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.  


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!


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

  1. I like quite a few of Arnold’s films, but I’m less inclined to grant as much credit to them since, as you said, he’s surrounded himself with people who are quite a bit more talented than he is. Stallone, on the the other hand, in many cases IS the talented creator behind many of his best projects, Rocky most notably, but Copland was a phenomenal script as well. He’s also directed and produced many films as well. He has way more range as an actor and also gets credit for never running for office as a Republican. 😉

    Also (in one of those little asides that Fogs likes so well) if you look way back in Mr. Stallone’s career, you’ll note that he had an uncredited roll as a thug in the movie Cannonball (1976), a film produced by none other than my Dad, Sam Gelfman, so he gets my vote in a long delayed payback. Thanks Sly!

    • It’s like “Six degrees of Andrew Gelfman”! Love it! How can you not! 😀

      The fact that Stallone wrote virtuallly all the movies he’s best known for to one degree or another… it totally is mind blowing.

  2. Dan, I didn’t read your tale of the tape yet nor did I read any posts. I could spend hours breaking down both actor’s filmographies. From classic movies like Conan, Predator, Rambo, and Rocky 2-6 sans 5. To guilty pleasures like Cliffhanger, Running Man, and the like. Although I think Arnold has a stronger filmography when you get past the franchises. And although the Terminator is one of the top ten movie villains of all time (until he turned face) there are two distinct reasons why I voted Stallone. His acting in Copland and the character of Freddie Heflin is to strong compared to anything Arnold has ever done. The overwhelming determining factor is Stallone wrote, directed and starred in arguable the greatest sports movie of all time ROCKY. I will say that ROCKY and all of it’s incarnations will keep me busy on any lazy Sunday. The dialogue alone probable occupies several hundred megabytes of my memory. Stallone in a 15 round TKO and there ain’t gonna be no rematch!

    • Although if there was a rematch we’d all win.

      Damn, man! Good to see you here. 😀

      You’re right about Sly in Cop Land. I still remember after watching that movie just being stunned. Was that… Sylvester… Stallone. I mean, he turned in an awesome awesome performance. You’re right, Arnie never turned in a performance like that.

      Plus, Sly as a writer is another baffling element. Its like totally contrary to the big dumb jock we kind of want to think of him as.

      Glad you chimed in Robbie!

  3. Arnold Rocks – his one-liners are better, maybe it’s his funny accent. Stallone is a close second, though, because it’s fun to talk like his Rocky character. PS, Either you forgot to mention his Mars movie (start the reactor, Quaid) or it was in the 90s.

    • Nooo, man! I didnt forget that one! That’s “Total Recall”, I name dropped that a couple times! Love that one… Get your ass to Mars!

      Arnold’s one liners are getting such props in this thread that I can’t believe I didnt mention them in my “Tale of the tape”

  4. Sorry, my movie religion prohibits me from choosing between Governator and Stallone. On a side note, I can’t wait for Expendable 2.

      • HAHA. How can I pick? It’s like picking my favorite pet. Alright, I’m going to pick Stallone. He can write, direct, and act (well, sorta). Plus, he got an Academy Award nominee for Rocky. Boom!

        I must go now and pray for forgiveness.

  5. Grr…. lost connection to server, lost my reply… <_<

    Anyway, if I can try to remember just what I said the first time around… I'm voting for Stallone here, easily. I've enjoyed them both in action movies, and both have had their share of cheese, but it seems to me like it's usually Arnold bringing the cheese to the film, while Sly just has cheese happening around him. Even in his non-cheesy films… Arnold still brings the cheese. Sorry, Arnold fans, but you know it's true; at least half of why his one-liners are so remembered in the first place is because of their sheer goofiness. Sly has shown that he can, at least occasionally, leave the cheese on the side, and Arnold hasn't. That's not to say he doens't have good films; Terminator 1 & 2, Total Recall, etc… but there is always, always, a degree of cheese there.

    I do want to take a moment to defend one of Arnold’s more-maligned films, though. I think Last Action Hero is a better film than a lot of people give it credit for. It’s not 5-star cinema, or anything, but it’s definitely not a bad film. I think part of its problem may have been that people weren’t expecting it to be so parodic when it was first released, and now it’s saddled with a reputation formed by people whose expectations were askew.

    • “Grr…. lost connection to server, lost my reply… <_<"

      That sucks. I hate that stuff.

      I'll confess I havent watched LAH since it came out. So perhaps a revisit and a different perspective would chance my perspective on it.

      The "Constant Cheese" may have something to do with the accent. Even as Governor he had to "live that down". Stallone only rarely stepped out of the frommage patch himself though. LOL

      • LAH is still cheese, don’t get me wrong… I’m just saying that I’d be more comfortable seeing listed as Classic Cheese rather than Trash Cheese.

        On the accent… well, I’m sure that’s a factor. But mostly I think it’s Arnold’s delivery. Most of the time he fires off these one-liners in such a loud, brash manner that it seems as if he’s having a hard time restraining his own laughter as he says it.

  6. The weird thing is that I think the only Sly movie I’ve seen is The Expendables, but I’ve seen most of Arnie’s work except for the Terminators (seen bits and pieces, but neither all the way through… wait, they made more than 2?)

      • I’m probably just digging deeper, but I’ve even seen Batman & Robin, Kindergarten Cop, and Twins. But not Junior. I just was never a big action movie fan when I was younger, and haven’t caught up to all the greats yet.

      • Well now… there’s no BLASPHEMY involved here.

        There’s some poor movie selection goin’ on. I’m going to grant that. But that we try to train up, Jaybird.

        Bubba. How are you such a superhero fan, and then not an action movie fan? There’s some “Does not compute” going on in my head.

