I am a big fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. From The Running Man and Predator, to True Lies and Commando, I’ve got a soft spot for Arnie films and am more than happy to watch (and re-watch) my favourites whenever the opportunity presents itself.
And when it comes to the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger there are plenty to choose from. The Austrian-American actor has been appearing in movies since the 1970s, and continues to headline films to this day.
Today I’m taking a look at Arnie’s movie portfolio, highlighting films decade by decade to present a list of every Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, including a few where he simply put in a cameo appearance. At the bottom of the list I will discuss the highest grossing Arnie film, then rank my top ten Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.
Now, come with me if you want to… read more about Arnie.
So where did it all begin? In the 1970s.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first film was Hercules in New York. The actor played the title role, however he didn’t get the billing he’d get today.
Those who have seen the film will know that for this movie, Arnie was credited as Arnold Strong, rather than Arnold Schwarzenegger. The name change was due to the belief that the actor’s surname would be too difficult to pronounce!
As for the rest of the ’70s, well, with the exception of Hercules in New York, it’s fair to say that none of the productions Arnie was involved with are particularly well remembered today. It would take the ’80s for Schwarzenegger to really make his mark.
Here is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s filmography for the 1970s:
- Hercules in New York (1970)
- The Long Goodbye (1973)
- Happy Anniversary and Goodbye (1974) – TV movie
- Stay Hungry (1976)
- Cactus Jack (1979)
- Scavenger Hunt (1979)
Moving into the 1980s now, which is the decade that would come to define and cement Arnie’s status as action star. It would also provide the actor with his most famous role, that of The Terminator.
But before The Terminator arrived, Schwarzenegger took on the role of a comic book character for two movies: 1982s Conan the Barbarian and 1984s Conan the Destroyer. The first Conan movie brought Schwarzenegger worldwide recognition and opened the door to a hugely successful career.
From here he would appear in some of his most memorable roles, including John Matrix (Commando), Dutch (Predator) and Ben Richards (The Running Man). He also got to turn his hand to comedy, partnering up with Danny DeVito for the 1988 movie, Twins.
But as noted above, it’s The Terminator that would be Arnie’s defining role of the decade, and the signature role of his career. It would also be a part he would continue to be associated with for every proceeding decade moving forward.
Should you want to know more about the Terminator franchise, read my post: What is the best order to watch the Terminator movies? It will provide you with the best viewing order for the films.
In the meantime, here is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s filmography for the 1980s:
- The Jayne Mansfield Story (1980) – TV movie
- Conan the Barbarian (1982)
- Conan the Destroyer (1984)
- The Terminator (1984)
- Red Sonja (1985)
- Commando (1985)
- Raw Deal (1986)
- Predator (1987)
- The Running Man (1987)
- Twins (1988)
The ’90s brought another long list of well-known movies, from 1990’s Total Recall, to ’96’s Jingle All the Way. This decade also gave the world Terminator 2: Judgement Day – a rare example of a sequel surpassing the original in every way.
Of course, not all of Arnie’s films were big hits in the 1990s and this would be the decade where things began to waver a little, as the action star tried his hand at more comedy (Junior) and a number of films that missed their mark (Eraser, End of Days).
But even with the misfires, Arnie retained his star status. His appearance in Batman & Robin ensured a very healthy pay cheque, as well as top billing, and his continued partnership with director James Cameron produced one of the best movies of the mid-’90s – True Lies.
Here is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s filmography for the 1990s:
- Total Recall (1990)
- Kindergarten Cop (1990)
- Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
- Christmas in Connecticut (1992) – TV movie
- Lincoln (1992) – TV movie
- Dave (1993)
- Last Action Hero (1993)
- Beretta’s Island (1993)
- True Lies (1994)
- Junior (1994)
- Eraser (1996)
- Jingle All the Way (1996)
- Batman & Robin (1997)
- End of Days (1999)
And now onto the ’00s – a quieter decade for Arnie’s movie career. The reason? It was during this decade that Schwarzenegger moved away from acting to pursue a political career.
However, he still made time for a couple of sub-par offerings (The 6th Day, Collateral Damage), and another entry in the Terminator franchise – Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. This would be Arnie’s movie highlight of the ’00s, and his last big role for sometime, with the rest of his cinematic appearances being cameos at best.
Here is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s filmography for the 2000s:
- The 6th Day (2000)
- Collateral Damage (2002)
- Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
- Welcome to the Jungle (2003)
- Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
- The Kid & I (2005)
And now into the 2010s – a decade that saw Arnie step away from politics and back in front of the camera. Following a couple of glorified cameos in The Expendables films, the actor took his first major step with The Last Stand.
