The Real Action Hero: Arnold vs Stallone

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The Action Hero has been a key part of cinema throughout history. Each era has had its stand out representatives in the genre. In the early days, there were dashing gentleman heroes such as Errol Flynn or Tyrone Power. Then there were the tall and silent types like John Wayne and Charles Bronson. These days buff bald guys like Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, and Vin Diesel star in Fast & Furious …I mean, action movies. Across the last five decades, two names, in particular, stood above the rest, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.

Normal rules apply – if you need a refresher check out the first few paragraphs of the article comparing Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise.

So, let’s look at their careers. Stallone has made 63 movies from his debut in ‘69 to today while Arnold has made 40. Neither one has an Academy Award although Stallone has received three nominations. Arnold has worked with top-notch action movie directors such as James Cameron, John McTiernan, and…Sylvester Stallone! Sly has done quite a bit of writing/directing and a cynic might suggest that’s the only way he gets roles. I’ll let you decide for yourself. 

This is not the heavyweight battle of thespian excellence some of the other pieces in this series have been. Instead, this is a competition between careers more like the barrage of bullets hitting everything other than the target common to our two subjects’ movies – extremely loud, generally pointless, and incredibly cool to watch. 

The Year to Year

1969 (0-0)

Arnold: None
Sly: The Square Root

Stallone debuts with a whisper in a film that exists for little more than to be the trivia answer to “Stallone’s first movie.” No point awarded.

1970 (0-0)

Arnold: Hercules in New York
Sly: The Party at Kitty and Stud’s

Sly famously takes a role for $200 while living on the street. He’ll make more respectable films.

Recently crowned Mr. Universe, Arnold is Hercules looking for a bodybuilding career. Few films have done more poorly in the various metrics I use to evaluate things. IMBD Metacritic 23/100, star rating 3.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes critic 17%, and audience 27%. Truly horrendous.

I again award no points.

1971-72 (0-0)

1973 (0-0)

Arnold: None
Sly: No Place to Hide

Sly stars alongside Tony Page in an independent film that saw some traction in a re-release market in the UK in the 80s. I will begrudgingly award a point.

1974 (0-1)

Arnold: None
Sly: The Lords of Flatbush

Perry King, Paul Mace, Henry Winkler (The Fonz), and Sly form a street gang in Brooklyn in a coming of age tale that didn’t do too poorly. Stallone made his mark because as we’ll see his career was about to take the next step.

1975 (0-2)

Arnold: None
Sly: The Prisoner of Second Avenue; Capone; Death Race 2000; Farwell, My Lovely

He has a minor role in the Jack Lemmon led comedy Second Avenue, another minor role in the Robert Mitchum led drama Farewell, stars alongside David Carradine in the super cool but dated Death Race, and is gangster Frank Nitti in the Ben Gazzara led biopic of Al Capone. A solid year for Sly, he was definitely in demand at this point. His turn in Death Race is particularly memorable and the first real “action star” part for either of our guys.

1976 (0-3)

Arnold: Stay Hungry
Sly: Rocky

A Jeff Bridges-led comedy is Arnold’s second film. Set around a gym, Arnold essentially plays himself but makes an impression. He won a BAFTA for “best acting debut” for his work. 

Action Hero

Stallone teamed up with director John G Avildsen for the film of his career. He received an Oscar nomination for his performance and for the inspiring script becoming the third actor in the history of the Academy to be nominated for both in the same movie. 

The movie won three Oscars and was nominated for seven(!) more and is nearly universal adored. It made $117 million in box office receipts which would be impressive for any film but is doubly impressive when you consider the minuscule $960,000 budget. Stallone is an everyman’s hero, rising to the occasion through grit, heart, and drive. The famous dance on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum was immortalized in a statue that can still be visited today. Point well earned for Sly.

1977 (0-4)

1978 (0-4)

Arnold: None
Sly: F.I.S.T.; Paradise Alley

In FIST Stallone deals with the Government and organized crime as a rising labor leader. Decent critical reviews and a solid showing at the box office commend his efforts. Paradise Alley is directed, written, and starring Sly as a sort of Rocky but in an early MMA-type street-Wrestling setting instead of Boxing. It did not do as well for Stallone as he received a pair of Stinker award nominations. The negative awards – Razzies, Stinkers, etc – will factor in this article heavily.

