Arnold Schwarzenegger was beyond a shadow of a doubt the quintessential Hollywood action hero of the 80s and 90s. As a former professional bodybuilder, the physique obviously had a lot to do with Arnie’s mass appeal – but we can’t overlook his true skill at delivering an effective one-liner.
In a Schwarzenegger movie, it’s never enough for our hero to beat up and/or blow away the bad guy: he has to say something cool immediately before or after, with his signature stony expression and deadpan delivery.
Obviously, “I’ll be back” from The Terminator is the catchphrase Schwarzenegger has always been most synonymous with, but this is by no means the only guaranteed crowd-pleaser to leave the Austrian Oak’s lips over the years. So, taking the iconic Terminator line as a given, here are some of our other absolute favourites, many of which we can’t help blurting out in the office from time to time…
20. “F*** you a**hole” – The Terminator
Okay, we said we weren’t going to mention “I’ll be back,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t still count another of Schwarzenegger’s storming one-liners from 1984’s The Terminator.
For the benefit of the few who might not know, The Terminator is the first film from legendary director James Cameron (assuming we respect Cameron’s wishes and don’t count his first official credit, 1982’s Piranha II: The Spawning, from which he was fired midway).
Schwarzenegger is the T-800, a cyborg sent back in time by the artificial intelligence that rules the future, in order to assassinate Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, future mother of resistance leader John Connor.
The cyborg is an effective weapon because of his ability to blend in among humans, as demonstrated when it addresses a sarcastic motel manager the way any normal person would: by grumbling, “f*** you a**hole!”
Not unlike “I’ll be back,” this is another line that Schwarzenegger would repeat in later films, most notably 1985’s Commando.
19. “You should clone yourself… so you can go f*** yourself!” – The Sixth Day
Oh dear – two quotes in and once again it’s one we have to censor. (We promise, this list won’t be just nothing but wall-to-wall profanity.)
2000’s The Sixth Day was one of Schwarzenegger’s last all-action hits before he put his acting career on hold to become the Governor of California.
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode (whose varied CV includes Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies and Stallone flop Stop! or My Mom Will Shoot), The Sixth Day is a near-future sci-fi thriller centred on cloning.
Schwarzenegger’s character, Adam Gibson, uncovers a dastardly plot involving the illegal cloning of humans, after discovering that he’s been cloned himself.
And so, what better way to address the bad guy behind all the human cloning than by telling him, “You should clone yourself… so you can go f*** yourself!”
18. “I did nothing, the pavement was his enemy!” – Twins
A considerably more family-friendly one-liner this time – appropriate enough, given it comes from Schwarzenegger’s first real hit to carry a PG rating.
1988’s Twins was a big change of direction for the actor, as it was his first role based primarily in comedy rather than action; a genre he would return to a number of times with Twins director Ivan Reitman.
Schwarzenegger is Julius Benedict, the product of a genetic experiment to create a physically perfect, intellectually superior human being – but this experiment also produced a twin brother, Vincent (Danny DeVito), who is his polar opposite in every respect.
While Twins plays heavily on the inherently funny physical contrasts between its leading men, a lot of the humour also comes from the ‘innocent abroad’ angle, as Schwarzenegger’s Julius heads out to find his brother having never been out in the world on his own before.
Schwarzenegger’s best line comes when a mugger on a motorcycle finds himself unable to steal Julius’s suitcase and crashes into the floor. When the other would-be assailant cries, “What did you do to him?”, the well-meaning Julius replies, “I did nothing, the pavement was his enemy!”
17. “Here is Subzero; now, plain zero!” – The Running Man
1987’s The Running Man is an adaptation of the dystopian sci-fi novel by author Richard Bachman (who no one at the time knew was actually Stephen King writing under a pseudonym).
Directed by former Starsky & Hutch actor Paul Michael Glaser, the futuristic action thriller casts Schwarzenegger as Ben Richards, an innocent man jailed for mass murder and who stages a daring prison break.
