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Creator / Arnold Schwarzenegger

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"Everything I have — my career, my success, my family — I owe to America."

"Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Governor of California. There's a perfectly ordinary English sentence."

Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger (born July 30, 1947 in Thal, Styria, Austria) is an Austrian-born American bodybuilder turned businessmannote  turned actor (he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1983) turned politician, and former Governator of the world's 7th largest economy (from 2003 to 2011) whose journey started with his ability to lift really heavy things and build tremendous muscular mass. He has starred in dozens of blockbuster motion pictures.

Schwarzenegger first became famous as a professional bodybuilder, and is still considered the most successful bodybuilder of all time in terms of his pop culture impact and legacy in the sport. After coming in second in his first Mr. Olympia contest, he went on to win first place in six consecutive years. He came to mainstream attention through the documentary Pumping Iron about his 1975 clash with rival muscleman Lou Ferrigno. Parlaying his fame and physique into minor acting roles, he eventually landed his first major role in 1982 with Conan the Barbarian. Incidentally, while filming Conan, he came out of a five-year retirement to pick up one final first-place finish at Mr. Olympia.

Schwarzenegger followed up with a string of successful action films. In spite of his odd name, lack of acting training and thick Austrian accent no matter what the role, "Ahnold" quickly became one of the biggest names in Hollywood, commanding record-breaking salaries for movies with budgets almost as high as their body counts. While his line deliveries weren't always the sharpest, Schwarzenegger had natural charisma and knew how to poke fun at himself. His works are rife with thickly-accented one-liners that became as iconic as the man himself. Anyone who was alive in the late 20th century can do a pretty decent Ahnold impression.

But time gradually took its toll on Schwarzenegger's musculature and popularity. The '90s saw the gradual waning of his relevance, and by 2000, his career was noticeably in its autumn. Schwarzenegger decided to jump ship on acting while the jumping was good and make a third major career transition: this time into politics.

In spite of his Hollywood lifestyle, fondness for JFK, and marriage into the Kennedy family, Schwarzenegger is an avowed Republican (albeit a very progressive one) and very opinionated about politics. He was drawn to the party after listening to a Richard Nixon speech in Austria. Sensing opportunity during a special 2003 recall election for the governorship of California, Schwarzenegger entered the race on the Republican ticket and actually won. California now had a slogan-spewing, action star "Governator" in charge. Governor Ahnold's administration was California-style Republican, combining liberal social policies with fiscal conservativism. He won his reelection by a solid margin in 2006 and continued to serve until 2011. Overall consensus was fairly ambivalent, for better and for worse — his tenure was relatively uneventful and he maintained a fairly serious and respectable demeanor — which, admittedly, is a better track record than some career politicians manage.

After exiting office, Schwarzenegger declined to run for Senator and instead got back into acting, appearing in roles that acknowledge his advancing age. He has not stopped his progressive activism, however, and continues to reach out to the public through social media, including Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, which he typically uses to show people various bodybuilding expos, adventures around the world and the odd political rally. Having been born just two years after the end of World War II and thus having second-hand knowledge of the dangers of political extremism, he was wary of Donald Trump from the beginning and is an outspoken opponent of Trump and the alt-right, especially in the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally in 2017 and the storming of the Capitol in 2021, and has repeatedly condemned his party for letting this subset take over.

His son Patrick is also an actor. Since June 2019, Chris Pratt is Arnold's son-in-law, being married to his daughter Katherine.

Trope Namer of The Ahnold.

Documentaries about him:

  • Pumping Iron (1977), about the pro bodybuilding scene of the time, which he dominated.
  • Arnold (2023, Netflix), about his life and career overall.



Tropes seen in Arnold Schwarzenegger's body of work:

