In honor of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s birthday, Den of Geek UK dusted off this fun bit of violence for you…
If Arnold Schwarzenegger were a deity – and he may yet prove to be – he’d be the God of Death, Vengeance, and Gatling Guns, and his crown would be made from bullet cases and hand grenade pins.
Some actors build a career by physically changing, chameleon-like, into new, unusual characters. Others build a career by building up a familiar persona which audiences will happily pay to see again and again. Arnold inarguably did the latter, but the greater part of his career was defined by simply gelling his hair into a vertical position and killing bad guys.
Of all the ’80s muscle-bound action stars, Arnold was the master of imaginative, wince-inducing slaughter. Sure, he discharged plenty of assorted shotguns, pistols and howitzers in his heyday, but his most memorable murders usually occurred at close quarters.
This list is therefore dedicated entirely to the assorted deaths Arnold Schwarzenegger dealt out without the use of firearms – so brace yourself, reader. It’s going to get rather messy around here…
Commando (1985) – Gardening with Arnold
Foolish villains have kidnapped the daughter of one Col. John Matrix, who turns out to be Arnold Schwarzenegger. The goons, naturally, will pay with their lives.
During Commando’s final act assault on the bad guys’ mansion, Arnold offs a stunning amount of mortals with a variety of light and heavy ordnance. The bit we’re interested in here, though, is the moment where he stops off at a garden shed for an extended scene of intimate bloodletting – for the sake of convenience, we’ve combined all these wince-inducing kills into one handy entry.
In a display of vicious creativity, Arnold slaughters a series of soldiers as they advance on the shed – apparently in single file. One is run through with a gardener’s fork as Arnie hangs from the rafters. Villains two and three are killed with circular saw blades to the head and throat respectively. Villain four receives an axe to the abdomen, while the fifth has his arm chopped off with a machete.
If action movies are cinematic ballet, Arnold is its Rudolph Nureyev.
Commando (1985) – Pipe smoking
Dozens of bad guys have been murdered, the kidnapped daughter located, and the end credits are almost in sight. All that remains is for John Matrix to engage in a final, decisive duel with the villain who sparked all this chaos off in the first place – step forward Vernon Wells, AKA Bennett. He may be broad of frame and bushy of moustache, but we all know that he’s really no match for Arnold’s Olympian strength – nor, it turns out, his incredible ability to chuck a length of aluminium pipe across the length of a film set.
Said aluminium pipe leaves Bennett pinned to the wall like a butterfly in a museum exhibit, and all that remains is for Arnold to utter his frosty epitaph: “Let off some steam, Bennett.”
If action movies are cinematic poetry, Arnold is its William Wordsworth.
The Terminator (1984) – Death at the drive-in
This classic of ’80s sci-fi is significant for a myriad of reasons; it put James Cameron firmly on the map as one of Hollywood’s most promising mainstream directors and established Arnold as a formidable screen presence.
Inspired though the casting of Arnie as the (almost) unstoppable cyborg assassin from the future might be, The Terminator gives him little to do other than shoot people – one memorable bit of nude punk murder aside, that is. There is, however, one scene that, although entirely lacking in gore, really has the “Oof!” factor, and just about beats the naked punk slaughter as the most wince-inducing.
Attempting to gain access to the police precinct in which his quarry is hiding, the T-800 (Arnold, with hair slightly less gelled than usual) is given short shrift by the officious cop sitting at the reception desk. With a muttered “I’ll be back” (the first instance of his now famous catchphrase, fact fans), the T-800 wanders off, only to come crashing through the front doors in a stolen car a few minutes later. The officious cop, needless to say, is horribly squashed – like we said, “Oof.”
If action movies are cinematic Formula One Racing, Arnold is… you get the idea.
Total Recall (1990) – Severance package
The more we think about it, the more sorry we feel for Michael Ironside’s character Richter in 1990’s Total Recall. First he has to stand aside while his better half, Lori (Sharon Stone) pretends to be the wife of Doug Quaid – actually a secret agent by the name of Hauser, but really Arnold Schwarzenegger again.
Then, in what can only be described as the day from hell for Richter, Doug proceeds to kill all of the former’s henchmen, and then brutally ‘divorces’ Lori with a bullet. And to make matters even worse, Richter’s boss Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox) expressly forbids him from killing Doug until the third act – by which time it’s too late.
In a final, man-on-man confrontation which he has no hope of winning, Richter has his arms unceremoniously ripped off in an elevator shaft. Wince-inducing for us, but for Richter, who plunges to his death with the words, “See you at the party!” ringing in his ears, it’s a bitter end to a particularly crappy day. Poor, poor Richter.
The Running Man (1987) – Choke Zero
Arnold squeezed himself into a yellow jumpsuit for this decidedly loose adaptation of a dystopian novel by Stephen King (writing under the pseudonym Richard Bachman). Imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, Arnold ends up on a gameshow where contestants are hunted live on air by assassins in flashy outfits.