Soon recaptured, Richards is then given the chance of freedom by competing in gladiatorial TV show The Running Man, in which convicts fight to the death against hulking mercenaries with colourful, wrestler-style personas.
Of course, Schwarzenegger’s Richards messes with the show’s format by proving stronger than those sent to kill him – including the ice-skating killer Subzero (played by ‘Professor’ Toru Tanaka).
After defeating his opponent, Richards proudly declares to camera, “here is Subzero; now plain zero!”
16. “I live to see you eat that contract…” – The Running Man
Not for the last time in this list, we’ve hit on one of Schwarzenegger’s films that is so packed with great one-liners, we couldn’t possibly leave it at just one.
Not unlike Schwarzenegger’s jumpsuit in the movie, The Running Man is positively bursting at the seams with pithy comebacks and joyful kiss-off lines from our beloved leading man.
To name just a couple more, we have Schwarzenegger’s Ben Richards declaring, “it’s showtime!” when bursting into the TV studio; saying “give you a lift?” to a prison guard before hoisting him over a railing; and telling Maria Conchita Alonso’s Amber, “I’m going to say pleeeeeease,” while lifting up the bed he’s bound her to (which isn’t quite as sordid as it sounds).
However, our other personal favourite line from The Running Man is addressed to Richard Dawson’s Running Man host Killian – and it’s particularly memorable as it’s one of the most protracted, verbose sentences to ever pass Schwarzenegger’s lips (and that includes the period he was in politics).
Deep breath now: in answer to an offer from Killian, Richards roars, “you cold-blooded b****rd, I’ll tell you what I think of it: I live to see you eat that contract, but I hope you leave enough room for my fist because I’m going to ram it into your stomach and break your g***amn spine!” Phew.
15. “Cocainum!” – Red Heat
1988’s Red Heat isn’t generally held up as one of Schwarzenegger’s best, but it was his only true ‘buddy’ movie (in the vein of 48 Hrs. and Lethal Weapon).
Schwarzenegger stars as Russian police officer Ivan Danko, who heads to Chicago and teams up with James Belushi’s local cop in pursuit of a drug lord on the run from Moscow.
Danko is comparatively taciturn as Schwarzenegger roles go, with director/co-writer Walter Hill making a point of dialling back the one-liners – but the star still makes his lines count.
Red Heat’s most notable one-liner is in fact a one-worder: Danko pulls off a bad guy’s wooden leg, tips out the drugs hidden inside and exclaims, “cocainum!”
Clearly Schwarzenegger recognised that this would be a very cool moment, as he agreed to make Red Heat based on that scene alone.
14. “You should not drink and bake” – Raw Deal
1986’s Raw Deal is another of Schwarzenegger’s least-remembered films today, and was in fact one of his biggest flops on release, making less than $17 million at the box office.
The film from director John Irvin casts Schwarzenegger as Mark Kaminski, a former FBI agent who is now the sheriff of a small town.
Kaminski is lured back to the FBI to go undercover in a Mafia family and bust up their organisation from the inside.
Part of why Schwarzenegger’s Kaminski is happy to return to the FBI is his unhappy home life with his alcoholic wife Amy – an altercation with whom gives us Raw Deal’s best one-liner.
When a drunken Amy angrily throws a cake at him and narrowly misses, an unshaken Kaminski drily remarks, “you should not drink and bake.” (In an amusing side note to this, the actress who plays Amy is actually named Blanche Baker.)
13. “Remember when I said I’d kill you last? I LIED!” – Commando
Hitting cinemas one year after The Terminator, 1985’s Commando was Schwarzenegger’s first contemporary-set action hero role, and did a lot to set the tone for his future career.
Director Mark L. Lester’s film casts Schwarzenegger as retired Special Forces Colonel John Matrix, who is unwillingly forced back into active duty when some old enemies kidnap his daughter (an early role for Alyssa Milano).
