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Arnold Schwarzenegger Movies of the 80s

Updated on February 18, 2014

Conan: the Beginning

Arnold Schwarzenegger is most remembered for his role as the Terminator, but before he time traveled to kill Sarah Conner, he was a warrior back in the time of the barbarians. Conan the Barbarian was an intense action packed fantasy film. The story was one of warriors, kings, magic, and revenge. In 1982, it was the first big movie for Arnold, and in 1984 it was followed by the sequel, Conan the Destroyer. Although the sequel wasn't as good, and even earned a razzie for Olivia D'Abo's performance as the princess, it is a fun piece of 80s cheesy goodness.

Conan the Barbarian Trailer

Da Terminator

Only four months after the release of the Conan sequel, The Terminator hit theaters, and became one of the best films of the 80s. The idea of time travel was entwined with the feeling at the time, a feeling of wanting to return to the past, which was an idea fueled by President Reagan. Instead of going back to the past, like Back to the Future, though, Terminator showed us what our future was and brought us back to the present. Although some connection could be made to the feelings of an impending nuclear war, the ending gives us hope that we can change and shape our futures.

The Terminator Trailer

Red Sonja

In 1985, Arnold starred in Red Sonja with Brigitte Nielsen, a Danish model in her first film. Although it has been said that Arnold was not going to be a big part in the film, he basically reprises his role as Conan and co-stars. Both Conan and Red Sonja are based on the same comic books, and both films feature a story of warriors and revenge. In this film the two characters work together, and find that they are a perfect match not only as warriors. The feel of the movie is more like the Conan sequel, but wasn't as highly regarded by fans. Fortunately we may get another great Conan film with the new movie that has been announced on IMDB.

Commando Arnold

A few months after Sonja, Arnold returned to a film set in the present day. Commando was a big beautiful action packed thriller, with his co-star being Rae Dawn Chong, and Alyssa Milano playing his kidnapped daughter. Although this film is similar to the modern action revenge films that Norris and Bronson were doing at the time, Arnold's John Matrix wasn't just a character, he was an action hero in the real world who spouted quotable one-liners. Terminator was the first movie with a quote we all remembered: "I'll be back", so this film seemed to try to capitalize on this idea, and so did many of his films afterwards. My favorite: "Remember, Sully, when I promised to kill you last? ...I lied."

Commando Trailer

A Raw Deal

In 1986, Arnold starred in Raw Deal. This too was a modern action revenge film, but instead of being a vigilante or former army man, he played a former FBI agent who was helping the Chicago PD catch a mafia group by going undercover so that he could get his agent status back. The film isn't one of the most memorable by action fans but, having watched it last night, I can say that it is worth watching. After being larger than life as a robot, barbarian, etc, you get to see Arnold play a character who is more like the average man. That's a great deal, if you ask me.

From Robots to Aliens: Predator

The next was a really big and memorable movie starring Arnold: Predator in 1987. This was another science fiction film, but involving aliens. Arnold got to play his action hero role as the main character, Dutch. The film appears to be another war type film, like the Rambo series, but it turns those action movies on their heads. His group are on a normal mission in Central America, find themselves prey to an alien. The alien predator is also a warrior, and he has such fierce skills that we fear for the safety of the main characters. This is really an awesome combination of action and science fiction, so if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.

Predator Trailer

Run Arnold Run

The next film, from the same year, was also a science fiction film: The Running Man. Instead of an alien film, though, this was a futuristic action film. Although this wasn't the only film to use the setting of a future violent TV game show, it was the most talked about in the 80s, and of course starred Arnold. Not to mention that it was based on a novel by best selling author, Stephen King. The idea of using convicted criminals in the violent TV game show actually made some sense. And then throwing in innocent main characters to contend with them, that was brilliant. It may not be as remembered today, but with the reality shows we see now, it is definitely time to revisit this film.

From Russia with Heat

We return to the present in 1988, and Arnold starring with James Belushi in the film Red Heat. This is only the second time that his role is as a normal man in the present day. In this film, he is also in the law enforcement business, as a detective from Moscow, Russia. Although he is really from Austria, Arnold is very convincing as a Russian. With Belushi as his buddy in this buddy cop film, there is a good dose of comedy between the two of them. It may be even less memorable than Running Man, but it is highly entertaining.

He's Not Heavy, He's My Twin

After starring in action, fantasy, and sci-fi films for the entire decade of the 80s, Arnold tries, and succeeds, in the comedy genre. The film Twins came to theaters at the end of 1988, and was Arnold's second comedy. This was more of a comedic film than Red Heat, though. The entire premise is ridiculous, as well. He plays alongside Danny DeVito, who is supposedly his long lost twin brother. Hilarity and silly situations, along with ridiculous explanations, ensure for entertainment. Personally, it's my least favorite of Arnold's 80s films, but I can't say it isn't a little funny. This was his last film of the 80s, but there were more wonderful films to come in the next decade.

Character Quiz

Which type of role did you prefer Arnold play?

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