The Schwarzenegger and Stallone rivalry has been going on longer than I’ve been alive. Since Arnie’s breakthrough hit Conan the Barbarian in 1982, they have had a high profile battle to win the affections of their audiences. It was all a bit of fun; they are good pals after all, being part of the Planet Hollywood trio (which also includes Bruce). But at some point down the line their appeal started to wane, and although it could be down to a multitude of reasons, it’s safe to say tide turned somewhere around 2001. America’s ego had been bruised in the post-9/11 era, and so with it the movie careers of our beloved muscle men were in the gutter. Sylvester Stallone was almost no-where to be seen, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was Governor of California, supposedly ‘terminating’ economic problems instead of evil metal shape-shifting robots.
Since the war on terror was so high profile, the idea of blithely mass murdering people with dark skin seemed a little bit insensitive… considering that was what America was actually doing. Remember when Arnie fired Art Malick at a skyscraper from a harrier jet whilst glibly stating ‘You’re Fired’ in True Lies, thereby eliminating a terrorist threat? Yeah, that wasn’t going to fly anymore (no pun intended). Filmmakers decided instead to focus on threats within America itself: from the paranoia and conspiracy in the Bourne films, to the all American heroes of the superhero boom, it stayed quite firmly out of any kind of imperialist attitudes.
That’s not to say that the films of Sly and Arnie were all completely imperialistic, however their glib actions were clearly without a conscience. One of the definitive post-9/11 superheroes was Spider-Man, whose life motto was ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. Firing Arabs into sky scrapers doesn’t really do much to convey any kind of ‘responsibility’. In fact, I’d say that was damn irresponsible behaviour. Were there even people in that building?
Sometimes though, we just don’t want to feel responsible for the violence we’re enjoying. We just want to see one man beat up another man with no consequences. Let’s face it, we’re all animals after all. So in 2006 we saw Stallone re-visit the Rocky franchise for a sixth (and hopefully final) outing, and Rambo for a fourth in 2008. In Rambo, he goes to Burma and literally kills everyone: but it’s okay, because he was going in there to save a white woman, and besides these bad dark-skinned men killed babies and stuff. YAY FOR AMERICA! 2007 saw the return of the Bruno in Die Hard 4, and then in 2010 Stallone unleashed his Magnum Opus, The Expendables. And now with Arnie retiring from politics due to many reasons – but reasons mainly related to spawning illegitimate children and generally being a bit of a psycho – we finally have Stallone and Schwarzenegger back battling it out on our screens. So now with Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand hitting UK cinemas today, and Stallone’s Bullet to the Head next week, it seems that equilibrium has been restored once again. But how do their careers match up, and how do their films fare when going head to head?
- 1982: Conan the Barbarian vs First Blood
Even though Stallone had had previous success with the Oscar-winning Rocky, it was First Blood that made him the action star he was to become. Rambo himself was a rather extreme example of the trauma experienced by veterans upon their return to the States, but was nonetheless a sympathetic title character. Conan, on the other hand, was a fun fantasy romp and a great showcase for Schwarzenegger’s talents: primarily not saying much and punching people (and camels) really hard in the face.
WINNER: Hardest choice of them all, but First Blood just beats out Conan. And he only kills one person in it! Unbelievable!
- 1984: The Terminator vs Rhinestone
While Schwarzenegger was making his name in one the best films of the 80s, Stallone was starring in one of the worst. Apparently he genuinely helped Dolly Parton while she was on the brink of suicide after her hysterectomy, but that doesn’t stop the film from being complete and utter balls.
WINNER: Terminator OBVIOUSLY, but I also wanted an excuse to post this video:
- 1985: Commando vs Rocky IV
The Eighties were in full swing, and both Arnie and Sly were at their silliest; which is really what you want from the two most ridiculous men in Hollywood. In Commando, Arnold’s daughter “Chenny” gets captured, and he proceeds to kill pretty much everyone he comes in contact with for the next hour and a half. Plus, the bad guy is like the demented love child of Rob Halford and Freddie Mercury: genius. Rocky IV is the sequel where he fights Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), has a robot servant, and ends the Cold War. AND James Brown is in it.
WINNER: Commando. Rocky IV is still my favourite Rocky film, though (so shoot me).
- 1993: Last Action Hero vs Demolition Man
This was the year they got META. Last Action Hero is a story about a young boy who gets transported into the world of his favourite action star. It’s good fun, but flopped at the box office because it came out at the same time as Jurassic Park: it never had a chance. Demolition Man sent Sylvester Stallone’s cryogenically frozen cop into the future to stop the psychotic killer Phoenix (Wesley Snipes). At one point, it’s alluded to that Arnold Schwarzenegger was once president. ‘HAR HAR, that’s so funny because that would never happen.’ Terrifying.
WINNER: Demolition Man just pips it.
- 1997: Batman & Robin Vs Copland
Copland is the must underrated film in Stallone’s filmography, whereas Batman & Robin is absolutely atrocious. If ANYONE thinks that Batman & Robin is better than Copland then I don’t want to meet them. Ever. I’m not dignifying this with an explanation.
WINNER: Copland, for the love of GOD. Here is a video to remind you why:
- 2000: The 6th Day vs Get Carter
Both of these films are pretty damn minging, but a remake of Get Carter starring Sylvester Stallone is such a travesty in itself that The 6th Day automatically wins out. It also wins because it contains heaps of Schwarzenegger clones, meaning that at one point he punches himself in the face, and he comes out with the line ‘someone is in my house, eating my birthday cake… and it’s not me!’ Winning material right there.
WINNER: The Sixth Day.
So when going head to head, the guys more or less come out equal. With The Last Stand and Bullet to the Head coming out in close succession, we’ll just have to see whose king of action once more. Well, more like Grandad these days. One thing is for sure though: when it comes to their entire filmography, Arnie wins. Sorry, Stallone. You just didn’t make The Terminator. Or Predator. Or Running Man. Or Total Recall.