Mandatory Movie Battles: Who’s the Bigger Badass, Stallone or Schwarzenegger?
If you type “badass” into Google, the resulting definition reads “a tough, uncompromising, or intimidating person.” In other words, the archetype of the action hero. No men have better redefined that archetype more than Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger—they took (their) testosterone to a whole new level.
Whether they were saying “Yo Adrian!” or “I’ll be back,” Stallone and Schwarzenegger attracted a lot of attention in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. Their box office rivalry began with aesthetically similar films like Commando and Rambo: First Blood Part II (both coming out in 1985). This competition went on to fuel some of the most mocked and beloved action movies in cinematic history. At every turn, Sly and Arnie attempted to one-up the other with baby oil, bigger guns, and better kills. Today, the two legends make Expendables movies together and are good friends; however, fans never tire of the “Who’s the bigger badass?“ debate that began decades ago. Well, in this edition of Mandatory Movie Battles, we break it down.
Disclaimer: we will not be pitting their notorious ability to enunciate against one another (Stallone has a birth defect working against him).
Cover Photo: Orion Pictures/Twentieth Century Fox
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Physicality (Intimidation Factor)
Both of these men have taken an enormous amount of pride in being “specimens.” Following Rocky (1976), Stallone went on to get leaner and meaner every year. He’s still going strong in his 70s—videos of him lifting weights are all over the interwebs (because he doesn’t take steroids…). Longevity aside, Schwarzenegger won the Mr. Universe title at 20 years old and then went on to win Mr. Olympia seven times. Arnie isn’t just one of the most physically obnoxious figures in cinema but in bodybuilding (if not the most).
Action Films/Box Office
At the end of the day, it was a box office rivalry, and numbers are the most objective reflection of success in Hollywood. With the help of films like the Rocky and Rambo franchises, Stallone has gained over $2.4 billion, and Schwarzenegger, with the Terminator franchise, Predator, Commando, Total Recall, etc. has earned around $1.8 billion. However, Stallone’s number of acting credits far exceeds Schwarzenegger. That said, more of Schwarzenegger movies have crossed the $100 million mark domestically —the T-800 is the more bankable movie star across the board.
Catch Phrases/Iconic Lines
Every quintessential action star needs to be able to spout some badass one-liners. Outside of “Yo Adrian,” Stallone has said things like “You’re the disease and I’m the cure” in Cobra and “I am the law” in Judge Dredd. In more recent years, Stallone has delivered some truly epic monologues as the Italian Stallone; however, overall, if he’s not the Italian Stallion, not much of what he’s said has resonated with us. Schwarzenegger, on the other hand, has delivered countless, hilarious lines/catchphrases—from “I’ll be back,” “Hasta la vista, baby”, and “Get to the chopper!” to “You should clone yourself...so you can go fuck yourself,” “You’re a fucking choirboy compared to me,” and “Rubber baby buggy bumpers.” The list goes on and on. Arnold is the king saying something memorable before the madness ensues.
Stallone may not be the more bankable action star, but he’s been given meatier roles throughout his career; he’s been Oscar-nominated twice for playing Rocky Balboa for a reason. He may have wandered into campy/cheesy territory in the '80s and '90s, but when he first played the Philly slugger and John Rambo, the actor came out swinging. Even overlooked performances in films like Victory (1981) or Cop Land (1997) show off Stallone’s acting chops. For lack of a better phrase, Schwarzenegger has been a one-trick phony on the big screen. You wouldn’t expect to see the latter beside Robert De Niro, but Stallone, you would.
Stallone isn’t just an actor, he’s a filmmaker. Rocky, the film he wrote (which was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar), made him a star. Arnold has dabbled in directing on the small screen, but nothing notable. Stallone has written and directed every film in the Rocky franchise (not the Creed franchise) aside from the first and fifth films. He’s directed eight films in total; including Rambo (2008) and The Expendables (2010).
Whether he’s smoking a cigar or holding a knife while talking about budget cuts, Schwarzenegger’s influence has extended beyond Hollywood. As Rocky, Stallone has inspired underdogs around the world; cementing the character in Philadelphia's culture. However, outside of movies, Schwarzenegger could be looked at as one of the most focused individuals...ever. As previously stated, he was Mr. Universe, Mr. Olympia, and then took a hiatus from movie-making to become the 38th Governor of California. As an Austrian-American, Schwarzenegger has inspired people all around the world by making the American dream look more real than ever. His characters may not be that interesting on screen, but Schwarzenegger himself is one multifaceted individual.
In recent years, Stallone has been in a plethora of movies the likes of The Expendables franchise, Creed (and Creed 2), Guardians o the Galaxy Vol. 2, Rambo: Last Blood, and more. The man is out there, doing it like he’s still in his 40s. He’s even taking punches like it's the '80s; breaking his neck on the set of The Expendables when filming a fight scene with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. That said, now that his political career is over, Schwarzenegger has attempted to return to acting in some of Stallone’s films, Terminator: Dark Fate, and the upcoming Conan and Triplets movies. Unfortunately, Schwarzenegger's resurgence just isn’t on pace with Stallone’s current critical and commercial success.
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Depending upon personal preference, this could be a toss-up. Stallone is a tough mofo and an overall better filmmaker, but Schwarzenegger excels at being, well, himself. He overcame his once ostracized accent and used his confidence and physicality to sky-rocket himself to superstardom. The way we see it, Schwarzenegger has been able to dominate every arena he has stepped foot in— sports (yes, apparently bodybuilding is considered a spot), entertainment, politics, and otherwise. That’s pretty badass.
Overall Winner: Schwarzenegger
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