  • The '80s: Arnold reached superstardom in this decade and most of his iconic roles originated in it. It's gotten to the point that 1980s action is almost synonymous with the man.
  • The '90s: While the decade started on top of the world for him with Terminator 2: Judgment Day and some other roles consolidated his action film icon status, the end of it already saw a slump in his career. Arnold also took on more comedic roles in that decade.
  • '90s Anti-Hero: He plays a Defective Detective in End of Days who is somehow falling apart emotionally and physically while still maintaining the physique of a Greek god.
  • Action Hero: Pretty much the Trope Codifier during The '80s. Even his lesser films are very quotable.
  • Adam Westing: He honestly seems to love hamming it up as a Flanderized version of himself almost as much as he loves subverting the trope. Examples include Last Action Hero, where he plays parodies of both his on-screen and off-screen personas, and his appearance in The Expendables as a Retired Badass with Hidden Depths gone into politics.
  • The Ahnold: The Trope Codifier and Trope Namer. Schwarzenegger's persona, physique, and especially his accent have oft been the subject of parody ever since he became an action movie star. The typical parody ramps all of these traits way up for the sake of comedy, sometimes by making the accent so thick that the character becomes The Unintelligible.
  • Badass Boast: His characters often make them and they always live up to them in spectacular fashion.
  • Ballet: Shown practicing posing with the help of a ballet teacher at the start of Pumping Iron.
  • Baritone of Strength: Famous for his deep and powerful voice which fits well in his many action roles.
  • Beard of Sorrow: His characters will occasionally sport one to show that they're going through a rough emotional patch.
  • Billed Above the Title: And at times, only his surname, given it's long enough and also looks great on a poster.
  • Bond One-Liner: Arnold has always been great at these (especially in Commando); the trope could well be renamed "Arnold One-Liner". His overall acting skill may only be passable, but the man has great comedic timing.
  • Catchphrase: A few one-off lines that Arnold has given over the years have become famous, but "I'll be back" from the Terminator films is his personal catchphrase. He's used in a wide range of otherwise unrelated film roles and sometimes lampshaded (Last Action Hero) or played with (Terminator 3, The Expendables 2).
  • Cigar Chomper: Many of his characters are avid cigar-smokers, reflecting a habit of the man himself. And they look very cool doing it too.
  • Cold Ham: He's known by stiff performances, but when his characters get emotional, Arnold does an intense delivery to compensate (for instance, most of his performance in Total Recall, and one-liners such as "You should clone yourself... so you can go fuck yourself").
  • Cool Old Guy: He can still do action films and maintains a pretty impressive physique even in his mid-seventies, and regularly posts videos of him at home or doing cool stuff on social media.
  • Dare to Be Badass:
    • He's been known to give these kinds of rebuttals to people who troll him or try and insult him on social media. When a poster on Facebook called him a "snowflake" as a way of calling him weak, Arnold responded by telling the poster to do their research and learn about what it is they're criticizing first instead of just reacting.
    • As a Fitness Nut and a multi-time Mr. Universe winner, Arnold is naturally supportive of athletics. He's a long-time booster for the Special Olympics, generally can be found telling people to shoot for their goals, and having a "never give up" attitude towards it.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Arnold is an expert at delivering dry one-liners and sarcastic quips.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: He loved Playing Against Type, insisting on bouncing off action movies with comedies. But even when not acting in a straight-up comedy he would include an element of Deconstruction in his movies to critique the genre and the Action Hero he played.
  • Dented Iron: Schwarzenegger remains extremely fit for a man in his 70s; but he has had severe injuries due to accidents and has needed multiple heart surgeries due to congenital disease. He has talked about his extended recoveries and rehabilitation, and no longer does so many of his own stunts.
  • Determinator: Many of his action film roles are walking definitions of this trope, with his title role in The Terminator being the partial Trope Namer.
  • Dull Surprise: Schwarzenegger is not known for his fine acting, and his early career benefited from roles that required him to play stoic, silent types. However, his reputation for being a wooden actor is more based on his accent then his actual ability to convey emotion.
    • While he was never going to be the second coming of Brando, he does have tremendous charisma and film presence, and he chose roles best suited to his abilities, specifically in films that have a goofier, less realistic tone that allowed him to be a larger than life character, where he could act more through body language and facial expressions, and where his accent could be excused. Contrast this to, say, Jean-Claude Van Damme, who was similar to Schwarzenegger in many ways, but whose roles were often 'badass fighter but still a normal human', and lacked the charisma or acting chops to pull off anything interesting beyond his martial arts.
  • Dyeing for Your Art:
    • When Schwarzenegger was cast in the role of Conan for Conan the Barbarian (1982), he grew out his hair to fit the character's image. He also lost about 20 pounds to turn his body building bulk into something leaner and more athletic.
