The Great Debates: Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone?

Welcome to another edition of “The Great Debates”!

This time up, it’s a question that’s hounded movie goers for 30 years. Who do you prefer? Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger?

These two men authored a string of movies that helped define the tone of movies in the 1980s. Each has multiple franchises, successful one shots, plenty of cheesy movies, and some horrendous flops.

Click through to read the tale of the tape!

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Franchises: Conan (2 movies), Terminator (3 Movies – cameo in #4)

Notable One Shots: Predator, Total Recall, True Lies, Kindergarten Cop, Twins

Cheesy Goodness!: The Running Man, Commando, Red Heat, Raw Deal

Movie Most Kicked Around: Batman & Robin

Schwarzenegger began his career as a bodybuilder, but began making the transition to acting in the early 1970s. His big break came in 1982’s Conan the Barbarian, where his physique and his Germanic heritage made him perfect for the role. He became a household name after starring in James Cameron’s “The Terminator” in 1984.

He starred in a variety of action movies through the 80s and 90s that range from the legendary (Total Recall, Predator) to the cheesy (Running Man and Commando) to abject flops (Last Action Hero, Eraser).

Arnold made more of an attempt to find mainstream, non-action success than Sly did, to mixed results. There are some alright films in his non-action offerings, but a handful of real stinkers as well.

Sylvester Stallone

Franchises: Rocky (6 movies), Rambo (4 Movies)

Notable One Shots: Cop Land, Victory

Cheesy Goodness!: Cobra, Over the Top, Lock Up, Tango & Cash, Demolition Man, Judge Dredd, Cliffhanger, Daylight

Movie Most Kicked Around: Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot

Stallone’s big break came in 1976 when he refused to sell the script to “Rocky” without being attached to star. The movie would go on to enormous success, winning the Academy Award that year and eventually spawning 5 sequels. He would launch another enormously successful franchise 6 years later with “First Blood”, the story of John J. Rambo.

Stallone cranked the single shot actioners out as well. “Cobra”, “Over the Top”, “Lock Up”, “Demolition Man”, “Cliffhanger”… he seemed to be constantly churning them out.

Sly stayed closer to his franchises than Arnold did, and never seemed to try all that hard to break across into non-action films. Although, he did have the awesome “Cop Land”. Like Arnold, he too has notable failures in his non-action cross over attempts, especially his failed attempts at comedies.  

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So there you have it! Two titans of the action genre. Two legends of the 1980 and 90s. Which should come out on top? Sly? Or Ahnuld? Let us hear who you picked!

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126 thoughts on “The Great Debates: Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone?

  1. Both are obviously 80s action heroes. But nobody tops Arnold. From Conan to Predator to Terminator, his film lineup is incredible. Plus, his hilarious one-liners make fun to watch. He just may be the greatest actor of all time.

  2. Leave it to Fogs to make it tough to pick. I like them both and have a soft spot for Arnie for Conan alone since I was a huge fan of Robert E Howard growing up.

    But in the end the Best badass title has to go to Stallone. After rewatching all the Rambo’s recently and loving the Rocky films not to mention Cliffhanger and Demolition man puts him over the top on sheer physicality and doing more with less. Arnie was always the golden boy and his career isnt really any better because of it … and it should be.

  3. Arnold by far. Especially since one of the few Sly films considered genuinelly good (Rocky), I find insanely over rated. But Arnold has Terminator, Predator, and Total Recall. That’s enough for me.

  4. Gotta go with Stallone. I love them both…….blood, sweat, and cheese. Ultimately I voted for Stallone, because I really think their is such a thing as “too much muscle”. Sorry, I’m a chick. ;)

  5. I have to give this to Sylvester Stallone. I think Arnold is one of the worst actors in the history of cinema. However, he has an amazing ability to pick out great films (Predator, Terminator) and surround himself with great directors (James Cameron, John McTiernan). Stallone on the otherhand has shown some actual acting ability (First Blood) and has been involved in his films from top to bottom (as he has written or directed numerous installments in the Rocky and Rambo series).

    • He did a great acting job in “Cop Land” too. Thought it was a great flick. and you’re right, he was involved in many phases of development, including scripts. (How great is that?)

      Of course, Ahnuld became a Governor, for all thats worth. :D

  6. I think Sly wins going away. Comparing the franchises is the first barometer, and it isn’t even close. Although neither will ever be known for their acting prowess, at least Sly does more than just mumble a few lines and show off his physique (or in Rocky, lack thereof). In Arnold’s earlier films all he did was mumble a few lines (The Terminator) and/or walk around without a shirt on (Commando, Predator). I will give Arnold his due though, because he does have some of the best one-liners in film.

  7. Probably Stallone, just…Arnie was a sheer force of nature but sly had a wider ranging portfolio of badass’s for me. He could play the hard case as well as the clean cut hero and his characters where more diverse.

