Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t known for being a comedic actor. He’s played bodyguards and police officers from the Soviet Union, barbarians, secret agents and special forces operatives who defeat predatory aliens, and almost always his muscles and thick accent have led the way.
However, he has a surprising knack for inspiring laughs and has always been more than willing to poke a little fun at himself in his movies. From dropping deadpan one-liners to dressing up in maternity clothes, Schwarzenegger has always been game.
We run down Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 10 Funniest Movie Scenes below, proving there’s more to the man than just muscles.
‘Conan the Barbarian’ (1982) and ‘Conan the Destroyer’ (1984) – Punching the Camel
The two Conan movies skirt the line between dead-serious swords-and-sorcery action and tongue-in-cheek comedy. In both, Arnold plays the titular barbarian, roaming the land of Hyboria (created by novelist Robert E. Howard) and filling his lusty soul with adventure. The so-so effects and plotting of both movies are entirely overcome by Schwarzenegger’s ability to dominate the screen with both his physical presence and his knack for creating instantly iconic moments. There are many of these in both movies, but maybe the funniest is when he punches a camel. In the first film, this comes about as a drunken accident; in the second, what is intended to be the same camel spits on him in retaliation … and gets knocked out again.
‘Twins’ (1988) – First Meeting
By 1988, a string of massive action-movie successes had propelled Schwarzenegger to such heights that he was able to move away from the genre and star in a string of comedies. The first was Ivan Reitman’s Twins, in which he plays Julius Benedict, a giant of a man who finds out that his long-lost fraternal twin is the far more diminutive Vincent (Danny DeVito). The movie is jammed with funny moments, and it proves that Schwarzenegger can hold his own in this kind of film, particularly when he’s given someone of DeVito’s talents to work with. One of the best moments comes when the siblings confront each other in person for the first time; Schwarzenegger plays it sincere and DeVito plays it cynical, and the scene works wonderfully.
‘Total Recall’ (1990) – The Suitcase
In one of the many quasi-satirical gonzo films Dutch auteur Paul Verhoeven made in the ’80s and ’90s, Schwarzenegger plays Douglas Quaid, a construction worker in the year 2084 who finds out that he may also be a secret agent named Carl Hauser who is involved in trying to prevent a rebellion on Mars. It’s a lovable blend of science-fiction, social commentary and bonkers tropes, anchored by Schwarzenegger’s ability to play an earnest everyman and a calculating spy. It’s also this dichotomy that leads to some of the film’s funniest moments. Among them is a scene in which a random woman notices a suitcase holding a crucial MacGuffin on the ground and decides to take it, just as Schwarzenegger is running up to grab it. The struggle that ensues is a moment of pure comedy gold.
‘Kindergarten Cop’ (1990) – “It’s Not a Tumor!”
The second of the three films Schwarzenegger made with director Ivan Reitman finds the burly Austrian playing a cop named John Kimble who goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher to bust a notorious drug dealer. It’s a great conceit, and Schwarzenegger plays it to the hilt. Reitman also gets great performances from the child actors who play the kindergartners, and every time they share the screen with their massive new teacher, the comedic fireworks fly. The line from the film that has become the most iconic – and is up there among the most famous of his career – comes when he’s trying to figure out a way to get the kids to reveal who their parents are so he can zero in on the one he wants. But as usual, the kids turn it around on him, innocently wondering whether the cause of his headache might be a brain tumor.
‘Last Action Hero’ (1993) – With the Kid in the Car
In Last Action Hero, a regular kid (Austin O’Brien) gets a magical ticket that transports him into a movie starring his favorite action hero, Jack Slater, played by Schwarzenegger. It’s both an action movie and a satire of an action movie, and it works best when it’s being absurd and irreverent (which is for a lot of its running time). In the first moments after the kid gets blown into the movie, he finds himself in the back of Slater’s car. Schwarzenegger drives with no hands, causing a guy to get killed by an ice cream cone; jumps into and out of the Los Angeles River; and makes a pickup truck crash into a roomful of screaming models. It’s all of the usual action-movie hijinks, in other words, but turned ridiculous.
