The 411 Movies Top 5 01.25.12: Week 358 – Top 5 Schwarzenegger and Stallone Movies
Welcome to Week 358 of the Movie Zone Top 5. My name is Shawn S. Lealos and you have entered my world.
The 411mania writers were given the following instructions: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone each have a new movie coming out two weeks from each other. With the commenters last week claiming that they were the two best action stars of all time, and we were all wrong, it gave me an idea for this week’s topic. I want the top five movies that star either Schwarzenegger or Stallone. It doesn’t have to be an action movie, but they need to play more than just a bit role in the movie for it to count.
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Honorable Mentions: Tango & Cash (1989), The Terminator (1984), The Expendables (2010), The Expendables 2 (2012), Conan the Destroyer (1984), Red Sonja (1985), Rambo (2008), Cliffhanger (1993), The Running Man (1987), Eraser (1996), True Lies (1994), Red Heat (1988), Raw Deal (1986)
5. (tie) Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)/ Commando (1985)
And look at the endings. Rambo gives an impassioned speech about what Vietnam vets (and, really, all war vets) go through and why they fight for their country. It’s a deadly serious, heartfelt speech. Matrix, when asked if he wants to get his old black ops unit back together, tells his former commander “No chance.” It’s yet another funny line, and it’s sort of a response to Rambo, when you think about it. It’s like Ahnold is saying “There will be on Commando II because that’s ridiculous.”
4. Predator (1987)
Predator is essentially a slasher movie, except instead of a bunch of whiny teens getting slaughtered in the woods by a masked psycho with a huge knife, it’s a badass Special Forces team (Ahnold, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Bill fucking Duke, Sonny Landham, Carl fucking Weathers, Richard Chaves, and Shane Black) getting wiped out by a seven foot tall alien monster that has a really cool shoulder laser, a big ass wrist knife, and the ability to see via body heat. We see Ahnold’s team completely destroy an enemy camp in the jungle, killing about fifty bad guys in the process. You don’t mess around with these guys (Ventura is carrying around a goddamn helicopter gun for Christ’s sake). But, the alien monster, the Predator, being, well, a predator, stalks the team and takes them all out one by one. Chests explode, heads explode, arms get blown off, and spines get ripped out. There’s a real sense that Ahnold might not make it. But Ahnold, despite losing most of his advanced modern human weaponry, goes all native jungle fighter on the Predator and manages to narrowly defeat the monster. Think back to that scene, though, where Ahnold tries to go hand-to-hand with the Predator and is clearly outmatched. How often does that happen to a 1980’s action hero? Still amazing stuff twenty-six years later.
3. Demolition Man (1993)
Demolition Man is both a straight up sci-fi action flick and a sort of send up of its star Sylvester Stallone. The movie takes place in a future that has completely renounced violence and has acquiesced to a kind of peaceful fascism created by a pseudo cult leader (Dr. Raymond Cocteau, brilliantly played by Nigel Hawthorne). This world is put into grave jeopardy when a super criminal from the end of the 20th century, Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes), manages to escape from the cryo prison, a sort of prison where convicts are frozen in a giant block of ice “to be rehabilitated.” Since everyone, including the police, are incapable of taking on a criminal like Phoenix, Stallone’s disgraced former badass cop turned cryo prisoner John Spartan is reactivated and sent into the new world to take down Phoenix. We get to see Stallone do his usual action hero bits (he fights, he shoots, he kicks ass, etc.) but he also gets to stretch a bit as an actor. He really isn’t the violent thug he’s been made out to be. He has feelings and emotions and can’t adjust to this new world (you can’t cuss in this new world without being fined by the government for “violating the verbal morality statute.” What kind of bullshit is that?).
This movie gets better with each passing year. It wasn’t a giant box office hit when it came out back in 1993, but it gained its reputation and audience via home video and television (I know I rented it a million times back in 1994). I can’t wait to watch this again.
2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The Terminator is a great movie. Part sci-fi action flick, part badass slasher movie, it helped make Ahnold a bonafide scary action star (for God’s sake he was the star of the movie and he was playing the villain. No one does that!). It’s sequel, a bigger movie in scope, ideas, and budget, alters Ahnold’s role a bit by making him the hero instead of the villain (Robert Patrick played the bad guy instead, the terrifying T-1000 liquid metal robot assassin). You’d think that would destroy the movie since Ahnold played the bad guy so memorably the first time. But director Jim Cameron made you care about the robot T-800 played by Ahnold, and you rooted for him despite his inhumanity. It’s still Ahnold’s best acting performance. He’ll probably never top it.
