LOS ANGELES — Like Charlie Sheen, Arnold Schwarzenegger was once known as an actor. Granted, not a great actor, but still. He starred in a lot of movies.
And, like Sheen, Schwarzenegger is infamous these days for his off-camera antics. Revelations that the former California governor's 25-year marriage to Maria Shriver is ending and that he fathered a son with a member of his housekeeping staff have put him in the spotlight in a way even he probably never wanted.
So, like we did with Sheen, we're going to go back to a simpler, happier time and reflect on Schwarzenegger's five best films. And there actually are five:
'True Lies' (1994)
Schwarzenegger has always injected an element of humor into his action movies, a tongue-in-cheek recognition of his own outsized ridiculousness, for better and for worse. His puns, for example, can be painful. But this is the best example of his ability to blend laughs and gunfire, sight gags and explosions. Teaming up once again with "Terminator" director James Cameron in this remake of a French comedy, Schwarzenegger stars as a spy posing as a mild-mannered computer salesman. When he suspects his wife (a funny and sexy Jamie Lee Curtis) is having an affair, he uses all the gadgets and weapons at his disposal to win her back. A screwball blockbuster.
'The Terminator' (1984)
One of the definitive '80s action flicks and the movie that truly made Schwarzenegger a superstar. It features one of his classic and most-quoted lines — "I'll be back" — and allowed us all to put the suffix "-ator" at the end of any word to describe him in a corny way. Cameron also put himself on the map, as director and co-writer, with this sci-fi fable about an unstoppable cyborg sent back from the future to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) before she can give birth to ... well, you know what the "Terminator" series is about. Clever, intense and mind-bendy, filled with a dark mythology of biblical proportions and the kind of elaborate action sequences that would become one of Cameron's trademarks.
'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' (1991)
A rare sequel that is as good as the original, if not better (are you listening, makers of the "Hangover" movies?). "T2" was super high-tech in its day, with seamless visual effects that allowed Robert Patrick's character, the even deadlier Terminator known as the T-1000, to shape-shift and heal itself instantly. Schwarzenegger is back as the original Terminator, who must now protect Sarah Connor's son. Of course, "T2" features yet another of his classic lines — "Hasta la vista, baby" — which he would use to cringe-inducing effect in various real-world circumstances.
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'Total Recall' (1990)
Inspired by a Philip K. Dick short story and directed by Paul Verhoeven, this is a brisk, paranoid, violent and darkly funny adventure. Schwarzenegger stars as Doug Quaid, a construction worker living in the future who discovers that his entire existence has been a fabrication. His real identity (which has something to do with Mars) has been erased, but virtual reality trips help him unlock his own mysteries. This vision of an efficient future is meant to be startling in its soullessness, but "Total Recall" also features plenty of sleaze; this is, after all, from the man who would go on to direct "Basic Instinct." Speaking of which, a young and extremely cute Sharon Stone co-stars as Schwarzenegger's wife.
OK, I will admit that I am choosing this one in part because my husband loves it, and he has an uncanny knack for finding it on TV at any time of the day or night. (I also enjoy hearing him yell, "Get to the chopper!" in his bad Arnold accent.) An early film from action veteran John McTiernan, this sci-fi thriller is about a group of commandos who are trapped in a Central American jungle and hunted by an extraterrestrial monster. Schwarzenegger, as a special forces bad-ass named Dutch, is sent in to save them but he also must fight this creature with deadly camouflage abilities. If anyone could do it, it was Arnold at the height of his powers.
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