Needless to say, Arnold manages to turn the tables on them – usually by using the assassins’ weapons against them. In what is for our money the most wince-inducing kill of the movie, Arnold defeats Sub-Zero (a homicidal hockey player) by garrotting him with a length of barbed wire. Written down, it probably doesn’t sound like much, but the way it’s shot – with a protracted scene of the victim clutching at his throat and gasping for air – makes it a surprisingly grotesque moment.
It has to be said, though, that it’s nowhere near as wince-inducing as the one-liner which follows. “Here is Sub-Zero! Now plain zero!” Ouch.
Total Recall (1990) – Not the face
There are absolutely dozens of nasty deaths in Total Recall, which is why it gets two entries on this list. We were a little torn, in fact, between adding this particular selection, or the moment where duplicitous taxi driver Bennie gets ripped apart with a giant drill (killer line: “Screw you!”). Or what about the bit near the beginning where Arnold crushes a man’s neck with his boot? Brrr.
Ultimately, we chose this toe-curling banquet of death from another key scene in the film. Here, Arnold manages to use his superior strength to unshackle himself from a mind-altering Total Recall chair, and use the spiky bits on said shackles to extraordinarily bloody effect – in a crimson flurry of death, various goons are stabbed in the neck, lanced through the nose and ocular cavity, and axed in stomach.
In his prime, there really was no limit to Arnold’s imagination – give him a room full of bad guys and a few bits of random scrap metal, and there’s no telling what mischief he’d get up to.
Conan The Barbarian (1982) – Chopping list
For sheer bloody mayhem, this climactic scene from Arnold’s first hit, Conan The Barbarian, is difficult to beat. Having finally caught up with chief villain Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones), Arnold’s rippling Conan despatches him as only he can – with his father’s gigantic sword. But in a rare concession to realism, it takes more than one blow for Arnold to lop off his victim’s head.
It’s only on the third strike that, with a great torrent of gore, Jones’ head comes free, leaving his body to fall at the feet of a horrified crowd. Harsh.
But not as harsh as James Earl Jones’ fringe.
Predator (1987) – Knife throwing masterclass
Here’s a short, sharp entry from one of Arnie’s very best films – the sci-fi action flick, Predator. In a reprise of his pipe and circular saw throwing antics at the end of Commando two years earlier, Arnold hurls a huge knife at an anonymous soldier, pinning the horrified chap to the wall to die a presumably slow, standing-up-type death.
The actor’s run of ’80s action films make us wonder what would have happened if Arnold had never turned to acting at all – a glittering career as a championship darts player would have surely awaited.
Eraser (1996) – Death by white goods
By the ’90s, Mr Schwarzenegger was reaching the end of his action reign – big effects pictures like Independence Day were ushering a new kind of popcorn cinema, and the Austrian Oak’s particular brand of gun-crazy action was beginning to be usurped.
Although not his best film, 1996’s Eraser saw Arnie on form as a US Marshal specialising in witness protection – and as ever, he has a particularly creative way of dealing with anyone who picks a fight with him.
In one moonlit action scene, Arnie dispatches a bad guy by slamming his head in the door of what appears to be a Zanussi fridge freezer. And just to make sure he’s done the job properly, our hero spins his victim’s body around, snapping his neck in the door like someone popping the cap off a beer bottle.
All we can say is, if you see Arnold Schwarzenegger browsing the goods in your local fridge emporium, for God’s sake, don’t approach him – if he’s in a bad mood, it could be your head chilling in the top section of a Hotpoint Iced Diamond.
Collateral Damage (2002) – Axe of valor
We know that Colombian terrorist Claudio (Cliff Curtis) is evil, because he has a habit of forcing live snakes down the throats of his victims – which is both cruel and slightly kinky, now that we think about it. It’s fair to say, then, that Claudio thoroughly deserves the comeuppance meted out to him by Arnie at the end of Collateral Damage.
“So when are you going to kill me?” gloats Claudio, as a now much older and rather tired Arnold lies battered on the floor, apparently defeated. Unfortunately, Claudio wasn’t privy to the information provided on this list, otherwise he’d know that if Arnold’s in the vicinity of anything sharp and vaguely aerodynamic, he’ll probably attempt to throw it.
With a triumphant “Now!”, Arnold chucks a handily-located fire axe at Claudio, interrupting his attempt to call for a pizza on his phone and leaving him breathing his last against a nearby wall.
Collateral Damage didn’t do terribly well at the box office, and it was Arnold’s penultimate starring role before he headed off to become the Governor of California (Terminator 3 was his last). He has recently gotten back into the action movie market though, so who knows how many bad guys he’ll get to kill, and who can guess what wince-inducing ways he’ll choose to dispatch them?
Remember, bad guys: if it’s sharp, Arnold will hurl it directly at your chest or neck. You have been warned.