When Arnold Schwarzenegger started his Hollywood career, he already had vast sums of money from his businesses, most notably a construction business that did well after an earthquake in California.
Oh, and he was widely known as a bodybuilder who competed at the highest level, winning several Mr. Olympia titles.
With Schwarzenegger having so much confidence in himself after so much success, Hollywood would be a cakewalk, right? And, to be honest, it was. Schwarzenegger carved out a legacy in cinema, primarily for his work as an action hero during the eighties and nineties.
He became one of the highest-grossing stars in film history and has several classics to his name. Known for his catchphrases and ability to keep his eyes open while firing weapons, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a cultural icon with lasting relevance to this day.
Here’s our look back at Arnie’s best cinematic moments and our picks for the best Arnold Schwarzenegger movie scenes ever.
8. Meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger (Last Action Hero)
Last Action Hero has endured the decades since its release, becoming an example of a meta-classic, with Arnold Schwarzenegger portraying a movie character named Jack Slater.
Slater is a cop who sits on the clichés of Hollywood action principles, with endless ammunition, a cool car, and his renegade attitude. However, when Slater is taken out of the film and into the real world, he bumps into Schwarzenegger at the latest premiere for Jack Slater’s newest film.
The scene is hilarious, as Slater tells Schwarzenegger he doesn’t like him, leaving Schwarzenegger looking bewildered.
7. Truth Serum (True Lies)
Director James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger are one of Hollywood’s greatest actor-director pairs, as their films have always proven to be hits at the box office.
When they reunited for True Lies, Arnold was cast as a spy named Harry Tasker, who travels around the world killing people for the government. But to his family, he’s simply a salesman.
When his wife Helen is dragged into his world, they’re both captured and tied to chairs, then Harry is given truth serum. He’s asked a series of questions, after which he describes (in detail) how he plans to escape—which he makes happen, violently, to his wife’s horror.
6. Ram It Into Your Stomach (The Running Man)
In a future where criminals are forced to participate in a game show called The Running Man to earn their freedom, Schwarzenegger’s Ben Richards is framed for a crime he didn’t commit.
He’s sent to take part in the show, and he and his fellow inmates are hunted by the Stalkers. They end up killing a few of them, leading the network and Killian (the show’s creator) worrying that he’ll survive.
Knowing he’s on TV, Richards picks up a camera (after brutally killing one of the Stalkers) and delivers one of Arnie’s best-known lines in response to Killian offering him a contract to be part of the show:
“I’ll live to see you eat that contract, but I hope you leave enough room for my fist because I’m going to ram it into your stomach and break your god-damn spine!”
5. The Quaid Holograms (Total Recall)
Total Recall follows the futuristic story of a construction worker named Douglas Quaid, who has memories of Mars even though he’s never been to the planet. We learn that he was once a Martian agent who attempted to overthrow the autocratic regime, and his memories are implants.
The regime sends men after Quaid to stop him from recovering his whole memory, and during one fight, he uses a device that makes many holograms of him appear to the multiple hostiles following him.
As they become confused by the holograms, some guys point a gun at him—and Quaid says, “You think this is the real Quaid?” They hesitate. He then says, “It is.” and kills them all. In a film based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, it’s fun to see some Schwarzenegger humor incorporated.
4. The Predator Fight (Predator)
From the beginning of Predator, the audience knows what’s in store for the rest of the film: bulging muscles and lethal force. However, when Dutch’s team is sent into the jungle to recover a political figure apparently held hostage, they become hunted by… something else.
All of Dutch’s men are killed in the field by an enemy they can’t see, and Dutch manages to survive long enough to finally lay eyes on the alien that has eradicated his unit.
Dutch then sets up a camp and creates several traps made from natural sources and bellows from the trees to draw the Predator into battle. The ensuing fight is one of Arnie’s finest, as he uses one of his traps to kill the creature—after surviving a gruesome battle against it.
3. Hasta La Vista, Baby (Terminator 2)
Terminator 2 is Schwarzenegger’s crowning achievement. It’s an action classic that’s often regarded as one of the best films ever made, with Schwarzenegger’s performance as the T-101 being his best in the role.
After John Connor reboots him and allows him to learn, Schwarzenegger’s machine learns how to exist in the modern world. Part of that means picking up on a phrase taught to him by Connor: “Hasta la vista, baby.”
Later, when the T-1000 is frozen by liquid nitrogen, Schwarzenegger’s cyborg draws his pistol and—with a steely look in the eye—utters the phrase before blasting the T-1000 into a thousand pieces.
2. I’ll Be Back (The Terminator)
Of all Arnie’s catchphrases, “I’ll be back” is his most iconic. The phrase has been worked into most of his movies post-The Terminator, appearing in various linguistic forms to make it fit the narratives. However, its first utterance is still the best.
As Schwarzenegger’s villainous cyborg hunts down Sarah Connor in the first Terminator movie, she’s arrested and sent to a police station. He tries to follow her in so he can meet her.
After the desk clerk tells him that he can’t, the machine leans in and says, “I’ll be back”—before driving his car into the station and killing all the cops who get in his way.
It might have first appeared in the form of a threat from an almost-unstoppable villain, but the phrase has since become heroic with Arnie’s later portrayals of heroes in the years afterwards.
1. Lowered Into the Steel (Terminator 2)
Few action films have ever evoked as much emotion as the end of Terminator 2, when Arnie’s T-101 has finally beaten the T-1000 and he tells Sarah and John Connor that he, too, must be lowered into the molten steel to be destroyed.
A distraught John then attempts to command him not to go. The T-101 then looks at John’s tears and tells him, “I know now why you cry, but it is something I can never do.” Then hugs the boy.
He’s lowered into the pit by Sarah after sharing a handshake, and as his body melts, he gives one final thumbs-up, leaving the whole movie theater in tears as he does.
Schwarzenegger’s work isn’t known for its visceral moments or feelings of loss, but at the end of Terminator 2 it comes along naturally, perfectly weighted by a great script.