Of course, Matrix isn’t the sort to take that lying down, and is soon dishing up vengeance on a very large scale (and we do mean large: Commando sees Schwarzenegger notch up the biggest body count of his entire career).
Commando may be an extraordinarily loud and explosive film, but one of Schwarzenegger’s best lines comes in a comparatively quiet moment.
Whilst dangling David Patrick Kelly’s Sully over a cliff by the ankle, Matrix tells him, “Remember when I said I’d kill you last? I LIED!”, before casually dropping the weasely henchman to his death.
12. “Let off some steam, Bennett” – Commando
As already mentioned, some of Schwarzenegger’s films are so rich with great one-liners that we simply have to include more than one in our list. Commando is most definitely another of those – and the line in question comes at the end of one of Schwarzenegger’s most memorable fight scenes.
After blasting his way through a lot of enemy soldiers (and again, we really mean a lot: 75 people in Commando’s final battle scene alone), our hero Matrix faces off against his old enemy Bennett (Vernon Wells).
Now, it would be remiss for us not to mention the inherent absurdity of this showdown, given that Schwarzenegger is in peak physical condition, whilst Wells looks like a somewhat overweight Freddy Mercury impersonator.
That being said, the punch-up that ensues is epic, hard-hitting stuff – right up until Bennett decides to stop fighting fair and picks up a gun, prompting Matrix to grab the first available weapon: a length of lead pipe from the wall.
With Bennett duly impaled, a gush of steam bursts forth from the other end of the pipe, leaving Matrix to coolly intone, “let off some steam, Bennett.”
11. “It’s not a tumour!” – Kindergarten Cop
The 1988 movie Twins represented a significant career move for Schwarzenegger, taking the previously R-rated star in a more kid-friendly direction.
Schwarzenegger continued further down that path by reuniting with Twins director Ivan Reitman for the 1990 comedy thriller Kindergarten Cop.
A concerted effort to marry Schwarzenegger’s old action man persona with his new, more family-oriented image, Kindergarten Cop casts our hero as a tough detective forced to go undercover as the world’s most unlikely kindergarten teacher.
Probably the funniest, most frequently quoted line in the movie comes when Schwarzenegger’s Detective John Kimble, attempting to control his class, finds himself struggling with a stress-induced headache.
One of the kids suspect the cause of Kimble’s ailment may be a tumour – prompting his impassioned rebuttal, “it’s not a tumour!”
10. “You’re fired” – True Lies
1994’s True Lies was Schwarzenegger’s third and to date final collaboration with writer-director James Cameron (which you might not have known is actually a remake of a French film).
Arnie plays secret agent Harry Trasker, whose work comes home in a big way when his previously unwitting wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) gets tangled up in his latest case.
True Lies sees Schwarzenegger at his sardonic best; after such a long working relationship and friendship, Cameron clearly understands the actor’s comedic sensibilities better than most.
Arnie’s funniest one-liner of the lot comes when Art Malik’s terrorist villain gets tangled up with the rocket on the side of Harry’s Harrier Jump Jet.
As the other terrorists are aboard an adjacent helicopter, Harry kills two birds with one stone, declares “you’re fired,” and literally fires the bad guy directly into his cohorts.
9. “You’re a f***ing choirboy compared to me!” – End of Days
On the eve of the Millennium, when some feared that a Biblical apocalypse could be upon us, what better response could Hollywood have had than to pit Arnold Schwarzenegger against Satan himself?
Directed by Peter Hyams, 1999’s End of Days combines Schwarzenegger’s classic action man shenanigans with a hearty dose of horror, in a race against time to save all humanity on Millennium Eve.
Schwarzenegger plays Jericho Cane, an embittered ex-cop who finds himself entrusted to protect Christine (Robin Tunney of The Craft), an innocent young woman who is unwittingly betrothed to the Devil himself.
