5. Camel punch
‘Conan the Barbarian’ was Arnie’s first starring role, after a few films (‘Stay Hungry’, ‘Cactus Jack’) that tested the waters to see how Hollywood could use him. And what a puzzle he was: a six-foot, two-inch behemoth with muscles that fair burst out from his torso, yet with sharp, chiseled face and a slender shape that belied his bodybuilder physique, Arnie wasn’t your average meat-head. He was probably the first beefcake that managed not to alienate his audience by looking like a retarded block of proteins, and with glinting eyes that projected intelligence and a gap-toothed smile that hinted at a sense of humour beyond mere buffoonery, Arnie succeeded in becoming a legitimate Hollywood star.
And that star was someone that Hollywood has neither before nor since managed to find. Arnie was a living, breathing CGI, a human actor that allowed audiences to suspend belief like no other, to believe in scenes and scenarios that would have been deemed absurd in any other film with any other actor, be it hunting down humans as a cyborg, going mano-a-mano with aliens, to waging a one-man war against armies and terrorist cells with nothing but a couple of uzis. This scene, Arnie punching a camel – no, really – is perhaps the first example of the Austrian Oak’s ability to distort the field of reality for his fans, a grown man knocking out a large desert animal and not making the film look totally ridiculous.
4. One-handed shotgun reload
Casual fans would point to “Hasta la vista“, “I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle“, and the climactic thumbs-up among a host of other great moments in the film as the most iconic, but what actually had millions of teenagers worldwide cooing to each other was this, very much the coolest single moment in Arnie’s career and imitated in thousands of schoolyards for months. John Wayne did it decades earlier, but Arnie arguably pulls it off with greater effortlessness and style.
3. ‘I’m da pahdee poopah’
‘Kindergarten Cop’ isn’t supposed to be funny. And it’s not, really. What it is, though, is Arnie-funny. You know, like Arnie saying “I eat green berets for breakfast” in ‘Commando’, or screaming “Get to da choppa!” in ‘Predator’. It’s funny because he‘s saying these things, because he‘s in those situations, his face deadly serious, every sinew of his mighty muscles primed to deliver a punch line before or after violating multiple human rights on unsuspecting terrorists or private militias. During the opening moments of ‘Kindergarten Cop’, you see Arnie dressed up in a tough-guy trenchcoat, sporting an alcoholic’s stubble and wearing an unforgiving pair of sunglasses, shotgun at the ready. Any other movie not named ‘Kindergarten Cop’ and you’re staring at half-a-dozen f-bombs before the gunfight’s even started; any actor other than Arnie and the quip “I’m the party-pooper” is a potential career-killer. He takes it all in his stride, though. Maybe he doesn’t realize how ludicrous the line sounds; maybe throughout his career Arnie never perhaps realized how ludicrous anything that came out of his mouth sounded on screen. That’s part of his charm, however, and what made him so utterly beloved by his fans. When the time came for him to earn his pay, Arnie would steady his gaze, lock on to his prey, utter the most blatant pun with unimpeachable authority and start blasting away.
2. ‘Stick Around’
This is probably Arnie’s peak in terms of both his physique (as mainstream actor) and his quip delivery. That this immortal line is spoken with so much cock-sure confidence isn’t really news – most of the Eighties was testament to Arnie’s monumental self-assurance – but what really impresses is the effortless manner in which he does so. No other actor could have put the badge on a kill with such composure, steadiness and appreciation, nay, relish.
1. ‘I lied’
‘Predator’ has the critical kudos, ‘The Terminator’ the influence, and ‘Total Recall’ the extra alien mammary, but among Arnie’s eighties output no other film has the cult appeal and pure love from the fans than ‘Commando’. The film is comedy genius masquerading as no-brains actioner, and is just filled to the brim with magnificent one-liners that today’s films wouldn’t have the know-how or the balls to use. It has inspired such devotion that, nearly three decades on, there is a dedicated fansite with pages titled ‘Fan Songs’, ‘BennettSpotting’ (named after the now-iconic baddie) and ‘Guide to Val Verde’ (the fictional South American island where the climactic carnage unfolds). Fundamentalist faith in the film’s greatness bordering on religious mania touches almost every review on Commando’s imdb.com page: some prime examples include ‘As close to perfect as it gets’, ‘Do films get any better than this? Simple answer, no’, and, with no little certainty, ‘The single greatest theatrical creation of all time’. ‘Commando’ is 90 minutes’ vortex of reality distortion that would make Steve Jobs proud; any attempt to project reasonable, objective criticism upon the film would be baffled because, well, how can you when faced with zingers such as “‘Fuck you asshole.’ ‘No, fuck you, asshole!‘” and “‘You’re gonna cooperate, right?’ ‘WRONG!‘”? You can come up with an all-time top-ten list of one-liners just from ‘Commando’, and there would still be enough left over to make a career’s worth of Steven Seagal movies.
Special Mention 1: The Manshake
Another moment from ‘Commando’: I will just let the sheer unbridled machismo and homoerotic subtext pour out from this clip. Not to exaggerate or anything, but this may be the most testosterone-fueled scene in the history of cinema.
Special Mention 2: ‘To be, or not to be… Not to be.’
‘Last Action Hero’ is a horribly underrated film that is easy to mock, mostly due to the lamentable presence of that cross-eyed punk playing Danny the movie-loving delinquent. But if you put the film back in its context, certain remarkable facts emerge: this was a $85 million parody – a parody! – of action movies headlined by probably the biggest pure action star of all time, coming off the biggest hit of his career, directed by the man who made ‘Die Hard’. It had some absolutely fantastic moments – Tina Turner’s cameo, Stallone as Terminator, Arnie vs. Arnie in the Chinese Theatre, Marlon Brando’s rather ‘stiff’ appearance – and dared to be post-modern at a time before it became fashionable. It poked fun – if rather broadly – at all the things that made Arnie and his contemporaries very rich and it never chickened out in doing so to the very end of the movie. We are likely never going to have another film like it, a blockbuster film of a genre whose definitive star at the apex of his power was willing to gnaw at – if not quite bite – the hand that fed him. Imagine Tom Cruise making ‘Spy Hard’ that cost $150 million, or John Wayne making ‘Blazing Saddles’ (although funnily enough he was actually asked by Mel Brooks). This is also probably the only time that Arnie recites or will ever recite Shakespeare on film, which calls for its inclusion.