Arnold Schwarzenegger was 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 skill at delivering a punchy one-liner.
Obviously, The Terminator’s “I’ll be back” is the catchphrase Schwarzenegger has always been most synonymous with, but here are some of our other favourites from the Austrian Oak.
20. “F*** you a**hole” – The Terminator (1984)
The first film from legendary director James Cameron, Schwarzenegger stars in 1984’s The Terminator as the T-800, a cyborg sent back in time to assassinate Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, future mother of AI resistance leader John Connor.
The cyborg is an effective weapon because of its ability to blend in, as demonstrated when it addresses a sarcastic motel manager the way any normal human would: by grumbling, “f*** you a**hole!” (Like “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 (2000)
2000’s The Sixth Day was one of Schwarzenegger’s last all-action hits before he put his acting career on hold to become 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 Adam Gibson uncovers a dastardly plot involving the illegal cloning of humans, after discovering he’s been cloned himself. And so what better way to address the bad guy responsible than by telling him, “You should clone yourself… so you can go f*** yourself!”
18. “I did nothing, the pavement was his enemy!” – Twins (1988)
1988’s Twins was a big change of direction for Schwarzenegger: a PG-rated comedy (a genre he would return to a number of times with Twins director Ivan Reitman). Schwarzenegger is Julius Benedict, the superhuman product of a genetic experiment whose twin brother Vincent (Danny DeVito) is his polar opposite.
Schwarzenegger’s best line comes when a mugger on a motorcycle finds himself unable to steal a suitcase from Julius – an innocent abroad in LA – 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)
1987’s The Running Man is an adaptation of the dystopian sci-fi novel by ‘Richard Bachman’ (actually Stephen King writing under a pseudonym). Directed by Starsky & Hutch actor Paul Michael Glaser, the futuristic action thriller casts Schwarzenegger as Ben Richards, an innocent man wrongly imprisoned and given the chance of freedom by competing in gladiatorial TV show The Running Man.
Of course, Schwarzenegger’s Richards messes with the show’s format by proving stronger than those sent to kill him – including 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 (1987)
Not for the last time in this list, we’ve hit on one Schwarzenegger film that’s so packed with great one-liners, we couldn’t 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.
Our other personal favourite line from The Running Man is one of the most protracted sentences to ever pass Schwarzenegger’s lips. In answer to an offer from Killian, Richards roars into a camera, “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 rip out your g***amn spine!”
15. “Cocainum!” – Red Heat (1988)
A buddy movie in the vein of 48 Hrs. and Lethal Weapon, 1988’s Red Heat casts Schwarzenegger as Russian police officer Ivan Danko, who travels from Moscow to Chicago and teams up with James Belushi’s local cop in pursuit of a drug lord on the run. Danko is comparatively taciturn as Schwarzenegger roles go, but the star still makes his lines count.
In fact, 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)
1986’s Raw Deal 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 part of why he’s happy to do so is his miserable home life with his alcoholic wife Amy.
Raw Deal’s best one-liner comes from an altercation between Kaminski and Amy. When she drunkenly throws a cake at him and narrowly misses, Kaminski drily remarks, “you should not drink and bake.” (Ironic, then, that the actress playing Amy is named Blanche Baker.)
13. “Remember when I said I’d kill you last? I LIED!” – Commando (1985)
1985’s Commando was Schwarzenegger’s first contemporary-set action hero role, and did a lot to set the tone for his future career. He plays 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).
Getting his own back early, Matrix dangles David Patrick Kelly’s Sully over a cliff by the ankle. The Herculean hard man 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 (1985)
Commando is another of Schwarzenegger’s films which is so rich with great one-liners that we simply have to include more than one in our list. After blasting his way through a ridiculous amount of enemy soldiers (estimates put it at 75), our hero Matrix faces off against his old enemy Bennett (Vernon Wells).
