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The best and worst Arnold Schwarzenegger movies according to Rotten Tomatoes

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the American dream in 250 chiseled pounds. Born and raised in Austria, Arnold built his legend one bench press and barbell curl at a time, immigrating to America as a budding young bodybuilder and eventually becoming a multi-time world champion. Decades later, he's still remembered as one of the best in his sport's history. Most men would've been happy for their legacy to end there ... but most men aren't Arnold. 

With his multi-million dollar charisma, deceptively keen intelligence, and ambition the size of the Austrian alps, Arnold started in Muscle Beach in Venice but set his sights a few miles down the highway to Hollywood. It wasn't easy. With his massive size and nearly impenetrable accent, there was practically no precedent for guys like Arnold in Hollywood, certainly not in that 1970s, when the "biggest" stars like Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, and Jack Nicholson were smaller than Arnold's post-workout protein shake. 

But Arnold didn't change for Hollywood. Hollywood changed for him. Arnold became an A-list action star and poster child for the "one-man army" genre that defined a decade. Arnold may have never been an Academy favorite, but his filmography includes masterpieces of the action genre ... as well as some puny pictures. If you're prepping your Arnold movie marathon, we've got his must-see movies, as well his pics you should skip. Here are the best and worst Arnold Schwarzenegger movies according to Rotten Tomatoes!

Best: Commando is the most Arnold movie ever

In 1985, a Latin American dictator thought it was a good idea to kidnap Arnold Schwarzenegger's ten-year-old daughter. Oh boy, what were you thinking, dude? The result was Commando, the quintessential 1980s Arnold action movie. It's not his best, but it's definitely the most Schwarzenegger-esque (not a real word, but it should be) movie ever made. 

Over-the-top, one-man army action scenes? Check. Arnie dropping groan-inducing one-liners before disposing of bad guys? Check. A plot that's simultaneously silly, threadbare, and over-complicated all at the same time? Oh, yeah. It's the kind of movie you'd expect stuffy old movie critics would blow up with a shoulder-mounted missile-launcher. But guess what? They actually liked it! Critics gave it a 71% Tomatometer rating, while audiences inexplicably liked it less, with a 67% rating. What is wrong with you people?! Oh well, where it actually mattered, the box office, moviegoers made the right decision, as Commando earned a respectable $35 million domestically and $57 million worldwide.

Worst: Hercules in New York was a horrible debut

Hey, everybody has to start somewhere, right? Alas, for Arnold Schwarzenegger, his big screen debut was Hercules in New York. Honestly, we expected Hercules' score to be even lower, though with 17% from critics and 27% from audiences, it has still earned its spot on Arnold's worst list. Maybe it would've been even lower, but not enough people saw it. For that, Arnold should be grateful, otherwise we might've never heard of Arnold Schwarzenegger ... or should we say "Arnold Strong," as he was billed in this D-level movie. 

Trying to play the sword-and-sandal epic for laughs, Hercules in New York finds the son of Zeus bored with life on Mt. Olympus, so he makes his way to Earth, where he befriends a pretzel cart owner, rides a chariot through Times Square, and even descends into Hell. Honestly, if Arnold made this 20 years later, it might've worked, but its sloppy production values and a greener than grass performance from Arnie (yes, he's always been wooden, but he would become endearingly so) make this unwatchable. Arnold's accent was so thick that it was even dubbed over during its original release, but his vocal tracks were restored in the 2000 video release. Not that it helped. Thankfully, Arnold stuck to bodybuilding for the time being.

Best: Total Recall is totally insane

In 1987, Dutch director Paul Verhoeven turned a movie with the straight-to-video title RoboCop into a subversive, satirical, sci-fi/action masterpiece. He followed it up with an adaptation of Philip K. Dick's short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," which could've been another Blade Runner (a Dick adaptation that was a cinematic masterpiece but also a notorious bomb), and turned it into Arnold Schwarzenegger shoot 'em up on Mars. Sound crazy? It is. Sound like there's no way it could possibly work? But it does. 