    • Every time he's been recalled to play another Terminator, he draws on his bodybuilding experience to resculpt his musculature to match his body shape in the original film. (As close as he can, anyway, given he's not a killer robot from the future.)
    • His advocacy for physical fitness and changing your body structure for a role proved to be a turning point for Hollywood in general, as after Schwarzenegger and Stallone the more lean body types of Steve McQueen (actor) or Clint Eastwood weren't as convincing.
  • Eloquent in My Native Tongue: He ran into this trope while filming Conan the Barbarian (1982). As anyone who has read his autobiography can atest, he's actually a genius, but couldn't speak English well enough for the producers' liking, which is why Conan got hit with a case of Adaptational Dumbass.
  • Fitness Nut: You'd kind of expect this, given that the man won Mr. Universe so many times. But even into his elderly years, Schwarzenegger still has a Heroic Build that he maintains as much as he can. He's also been known to give encouragement and motivation (in the form of Dare to Be Badass posts and speeches) for people who want to get into fitness, and he's a longtime booster for the Special Olympics. To say that Schwarzenegger takes fitness seriously is to drastically undersell it. His films generally give some sort of Hand Wave as to why he looks the way he does, especially if it's for a character that you wouldn't expect to have such a build.
  • Friend to All Children: His characters are frequently very protective of children or devoted family men, as seen in works such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Commando, and Kindergarten Cop. Also true in real life, as he's famously a big proponent of children's health and proper exercise, having been a huge booster for the Special Olympics for many years.
  • Genius Bruiser: He occasionally plays very intelligent people who also happen to have the physique of a professional bodybuilder. Twins is the most exaggerated version, as he plays an action hero who is also a genius. He also counts as this in real life — Schwarzenegger's muscled physique has been retained into his 70s, he was a multi-millionaire before his movie career took off due to various business ventures he pursued, he entered politics to become governor of California for two terms, and has remained politically active since leaving office.
  • Gentle Giant: Despite their size, his characters are generally good men who don't go looking for violence and are generally kind and noble... provided you're not a bad guy and you don't go after their family.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: He wore these while filming the biker bar scene in Terminator 2 to get the desired reaction from the extras.
  • Heroic Build: The iconic example of the muscle-bound hero in the '80s and perhaps in film history as a whole. The fact that he won the Mr. Universe competition several times should tell you something; the guy was nicknamed "The Austrian Oak" for a reason.
  • Hollywood Action Hero: One of the most successful and iconic of all time. Chances are if you're looking for a parody of a Hollywood action hero, it's going to be based on him.
  • I Am Not Leonard Nimoy: To the point that whole films have been made specifically to be "Arnold does X": "Ahnold gets pregnant," "Ahnold shops for Christmas toys," etc.
  • I Have Many Names: His nicknames are various. Arnie, Austrian Oak/Styrian Oak (from his bodybuilding days), Conan the Republican (bestowed to him by Ronald Reagan himself!), The Governator (after being elected in California, a portmanteau of "governor" and "Terminator")
  • Immigrant Patriotism: Schwarzenegger has stated multiple times that he owes his success to America, and adores the country — the caption under the page image is a direct quote of the man. This probably played a role in his decision to get into politics. Emerged early on as an early Republican critic of Donald Trump, and his reaction to the January 2021 riot at the Capitol (which Trump was accused of inciting) quickly went viral.
  • Large and in Charge: Arnold often plays men in authority positions who are almost invariably the largest man in sight. Conan the Destroyer played with this.
  • Large Ham: When the role allows him to definitely not take it seriously, Arnold will overact as much as possible.
  • Leslie Nielsen Syndrome: He started off in violent action films, but Twins and Kindergarten Cop set him into more comedic roles. He never really went into straight dramas but would switch between action and comedy afterwards.
  • Lighter and Softer: Jingle All the Way and Junior subvert his Hollywood Action Hero persona by making him a man who isn't a killing machine and doesn't need to kill anyone. Twins, Kindergarten Cop and Last Action Hero combine Hollywood action with lighter comedic elements.
  • Made of Iron: That physique isn't just for show. At the 2019 Arnold Classic, he was drop-kicked in the back by someone in the crowd... and Schwarzenegger didn't even realize he'd been hit until he saw video of the event. And he was 71 years old at the time. There aren't many 71-year-old people who can No-Sell a drop kick.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Back in his heyday, he was quite shameless about showing off his physique. And he still looks pretty goddamned good, even in his seventies.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Due to his being a non-native speaker's accent, Arnold can't really do much with it. Only a few films even acknowledge that he has an non-native accent:
    • In Commando he's from East Germany (and he doesn't try to change his Austrian accent to a German accent), and in Red Heat his Austrian accent stands in for a Russian one, though he does at least make a token effort to sound "Russian".
    • In The Last Stand he makes only a vague reference to being an immigrant.