An epic punch-up ensues, until Bennett stops fighting fair and picks up a gun. Matrix then tears a length of pipe from the wall and impales Bennett with it, prompting a gush of steam to bursts forth from the other end of the pipe. To this Matrix coolly intones, “let off some steam, Bennett.”
11. “It’s not a tumour!” – Kindergarten Cop (1990)
Post-Twins, Schwarzenegger continued further down that family-friendly path with Kindergarten Cop. The 1990 comedy thriller casts our hero as John Kimble, a tough detective forced to go undercover as probably the world’s most unlikely kindergarten teacher.
The funniest, most frequently quoted line in the movie comes when Kimble, struggling to control his class, is hit with a stress-induced headache. One of the kids suspects 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)
Schwarzenegger’s third and to date final collaboration with writer-director James Cameron, 1994’s True Lies casts Arnie as CIA 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.
The 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 (1999)
What could be a more epic showdown than Schwarzenegger versus Satan? 1999’s action-horror End of Days casts Arnie as Jericho Cane, an embittered ex-cop entrusted to protect an innocent young woman (Robin Tunney) who is unwittingly betrothed to the Devil himself (Gabriel Bryne).
One scene sees El Diablo work his wily charms on Jericho, trying to tempt him away from the path of good. This prompts our hero 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)
Loosely based on a story by sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, 1990’s futuristic thriller Total Recall 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.
Quaid gets a holographic projector with which he can trick the bad guys by projecting an image of himself anywhere he chooses. At one point he makes even more of a mind game out of it, laughing at the enemy goons, “you think this is the real Quaid?” Then just as they think it’s a hologram he informs them, “it is,” and blasts the lot of them.
7. “Consider that a divorce” – Total Recall (1990)
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. It also helped launch another star to whom the 90s were very kind: Sharon Stone, who co-stars in the film as Lori, the supposed wife of Doug Quaid 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 a particularly PC moment, but that’s Schwarzenegger movies for you.)
6. “You son of a b***h!” – Predator (1987)
1987’s Predator is one of Schwarzenegger’s very best films, casting him as Dutch, the 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; an eye-popping sight, given the size of Schwarzenegger and Weathers’ biceps.
5. “Get to the chopper!” – Predator (1987)
Predator is another Arnie movie that’s blessed with an over-abundance of quotable one-liners. 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 trying to escape the invisible alien hunter on their tail.
They’re trying to make their rendezvous with a rescue helicopter, but as the unseen assailant keeps killing the team, the chances of any of them making it soon begin to look slim. Just 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)
Big budget misfire Last Action Hero proved to be a benchmark in Schwarzenegger’s filmography for all the wrong reasons, but it’s still a well-meaning parody of the high-octane shoot-’em-ups that made him a superstar. The action-comedy fantasy sees movie-mad schoolboy Danny (Austin O’Brien) magically whisked into the world of his favourite action hero, Jack Slater.
As Last Action Hero lampoons Schwarzenegger’s body of work, it’s only natural it should make fun of the traditional one-liners (yes, “I’ll be back” does get a mention). The funniest comes when Slater roars at a random guy, “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 (1997)
Okay, we know, many people quite reasonably consider Batman & Robin to be one of the worst films ever made. 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, who comes out with an ice-related pun in almost every line of dialogue.
To mention but a few of Mr Freeze’s belters: “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!” 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)
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. And, of course, it’s got some cracking one-liners, including but not limited to a reprise of the immortal “I’ll be back.”
The sequel’s most memorable catchphrase comes as Schwarzenegger’s T-800 faces off against the shape-shifting T-1000, freezing it with liquid nitrogen and then blowing it to bits with the line that Edward Furlong’s John Connor taught 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 (1982)
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, in 1982’s Conan the Barbarian. For most of the early scenes, we see Conan slowly mature from a lowly slave to a musclebound gladiator, without ever hearing him speak a single word.
When Conan is asked, “what is best in life?”, he replies with the first line of dialogue we hear Schwarzenegger utter in the film: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women!” Fun fact: the line is a paraphrase of an actual historical quote attributed to Genghis Khan.