When looking at the long and absolutely bizarre career of Arnold Schwarzenegger — body builder, actor, governor — I find myself most fascinated with his run of movies in the ’90s. During this decade, he made some of his absolute best flicks… and some of his worst stinkers. In today’s list, I’m going to rank his 11 movies from this time period in order of worst to best. Let’s do it!
Worst: Batman and Robin (1997)
Whoo boy, let’s rip the bandage off this stinker and get it out of the way first. There was a whole lot that was really terrible about Batman and Robin, but one of the things everyone remembers — and mocks — was Arnold’s cheesy take on Mr. Freeze. Every single one of his lines was some cold-related pun, which (in my opinion) detracted slightly from the inherent tragedy of chis character.
End of Days (1999)
I saw this once and was really taken aback at how dark and depressing it was. I think they were going for that Se7en grittiness mixed with fears of Y2K and the apocalypse, but it was such a disappointing flick that I never wanted to subject myself to it again. It was the start of a run of three bad box office bombs for Schwarzenegger before he’d slightly redeem himself with Terminator 3.
Jingle All The Way (1996)
I’m going to take a lot of flak for putting this so low in the rankings, as I know that it’s some people’s perennial Christmas favorite. But for me, I don’t get the love. It’s dumb, features Arnold failing to be a good dad for two hours, and has the worst jet pack sequence ever put to film.
Also known as “that movie with the rail gun rifle.” Does anyone remember anything else from this movie? That’s probably not a good sign.
We’ll go into Arnold’s two comedies for the middle of this list. He’s really not a natural comedian in the least, but we all feel bad that he’s trying so hard that we give him credit. Anyway, this is the movie where he’s some genetic scientist and impregnates himself so that he can spend the rest of the running time talking about his nipples and having daydreams about giving birth. It’s… weird.
Kindergarten Cop (1990)
Like Turner and Hooch, the “crime” part of this movie doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the plot, which sees Arnold’s cop take the role of a kindergarten teacher to protect a single kid. There are a few good quotes and a passable romance, but it’s not quite as good of a movie as the box office and reviews from the time would suggest.
T2 3-D: Battle Across Time (1996)
This short James Cameron-directed movie was created for a theme park experience, so it’s certainly the least well-known entry on this list. Yet it’s a decent enough watch that serves as a nice reprise from the second film. It’s a curiosity if nothing else.
True Lies (1994)
I reshuffled these final four several times before landing at the order you see here. But suffice to say, they’re all bring out Arnie’s strengths. I really liked him as a super-spy AND family man in this flick. Plus, it’s got some gut-bustingly funny lines and amazing action set pieces.
Last Action Hero (1993)
A bomb at release, there’s been a whole lot of reassessing the genius of this flick. It satires pretty much the whole filmography of Arnold to date and had a lot of fun with the “meta” long before it was run into the ground. It’s also hard to deny that Arnold is having the time of his life here.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Let’s get past the cynical backlash and return to the truth that this is one of the best action movies of all time, period. Arnold got to flip the script on Terminator loyalty and work hard to make a ruthless killing machine a sympathetic protector.
Best: Total Recall (1990)
But for the best? I’ve got to go with Total Recall. I don’t buy that Arnold’s character at the start of the film is this everyman — but neither does the movie’s premise itself. It’s a true joy watching him go on this epic journey of personal discovery, fighting through paranoia and possible past actions to save everyone in the here and now. Even a wet towel wrapped around his head couldn’t make me dislike Arnie as the central hero.