1979 (0-5)

Arnold: The Villain; Scavenger Hunt
Sly: Rocky II

Several prominent names joined Arnold in the comedic Western including star Kirk Douglas, Jack Elam, Strother Martin, and others. More silly than endearing, Arnold’s early foray into acting has not gone well thus far. He also had a small part in the zany predecessor to 2001’s Rat Race.

Stallone was back in the director’s chair for Rocky II which saw Rocky face off against his nemesis from the first film Apollo Creed. Even with a 7x larger budget, the second Rocky film made big money and has very positive reviews. Point to Sly.

1980 (0-6)

1981 (0-6)

Arnold: None
Sly: Nighthawks; Victory

Stallone and Billy Dee Williams (Empire Strikes Back) face off against Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner) in the cop-thriller Nighthawks. One of Stallone’s more appreciated performances, it also represents his first true “Action Hero” role since Death Race. 

In Victory, Sly, Sir Michael Caine (Batman Begins, Muppet Christmas Carol), and a few soccer legends, including Pelé, are World War II POWs planning to escape using a soccer match. The esteemed John Huston directed and Max von Sydow (Dune, Minority Report) led the Nazis. There’s a lot of potential there but audiences have been divided while critics universally found it lacking. Still, both solid starring roles for Stallone, at this rate he’ll bury Arnold.

1982 (0-7)

Arnold: Conan the Barbarian
Sly: Rocky III; First Blood

Action Hero

John Milius, most famous for writing scripts for Dirty Harry and Apocalypse Now, tabbed Schwarzenegger as his Conan in the adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s wild, barbaric hero. The film has found a cult niche, but Arnold was critically panned earning the first Razzie nomination of our pairing’s collective careers (there will be MANY more). 

After the financial success of the sequel, Stallone got back to work and directed, wrote, and starred in the 3rd installment of the Italian Stallion. This time, Rocky faced an underdog and Mr. T’s performance as Clubber Lang is as memorable as it is ridiculous. Another big hit at the box office, III exceeded even the original’s take with $125 million in receipts. 

As if Rocky wasn’t enough of an iconic character, Stallone launched a second career-defining franchise with First Blood. In it, we meet Rambo, a dejected Vietnam veteran who has discovered he’s not welcome back. A face-off with the police and consummate pro, Brian Dennehy (Cocoon, F/X), turns violent and a machine gun’s ammunition limits are tested to the max. A movie that grows more legendary with every viewing firmly established Stallone as an Action Hero icon.

1983 (0-8)

1984 (0-8)

Arnold: Conan the Destroyer; The Terminator
Sly: Rhinestone

The reprisal of Conan, which incidentally features the only credited film appearance of NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain, was not as epic or even as ambitious as the first, but it pleased the target audience fine enough. However, it was finally Arnold’s turn to do something iconic.

James Cameron had debuted with a thud three years prior with the much-maligned Pirahna sequel, so it was no doubt a surprise when his next film was a grand slam home run. The time-twisting sci-fi thriller found the perfect role for Arnold, a robot. Full of delightfully cheesy one-liners and copious amount of gunfire, The Terminator delighted audiences and critics alike and probably saved Arnold’s career. 

Stallone doesn’t put up much of a fight against The Terminator with Rhinestone. Dolly Parton trying to turn Sylvester Stallone into a country singer on a bet? It’s almost impossible to see where that would go wrong. Stallone won his first Razzie and was nominated for another in this despised colossal failure. 

Point to Arnold! 

1985 (1-8)

Arnold: Red Sonja; Commando
Sly: Rambo: First Blood Part II; Rocky IV

Conan 3 focused on one of Robert E. Howard’s female heroes. A film that is so bad, so thoroughly poor, that is has bucked expectations and gained a cult following of its own. On the other hand, Commando is an action fan’s delight. Arnold is Matrix, an ex-special agent with a particular set of skills. He piles up the bodies as an unstoppable force through the 90 min runtime. 

Action Hero

Stallone put up a pair of sequels in ‘85. Rambo 2 brought the character back to the jungle and has some of the coolest scenes in the whole series. It also has some of the dumbest to ever grace a silver screen and it earned him another double Razzie nomination. Stallone’s status as a major box office draw was confirmed though, as it pulled in $150 million at the gate.

On the Rocky side, he again directed and wrote the film. This time he tapped into the Red Scare for his villain, the memorable Ivan Drago played by Dolph Lundgren (Masters of the Universe, Universal Soldier) an Action Hero icon himself. Another box office success didn’t insulate him from three Razzie nominations.

An actual tough year to grade, the five Razzie nominations don’t help Stallone while Arnold’s turn in Commando is good enough to put him over the top.

