Conan the Barbarian
Until director John Milius featured Arnold in this pre-Atlantian era classic, no one knew the Austrian Oak as anything but a bodybuilder. With one word, “Crom,” Schwarzenegger became forever tied with larger-than-life mythic movie heroes. As an actor, he was the first star to make audiences believe that a mortal man could defeat any villain with real muscle and steel.
Terminator II: Judgment Day
After his turn as one of the most famous villains in the prior installment, no other actor could portray a cyborg assassin from the future like Arnold. His look and stature have always conveyed a mechanical quality, but this movie convinced audiences that he is one of the most perfect physical specimens humanity has known. Protecting a teenager, riding motorcycles in high-speed chases, bending iron, and defeating seemingly immortal villains never looked so easy and cool.
Despite being involved with stopping a third world military power, this is one of the best Arnold Schwarzenegger movies because he also finds the time and will to defeat one of the galaxy’s deadliest trophy hunters. The predator thinks that humanity is a weak species until Schwarzenegger out-muscles, out-wits, and ultimately out-hunts the hunter.
An overworked beat cop and a Russian “exchange officer” team up to upset an international mafia gang. All of Arnold’s talents are on display as Ivan Danko. This includes weight lifting, shirtless posing, woman-exciting, and blowing things apart. Arnold’s role truly illustrates the tensions of the Cold War.
Besides physicality, Arnold does have a knack for bringing a sense of weight to clandestine espionage roles. In this movie he is a US Marshall opposite whistle-blower Vanessa Williams. His mission is to deliver information and erase his client’s identity, while taking-down a ruthless international arms ring.
To audience’s surprise, Schwarzenegger shows a refined comedic side in this movie, and is magical when paired against the only characters who can eclipse his larger-than-life presence. As an officer undercover as a kindergarten teacher, Arnold has no trouble catching the bad guy, but is completely undone by a class of curious five-year-olds.