Top 10 Villains In Arnold Schwarzenegger Films

From supernatural beings to alien creatures, futuristic robots and an assortment of wives, Arnold Schwarzenegger never has it easy in his movies. These are the best bad guys in Arnie films…

Arnold Schwarzenegger has ditched his hiatus from the movie world and returned to what he would call “acting”. Before he decided to take a leave of absence to pursue politics the man dubbed the “Governator” made a string of movies pitting himself against increasingly more deadly foe. Instead of playing the bad guy, a role he has largely avoided since his breakthrough role in James Cameron’s The Terminator (let’s not even mention Batman and Robin), Arnie has become the epitome of all that is good (if that means blowing people up until the villain stops kicking, that is). In my top 10 villains list, I take a look at my favourite Arnold Schwarzenegger enemies – the people, creatures, supernatural beings and robots that have dared get in his way…

10. Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones, Conan The Barbarian, 1982)

Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones, Conan The Barbarian, 1982)In one of his earliest roles, Arnie must come-of-age to take revenge against Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones), the evil wizard who oversaw the killing of his parents. A sprinkling of magic makes the task more difficult while Earl Jones’ booming voice and command of the stage adds gravitas to the character.

9. The Nameless Banker (Gabriel Byrne, End of Days, 1999)

The Nameless Banker (Gabriel Byrne, End of Days, 1999)At the end of 1999, Arnold Schwarzenegger decided he would try to actually “act” in a movie. It was a bad idea. Fellow “star” and proper actor Gabriel Byrne was notably embarrassed throughout the entire affair culminating in a largely unsatisfactory supernatural thriller the led to the Terminator prematurely retiring from the movies in favour of politics. That said, he’s still taking on the Devil in End of Days, not an easy task even with biceps like Arnie’s!

8. Damon Killian (Richard Dawson, The Running Man, 1987)

Damon Killian (Richard Dawson, The Running Man, 1987)Arnie versus Game Show Host doesn’t sound like a fair match-up but when that game show is The Running Man and the host is Richard Dawson’s Damon Killian, it’s a different matter. Schwarzenegger finds himself on TV in a near-future world run on the principles of a totalitarian police state. As one of the state’s revolutionary detractors, he is effectively put to death in the most humiliating way possible: as a contestant on The Running Man, a near-impossible game-to-the-death where unarmed “runners” try to evade fatal attack by heavily armed “stalkers”.

7. Juno Skinner (Tia Carrere, True Lies, 1994)

Juno Skinner (Tia Carrere, True Lies, 1994)Arnie definitely has a tough time with women in his movies. One tried to kill him in Total Recall, another turns into a demon while he’s making love to her in Conan the Barbarian, and he has to go to extreme measures to hide his secret agent status from his wife in True Lies. But that’s only part of the worry when Tia Carrere’s Juno Skinner is on the prowl. She’ll scratch your eyes out quicker than you can say “is that dress too long for international terrorism”.

6. The Ripper (Tom Noonan, Last Action Hero, 1993)

The Ripper (Tom Noonan, Last Action Hero, 1993)You don’t really need words to tell you why The Ripper in Last Action Hero is one of the great villains Arnie has faced. Just look at him. Actor Tom Noonan looks creepy and he’s made a career out of playing characters who appear the embodiment of those creatures which trouble your nightmares. Whether it’s Manhunter or RoboCop II, you wouldn’t want to meet him down a dark alleyway. Thankfully, in Last Action Hero, we can all feel safe in the knowledge that Arnie has got our back. When The Ripper threatens Schwarzenegger’s new best friend Danny Madigan (a teenager who idolises the actor), Arnie’s super-cop draws sustenance from his paternal instincts in order to save him.

5. Lori Quaid (Sharon Stone, Total Recall, 1990)

Lori Quaid (Sharon Stone, Total Recall, 1990)Arnie really has his work cut out in Total Recall. If it isn’t the incomparable Ronny Cox trying to fry his brains or Michael Ironside seeking new ways to examine his innards in public places, it’s his own wife, the astonishingly beautiful Sharon Stone who foregoes her latest hair appointment in favour of stabbing her husband to death. One only has to witness Stone’s athletic approach to knife-play to understand what a great thing Arnie had in the bedroom – even if it was all a ruse to ensure his mind-wipe had worked. It’s almost a pity when Schwarzenegger gets his victory, delivering a fatal wound with the line: “Consider that a divorce!”

4. An army of mercenaries (Various, Commando, 1985)

Commando, Film, Arnold SchwarzeneggerSimply put – don’t mess with Arnie’s family because he will hunt you down and make you wish you hadn’t got up that morning. In Commando, Arnie is the father of a teenage daughter who is kidnapped and taken to an island compound governed by Dan Hedaya’s evil Arius. The compound is defended by a small army, each man armed with enough ammunition to bring down a government. There’s also Arnie’s former military colleague Bennett (Vernon Wells) who has turned bad (very, very bad). Will this prevent a Dad from saving his daughter? Not when Arnold Schwarzenegger is the parent in question. A conservative estimate puts his kills at 80+ as he pummels through all that stand in his way.

