Arnold Schwarzenegger in action: The good, the bad, the bad-ass

Jan. 17, 2013 | 10:00 a.m.

After a lengthy run as governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back on the big screen in "The Last Stand." Despite the fact that he's approaching retirement age (he's 65), Arnold's latest action outing is getting positive early reviews. So what's the secret to the big-man's lasting appeal on the big screen? These film roles all point out the aspects of Arnold that keep the big bucks coming. (Merrick Morton / Lionsgate)

The Iconic Arnold: "Hercules in New York" (1969) Schwarzenegger's big-screen debut didn't include his syrupy Austrian accent -- the one-time Mr. Universe bodybuilder's voice was dubbed for his acting debut. But he let the visuals speak for themselves. Smart move. (Trimark Home Video)

The Spiritual Arnold: "Conan the Barbarian" (1982) Yes, he can kill hundreds of bad guys and bench press just about anything. But even Schwarzenegger can show he answers to a higher power. In Conan's case, it's the god Crom. He's not ashamed to do a little prayer to Crom before going into battle. But only Arnold could pull off a prayer ending with "Grant me revenge. And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!" (Universal Studios)

The Threatening Arnold: "The Terminator" (1984) Three simple words were enough to launch a career into the stratosphere: "I'll be back." It helped that his promise was followed up with some intensely violent action scenes, expertly directed by James Cameron. (MGM)

The Unstoppable Arnold: "Commando" (1985) It doesn't matter how many bad guys came at Schwarzenegger in this action flick that cast him as a retired elite black ops commando fighting to get his kidnapped daughter back. He defeated them all and delivered lines like: "You're a funny guy, Sully. I like you. That's why I'm going to kill you last." (20th Century Fox)

The Tough Guy Arnold: "Predator" (1987) Schwarzenegger expanded his roster of enemies with this sci-fi actioner in which he took on a tough alien hunter from beyond the stars. Not one to ever back down from a fight, when the alien creature bared its nasty fangs and horrifying visage and screamed a terrifying scream, Arnold did the same right back to him. No one threatens Arnold. No one. (20th Century Fox)

The Silly Arnold: "Twins" (1988) Schwarzenegger has always been keenly self-aware of his public image and has shown a savvy ability to manipulate it at the right times. Just when he was becoming an '80s action cliche, he put on some matching clothes with Danny DeVito and voila! He was a comedy star. (Universal Pictures)

The Softie Arnold: "Kindergarten Cop" (1990) He demonstrated that he could take down aliens, snake wizards and whole armies of baddies early in his career. But with this Ivan Reitman comedy, he nearly let himself be defeated by a classroom of 5-year-olds. His only defense to the suggestion that his headache may be a tumor? "It's not a too-mah!" (Universal Studios)

The Sensitive Arnold: 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' (1991) Action flicks are largely the domain of the adolescent male, but even young girls were brought to tears by Schwarzenegger's silent thumbs up as the once-killer robot was dipped into molten metal at the end of this blockbuster. (Artisan Home Entertainment)

The Ridiculous Arnold: "Last Action Hero" (1993) The feel of an AK-47 is more comfortable in Arnold's hands than an Oscar statuette, and Schwarzenegger knows it. He wasn't afraid to acknowledge that fact in his over-the-top send-up of over-the-top action flicks, "Last Action Hero." Parodying "Hamlet," Schwarzenegger one-upped the Bard with his own, "To be or not to be? Not to be." Cue explosions. (Columbia Pictures)

The Bombastic Arnold: "True Lies" (1994) When your physique is as exaggerated as Schwarzenegger's, it doesn't pay to play understated. Just when it seemed that action movies couldn't get more operatic, he re-teamed with writer-director James Cameron for a spy action-comedy that really involved a duel between a bad guy with a machine gun on the one hand, and Arnold in a Harrier jet on the other. (20th Century Fox)

After an absence from the big screen for several years (governing California doesn’t leave much workaround time for movie-shooting schedules), Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in a starring role.

No cameos or special appearances — “The Last Stand” is a full-on Schwarzenegger action flick.

Schwarzenegger stars in the film as Ray Owens, a small-town sheriff whose ragtag crew is all that stands between a jail-breaking drug kingpin (accompanied by a band of heavily armed mercenaries) and freedom across the Mexican border. Naturally, shooting ensues. Lots and lots of shooting.

REVIEW: ‘The Last Stand’

The movie marks the English-language debut of respected South Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-Woon (“I Saw the Devil,” “A Tale of Two Sisters”), who told Hero Complex this week that he relied on translators in order to communicate with the star.

According to Kim, the inability to find common parlance with one’s star — or any cast member, for that matter — was hardly a stumbling block:  “Overseas directors who want to work in Hollywood, the language barrier is not a problem,” Kim said through a translator. “With the right talent, any director can be successful.”

Those young enough may wonder what the old governor is doing in an action movie, but for everyone else “The Last Stand” is an instant reminder of a couple of decades of gloriously testosterone-fueled cinema. If the sight of Schwarzenegger only conjures images of tabloid reports and divorce drama, let this be a reminder of why people still go to see his films, despite what some might consider unfortunate personal choices.

Click through the gallery above for a look at the sides of Schwarzenegger — the good, the bad and the bad-ass.

– Patrick Kevin Day

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex


Arnold Schwarzenegger in a scene from the 1982 film "Conan the Barbarian." (Reuters)

‘Last Stand’: Kim Jee-Woon on Hollywood, Arnold’s action comeback

‘Conan’ producer: Arnold’s aging Barbarian faces self-doubt

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan prepping for his ‘Unforgiven’ turn

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‘Game of Thrones’: Jason Momoa goes for the throat

New ‘Conan’ movie aims to bring back the barbarian

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Stallone and Schwarzenegger target Hall H

‘Terminator’: Justin Lin looks at ‘sacred’ franchise’s future

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘Governator’ officially a no-go

Schwarzenegger going head-to-head with video game violence?


2 Responses to Arnold Schwarzenegger in action: The good, the bad, the bad-ass

  1. Richard says:

    Get to the Choppahhhh!!!

    • brandon says:

      It's not a TOOMAH!! – Kindergarten Cop

      "Consider dat a divorce!" –in "Total Recall"

      "Who is your daddy and what does he do?" –in "Kindergarten Cop"

      "Come with me if you want to live." –in "Terminator 2"

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