That's the beauty of 1990's Total Recall. It's the ultimate Schwarzenegger movie and the ultimate Verhoeven movie, as these two European-born filmmakers who grew up loving American genre movies throw every insane idea they have at the film and are clearly having a blast blowing stuff up real good. And so are we. Total Recall earned an 82% Tomatometer score from critics and 78% from crowds. Its box office was even more impressive, earning $119 million domestically and $261 million worldwide, showing Arnold could do no wrong in this era. If anybody else starred in this movie, it would've tanked. We have proof, as the 2012 remake starring Colin Farrell made just $58 million domestically and $198 million worldwide on a $125 million budget. Remake an Arnold movie? Bad idea.

Worst: Jingle All the Way doesn't offer a turbo time

Jingle All the Way has thankfully received a mild reappraisal in recent years, but unfortunately for its defenders, the Tomatometer has rendered its verdict — 15% from critics and 38% from audiences. Ouch. Jingle All the Way's score makes it one of Arnold's worst (at least according to Rotten Tomatoes), which is baffling because we'd soooo much rather watch it than, say, Terminator Genisys

Playing against type, Arnold is a mattress salesman named Howard who never keeps his promise to his son, and he finds himself with less than 24 hours to pick up the Christmas season's hottest toy, a Turbo Man doll. Critics condemned the film's uneven tone, which sure, we won't argue that, but still ... 15%? Arnold is game, though admittedly, the movie might've worked better with a more traditional comedic actor, like Tom Hanks circa The Burbs or Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom. The true MVPs are Sinbad as a maniacal mailman also vying for a Turbo Man doll and especially the late Phil Hartman as the obnoxiously perfect single dad who lives next door and who has his sights set on Howard's wife, played by Rita Wilson. 

Jingle All the Way underwhelmed at the box office, earning $60 million domestically and $129 million worldwide on a $60 million budget, sending Arnold back into the comfortable embrace of blowing stuff up.

Best: Get to the choppa to see Predator!

Arnold Schwarzenegger was at the peak of his star power in 1987, when pretty much anything he starred in would be big at the box office. Enter one of his most famous films, Predator. Arnie leads a special forces squad deep into the jungles of the fictional Val Verde for a nefarious CIA plot, which would've been an awesome movie on its own, but it gets ratcheted up to 11 when the team is stalked by a 7-foot-tall alien monster who collects human skulls as trophies! 

The movie almost featured a showdown between Arnold and Jean-Claude Van Damme (in alien costume), but thankfully, that movie never happened, as the original costume looked like a martial arts-fighting praying mantis. Fortunately, Arnie's old pal James Cameron came to the rescue, casually suggesting to designer Stan Winston that he always wanted to see a monster with mandibles. And thus, a star was born. 

However, it was director John McTiernan and his cast that elevated this C-level premise, creating a sci-fi/horror/action hybrid that belongs in the same conversation as Aliens and The Terminator. Predator earned an 81% rating from critics, but fans loved it even more, giving it an 87% rating, plus $59 million domestically and $98 million at the box office. If you haven't seen Predator, get to the choppa!

Worst: Red Sonja is barbarically bad

Conan the Destroyers' $31 million worldwide killed any chance of seeing Arnold as Conan anytime soon, but he clearly had a soft spot for wearing loin cloths and wielding giant weapons. In 1985, Arnold starred in the unofficial conclusion to his barbarian trilogy, Red Sonja, resulting in one of the worst movies of his career — 15% from critics and 28% from audiences

Created for Marvel Comics in 1973, Red Sonja is partially based on Conan creator Robert E. Howard's Red Sonya, a Conan spinoff that's set in the same fictional Hyborian Age of sorcery and warriors. Arnold gets top billing, but Brigitte Nielsen is the star, making her big-screen debut as the titular Red Sonja, who with help from a warrior named Kalidor (Schwarzenegger), embarks on a quest to avenge her family's murder and take an all-powerful, sacred talisman from an evil queen. 