1. Cobra (1986)
Cobra, directed by George P. Cosmatos (he also directed Rambo: First Blood Part II), features Stallone in his most iconic role (at least to me) as Lt. Marion “Cobra” Cobretti, leader of the Zombie Squad, a special section of the LAPD that gets called in to do jobs no other cops want/can do. We see him, with his partner Sgt. Gonzalez (Reni Santoni), take on a gang of vicious killers hell bent on killing Brigitte Nielson, a woman who can identify the gang’s leader The Night Slasher (Brian Thompson). The movie is chock full of superb action set pieces, but it’s also, at its heart, a horror movie. In fact, it’s probably the closest thing to a horror movie Stallone has made yet (Eye See You is sort of a horror movie, too, but that movie stinks). Check out that opening sequence inside the supermarket. The scene is both terrifying and triumphant.
Now, am I the only one who thinks that this movie plays as a kind of sequel to a movie that was never made? The movie never really explains the Zombie Squad, the significance of the line “The bottom line,” or why Cobra is allowed to use machine guns and grenades while on the job (knives, too). It’s almost like we’re already supposed to know why. I’d love to see Stallone tackle this character again in a sequel, and a younger Stallone look alike appear in a Cobra prequel so we can have a Cobra Trilogy. I’d love to know who else is on the Zombie Squad.
After an ill-fated try at comedy, Stallone came roaring back to action in this 1993 film and proved his true strength. Renny Harlin’s direction aids the tale of Stallone as a mountain climber who loses his nerve after a woman dies under his care. Returning later, he finds himself involved with a band of crooks (led by a scenery-chewing John Lithgow) out to find briefcases of money. The action is wild and insane (Stallone surviving a dip in freezing ice water) but Sly carries it off well with awesome pieces like Stallone leaping over a wide chasm that look damn real and the actor proves his action icon status with a fine adventure.
If you want the perfect Arnie movie, this is it. This 1985 action flick is the epitome of ’80’s action movies, the one that spawned numerous copycats and parodies as Arnold tries to rescue his daughter (a young Alyssa Milano) from kidnappers in a trip across South America. The action is wild from a mall fight to a finale of Arnold blowing away a hundred guys by himself. Plus, quotable to the extreme with numerous classic one-liners (“Remember when I said I’d kill you last? I lied.”), all adding up to a delicious package that reminds you why you had to love the ’80’s.
Highly underrated, this 1997 film has Sly playing against type as the overweight and violence-shy sherrif of a small town pressed to look into corruption in the ranks. Backed by a great supporting cast (Harvey Kietel, Robert DeNiro, Ray Liotta), Stallone turns in an understated performance as a guy who prefers looking the other way and not making waves but soon pulled into busting his own friends. There may be action but the drama is what makes it good with the sight of a hefty Stallone in a very different role for him but making it all work and is worth checking out.
For the sequel to his smash-hit, Arnie and James Cameron decided to definetely embrace the “bigger is better” approach and it worked. Cameron deserves much of the credit for his great direction and storyline but Arnold gets the boost with the genius idea of a Terminator programmed to be the good guy. Thus, we get the heroic Arnold with that intense drive, matched by Robert Patrick’s wonderful T-1000. The result is a true blockbuster but surprising heart with Arnold bonding with his young charge and speaking out on humanity, the rare instance of the sequel better than the original.
If you’re going to have a top Stallone movie, it has to be this. The film that launched him to stardom, the Oscar-winning tale has been copied many times but never the same level as the first film. Stallone has never been noted as a great actor but he’s amazing here, imbuing this tough fighter doing his best to succeed when he gets the shot of a lifetime for the world title. While romancing a local girl, he throws himself into training, the journey remarkable and leading up to a fantastic final fight scene with a unique ending. Some argue the sequels diluted it but there’s no denying the power of this movie that proved Stallone as a great star that remains today.