Gabriel Bryne takes the plum bad guy role of El Diablo in human form – and one scene sees him work his wily charms on Schwarzenegger’s Jericho, trying to tempt him away from the path of good.
This prompts Jericho to furiously exclaim, “you think you know bad? You’re a f***ing choirboy compared to me! A choirboy!” (Remember, this is Beelzebub himself our hero is addressing.)
8. “You think this is the real Quaid? It is” – Total Recall
1990’s Total Recall saw Schwarzenegger team up with RoboCop director Paul Verhoeven, for what proved to be one of the most spectacular films of both of their careers.
Loosely adapted from a story by Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner), the futuristic thriller casts Schwarzenegger as disillusioned construction worker Doug Quaid, who makes the startling discovery that he is in fact a secret agent from Mars whose memory has been erased.
After receiving a video message from his previous self (which feeds him another of the movie’s best lines, “Get your a** to Mars!”), Quaid is sent on a bullet-ridden, planet-hopping adventure.
The high-tech fun and frolics eventually see Quaid equipped with a holographic projector with which he can trick the bad guys into thinking he’s stood on the other side of the room, projecting an image of himself anywhere he chooses.
Quaid then makes even more of a mind game out of it, at one point laughing at the enemy goons, “you think this is the real Quaid?” Then, just as they think it’s a projection of Quaid, the ‘hologram’ informs them, “it is,” and blasts the lot of them.
7. “Consider that a divorce” – Total Recall
Total Recall is yet another of those Schwarzenegger movies that has too many great one-liners for us to only mention the film once in this list.
As well as giving Schwarzenegger one of his biggest hits and making sure he started the 1990s on the right foot, Total Recall also helped launch another star to whom the 90s were very kind: one Sharon Stone.
Stone (who would reunite with Total Recall director Paul Verhoeven for her defining role in 1992’s Basic Instinct) co-stars in the film as Lori, supposed wife of Doug Quaid who is soon revealed to be an undercover agent working against him.
Her final scene sees her attempt to use her feminine wiles against Quaid, murmuring, “You wouldn’t shoot me would you, Doug? After all, we’re married.”
Then, as she attempts to draw her gun, Quaid shoots her first and replies, “consider that a divorce.” (Not the most politically correct moment of Schwarzenegger’s career, admittedly; but then, his movies never were that PC.)
6. “You son of a b***h!” – Predator
1987’s Predator surely ranks among the very best films of Schwarzenegger’s career.
Director John McTiernan’s movie casts the Austrian Oak as Dutch, ultra-macho leader of an ultra-macho military rescue team sent on a mission into the South American jungle by Dutch’s old CIA buddy Dillon (Carl Weathers).
Alas, once the mission is underway the soldiers find themselves in the crosshairs of a mysterious hunter that is not of this world.
Predator is frankly bursting with quotable lines, but one of the most memorable comes early on, when Dutch cheerily greets Dillon with the words, “you son of a b***h!” and a handshake that turns into a mid-air arm wrestle.
Untold numbers of fans over the years have tried to recreate this moment – though sadly most of us don’t have such eye-popping biceps as Schwarzenegger and Weathers.
5. “Get to the chopper!” – Predator
Predator is one of Schwarzenegger’s absolute best movies, and definitely one of his most quotable, so we really couldn’t pick just one of its unforgettable one-liners for our list.
Another absolute humdinger comes as the few survivors of Dutch’s team, along with their captive, Anna (Elpidia Carrillo), struggle post-haste through the jungle.
They’re trying to make their rendezvous with a rescue helicopter, in order to escape the invisible alien taking them out one at a time.
However, as the unseen assailant keeps killing the team, the chances of any of them making it soon begin to look slim.
So it is that when it looks like he may be done for, Schwarzenegger’s Dutch bellows in no uncertain terms that Anna must “get to the chopper!”