‘True Lies’ (1994) – Truth Serum
Like Total Recall and Kindergarten Cop, James Cameron’s True Lies puts Schwarzenegger back in the position of having two identities: one as a tough guy with a special set of violent skills, and one as a regular guy who’s trying to deal with the ordinary world. This time he’s an agent named Harry Tasker, whose occupation is so secret that even his wife and daughter think he’s a software salesman. But when his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) gets kidnapped by the bad guys, it’s up to Harry to rescue her and defeat them. In the course of this, Harry gets caught and injected with truth serum, which makes him happily give his captor a blow-by-blow account of how he’s going to kill him.
‘Junior’ (1994) – Getting Ready to Give Birth
1994 found Schwarzenegger teaming up with director Ivan Reitman for the third time, to tell the story of a man who finds out that he’s pregnant. Does it make any sense? Not really, but it gave Schwarzenegger the chance to reunite with Danny DeVito and flex his comedic chops once again. In many ways, the idea of the film is better than what’s executed on the screen, but it does come with several classic Schwarzenegger moments, none better than when he dresses in women’s maternity clothes and goes through a montage that shows him trying to prepare for the big day. There may be no place in his film history where he’s played against his image so completely.
‘Eraser’ – (1996) – “Where Is This?”
The funniest moment in Eraser comes at the tail end of one of its best action sequences. Schwarzenegger is John Kruger, a U.S. Marshall in the witness protection program who stumbles across a plan by people in his government to kill a witness under his protection. After he discovers this, some of his men, including his old mentor, try to kill him on a plane. Kruger fights them off, manages to get an emergency escape door open, throws a chair out to disable one of the engines and then, shades of Point Break, jumps out of the plane to chase a parachute that’s already falling to the ground. He manages to grab it and put it on, and just when he thinks he’s safe, the pilot turns the plane around and tries to run him down. After escaping that predicament, Kruger plummets into a junkyard. Two little kids have seen the whole thing, and a groggy Kruger asks them, “Where is this?” The little girl’s earnest answer? “Earth. Welcome.” It’s a perfect out to the scene.
‘Jingle All the Way’ (1996) – “Put the Cookie Down”
It wasn’t uncommon to hear stories of shoppers trampled in a mad Christmas rush to buy toys like Cabbage Patch Kids and Beanie Babies in the ’90s. A screenwriter named Randy Kornfield wrote a script about this phenomenon and then producer and director Chris Columbus touched it up and convinced Schwarzenegger to star alongside the comedian Sinbad. The two play haggard fathers competing with one another to acquire a Turbo-Man action figure for their kids. In the middle of all this, Schwarzenegger’s character calls home only to find that a rival for his wife and family’s affection (played by Phil Hartman) is in Schwarzenegger’s kitchen, eating his wife’s Christmas cookies. His fury at this is one of the comedic high points of the film.
‘Batman & Robin’ (1997) – Mr. Freeze Speaks
Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin is notorious for being one of the most ridiculous movies of the ’90s, an exercise in trying to blend action movie theatrics with winking and self-referential comedy that goes seriously off the rails. The absurd elements and stories here are legion: Filming was halted at one point when a deranged collector stole a prop from the set, someone made the inane decision to cast Uma Thurman as a pheromone-breathing eco-terrorist and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl, and the film is full of nonsensical events, like a tank of frozen liquid bursting into flames when it crashes into the ground. But all of this is the perfect backdrop for one of the movie’s most glorious elements: Schwarzenegger as the bad guy Mr. Freeze. He looks ridiculous and speaks in unending puns, and Schwarzenegger hams it up. As bad as the movie is, Schwarzenegger is in on the joke and having a hell of a good time.