Escape Plan – a team-up with Sylvester Stallone – arrived in 2014, while 2015’s Maggie saw Arnie try something a little different with a sombre, horror/drama. This was followed up by a return to the Terminator franchise with Genisys and Dark Fate.
Here is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s filmography for the 2010s:
- The Expendables (2010)
- The Expendables 2 (2012)
- The Last Stand (2013)
- Escape Plan (2013)
- Sabotage (2014)
- The Expendables 3 (2014)
- Maggie (2015)
- Terminator Genisys (2015)
- Aftermath (2017)
- Killing Gunther (2017)
- Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
Outside of the above filmography, Arnie has appeared in a number of TV shows, shorts and Terminator tie-in attractions. However it is his movies that remain his most famous work.
So, what is the best Arnold Schwarzenegger movie? Well, before I discuss my personal favourites, let’s look at his highest grossing picture.
Can you guess what it is?
The highest grossing Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Released in 1991 the movie has a current box office take of $520,881,154.
(Source: Box Office Mojo)
Arnold Schwarzenegger Top Ten movies ranked
OK, so we’ve got a list of every Arnie film and we’ve got the highest grossing Arnie movie, but what are the Top Ten Arnold Schwarzenegger movies?
Here are mine.
10. Conan the Barbarian (1982)
The actor played Conan in two movies (with a third film being teased). The film deserves a place within this Top Ten for two reasons:
- The film elevated Arnie to a global audience, paving the way for everything that followed
- Schwarzenegger was born to play this role
09. Twins (1988)
The combination of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito and Ghostbusters director, Ivan Reitman resulted in Twins – a enjoyable comedy which proved there was more to Arnie than just his muscles. Playing the lovable Julius Benedict gave the ‘Austrian Oak’ the opportunity to soften his persona, following a string of action orientated roles.
08. Batman & Robin (1997)
I appreciate that putting Batman & Robin at No. 8 on this list will be very divisive amongst readers, but I believe it’s a perfectly valid entry. Not only have I previously explained how much I enjoy this movie – check out my post I like Batman & Robin. There, I said it! – but also Arnie does what Arnie does best in this movie – he plays Arnie!
Say what you want about this movie, but if you’re after an over the top Arnie performance then Batman & Robin delivers. He may not be the Bat-villain you want, but he is the Arnie villain you deserve.
07. The Running Man (1987)
Arnie tackles a Steven King (Richard Bachman) story in this entertaining, dystopian sci-fi action flick, centred around a reality TV show. The movie is best enjoyed with brain firmly switched off, volume cranked up, and popcorn in hand.
06. Total Recall (1990)
Another sci-fi movie and another adaptation of an existing story, this time via Philip K. Dick. Arnie plays Douglas Quaid, a construction worker who dreams about a life that’s not his own (or is it?).
Action, an alien with three breasts, and Michael Ironside – what more could anyone want?
05. The Terminator (1984)
Does this even require any explanation?
Arnie has many highlights in his movie career, but it’s this role that he will be forever known for. While this isn’t the peak entry in the Terminator series, it is a fantastic film that allowed Schwarzenegger to play the perfect assassin.
04. Predator (1987)
Predator has spawned a number of sequels and spin-offs over the years, but none have managed to match the brilliance of the original. It’s telling that with the exception of the first entry, none of them have included Arnold Schwarzenegger either.
The film places Arnie in a fight to the death against the ultimate predator. It’s tense, it’s action-packed, it’s bloody awesome.
03. Commando (1985)
Jeez, this was a tough one. In an alternate universe, where the next two entries don’t exist, Commando would be the No.1 Arnie film on this list. Why? Because it is easily the most Arnie-ist Arnie movie of them all.
Everything you expect from an Arnold Schwarzenegger film is on display in Commando, from a stream of one-liners to over the top action. If you’ve never seen it, it is a MUST watch.
02. True Lies (1994)
This was another tough one, as True Lies is a fantastic action movie which is as close to the top spot as it can get. Not only does the movie play to Arnie’s strengths (his action hero persona), it is also the best James Bond movie that isn’t a James Bond movie.
01. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Could there be any other movie in the top spot?
Terminator 2 is not only Arnie’s highest grossing movie, it’s also his best. The actor was at the top of his game in this film, which allowed him to build upon the foundations he laid in The Terminator.
T2 should be watched and re-watched at regular intervals. It is one of the greatest action films of all time, that never wears out its welcome.
In The Terminator, Arnie promised he’d be back. Not only did he keep his promise for this sequel, but he made sure his return was worth the wait.
Are you a fan of Schwarzenegger films? What do you believe is the best (and worst) of his back catalogue? Is there a film in his portfolio that is a hidden gem? Whatever your thoughts and feelings, sound off in the comments section below.
Do it. Do it now!