the 80s

With the Austrian Beefcake—his and I’s little private joke—proclaiming his intentions to sue the oil industry and AFTERMATH, his latest movie, popping up on streaming services, there is no better time to talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, his career spans more than forty years (more like 30-plus from the American mainstream perspective) so I’m breaking it into decades. Today, the decade we really got to know Ahnuld, the 80’s.

 Not enough is made of what a fashion plate the Austrian Oak was. (ew.com)

Not enough is made of what a fashion plate the Austrian Oak was. (ew.com)

Best Arnold Schwarzenegger Movies of the 1980’s (Roughly Chronological)

1.)    Conan the Barbarian- Arnold conquers our cinema landscape by first accepting his limitations. He knows he has not yet quite mastered English so he puts his physique on full display and lets his accent make Conan seem otherworldly and unusual. The gonzo script by Oliver Stone and the director John Milius (RED DAWN, FLIGHT OF THE INTRUDER) is a pulpy delight and it proved James Earl Jones could be an excellent villain.

2.)    The Terminator- Speaking of limiting his dialogue, Schwarzenegger’s first turn as the killer robot is wonderfully taciturn. Sadly, we wouldn’t see very much of how scary the man could be after this movie, but Schwarzenegger is TERRIFYING. And, truthfully, almost none of it has to do with his physique. He does a great job of draining the life from his eyes and dimming his natural charisma to sell the idea that all he cares about is murder.

3.)    Commando- Not actually good, but a cheesefest, a “good bad” movie in the parlance. Arnold’s gift for one-liners would grow but never again would they be this so gloriously ubiquitous and intensely punny.

4.)    Predator- A monster movie recast for the pumped 80’s action period. Gloriously testosterone drenched and riddled with as much incredibly unselfconscious tough guy dialogue as it is with bullets.

5.)    Twins- Schwarzenegger’s first full blown comedy reveals him as the most versatile performer of the pumped up actions kings (Stallone, JCVD, Seagal) of the time which is nothing you would’ve predicted if you saw him in, say, HERCULES IN NEW YORK. He pokes fun at himself but also instills a kind of undeniable sweetness and dignity in his sheltered Julius Benedict, the Adonis twin to Danny Devito’s “leftovers.”

 Image chosen for maximum flattery. (collider.com)

Image chosen for maximum flattery. (collider.com)

Come back next week for the 90’s!