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Arnold Schwarzenegger is 72 today – we rank his best Terminator moments


Arnold Schwarzenegger turns 72 today, and this October he returns to his signature character in Terminator: Dark Fate.

He reprises his role as the unstoppable T-800 cyborg in this continuation of the mythology laid down by the first two Terminator classics. (Dark Fate disregards everything from Terminator 3 onwards.)

Exactly what role he plays is a mystery, although we're very excited about his reunion with Terminator 2: Judgment Day co-star Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, plus a returning Edward Furlong as John Connor.

We've therefore decided to celebrate both his big day and his Terminator legacy by ranking his best moments from the franchise.

8. Guns in roses

James Cameron's masterpiece, Terminator 2: Judgment Day has barely aged one iota since its original release in 1991. The liquid-metal morphing effects on Robert Patrick's T-1000 still stun, and the movie gains significant mileage from the contrasting physicality of its antagonists – Arnie big and lumbering, Patrick sleek and deadly. (As Cameron puts it: a Panzer tank versus a Porsche.)

The moment where the T-800 first makes contact with John Connor to save him from the T-1000 is a classic Arnie scene, as he unleashes a shotgun from a box full of flowers. 

7. Self-surgery

It's a jolt to be reminded of how grisly and scary the first Terminator movie was. Back in 1984, fledgling director Cameron staked everything on this micro-budget, cyber punk thriller, which with its gritty violence and bleak depiction of a post-apocalyptic future, resembled more of a horror movie.

Arnie's brilliantly unnerving performance is key to this – not regarded as a great actor, he nevertheless invests his killer cyborg will plenty of subtle touches, indicating the robot attempting to pass itself off as human (watch out for the roving eyes that move before the head turns, like a CCTV camera). His physical presence also meshes brilliantly with Stan Winston's unforgettable animatronic effects, as this scene demonstrates.

6. New clothes

The T-800's arrival spells doom for some cocky young punks during The Terminator's classic opening scene. A nude cyborg doesn't take long before dismembering at least one of the gang, in the process giving rise to one of the most quoted movie scenes of all time. Arnie's fearsome Terminator certainly wasn't playing around in this movie.

5. "We need a new vehicle"

Released in 2003, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines unfairly gets something of a bad rap. That intelligently sombre ending certainly makes up for the more ludicrous excesses, suggesting that mankind's fate is somehow inescapable, and it was entertaining seeing Arnie return to the role for the first time in 12 years.

As the ageing, "obsolete" T-800, one outmatched by the deadly T-X (Kristanna Loken), he certainly modulates the performance towards the comic end of the spectrum. Case in point: his brilliantly deadpan reaction to driving a hearse whose roof has been bisected by a truck.

4. Mini-gun mayhem

Is there anything more quintessentially Schwarzenegger than him implacably wielding a minigun while bathed in James Cameron's luxuriant blue sci-fi cinematography? It's one of the key moments in T2, not just in terms of the action but also character development: this is the moment where the re-programmed T-800 manages to destroy an entire police squad without injuring or killing a single individual.

It's all part of Schwarzenegger's revised screen image in the early 1990s, his increased presence in comedies like Twins and Kindergarten Cop leaving a residual trace on the Terminator in the process. It was at this moment the character transitioned from a deadly killing machine into a force for good.

3. Thumbs up

Who can make it through the end of T2 without shedding at least one tear? Throughout the movie, we've been witness to the surprisingly moving sight of an unstoppable cyborg learning to become human, and it becomes heart-breakingly clear during that final scene at the foundry.

Having dispatched the T-1000, the T-800 realises it must sacrifice itself to prevent the future war on Judgment Day. There are some lovely touches in this scene, particularly when Arnie closes his eyes as he hugs young John Connor, showing the Terminator's new capacity for empathy in his role of surrogate father figure. And that sight of his CPU closing down as he hits the molten metal is more than enough to break anyone. 

2. Nightclub shootout

The first Terminator movie popularised a style known as 'tech-noir', contrasting the mid-eighties context of the movie with the story's progressive and terrifying depiction of a time-travelling killer cyborg.

This all comes to a head in the moment where the T-800 closes in on target Sarah Connor for the first time, the neon-inflected, big-haired ravers completely unaware of the apocalyptic circumstances set to ensue. Luckily Sarah's saviour Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) is on hand to intercept the Terminator, and a gunfight plays out amidst the pink-lit environment of the disco. It's a clear influence on more recent cult offerings like Dan Stevens thriller The Guest.

1. "I'll be back"

Is there any greater choice for Arnie's most iconic Terminator moment? Interestingly, the line was written in the script as "I'll come back", but was changed at the last minute. The pithy, unblinking nature of the Terminator's threat encapsulates the enduring appeal – and menace – of the character, the scene that set Schwarzenegger on course for stardom.

Terminator: Dark Fate
is released on 23rd October, so check out the trailer below and tweet us your favourite Arnie moments @Cineworld.