1986 (2-8)

Arnold: Predator
Sly: Cobra

John McTiernan made quite a few potent entries to the Action film catalog and Predator is one of his best. The simple film played perfectly to Arnold’s strengths, namely looking tough with an oversized automatic weapon, and provided us all with the unforgettable “Get to the Choppah!” The Saturn awards also noticed and nominated Arnold for his work.

Stallone adapted a Paula Gosling novel in an effort to create his own Dirty Harry type. Despite pushing violence boundaries and a memorable car chase, it fell flat. The Razzies pegged Sly for two more nominations and his lead over Arnold continued to shrink.

1987 (3-8)

Arnold: The Running Man
Sly: Over the Top

Stephen King’s work has been adapted for the screen hundreds of times and for whatever reason not always very successful. The Running Man did fairly well, however, using a video-game style reminiscent of Logan’s Run before it and The Hunger Games after it. 

While Rocky had Stallone an underdog Boxer and Paradise Alley an underdog Wrestler Over the Top made him an underdog…arm wrestler? A box office bomb, it never made back its $25 million price tag and earned Stallone yet another Razzie nomination.

1988 (4-8)

Arnold: Red Heat; Twins
Sly: Rambo III

Arnold and Jim Belushi (Canadian Bacon) teamed up for a buddy-cop film with some laughs and plenty of chaos and destruction. Nobody went to see it but it has aged well and is generally appreciated by critics a little more than audiences.

His other film in ‘88 was a buddy comedy with Danny DeVito. Critics are much less impressed but this one was a financial hit pulling in $111 million. Arnold was beginning to show some comedic chops along with his obvious action pedigree.

Action Hero

The third Rambo film sees the titular hero invading Afghanistan to fight the Russians. For once his name and the character’s name didn’t work to draw the fans and it bombed at the box office. He won the Razzie for worst actor, his second Razzie win. It’s actually kind of a fun movie if you can just enjoy the explosions and not think too hard. 

Point to Arnold

1989 (5-8)

Arnold: None
Sly: Lock Up; Tango & Cash

Lock Up was a classic prison film and Stallone is ok in it. He benefits from being around consummate pro, Donald Sutherland (Kelly’s Heroes, The Hunger Games). The film has its defenders but in general, it was ignored by everybody but the Razzies who added another nomination to Stallone’s account. 

His other film was a classic buddy cop flick with Kurt Russell (Hateful Eight, Escape from New York). It has a cult following but it barely made its money back and it earned Stallone another Razzie nom. The Razzies were so infatuated with Stallone they gave him the dubious “Worst Actor of the Decade” achievement award. 

Arnold took the year off though, so point to Sly. 

1990 (5-9)

Arnold: Total Recall; Kindergarten Cop
Sly: Rocky V

Paul Verhoeven chose Arnold for his adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.” A memorable film, it scored a pair of Oscar nominations and Arnold isn’t too bad. In fact, he received a Saturn nomination for the role. He also starred in a family comedy that had a solid response earning $91 million at the gate. 

Stallone reunited with Avildsen, who directed the original, for the fifth installment of the Rocky franchise. It’s a fairly unnecessary film, to say the least. It did make back its budget, more or less, but again Stallone’s work was only appreciated by the Razzies, tagging him for two more nominations. 

1991 (6-9)

Arnold: Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Sly: Oscar

Action Hero

James Cameron’s sequel T2 is possibly the greatest sequel ever made. Arnold reprises his role as The Terminator but this time is the hero. Facing off against Robert Patrick’s chilling T-1000, Arnold delivers a beautifully stoic performance with polished comedic timing and plenty of bravado. 

Stallone tries comedy. Another Razzie nomination.

1992 (7-9)

Arnold: None
Sly: Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot

Another Stallone comedy, this one a buddy cop take with Estelle Getty. Who greenlit this project? Stallone’s name was still enough to bankroll $45 million in receipts and this time he won the Razzie. 

1993 (7-10)

Arnold: Dave; Last Action Hero; Beretta’s Island
Sly: Cliffhanger; Demolition Man

Arnold stars in McTiernan’s meta-Action flick that had all the potential in the world to be great. It wasn’t thought and Arnold’s stiff performance is at least partly to blame. In the other two Arnold appeared as himself and while Dave did pretty well Beretta’s Island was a complete disaster.

John Lithgow (Kinsey) and Stallone overact their way through the Rockies in Renny Harlin’s Cliffhanger. Another cult hit, it also brought out audiences both domestically and internationally to the tune of $255 million in worldwide numbers and it earned Sly yet another Razzie nomination.

