He Almost Always Fights Unimpressive Enemies
When you consider that Schwarzenegger spent a couple decades as the walking incarnation of human superstrength, it’s remarkable just how unimposing most of his bad guys are. Art Malik from True Lies is a good example: Previously best-known for Merchant-Ivory movies, he looks shrimpy next to Schwarzenegger’s superspy (and his ultimate end makes him look like even more of a goof.) Still, when it comes to hilariously unthreatening villains, nothing beats Commando‘s one-two punch of Bennett and Arius. The latter is played by beloved character actor Dan Hedaya with a bad accent; the former is played by Vernon Wells in a too-short T-shirt and chainmail. (The Predator and the T-1000 are notable, and awesome, exceptions.)
He's an Ace at Composing One-Liners
How to choose the best Arnold bon mots? The literal kiss-off ”Consider that a divorce!” The cringe-inducing ”Ice to see you!” The late-period classic ”You should clone yourself while you’re still alive…so you can go f— yourself!!!” Frankly, you can pick almost any line from The Running Man. (”What happened to Buzzsaw?” — ”He had to split.”)
He Usually Doesn't Have a Love Interest
Schwarzenegger romanced the Amazonian stuntwoman Sandahl Bergman in Conan, but after that first big hit, romantic plotlines have been rare, possibly because…well, Ahnold’s particular acting skill set might make it difficult to have chemistry with a human female. It’s more common for him to have wives and/or platonic lady costars (like Rae Dawn Chong in Commando or Linda Hamilton in T2.) Put it this way: The Predator arm-wrestling scene is one of the most romantic sequences in Schwarzenegger’s filmography.
But He Cares About da Keedz
Ever the savvy businessman, Schwarzenegger decided early to ameliorate his action-badass persona and transform himself into a more family-friendly superstar. Hence, he kills a few thousand people to save his cute daughter (played by a young Alyssa Milano) in Commando and pairs up with teen scamp John Connor in Terminator 2. This trend reached its natural conclusion in Junior, where Arnold Schwarzenegger actually gives birth to a genuine baby person.
His Muscles, How They Glisten
Unlike his buffed-up colleague Stallone, Schwarzenegger doesn’t show off his bare biceps now that he’s a senior citizen. But the former Mr. Olympia wasn’t shy about flaunting his oiled-up musculature in his glory days. (Supposedly, he had to actually lose some muscle mass to swing a sword in Conan the Barbarian.)
He Inevitably Makes This Face
Call it the Terrified Homicidal Constipated Battle Cry.
He Also Inevitably Makes This Noise
All together now: ”Aaauuurrrrooogggghhhhuuuuuaaayyyyy!”
He Lives the Ultimate American Dream
Most of Schwarzenegger’s most iconic characters have achieved high levels of success in the law enforcement or the military, despite the fact that they obviously arrived in America late enough in their lives to have outrageous accents. In Commando and Predator, he plays elite soldiers; in The Running Man, he’s a military pilot; in Kindergarten Cop, End of Days, and The Last Stand, he’s a well-regarded career cop. This used to seem unrealistic. Then Schwarzenegger was elected Governor of California.
Sometimes He Tries To Be Funny on Purpose
It barely ever works.
His Name Is Always Hilarious And Awesome
A quick sampling:
John ”Breacher” Wharton
Sherriff Ray Owens
Dr. Victor Fries
Marshal John ”The Eraser” Kruger
Agent Harry Tasker
Detective John Kimble
Captain Ivan Danko
Major Alan ”Dutch” Schaefer
Colonel John Matrix
Conan the Cimmerian
The Film Is Often Surprisingly Deconstructive
Possibly because he worked with a good array of directors — unlike Sylvester Stallone, who mostly worked with Sylvester Stallone — Schwarzenegger’s films often take an intriguingly cockeyed look at Schwarzenegger’s star persona. That was true way back in The Terminator, which made a joke out of his unemotive exterior by making him an emotionless robot. And it was even more true in Predator, which begins like a Commando sequel but then pits Schwarzenegger against an enemy who can’t be beaten just by firing a million bullets into a forest. And Total Recall is one of the great twisted action movies, attacking Schwarzenegger’s mind and making his musclebound body useless. By the time Schwarzenegger meets one of his own characters in Last Action Hero, we’ve officially gone down the meta-movie rabbit hole.
Also, The Movies Have Been Uniformly Pretty Bad for 20 Years
But The Last Stand is really good! Could this indicate the dawning of a new Schwarzeneggerenaissance?