    • Nice Vader mask! :D

      Sly did get a little more diverse. But dont sell Ahnuld short! He did have Kindergarten Cop and Junior! :D Although I suppose in KC he was kind of “undercover badass” LOL

  8. Arny easy. There was an effortlessness to him that made him much more endearing than Sly. Notice that both can hardly enunciate and yet they are/were both movie superstars! That goes to show you :D

  9. Ahnold by a landslide. The name of our blog comes from the first Conan film. I do enjoy me some sly however, and a couple of notable one-shot dramas that I love of his are “Lords of Flatbush” as well as “F.I.S.T” which is basically the story of Jimmy Hoffa. Ahnold wins simply because of the charisma the guy brings to almost everything he does. Can’t wait to see both in Expendables 2! yeah….I’m a cheesy action dork at heart!

    • “F.I.S.T.” was a good flick, I like that one a lot.

      I didn’t put it (didnt want to just put their whole filmographies) cause I didnt think anyone remembered that one! Glad to hear it get name dropped here! :D

  10. Fogs did you happen to see that pic that was going around of both those guys in the same hospital room recovering from surgery at the same time? I think it was shoulder surgery for both. Them steroids are a hell of a drug….. I lean slightly toward stallone I mean he wrote Rocky!!!! that sort of tipped the scales for me.

    • No… I never saw that one. That’s kind of interesting though.

      Wait though… you think they took steroids? Really?

      LOL… remember back in the 80s when we didnt know anything about any of that? :D

      • i just emailed you that pic its pretty funny

        Fogs here: Editing it in for everyone to see! I really wish commenters could upload pics. I think we could take things to a whole new level. :D

      • I totally wish we got a movie out of the two of them together in their primes. Woulda could shouldas. I think the deal is at the time, no movie could afford both of them! LOL

  11. I gotta go with Stallone, even though I think he went too far with the Rambo and Rocky franchises. I think Stallone has made many more good films than Arnold, although I give Arnold the edge in the non-action films. Kindergarten Cop & Twins > Over The Top & Stop or My Mom

    But think about this…many of Arnold’s top films (at least the three listed above) have all been rebooted. He’s made cameos in the new Terminators, but they’ve pretty much continued without him. Conan was remade last year. (Didn’t see it, probably won’t either.) Total Recall reboot coming out soon. Can you see anyone else as Rocky or Rambo? That’s what pushed me toward Sly. Think that furthers Ryan’s point above about Arnold being associated with good films, rather than Sly’s ability to tell a story and act.

    Fogs, where the hell is Cobra on the Sly list! Love that flick!

  12. Hmmm, how about neither? :) I used to like some of Arnold’s work from the 80s but nowadays, not so much. As for Sly, I thought ‘The Expendables’ was atrocious and I had been so looking forward to it because of the cast. Suffice to say I won’t be anywhere near the sequel.

  13. I have to go with Arnold mainly because of Conan, then comes Terminator. I loved the cheesy Running Man and Total Recall. Stallone only had a few I liked, First Blood and Rambo. I couldn’t stand the entire Rocky series. I also liked Stallone in Demolition Man and Judge Dredd.

    • For real? You couldnt stand the Rocky Series?

      I need to call that out for a little clarification bub. I know its your birthday and all but… I LOVE the Rocky series. Im’s what you call a BIG FAN. :D

  14. You know, considering the fact that we’re talking about two 80s action stars, this is a pretty rich topic of discussion. Interesting, that.

    Arnold, by far, bests Stallone as an action hero. In the realm of leading men in 80s action, no one is his equal; between Terminator and Predator and Conan and Total Recall, he’s the king, and that’s not even touching on the Commandos of his oeuvre. (Yes, I just used a fancy French word while discussing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body of work. Deal.) He’s the quintessential movie muscle man, and that position can’t be usurped.

    In terms of artistry…I think Stallone has Ah-nold beat. Yes, Arnold was a player in Stay Hungry (and he was actually kinda good there, too!), but Stallone directs, and he directs really, really well. Maybe his experience there, he’s limited, but I’ll praise Rocky Balboa and Rambo 4 until the cows come home; these are cleanly composed, well-edited, structurally sound films that are directed with great assurance. He might self-relegate to a handful of characters and franchises, but he really commits to them.

  15. I select “C” for “All of the above.” These two action superstars make film fun. In a purely academic debate, I’d go for Stallone for the fact that he acted in and wrote Rocky I (a script he wrote in 3 days) and Rocky II that made him a star and has produced 7 movies (per imdb). On the other hand, it’s hard to beat the one liners that eminated from Ah-Nuld like “I’ll be back” in Terminator (’84) or “Hasta La Vista, Baby” in T2. First Blood is great movie for me (see billy goat quote by Fogs earlier in post); (note that 80% of Stallone’s dialogue was cut from this movie to make it better).
    Whichever way you go on this debate, I think you’re correct; and two stars here is better than 1. ;-)

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