Demolition Man played Stallone opposite Action icon Wesley Snipes (Blade, US Marshals). A rather creative concept, the film suffered from atrocious dialogue and an incomprehensible plot. It bombed hard with critics but like many of Stallone’s work has a fervent cult following.

Advantage Sly. 

1994 (7-11)

Arnold: True Lies; Junior
Sly: The Specialist

James Cameron teams up with Arnold in a bizarre action-comedy film. True Lies works because it doesn’t take Arnold too seriously and just has fun. Truly a blockbuster, it makes $146 million at the gate and was nominated for the Best Visual Effects Oscar. Junior is just bizarre. Arnold gets pregnant working with Danny DeVito and Emma Thompson. I’m not sure what else to say about that. Easily Arnold’s best year at the awards as he receives a Saturn nomination for True Lies and a Golden Globe nomination for Junior.

Stallone works with Sharon Stone (Casino, Basic Instinct) and James Woods (Hercules) in an adaptation of John Shirley novels. The film itself is fine, makes a fair amount of money, but doesn’t move the needle for audiences or critics. Sly wins another Razzie for his work.

1995 (8-11)

Arnold: None
Sly: Judge Dredd; Assassins

Sly and Antonio Banderas (The Mask of Zorro, The 13th Warrior) are competing contract killers in the Richard Donner directed, Wachowski written thriller. All that talent and it bombed hard while earning Sly another Razzie nomination. 

Action Hero

Judge Dredd is another memorable cult hit for Sly but like Assassins, it faltered at the box office. It earned him another Razzie nomination giving him 8 nominations and a win so far in the 90s.

Auto point for Sly.

1996 (8-12)

Arnold: Eraser; Jingle All the Way
Sly: Daylight

Eraser was a massive big-budget project but it made its money back, barely. Critics didn’t love it but it worked with audiences. His other was a Christmas film for kids. I hated it as a kid but I’m sure some kid somewhere enjoyed it. 

Rob Cohen has some classic cult Action flicks in his filmography such as Stealth and xXx. In Daylight, Stallone plays the hero but the film is a financial bomb and Stallone gets another Razzie nomination. 

Advantage Arnold.

1997 (9-12)

Arnold: Batman & Robin
Sly: Cop Land; An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn; The Good Life

Mr. Freeze was a horrible decision by everyone involved and Arnold earned a well-deserved Razzie nomination for the role. 

Stallone makes fun of himself in the satirical Burn Hollywood Burn. While it probably wasn’t designed to be a big hit, it only made $45,000. The Good Life was never released due to legal trouble and actually starred Sly’s brother Frank. 

Cop Land was a really good movie. One of the best in Stallone’s career. It hit a lot of right notes for the critics and capitalized on a small budget. Just about anybody who’s ever been a cop on screen is in this movie. For once, Stallone found a tone that matched the script and his subdued performance is subtly effective.

1998 (9-13)

Arnold: None
Sly: Antz

Most of the time in Hollywood when two studios, directors, producers etc. get an idea which is so incredibly similar to somebody else’s idea they choose not to do it because why have two of the same thing? Every once in a while you get Armageddon and Deep Impact in the same year.

In ‘98 that was Antz and A Bug’s Life. The Pixar one is so much better. However, Antz did great critically and Stallone didn’t get a Razzie nomination, so that’s progress.

1999 (9-14)

Arnold: End of Days
Sly: None

Action Hero

Arnold takes on the Devil in this pretty colossal bomb. Roger Ebert called it “particularly vulnerable to logic” and most people feel that he was being nice.

2000 (10-14)

Arnold: The 6th Day
Sly: Get Carter

Arnold stars in the cloning movie. Playing two characters in the same story is a classic TV trope that many actors have tried and failed to do convincingly. Arnold does his best but the film barely made half its cost back and he earned a Razzie nomination. 

Stallone also receives a Razzie nomination for a remake of Ted Lewis’ novel. Michael Caine’s original is a respected, stylish gangster film. The Sly remake is a muddled, unnecessary mess. To add insult to insult, the Razzies give him a second career “achievement” award as “Worst Actor of the Century.” Rude.

Advantage Arnold.

2001 (11-14)

Arnold: None
Sly: Driven

Stallone wrote and starred in a racing film with a remarkably similar synopsis to the Pixar hit Cars. The film received seven Razzie nominations, winning one, and three of the noms were for Sly himself. It was also catastrophically expensive, only making back $54 million worldwide of its $94 million budget.

