Arnold Schwarzenegger is undoubtedly an icon of cinema — he has been a staple of Hollywood for the past four decades and is widely considered as the greatest action hero of all time. Known for his larger than life presence in action films he has starred in classics like The Terminator, Conan The Barbarian, Predator and course, the legendary Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
But among his iconic catalog of films, there are some performances that fall a little under the radar. Whether the film's notorious reputation overshadows the performance or it just happens to be a small time film, these performances are sometimes overlooked — and they really shouldn't be. Let's take a look at the Governator's 6 most underrated film performances.
Wade Vogel — Maggie
Ironically enough, what is perhaps the performance of Schwarzenegger's career comes from the independent gem Maggie. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Arnold plays Wade Vogel, a man who agrees to check his dying daughter Maggie out of hospital, as long as he returns her to quarantine before she turns into a zombie. Make no mistake about it, this is not an action film, a zombie flick or a thrill ride, it's an emotional story about a loving father who can only watch as his beloved daughter slowly slips away from him.
Schwarzenegger was the perfect choice for the role as there is nothing more tragic than watching a tenured action hero forced into a situation where he can't rescue the one he loves the most. Arnold pulled out all the stops here, shocking critics and fans with his subtle, beautiful and authentic performance. From an acting standpoint, the only other role that comes close is his performance as The Terminator. There were no one liners here — just flawless acting from Arnie in the performance of his career.
Howard Langston — Jingle All The Way
Arnie may be a great action hero, but he's also incredibly well-versed in comedy films. Having starred in the successful comedies Red Heat, Twins and Kindergarten Cop, he would go on to star in 1996's festive Jingle All the Way. What he delivers is his most comedic performance as Howard Langston, sharing hilarious chemistry with Sinbad as they try to outdo each other and track down an elusive Turbo Man doll for their kids.
Although the film received mostly negative reviews, it's important to stress that it succeeds at what it set out to do — entertain families at Christmas. Arnie delivered the most over the top, crazy and ridiculous performance of his career, and that's exactly what we wanted from him. He was right at home here, alongside eccentric turns from Sinbad and Phil Hartman, giving us plenty of memorable one-liners. Christmas shopping is so much more fun with Jingle All the Way quotes.
I love watching Jingle All the Way every Christmas and no matter how many times I have seen it, I always enjoy it. Schwarzenegger is at his comedic best here and is guaranteed to make you laugh. Just don't eat his cookies!
Jericho Cane — End Of Days
Arnold's big return to film after a year off saw him tackling the devil, portrayed by Gabriel Byrne. Schwarzenegger played the role of Jericho Cane — a former police officer depressed after the killings of his wife and son. Although the film may have action elements, this was not a typical action hero role. This character wasn't the cigar smoking, one-liner spouting hero of Commando or the fearless warrior of Predator. Cane was a defeated, flawed human being who had suffered loss — an incredibly deep role for the returning Schwarzenegger to take on, especially after his previous role in Batman & Robin. He deserves a lot more credit for his convincing performance in this film, which perhaps influenced his later roles in films like Collateral Damage and Maggie.
While the film may wasn't very well-received, one thing that shouldn't be overlooked is Schwarzenegger's stellar performance as a man who will stop at nothing to protect a young woman from the devil. The Arnie we all know and love does rear his head from time to time, especially when Cane challenges the Devil, calling him a "choirboy." But overall, this was a very impressive dramatic performance from him.
Sheriff Ray Owens — The Last Stand
After his stint as the Governor of California, Schwarzenegger returned to the big screen in typical Arnie fashion. The Last Stand saw him take on the role of Ray Owens — the sheriff of a small crime-free town that becomes the backdrop to an escaped felon's attempt to cross to the border and evade the FBI. But leave it up to the aging gunslinger to step up and take down the foe for them.
Playing heavily on the fact that Arnie had aged since his last stint in Hollywood, Sheriff Owens would constantly churn out one-liners about being "old" yet still managed to kick more ass than ever before. Schwarzenegger was completely at home in the role and it was undoubtedly a return to form for him. But the film wasn't cheesy or funny, it was hardcore action and definitely one of Arnie's most underrated films. A completely believable performance from the film legend and one of his best since his return to the big screen. Arnie proved that the Last Action Hero within was still alive and well in The Last Stand.
Mr. Freeze — Batman & Robin
Okay so bear with me here. As an avid Batman fan, I'm well aware of the fact that Batman & Robin is notorious for its neon lights, outlandish performances and wacky puns. Simply put — it was everything a modern Batman movie should not have been. The film took one of the best written Batman characters in Mr. Freeze and turned him into a pun-loving maniac. However, the character was written like this in the script. From an entertainment standpoint, Arnold Schwarzenegger did exactly what was asked of him — provide an eccentric performance rife with puns that kids would enjoy.
Looking back on it now after seeing Maggie, had the character been written properly, I have no doubt that Schwarzenegger could have given us a strong dramatic performance worthy of the tragic villain. Nonetheless, he gave it his all and delivered some of his comedic best, worthy of the colorful film.
So I know it may be a lost cause, but if you overlook the fact that the film turned Batman into an on-screen pantomime and casually forget that it's supposed to be a Batman film, then you might even enjoy Batman & Robin. And the main reason for that would be Schwarzenegger's hilarious turn as Mr. Freeze.
The Terminator — Terminator Genisys
We all know that Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Terminator. His chilling portrayal of the emotionless cyborg in The Terminator proved he was a force to be reckoned with, while his curious human-like portrayal in Terminator 2: Judgment Day had us all in awe. However, after a 12 year absence, Arnie returned to his most famous role in 2015's Terminator Genisys. And while the film divided people — I liked it — one thing that should not be overlooked is Arnie's strong performance as "Pops" the Terminator.
Schwarzenegger gave it his all and reminded us why we loved him so much in Terminator 2. Despite being 67 at the time, he was as imposing as ever and really handled himself just as well as in the action scenes as he had 20 years prior. In contrast, he was also hilarious as the cyborg attempting to adapt to be more human.
Arnie proved that even if the film didn't live up to its predecessors, he was still the Terminator we all know and love — and the same goes for his performance in 2003's Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines. Whether you were a fan of Terminator Genisys or not, there was no denying that the Terminator was back!
With a legendary career starring in epic blockbusters, hilarious comedies and independent successes, Arnold is undoubtedly one of the all-time greats. With such a lengthy career, it's possible that some performances may fall off the radar. But it's important to remember that despite the scale of the movie or their critical reception, Arnie is more than capable of delivering a stellar performance.
Which Arnold Schwarzenegger performance do you think is the most underrated? Let us know in the comments!