    • James Cameron apparently thought Arnold's accent made it sound like the T-800 couldn't copy human speech perfectly (or, at least, American speech]), though Rise of the Machines includes a gag implying that an Austrian implanted his own voice into the machine.
    • Kindergarten Cop and Junior may be the only occasions where his character actually is Austrian. Kindergarten Cop only has him briefly mention he's from there, but later his partner pretends she's his visiting sister Ursula — complete with trying to do the accent.
    • Arnold does briefly speak German in a few other movies, notably True Lies and Escape Plan, but in neither film is his character explicitly Austrian.
    • This even extends to his native language. Early in his career, Arnold offered to dub his own dialogue for the German version of The Terminator, but after recording a sample track the producers told Schwarzenegger that he sounded like "an Austrian farmer" and that German viewers wouldn't take him seriously.note  Schwarzenegger is usually dubbed in German by Berlin actor Thomas Danneberg.
  • Old Shame:
    • Schwarzenegger has said Red Sonja is "the worst film I have ever made", and that he would jokingly threaten his children with the punishment of watching it if they ever acted up.
    • While Governor, he once threatened the state legislature with screenings of Jingle All the Way if they couldn't resolve deadlocks in passing a state budget. It's unclear whether Schwarzenegger was joking.
    • He'd also rather you not bring up Batman & Robin.
  • One-Man Army: A common theme of his characters, and a key part of his image, is that he can emerge victorious in a fight even when heavily outnumbered.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • As shown by Commando, Kindergarten Cop and even Terminator 2: Judgment Day, hurt a child or a teenager near to him, and Arnie WILL fuck you up so bad that you'll need more than one coffin to be buried in. And considering the man is a booster for the Special Olympics, this is true in real life as well.
    • The 2017 film Aftermath is a brutal deconstruction of this trope. After Schwarzenegger's character, Roman, loses his family in a horrific plane crash, he starts to go into a downward spiral, turning his grief into an unhealthy obsession and wanting to gain revenge with the culprit responsible not being a cold-hearted supervillain but a normal Air Traffic Controller with a son of his own, who is wracked with guilt about his mistakes. It ends... tragically.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: He's very skilled at delivering these. He's delivered so many of them, this page now adds a few among his credits.
  • Rated M for Manly: There's no denying his muscular action roles oozed testosterone.
  • Real Men Eat Meat: Averted. He's possibly the most iconic action star in history and he's been a vegan since about 2011.
  • Running Gag: Jokes that follow him through various works:
    • His various Catch Phrases, which are sometimes subverted or lampshaded.
    • He and Sylvester Stallone shared a friendly rivalry as the musclebound action king of the 1980s. They would sometimes cite each other in their movies. Schwarzenegger even tricked Stallone into starring in the poorly received Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, by starting a rumor that he wanted to star in the movie, leading to Stallone stealing the role immediately without bothering to read the script.
    • His accent. It's hard to find a parody of Schwarzenegger that doesn't either lampshade or exaggerate this part of him, simply because it's such a recognizable part of his image.
  • Scully Box: His physique is enormous but he is only about 6'2, fairly tall by normal standards but there are plenty of actors and athletes taller than him. His films generally portray him as a mountain of a man and avoid showing anyone of comparable size. A famous behind-the-scenes picture has him in Conan attire standing next to Wilt Chamberlain and André the Giant who handily dwarf him.
  • Self-Made Man: Not according to him. Schwarzenegger once gave a graduation speech in which he called the idea of the self-made man "a myth" because nobody got to wear they were on their own. Schwarzenegger himself came to America with "nothing but sweaty clothes in a gym bag" to his name, and was surprised by his fellow bodybuilders on Thanksgiving with food, pillows, and supplies that he needed. Also, his Immigrant Patriotism came because he got opportunities in America that he simply couldn't get anywhere else, though it was with the help of people who kept standing up for him when he pursued his goals in movies and politics.
  • Strong and Skilled: His muscle isn't all that makes him formidable as he's also trained extensively in martial arts for roles, showing particular proficiency in Karate and Taekwondo, and shows it in his characters who are skilled fighters in addition to be incredibly strong.
  • Typecasting:
    • Muscular Action Heroes with one-liners, of course. So much so that The Ahnold has become an archetype in its own right.
    • Defied in one very specific instance. Arnold has said that when he first arrived in Hollywood, he was frequently asked to play Nazi villains in war movies by producers who couldn't see past his accent. Arnold adamantly refused to ever play a Nazi, and turned such roles down every time. This was due to having grown up in postwar Austria with a father who, though not linked to any specific atrocities, had been a member of the Nazi Party. Arnold once described his childhood as one "surrounded by broken men" who were filled with regret over what they did for the Nazis. As such, Arnold turned down several roles that might have established his film career earlier (though, one imagines, in a very different direction). Also, he spoke out against neo-Nazis several times as the governor of California, outright telling the neo-Nazis in one speech that "your heroes are losers".

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