But Arnold took the year off so Sly takes the auto-bid.

2002 (11-15)

Arnold: Collateral Damage
Sly: Eye See You; Avenging Angelo

Arnold mixes it up a little in Collateral Damage playing a slightly more vulnerable hero. Otherwise, most of the key pieces are present, explosions, terrorists, and a massive box office loss. 

Many of the movies in this article have done poorly at the box office but with Eye See You (or D-Tox as it was originally titled) was even tried in theaters in a mystery. Despite costing upwards towards $55 million it only made $79,000 in receipts domestically. His other film did slightly better turning a $17 million price tag into $824K worldwide. 

If you charge an actor for the losses of his films, Stallone owes some people a lot of money. Advantage Arnold.

2003 (12-15)

Arnold: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Sly: Shade; Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

12 years after T2, Arnold returned to thwart Skynet yet again. It wasn’t anywhere near as good as the first two installments in the franchise, but Arnold is never better than as the Terminator. The continuity and confusion are secondary to the coolness and for the first time since Eraser, an Arnold film made some real money, pulling in $150 million domestically and over $400 million worldwide.

Action Hero

Stallone plays a card shark in a small film no one saw and appears in the exceptionally dumb kids movie. Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over did at least make some good money and is pretty creatively zany. 

Advantage Arnold. During ‘03, Arnold ran for Governor of California and won but that didn’t necessarily end his acting pursuits.

2004 (13-15)

Arnold: Around the World in 80 Days
Sly: None.

Newly coronated Governator, Arnold had a cameo in the remake of Verne’s globetrotting adventure. It was pretty bad and earned the sitting Governor a Razzie award. I cannot confirm this, but I’m 99.9% sure he’s the only active politician to win a Razzie.

2005 (14-15)

Arnold: The Kid & I
Sly: None

The Governor has a cameo showing in a comedy that nobody saw at all. No point.

2006 (14-15)

Arnold: None
Sly: Rocky Balboa

Rocky is back! 25 years after the disaster of five, Sly cut away the fat and went back to basics both in the screenplay and his acting. It works. Audiences were excited and critics were pleased. Stallone was back in business.

2007 (14-16)

2008 (14-16)

Arnold: None
Sly: Rambo

Rocky Balboa was so successful why not bring back Rambo too? Definitely, worth a watch, few characters are more fearsome than John Rambo. It didn’t quite have the same level of success as the return of Rocky but still a solid comeback and at the ripe old age of 62.

2009 (14-17)

Arnold: None
Sly: Incredible Love

Stallone goes Bollywood in ‘09 but Kambakkht Ishq didn’t work in India and the cameos by Stallone, Denise Richards, Whoopi Goldberg, and Brandon Routh didn’t help. No point.

2010 (14-17)

Arnold: None
Sly: The Expendables

Action Hero

Action fans like two things about all others, explosions and action stars. Stallone gave the people what they wanted in The Expendables bringing the together a whos-who of tough guys including old friend Dolph Lundgren, Kung-fu star Jet Li, new-school action star Jason Statham, and many more. It’s a picture-perfect action film, just enough story to move from one fight and explosion to the next. Incidentally, a pair of major names had cameo appearances. The first, Bruce Willis, has an action hero pedigree nearly as impressive as our two subjects. The second was Arnold. The movie really did have everybody in it.

2011 (14-18)

Arnold: None
Sly: Zookeeper

Kevin James has made some pretty dumb movies over the years but Zookeeper may take the cake. Stallone joined a fairly sporadic group of celebrities voicing various animals in the Zoo that James kept. It wasn’t a complete loss because it somehow sold tickets but if you haven’t seen it count yourself fortunate. The $80 million in receipts gives Sly the point. In other news, Arnold’s time as Governor of California had come to an end.

2012 (14-19)

Arnold: The Expendables 2
Sly: The Expendables 2; Bullet to the Head

Sly and Christian Slater (True Romance, Broken Arrow) form an unlikely alliance in Bullet to the Head. People seem to like it but nobody went to see it and it bombed at the box office. 

His other film saw Sly get the crew back together with some new faces. Arnold returns and two more epic action icons, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris, show up for yet another simple but effective explosion-fest. Van Damme kicks a knife through a Hemsworth brother’s chest – it’s action movie gold people.

The Expendables 2 has both stars in it but Sly wrote it and is the primary lead so it’s his point.