3. Richter (Michael Ironside, Total Recall, 1990)

Richter (Michael Ironside, Total Recall, 1990)Michael Ironside is great at looking really, really mean. He was born with this talent. His voice, which emits a low growl with every enunciated word, is just as unsettling. Heck, in David Cronenberg’s Scanners he could blow your head off with a grunt and a grimace! That’s why his casting in Paul Verhoeven’s futuristic nightmare Total Recall, based on the Philip K. Dick story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, is so perfect. As Richter, the chief henchman of an evil governor on Mars, he relentlessly pursues Arnie’s unwitting Douglas Quaid with an arsenal of technologically advanced weaponry. It truly is a bloodbath.

2. Predator (Kevin Peter Hall, Predator, 1987)

Predator (Kevin Peter Hall, Predator, 1987)Even with a team of similarly macho commandoes behind him, Arnie doesn’t find it easy against the alien creature known only as Predator. Fighting a villain who has the ability to be invisible makes it difficult to know where to aim those machine guns, while the creature has advanced weaponry that Arnie can only dream about. Hiding from the beast is not possible either, as Predator can see you based on the heat of your body. In the end, Arnie, all on his lonesome, must resort to primitive methods and his own cunning to defeat his foe. It is one hell of a mighty battle.

1. T-1000 (Robert Patrick, Terminator 2, 1991)

T-1000 (Robert Patrick, Terminator 2, 1991)Arnie might be the almost indestructible robot in James Cameron’s Terminator II: Judgment Day, but he is up against a more advanced machine in the form of Robert Patrick’s upgraded T-1000 model. The sequel to Cameron’s thrilling science-fiction movie of 1984 is considered, like the T-1000, to be an upgrade on the original. Indeed, it is the film along with another Cameron classic Aliens that sees me reaching for that action film cliché – the “non-stop rollercoaster ride”. But it describes it perfectly. And this time Arnie really has his work cut out!

Written and compiled by Daniel Stephens.

Over to you: what are your top Arnold Schwarzenegger villains?

See more great actor lists on Top 10 Films: De Niro | Caine | DiCaprio | Downey Jr. | Hanks | Hoffman | Streep | Roberts | Schwarzenegger | Oldman | Gandolfini | Freeman | Ford | Eastwood | Dreyfuss

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. CineGirl Reply

    The girls have definitely given Arnie a run for his money. Love Stone in Total Recall!

  2. Alex Reply

    Richard Dawson is great in The Running Man.

  3. Marc Reply

    Bennett should not be lumped in with the other enemies in Commando. Bennett should have his own entry. Bennett should be in the top 5. Bennett.

    • Paragraph Film Reviews Reply

      BENNETT

      BENNETT

      BENNETT’S MOUSTACHE

      BENNETT’S CHAIN MAIL

      BENNETT’S FINGERLESS GLOVES

      BENNETT

      BENNETT

  4. Michael Scoates Reply

    Ah, yes, ‘Let off some steam, Bennett’, great contender 🙂

    I’ll have to throw in Kate Beckinsale’s Lori/Richter spliced character from the Total Recall 2012 remake, simply because I thought she merged both villains into one character so brilliantly. And Michael Ironside is one of my all-time favourite villains. And Total Recall is one of my all-time favourite films. And “Conseeda dat a devorss” is one of my all-time favourite one-liners.

    • Marc Reply

      Michael Ironside is also great as a hero. See: Starship Troopers, one of my fave Ironside roles of all time is Mr. Radczak.

  5. Dan Grant Reply

    Awesome list Dan. But I too agree that Bennett should be there all by himself. After all, they offered him a hundred grand to go after Matrix, but when Bennett found out it was Matrix, he said he would do it for nothing. That’s some pure villainous hatred there.

    • Marc Reply

      Commando Bennett Smile – link.

  6. mikeyb @ screenkicker Reply

    Has to be Vernon Wells as Bennett for me. “Welcome home John”!

  7. Rodney Reply

    Ha ha, these are great. I totally forgot about End of Days! The only thing I remember about that film is that Robin Tunney takes her top off to show us her boobs for no reason other than to show us her boobs. Peter Hymans was the real villain of that movie.

    Ahem.

  8. ArchE Reply

    Exemplary my friend. The melting metallic silver fellow from T2 is the worthy, and possibly, only candidate for the title of “best Arnie villain”. I love that the women in his fictional life have played such a key part in his action-adventures (not a villain but Jamie Lee Curtis was brill in True Lies).

  9. Luce Reply

    Love this list

  10. Evan Crean Reply

    Excellent list Dan. You hit all of my favorite villains in Arnold movies. I might rank Sharon Stone’s Lori and Richard Dawson’s Killian a little higher on my top 10, but I agree with the top 2 slots. I was surprised you didn’t make reference to Richter’s arms getting ripped off and Arnie yelling “See you at the pahty Richtah!” That part is hilarious.

  11. Wendell Reply

    Great list. Can’t argue with your top 2 at all, but I’d definitely have Damon Killian and Richter swap positions. Richard Dawson was all sorts of awesome in The Running Man. My own Arnie list

  12. Martin Reply

    End of Days wasn’t so bad. I watched it not so long ago and it was pretty fun. Rod Stieger chews it up as a Catholic bishop too. And it’s got a genuinely good ending as Arnie sacrifices himself. Which was a first at time.

  13. hanky Reply

    Definitely predator

  14. BrikHaus Reply

    Great list. I would have dumped #5 and replaced with Bennett. Also, I think #8 should be way higher. But other than that, this was a fun post. Hard to disagree with your choices.

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