Arnold vs. Sly: King of the Action Heroes (part 4 of 4)

12. Unintentional Comedy:

Specifically, the ability to avoid it. Apart from a few moments here and there, plus the general humor to be found just by looking at and listening to the guy, you never laughed at Arnold unless you were supposed to. I find that most of the unintentional humor in his movies comes in the form of taking his lines out of context and making prank phone calls out of them. I know it’s not exactly cutting edge humor, but starting off a prank call with “Who’s your daddy and what does he do?” does make me chuckle, given what movie it comes from. But then again, I also liked Police Academy 2.

Arnold vs. Sly: King of the Action Heroes (part 4 of 4)

Stallone movies, however, are a goldmine of unintentional humor. Apart from his general tendency to take his movies too seriously (oddly enough, he never seems to take himself all that seriously), there are some choice moments of bad laughs throughout his movies.

First Blood: The whole speech at the end where he begins blubbering and crying. Just horrible.

Rocky III: His breakdown when his trainer Mickey dies. Are you sensing a pattern here?

Rambo: First Blood Part II: The long speech at the end where he singlehandedly drains the energy from what was a pretty good finale.

And probably the ultimate in unintentional humor from the man:

Arnold vs. Sly: King of the Action Heroes (part 4 of 4)

There are just too many hilarious moments in Rocky IV to count: The training sequence where he carries a huge log on his back up a mountain in Russia, the last act where not only does the Russian crowd begin cheering for Rocky, but he also wins them over with a patriotic speech as the credits roll. The list goes on and on, really.

Edge: Arnold

I have to give this one to Arnold, though Stallone is quite fun to watch when he forgets his limitations.

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13. Trading Places:
Or, If Stallone was in Arnold’s movies, and vice versa:

This is an interesting topic, because while both men have had somewhat similar credits, switching them around would just be awkward for the most part. There aren’t many Stallone roles that Arnold could have improved upon, mainly because most of Stallone’s movies have him credited as screenwriter. For better or worse, at least Sly knows how to write for himself. Doesn’t do so well in terms of plot and dialogue, but still!

Arnold would have been laughable as Rocky and the other underdog characters, and the Rambo films would have been unintentionally hysterical throughout. An all-American hero with a thick Austrian accent? Jesus, the very fabric of space and time would unravel! As for the comedies, I’m pretty sure that against all odds, they would be even worse.

Stallone might have done something interesting with Terminator. And Raw Deal would actually improve with him a bit, as would Collateral Damage. The comedies wouldn’t work though, because I just can’t picture Sylvester Stallone in a classroom, or pregnant. Twins would have been okay, as long as they kept the script the same, but the juxtaposition between DeVito and Arnold is a lot funnier, simply because Arnold is physically larger than Stallone.

Edge: Stallone

Stallone takes this one, only because he has a bit more range. It would be a bad trade, though. A real bad trade.

 

14. The Desert Island Question:

Which is: If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only have the films of one of the two, which would you choose?

It really depends on what you value more: Quality or quantity. If you take Stallone, you lose the Terminator films, Predator, Commando, Total Recall, etc. Take Arnold and you lose Rocky, Rambo, Tango & Cash, etc.

Edge: Stallone

He just has a wider variety of movies, and while a good portion of them suck, the good ones have high replay value. As do some of the bad ones.

Arnold has a ton of films with good replay value, but there isn’t a lot of variety, and once you get past Eraser, things go downhill fast.

 

Recommendations:

The essential Stallone films:

Death Race 2000: One of the best car chase films, one of the best exploitation films, and just a great film in general.

Rocky 1-4 and Rocky Balboa: You have to see the first four, and sixth movies. The first is a bona fide classic, the second is pretty damn good once it gets moving, the third one is a great cheese fest with Hulk Hogan and Mr. T, and the fourth movie is wonderfully stupid. The sixth movie makes a nice ending for the series, and Rocky V is never missed. Overall, it’s a terrific series with a surprising amount of heart.

The Rambo Series: Like the Rocky films, you owe it to yourself to check these movies out. The first one is the best, the second and third ones are cheesy fun, and the fourth is worth checking out as well.

Nighthawks: A really good thriller, with a nice turn from Stallone, and a really good turn from Rutger Hauer as the bad guy. Plus, you gotta love a movie that has the balls to put Stallone in a dress not once, but twice!

Cobra: This is the textbook definition of a guilty pleasure. The film is crap, pretty much nothing in it makes sense, but for some reason it manages to be entertaining. I can’t explain it, but when I eventually cover the movie in more detail, I sure as hell will try.

Cliffhanger: I dig this movie simply because it has some incredible stunt work. Stallone’s talent for physical acting is on display here in all its glory, as he goes through a decathlon of violence on a mountain wearing just a t-shirt and jeans. Great stuff.

Arnold vs. Sly: King of the Action Heroes (part 4 of 4)

Demolition Man: This is another good one, with a good over the top villain played by Wesley Snipes, some decent humor, and a good storyline. The action is also top notch, with a real showstopper of a final fight between Stallone and Snipes.

Cop Land: This one is really underrated. Not a perfect movie by any means, but certainly worth a look.

The Expendables: Haven’t seen it as of this writing, but the cast alone should draw you to the theater like a moth to a flame.

And the essential Arnold films:

The Long Goodbye: He only has a small cameo, but it’s one of Robert Altman’s best films. Elliot Gould is good as Philip Marlowe, the rest of the cast is fantastic, and if you dig detective stories, you owe it to yourself to check this one out.

Conan the Barbarian: The best sword and sorcery film ever made.

Terminator 1 and 2: Do I really need to sell you on these?

Commando: Ditto. This is one of the greatest things ever in the history of the universe.

Arnold vs. Sly: King of the Action Heroes (part 4 of 4)

Predator: Ditto times two. This movie simply rocks.

The Running Man: Read my recap to see why this movie is so damn good.

Twins: A heartfelt comedy that takes a one-joke premise and turns it into a truly funny movie.

Total Recall: In addition to being a great action film, it’s a really interesting story that can be read in two different ways, both of which make for a great viewing experience.

True Lies: A substitute James Bond film? Lots of violence? Jamie Lee Curtis? How the hell am I not going to recommend this one?

Eraser: A fun movie that deserves more praise than it gets.

 

Conclusions:

If we were scoring this, Stallone would win on points, but I actually think it’s a little bit closer than it looks. Stallone is a better actor, while Arnold made better movies, at least in terms of genuine, intentional entertainment value.

But since we have to declare a winner, I’ll give it to Stallone. He has a larger body of work to examine, and while Arnold connected with the public’s wallets, Stallone was more successful in connecting to their hearts.

Ed Harris

A fan of less than great cinema since childhood, Ed divides his time between writing scripts, working an actual paying job and subjecting himself willingly to some of the worst films society has produced.

Multi-Part Article: Arnold vs. Sly: King of the Action Heroes

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  • AndyK

    The whole thing about the “Trading Places” section reminded me of that scene in Last Action Hero where Arnold and the kid see that Terminator poster with Stallone on it in the video store. You know, because it would be awkward if the guy on the poster looked just like Arnie’s character.
    I concede that this was a clever workaround and a nod to both of them, but honestly, I couldn’t picture Sly as a literal killing machine – he looks more like your standard shotgun-toting biker in there – so I don’t think Terminator with him would’ve been as great as it was with Schwarzenegger. I mean, stuff like True Lies could work (even though the movie is already good in its own right), but some of Arnold’s roles seem just too, I dunno, outlandish for Stallone (that, or tailor-made for Arnold, whichever is more appropriate), the T-800 being one of them.