Honorable Mentions: Predator, Cobra, True Lies
5. Commando (1985)
No doubt the first Terminator, Predator, and maybe even a few others are better than Commando if we’re rating the titles on Arnold’s resume, but the fact is I have seen Commando the most out of all of his movies because it’s so much damn fun. I’ve already done a full review of one of the past DVD releases, but in summation I’ll just reiterate how preposterously entertaining this film is. It has so many priceless one-liners that I wouldn’t know what to pick as my favorite. It also has THE best gathering of weapons in any movie, period. Plus, come on people, his name is John Matrix and he takes on an entire island by himself. Let off some steam and watch this now if you haven’t already. And the greatest line ever: “Here come the sandwiches!”
4. First Blood (1982)
I grew up on Sylvester Stallone movies and this franchise was always popular at my house. I love First Blood and Rambo: First Blood Part II about equally, but I usually end up watching the first movie more. Though I will say the ridiculously insane Rambo Part III is on television all the time. Stallone gives a terrific performance introducing us to John Rambo. Richard Crenna and Brian Dennehy are also intense and convincing as Col. Trautman and Teasle. The original gets this spot because it managed to be action-packed, suspenseful, and thought-provoking at the same time. This was not the movie that turned the character into an icon though, that would be the first sequel. But this movie did have a lot to say about veterans’ rights around seven years after the Vietnam War. While I welcome more Rambo installments with a high body count, the darker tone, profound subtext, and balance of kills makes this the best of the pack.
3. Cop Land (1997)
This is easily Stallone’s most underrated film and also the most under appreciated performance he has ever given. People often criticize Sly’s acting range and accentuate his limitations, and when that happens I draw their attention to Cop Land. Stallone was not the first actor considered for the part, but as he proved with First Blood, Stallone can take a character disregarded by other actors and make it great in his own way. It is widely known that he gained 40 pounds to play Sheriff Freddy Heflin to add to the realism of a police officer. What makes his turn so good is how quiet, restrained, and natural he is amongst such a stellar line-up. This was only James Mangold’s sophomore effort as a director. This is a thriller that burns like a drama. I saw it long ago and at the time I had not watched a cop movie with such a somber mood and steady pace. But Sly is only a portion of Cop Land’s all-star cast, which includes Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Harvey Keitel, Robert Patrick, Peter Berg, Noah Emmerich, Janeane Garofalo, and a bunch of people that would end up on The Sopranos. The camera work is competent, the score is excellent, and the premise is outstanding.
2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
I’m a fan of all the Terminator movies that Schwarzenegger starred in (yes even Rise of the Machines) but Judgment Day is by far the best one, a sequel that is better than the original. Don’t get me wrong, the first film is awesome, but it does have several traits that date it. Terminator 2 seems to have aged the best in that respect. I guess it helps that the action sequences were improved significantly, the universe is expanded upon wonderfully, and the visuals were/are incredible. Linda Hamilton is more comfortable in her role, Edward Furlong is magnificent as young John Conner, and Robert Patrick is brilliant as T-1000. This truly stands out because it contains a number of memorable scenes, ones that are hard to shake from your memory: the motorcycle/truck chase, Terminator cutting open his arm, etc. The sequels to follow would try to replicate this but just couldn’t pull it off as well as James Cameron. Arnold has done his finest work with Cameron and I dare say this is probably the peak of their collaborations. Word is Arnold wants to return to the series. Hopefully they have a suitable plot in which to do so.
1. Rocky (1976)/Rocky IV (1985)
These writers and their stupid ties. Juts pick one! Well, if I had to pick one it would be Rocky IV. If someone were to make me watch a Rocky movie right now, that is the installment I would pick. Is it the very best one? Of course not, but it’s not only the one I started with, it’s also one of the first movies I remember watching as a child. So I have a special fondness for it. Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago is Rocky’s greatest adversary, the training montages are masterful, and it has…well, a robot. But if you wanted a group to agree on Stallone’s best picture, it would undoubtedly be the original 1976 Rocky, which I love as well. That took home 3 Oscars, a nice accomplishment for an action star. In my eyes it’s one of the best films ever made. Stallone became a name after this was released and rightfully so. While this is certainly one of the best boxing movies in history, it is also effective because it is a tender love story. Talia Shire establishes the type of innate chemistry with Stallone that is exceedingly rare in Hollywood. Throw in unforgettable performances from Burt Young as Paulie, Burgess Meredith as Mickey, and Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed and you have a superb cast. Stallone did not tackle many straight dramas during his career, but when he did it was great.