So yeah, movies like this either work or they don't, and this one most definitely doesn't. If you've had the misfortune of seeing it, you know that despite its wild premise, it's actually pretty boring, which is the worst thing a fantasy epic can be. Red Sonja bombed with $6.9 million worldwide, but Nielsen made up for it later that year with Rocky IV, and Arnold did the same with Commando.

Best: Pumping Iron proves Arnie's best role is himself

If you think bodybuilding is just a matter of lifting weights, Pumping Iron will slap some sense into you. Released in 1976, Pumping Iron is more than a "before they were famous" piece. It's one of the best sports documentaries, period. Pumping Iron takes a behind-the-scenes look at the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding contest, focusing on four competitors: Franco Columbu, Mike Katz, TV's future The Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno, and of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who'd already won the title multiple times before and was nearing retirement while still in his 20s. 

It's fascinating to see the mix of mental preparation and physical exhaustion these competitors endure (Arnold casually mentions vomiting and passing out after reps), as well as their personalities. Ferrigno is the massive but meek upstart, while Arnold is the cagey, cutthroat veteran who plays mind games with the young pup, even insulting him to his face in front of his parents! If you're skeptical about Schwarzenegger's supposedly borderline genius-level IQ, watching this may change your mind. Arnold isn't just the most ripped guy in the room, he's also the smartest. You can debate whether this is truly an "Arnold Schwarzenegger movie," as he's the subject, not an actor, but what isn't up for debate is Pumping Iron's awesome 91% critics' rating and 84% audience rating, scores that make other sports docs look puny.

Worst: End of Days is a devilish dud

If End of Days came out in 1989, it could've been called Schwarzenegger vs. Satan and still been one of the year's biggest hits. Alas, it came out in 1999, the cusp of the new millennium, when audiences were over the Y2K thing and definitely the then-52 year old Arnold's action hero act. While Arnold's one-man army vs. the demon hordes of Satan storyline sounds cool, End of Days failed to connect because the movie is just really, really awful. 

With 11% from critics and 32% from audiences, End of Days is one of Arnold's worst. Despite taking a hellish shellacking from critics, it did okay at the box office, earning $66 million domestically and $211 million worldwide on a $100 million budget, still profitable, though not enough for a studio head to write a fat check for End of Days II: Satanic Boogaloo (which is a shame, really). Arnold was never an amazing actor, but he's particularly unconvincing here as a beaten down ex-cop who may be mankind's only hope for salvation, and he even drags down great actors like CCH Pounder, Gabriel Byrne, and Rod Steiger. With tired action scenes, across-the-board bad acting, and a ludicrous plot, End of Days never had a prayer.

Best: The Terminator made Schwarzenegger a star

Sure, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the governor of California. And yeah, he's a seven-time Mr. Olympia. But when it comes down to it, people are always going to remember him best as a time-traveling robot assassin sent back from the future to murder a waitress. Released in 1984, The Terminator was a sci-fi/horror/action film hybrid that made Arnold's career. Granted, the Conan movies were pretty successful, but seriously, how many people do you hear praying to Crom, and how many people do you hear saying "I'll be back" in a bad Arnold accent? It isn't even close. So yeah, turns out that playing an emotionless robot was the perfect star vehicle Schwarzenegger.

Thanks to its brutal action scenes, some nail-biting tension, and Arnold's android magnetism, The Terminator became a huge success, earning $38 million domestically and $70 million worldwide on an economical $6 million. And even though it was released over 35 years ago, it's still widely considered one of Arnold's very best films. In fact, the movie boasts an impressive 100% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. So, with a perfect score, why isn't this Arnold's greatest film? Well, the audience score — while pretty fantastic — sits at 89%, which isn't enough to send The Terminator into the number one spot. (At least, not this version of the Terminator.) Nevertheless, this sci-fi flick changed Arnold Schwarzenegger's life and made him into one of the world's biggest movie stars.