        Aside from that, I would point you to The Terminator movies as two sci-fi action classics, highly recommend “Rocky” as an incredible human spirit story, highly recommend “First Blood” as an action movie/human interest/Vietnam vet movie, and then say Rocky III, Rocky IV, and Rambo: First Blood Part II are all enormously entertaining.

        Now, Jay, if he comes back AFTER seeing them and isnt on board, that’s when we whip out the Blashpemer hammer! 😀

      • I did say that I was never a big action movie fan “when I was younger”. To be more specific, I didn’t watch many R rated action movies when I was younger.

  7. Ahnuld.

    The weird thing is, despite being a child of the 80s familiar with so many of the decade’s tropes, I’ve seen remarkably few of Stallone’s major films, and even not-quite major ones. None of the Rambo series, for instance. I was just always an Arnold guy, and after that a JCVD guy (my age lent me more to him than either of them, really, but seeing Predator/Total Recall pretty young must have helped quite a bit).

    • Whaaaaaaaat?

      You’ve never seen “First Blood?”

      I’m having trouble processing right now. Alright. Alright. That’s ok, that’s ok. I’m just going to say this, I’m going to put it out there… you can take it as you choose..

      I’m on the Lambcast 5/20.

      I’m just sayin’! Thats all, I’m not going to say anything else, you know, there’s no evil implications or anything. But… 5/20.


  8. Very close in the voting! Tension mounting! Do you cast the deciding vote in case of a tie? Or do you abstain? What’s the company rules? I voted arnold! How could you not? He’s a Sci-Fi Icon! His films are first level, tier one in the movie genre I love the most! Sly’s Sci-Fi is pure drek(or should I say Dredd)! What’s the ruling on Gelfman’s vote? Isn’t that nepotism? or some kinda ism? Oh well, very interesting!

    • We cant exclude Gelfman’s participation on the basis of Nepotism. If I stayed true to that rule, he could never comment on anything 😀

      Meanwhile, do I cast the deciding vote? Man, I voted already! LOL. I vote EARLY to try to get these things going! LOL, are you kidding?

      I just try not to “reveal my hand” – not that anyone is going to vote the way I do, but I try to stay neutral in the comments for awhile at least.

  9. All these posts bring up some very interesting and important topics to this discussion. Like how prolific Stallone was in writing and directing and how Arnold has great one liners and film selections. He even made Governor. They both have provided us with great entertainment, on and off the screen, but if I’m going to vote it will be based on the entertainment value I received for my admission to the movies. My vote is Arnold! I never quite enjoyed Stallone movies as much as Ah-nuld’s.

    • There you go Ray. Glad you’re enjoying the discussion, it has been pretty hotly contested here, for sure. The enjoyment factor is the ultimate thing to me, too.

      Which isn’t necessarily to say I voted Ahnuld, mind you. LOL 😀 Hey thanks for the iTunes review, too. Saw you put it up there. Very nice of you. Apprecite it!

  10. I thought this would be a tough choice for me, but you know what? It ain’t. It’s Stallone for me. You’ve got the Rocky and Rambo franchises and the fact that he got in the writer and director chairs and did both pretty damn well gives him the swing vote for me.

    Arnold’s become more of a novelty/cameo kinda deal for me. A bit of a joke. As in, “Ha, looks it’s Arnult!”

    I have to thank my dad for being such an action film junkie – I don’t think I’d have seen so many Arnie/Stallone films in my youth had it not been for him!

    Also, the fact that Triplets with him, DeVito and Murphy is on the radar has led me to the vote I chose.

    • Ugh, I know. Could that sound any worse? I mean, there’s always a chance right? But it just sounds like a terrible idea.

      Stallone’s a seriously talented dude. Cop Land and Rocky make me wish he had given “serious” acting a few more chances though. LOL

      • Danny DeVito was on the radio over here yesterday and he pretty much confirmed that it’s almost a definite and that they all three want to possibly get it done in the next year. Oye vey!

        Stallone’s a bit of an underrated dude. Am guessing the “serious” acting didn’t bring home as much bacon as all the crazy Judge Dread Demolition Man schtuff. I was floored with his work on the last Rocky film – Rocky Balboa. It looked stunning – beautifully directed by him and he was great. I know that’s a lot to do with the cinematographer too, but I get the feeling that with Stallone, he’s never *just* the director/writer – he has a hand in a few things.

    • It is a tough call, I still cant believe how close it is.

      Speaking of cant believe. I still cant get over how solid Rocky Balboa and Rambo were. Thought they would both be sucky cash grabs, but they definitely werent.

  11. Pingback: Everybody’s Talkin’ 4 – 13 (Chatter from Other Bloggers) | The Matinee | Cinematic Passion & Perspective

  12. Don’t even have to think about it much, really enjoy Schwarzenegger way more than Stallone (even though Stallone is able to pull off a serious role like Rocky, which I don’t see Schwarzenegger doing). Have seen way more Schwarzenegger movies.

  13. Even though I enjoy Ahnuld’s body of work more (Terminator, Predator… um… actually that’s kind of it), there’s nothing on his resume that compares to Rocky.

    So for me Rocky > Terminator+Predator.

    • I used the same formula, but came up with a different result.

      Terminator 2 > Rocky + Rambo

      But, I’ve always been pretty unimpressed with Rocky.

      • I try to forget about the existence of Stop or my Mom will Shoot. If I remember it exists, I might mention it in Mel’s presence. The mention of a Golden Girl in a movie means we have to watch that movie. And I don’t want to watch that again.

        Barely related topic: I was reminded of the existence of Highlander 2: The Quickening at a thrift store today. I would have thrown the VHS on the floor and stomped it, but I didn’t have any gloves.

  14. Have to vote for Stallone. Can’t beat his creation of “ROCKY”. Also especially enjoyed him in “Cliffhanger ” and “Copland”,

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