With the release of action extravaganza The Expendables 3 on the horizon, what better time to take a trip down memory lane when it comes to the film’s beefcake stars?

They may be getting on a bit, but it is fair to say that most of the musclebound mass on display have a pretty impressive resume – when it comes to bonecrunching movies anyway.

Over the coming weeks we will profile each of the main protagonists, offering our view on their three finest moments of action cinema, as well as a few honourable mentions and of course plenty of absolute duds.

This is not an exact science of course, and feel free to have your say regarding our choices in the comments section at the foot of each piece.

Kicking things off we have the Governator himself – Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Here’s what we consider to be the Austrian Oak’s three greatest hits (in no particular order):

1. Commando

Although I said no particular order, if truth be told I may well hold this up there as my favourite Arnie flick of all time.

Note how I’m not saying the best – just my favourite.

Pretty much a succession of one-liners with the briefest of exposition linking them, Schwarzenegger stars as the fantastically named John Matrix, a retired special forces guy enjoying his retirement.

But all that is ruined when a former colleague (the magnificently camp Vernon Wells) starts wiping out his former comrades under the auspices of helping a dictator storm to power on some far-flung island.

Throw in a kidnapped daughter and Matrix has to strap on the hardware once more to save the day.

I honestly could not tell you how many times I have seen this, but suffice to say my younger brother and I can recite the entire script to each other with minimum fuss.

There are more quips and put downs in this than the majority of Arnold’s work combined, along with some violent, over-the-top action and memorable death scenes (scalped by a lawnmower blade anyone?)

I even like the steel pan soundtrack that provides a bizarre musical backdrop to proceedings.

Cheesy, laugh-out-loud funny and with a staggeringly high body count on Arnie’s part, this is 80s action excess at its very best.

 

2. Predator

With the various Alien vs Predator misfires having sullied its name somewhat, it is hard to remember a time when the concept of the Predator was one of the coolest things in cinema.

But it really was – well, to me anyway, if the amount of times I went round school whispering ‘turn around, turn around’ or ‘over here, over here’ was anything to go by.

A rock-em, sock-em mix of action flick and sci-fi, Predator barely puts a foot wrong – we get the macho pre-amble as the various characters flesh out their backstories, a lead-in that appears to be setting up just another action flick in the jungle, before everything takes an abrupt turn with the first burst of ‘predator vision’.

The film is tremendously helped by Arnie being joined by Commando star Bill Duke, as well as Jesse Ventura (who would then square off with Arnold in The Running Man), Apollo Creed himself Carl Weathers and a host of others.

Indeed it is Ventura who probably gets the best lines (‘I ain’t got time to bleed’), although Arnie’s Dutch still has time to tell an impaled victim to ‘stick around’.

It all builds very nicely to a one-on-one showdown between Arnie and the Predator, and although we are pretty sure who will come out on top, that makes it no less enjoyable.

 

3. The Terminator

I know, I know – the lazy option here would have been to simply roll out the mega-budget, ground-breaking Terminator 2.

But to be perfectly honest, as a film I much prefer the original – in a similar way to favouring Alien over James Cameron’s Aliens.

I’ll be straight with you – the first time I saw this on video I was absolutely blown away by it – so much so that I watched it for 12 nights straight when my parents were away on a foreign holiday.

Yep, you read that right – 12 nights in a row.

And I never once got bored, thanks to The Terminator’s lethal cocktail of storytelling, cracking pacing and some magnificently staged set-pieces.

And, lest we forget, all the talk of cyborgs from the future and the like was very much a new concept at that time.

Arnie obviously became the loveable hero in the later films, but here is in full-blown villain mode – and the film is a lot better for it.

There is excellent support from Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn, some great effects for the time, and a fantastic pay-off line that always puts a smile on my face.

Cameron’s films are often a bit too overblown for my liking, but here things are lean and stripped back to the essentials – much like the Terminator itself.

And, history buffs take note, here we obviously got the first airing of what was to prove the Arnie catchphrase – ‘I’ll be back’.

 

Honourable Mentions: Terminator 2, The Running Man, Total Recall

Duds: Conan The Destroyer, Last Action Hero, 6th Day

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.

  • My favourite clip in Commando is when he is feeding the random dear with Alyssa Milano.  In fact, that opening montage is the best example of showing Arnie’s range as an actor.  One minute he is cutting down trees and looking tough, the next minute he is goofing around with his daughter and getting ice cream on his face.  The crazy fool!