Worst: Batman & Robin put the Batman franchise on ice

Batman & Robin is the worst Batman movie by a mile, and it's one of Arnold's worst movies ever according to Rotten Tomatoes, with 11% from critics and 16% from audiences. You'll get no complaints from us on that. Batman & Robin is terrible. Ironically, its complete and utter critical and commercial failure made it one of the most influential superhero movies ever, as it put the cash cow Batman franchise out to pasture for eight years, nearly killed George Clooney's movie career out of the gate, and most significantly, served as warning to all future summer blockbusters, superhero or not, of what not to do. 

Batman & Robin made a mere $107 million domestically and $238 million worldwide on a $125 million budget, an astounding $25 million of which went to Arnold's personal piggy bank, earning him an insane $1 million per day. That's an unreal paycheck for any movie star, especially one whose career was on a downward slide from his 1980s and early 1990s peak. Arnold was smart to ask for as much as he did because, outside of The Terminator franchise and as part of The Expendables ensemble cast, his box office bankability would never come close to the same heights as his heyday. No doubt Batman & Robin was a big reason why.

Best: Terminator 2 is tops

No surprise here — Arnold's highest-ranking movie according to Rotten Tomatoes (and pretty much everyone) is Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The original version got an impressive 93% Tomatometer rating from critics and 94% from audiences, but like a fine wine, killer robots from the future only improve with age as the 2017 3D version got a perfect 100% Tomatometer rating 25 years later. 

While it might be no shock that Arnold's best movie on Rotten Tomatoes is Terminator 2, you may be surprised to discover it's also writer-director James Cameron's best, too. Yep, better than the winner of 11 Academy-Awards (including Best Picture) Titanic (89%), the game-changing Avatar (82%), and even the genre-defining Aliens (97%). Movie nerds can quibble about which truly is the best, but according to Rotten Tomatoes, the answer is unequivocal — Terminator 2 is tops. 

We're totally okay with that too. With its mile-a-minute pace, action-packed plot, stunning set pieces, groundbreaking CG effects, all-time memorable quotes ("Hasta la vista, baby"), and charismatic lead performances from Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, and of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terminator 2 is still thrilling, nearly 30 years after its release. Despite its deserved R rating, its $204 million gross made it the highest-grossing movie of 1991 by nearly $40 million dollars, proving quality still counts, even with summer action blockbusters. The phrase "they don't make em like they used to" is cliche by now, but when it comes to T2, it's 100% true.

Worst: The Villain is terrible — full stop

Surprised by the "winner" for Arnold's worst? Then you haven't seen The Villain. Do yourself a favor — don't. In the film, Arnold plays Handsome Stranger, who protects the beautiful Charming Jones (Ann-Margret) from the dastardly Cactus Jack (Kirk Douglas). The movie is a spoof of Tom Mix-style Western serials, which was really fresh in 1979. Seriously, why not take jabs at vaudeville while you're at it? 

While The Villain is billed as a comedy, it's like watching someone bomb an open mic yet refuse to leave the stage. It's so unfunny that you're embarrassed to watch it and even feel bad for the people involved. Kirk Douglas plays Cactus Jack with melodramatic, mustache-twirling villainy, which was the right call and might've worked in a better movie, but here, it just shows how far the mighty actor had fallen at this point in his career. Ann-Margret phones it in, as the look in her eyes switches between dollar signs and regret. And poor Arnold, still new to the movie business, doesn't realize he's in an awful movie. 

In a better film, with a better actor, Handsome Stranger's naive earnestness could've worked, but here, the larger-than-life mega star seems in over his head. Critics bestowed The Villain with the rare "accomplishment" of a 0% Tomatometer score, though audiences were a little bit more generous with a 38% score. That Arnold's movie career survived at all, let alone thrived, is a testament to his grit, as The Villain is the worst.