4. “Rubber baby buggy bumpers!” – Last Action Hero
1993’s Last Action Hero proved to be a benchmark in Schwarzenegger’s filmography for all the wrong reasons – but at heart, it’s still a well-meaning parody of the high-octane shoot-’em-ups that made him a superstar.
The action-comedy fantasy from director John McTiernan centres on movie-mad schoolboy Danny (Austin O’Brien), who is magically whisked into the world of his favourite action hero, Schwarzenegger’s Jack Slater.
Once teamed up with Slater, Danny uses his knowledge of action movie stereotypes to help bust open his hero’s latest case.
As Last Action Hero goes to pains to point out and make fun of the codes and conventions of Schwarzenegger’s body of work, it’s only natural it should make fun of the traditional one-liners (and yes, “I’ll be back” does get a mention).
The funniest comes when Schwarzenegger’s Slater roars at a random guy in his way, “you’ve seen those movies where they say ‘make my day’ or ‘I’m your worst nightmare?’ Well listen to this one: ‘rubber baby buggy bumpers!'”
3. Every single ice-related pun – Batman & Robin
Okay, we realise there are some fans of Schwarzenegger/Batman/good films who will never forgive us for bringing this one up, but we couldn’t go without mentioning 1997’s Batman & Robin.
Director Joel Schumacher’s second and last film featuring DC’s legendary Dark Knight was blasted on release as one of the worst films ever made – and its reputation has not improved with time.
Even so, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t take any (guilty) pleasure from the film – particularly when it comes to Schwarzenegger’s performance as cold-blooded bad guy Mr Freeze.
Just about every line Schwarzenegger’s Freeze utters in the film is some variety of cold-related pun, each one more cringe-worthy than the last; it’s the cinematic equivalent of being subjected to two hours of dad jokes.
To mention but a few: “The Iceman cometh!” “Allow me to break the ice!” “Ice to see you!” “Everybody chill!” “Stay cool, bird boy!” “You’re not sending me to the cooler!” “I’m afraid that my condition has left me cold to your pleas for mercy!” “What killed the dinosaurs? The ice age!” We could go on… but for the sake of space (and mercy), we won’t.
2. “Hasta la vista, baby” – Terminator 2: Judgment Day
1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day is possibly the absolute highlight of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career; his biggest box office hit, one of the most influential action movies ever, and a major turning point for the use of CGI in film.
While the film once again sees Schwarzenegger’s T-800 utter that one-liner, writer-director James Cameron makes sure he also gets a few good new ones.
Schwarzenegger’s most memorable new line in T2 comes as his guardian cyborg takes what looks to be a fatal shot at Robert Patrick’s malevolent T-1000.
The T-1000’s liquid metal form has allowed it to escape unscathed from everything that heroes have thrown at it up to that point – but now it’s been frozen solid by liquid nitrogen, from which it would seem there’s no coming back.
Schwarzenegger’s T-800 takes aim and, before firing, repeats a kiss-off line Edward Furlong’s John fed him earlier: “hasta la vista, baby.””
1. “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women!” – Conan the Barbarian
1984’s The Terminator may have given Schwarzenegger his most frequently quoted line in “I’ll be back”, but another of the actor’s definitive lines, and signature roles, came two years earlier.
1982’s Conan the Barbarian, a lavish big screen take on author Robert E Howard’s iconic sword-swinging book series from director John Milius, was the action legend’s first bona fide leading role (assuming we don’t count 1969’s Hercules in New York – which we really shouldn’t).
Conan the Barbarian helped establish Schwarzenegger as the 80s ideal of the hard-bodied hero, with a merciless attitude to match.
“To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women!” are literally the first words we hear Schwarzenegger utter in the film – and they’re lines the actor has happily repeated on many occasions.
Fun fact: the line is a paraphrase of an actual historical quote attributed to Genghis Khan, who was responding to the same question Conan is asked in the scene: “What is best in life?”