Without a doubt, one of the most badass “Man vs. Nature” films has to be 1987’s Predator. John McTiernan had a huge directing start with this being his 2nd film and then following it up with Die Hard just a year later. McTiernan back in the day knew that what made a good action movie wasn’t making the star seem invincible, but in fact, making them struggle and bleed. This isn’t the “Austrian death machine” Schwarzenegger we saw from Commando. In this film, anyone can die including the “Terminator” himself. With terrific creature effects, and strong suspenseful action, Predator will always be a favorite of mine from the Schwarzenegger archive.
I could name so many action films from Stallone, but to me Cliffhanger doesn’t get enough love. This is Die Hard on top of cliffs and the two mixed together make for an incredibly intense film. The film sets the pace with a heartbreaking opening sequence and then never lets up after the conflict begins. I believe this was also the first role for John Lithgow as a major villain, and damn does he do a fine job. Cliffhanger may not be the most praised film from Stallone, but it is certainly one I will always remember having a huge impact on its audience during release.
3. True Lies
Back in the day, when James Cameron had a film being unleashed, it was almost on the same hype level as a Christopher Nolan production. Cameron back in the 90’s always brought a perfect balance between action and story. True Lies is one of the best examples of a Cameron film that exceeds in all the right places. It’s violent, engaging, and also funny as hell. Schwarzenegger handled the role wonderfully playing a family man who happens to be an international spy. Tom Arnold is also a highlight in this movie as Arnold’s partner, which is one of the few roles I found him to be watchable. True Lies has some of the best filmed action sequences from James Cameron which makes this a definite Schwarzenegger classic.
2. Demolition Man
I must say I love me some Demolition Man. Some people love Rocky and Rambo, but I have seen this movie countless more times than those other films. Not many other movies have created such a hilarious depiction of future society. Everything from being fined for dropping F bombs, to using the “3 seashells”, Demolition Man just nails the right comedic notes in between the action beats. Also, watching Snipes and Stallone face-off against each other was a fun sight to see on the big screen. Not many futuristic action films have succeeded on the same level as Demolition Man, which makes this one of my all-time favorites from Stallone.
1. T2:Judgement Day
5. True Lies
Arnold has been in a lot of action movies, and has a ton of fans who worship his action chops, that is true. I’m just not a fan of many of them. I will give plenty of props to Commando and the original Terminator, but neither of those make my list. However, when James Cameron and Arnold teamed up for the second time with True Lies, it was easily one of the big man’s best movies and one of the funnest action movies I have seen. The fact that Arnold doesn’t seem to want to make a sequel is sad. Tom Arnold deserves better. The sad thing is that this great movie led to crap like Eraser and The 6th Day.
4. The Expendables
Ok, time for an admission. I haven’t seen the second Expendables, and I have heard that if I did see it, it might replace this one on the list. However, I give Stallone all the credit in the world for bringing back the unapologetic action movie, providing blood, bullets and explosions, and giving action fans all they could hope for in a movie. He gathered together some of the best kick-ass action stars of all time (and those he missed arrived in the second movie). This movie was the most fun I have had in the cinema in a long time. This is why Stallone is a God among action stars.
Most people would put First Blood on their list, and I might have if not for this fourth movie in the franchise. I was not a fan of the second or third movies, which was moistly jingoistic rah-rah crap. However, if you take the fourth movie and consider it a direct sequel to the first movie, you have perfection. In the first movie, John Rambo returned home from Vietnam and found that he no longer fit in. In this movie, he finally makes it back home. But before he does, he blows more people to bloody pieces than almost any movie since the end of the glorious ’80s. This movie might be considered a guilty pleasure to some, but for me it was bloody perfection.
I like almost every movie in the Rocky franchise (except the one with Tommy Morrison). If I ranked them, it would be Rocky first, above all others, with the sixth one (Rocky Balboa) next, the one with Mr. T, the one with Dolph, the second with Apollo and the fifth one last. However, the first movie was one of the best sports movies ever made. The fact that Rocky lost in the ring, but still left with his head held high makes it even better, proving that you don’t need a false win to make a sports movie work, but just a story that makes fans believe in the man.
1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
While I am not a huge fan of a lot of Arnold’s work over his career, feeling like most of it is schlock, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is easily one of my favorite movies of all time. James Cameron took what he learned with the first Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss and used that to create the perfect action-sci-fi film. The graphics used here was perfect, Arnold as the good guy was great, the soundtrack was awesome and just about everything in this movie was a home run. T2 wins my Top 5, hands down, regardless of Arnold’s presence.
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