2013 (14-20)

Arnold: Escape Plan
Sly: Escape Plan; Grudge Match

With Escape Plan Arnold had done three movies in a row with Stallone. The prison escape flick is pretty creative and the chemistry between the two is great. Arnold, in particular, brings a lot of humor to the film. 

Action Hero

Stallone was nominated for a Razzie, I think unfairly, for his role in Escape Plan and for his other film Grudge Match. A non-Rocky boxing film that pits Sly against the great Robert De Niro (Cape Fear, Raging Bull). It’s played for laughs and divided critics and audiences but failed to make any traction financially.

Arnold was so much better in Escape Plan that I’m giving him the point despite Sly’s two movies.

2014 (15-20)

Arnold: The Expendables 3; Sabotage
Sly: The Expendables 3; Reach Me

Director David Ayer puts together a team of crack federal agents and then has them hunted down one by one. Arnold leads the team and it hits some right notes but doesn’t draw moviegoers.

Sly appeared in an utterly disastrous drama described by one reviewer as “nonsense about nothing.”  But there were more action stars that needed to be in an Expendables movie! The 3rd installment brought back Sly and Arnold of course, but also added Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford, and Mel Gibson. The gimmick felt a little played out, however, failing to impress even the most rabid of action film junkies. In a reversal of roles, it was Arnold who got the Razzie nomination this time.

Point to Sly.

2015 (15-21)

Arnold: Maggie; Terminator Genisys
Sly: Creed

Arnold is a loving father fighting fearsome zombies in Maggie. Arnold’s performance drew positive reviews but it’s a limited release selling less than $150,000 in tickets. The 5th Terminator film played fast and loose with everything from the original to pretty extraordinarily bad results. Arnold has some cool moments though.

49 years after Rocky, Stallone reprised the role for the sixth time, only this time he was the supporting character. Rising star Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther, Just Mercy) recreated the bum-to-champion path from the original. Stallone rises to the occasion earning an Oscar nomination and winning the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a drama. The Razzies even recognize the achievement, giving him an award for bouncing back from perennial Razzies to an Academy nomination. The Oscar nom made him the 6th person to have two nominations for the same character. 

Action Hero

2016 (15-22)

Arnold: None
Sly: Ratchet & Clank

Fresh off the high of Creed, Sly lent his voice to an animated film based on a video game of the same name. Pretty niche audience and even they weren’t thrilled with it. No point.

2017 (15-22)

Arnold: Aftermath; Killing Gunther
Sly: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2; Animal Crackers

Arnold starred alongside Scoot McNairy (Argo, Frank) in a drama tacking loss, death, guilt, and forgiveness. Nobody saw it, and its a shame as Arnold’s performance was lauded by critics and audiences alike. Certainly not his typical fare but it proved there is more to him “than just muscles and one-liners” as Nathan Rose from Flick Direct wrote. In his other film, he plays the titular Gunther. The action-comedy was director Taran Killam’s first effort and he may not get another one.

Sly was the voice of Bullet-Man in an animated film made in ‘17 but that actually had a delayed-release and won’t come out in the US until the 24th of July, 2020. He also had a minor part in Guardians 2 with the possibility that he could reprise it in a 3rd installment.

Advantage Arnold for Aftermath.

2018 (16-22)

Arnold: None
Sly: Escape Plan 2: Hades; Creed II; Backtrace

Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket) joined Sly in Backtrace. A complete bomb that grossed less than $500,000 worldwide. Stallone also did an Escape Plan sequel, this time with up-and-coming action star Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy). It also was terrible and suffered from some misleading marketing. The second Creed, on the other hand, was much more successful. Hardly as good as the first, it still had a strong opening weekend ($35 million) and solid critical response.

2019 (16-23)

Arnold: Journey to China: The Mystery of Iron Mask; Terminator: Dark Fate
Sly: Escape Plan: The Extractors; Rambo: Last Blood

Action Hero

Journey to China: The Mystery of Iron Mask led by Jason Flemyng (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Stonehearst Asylum) is actually a sequel to the odd Russian fantasy film Forbidden Kingdom (or Viy) from 2014. Several prominent actors make minor appearances including Jackie Chan (Drunken Master), Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner), Charles Dance (Last Action Hero), and Arnold. 

Terminator 6 tried to revitalize the franchise bringing the focus back to Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor. It didn’t really work, it bombed in the box office and most reviews are very lukewarm. 

Never one to miss an opportunity to make loads of sequels, Sly somehow got a 3rd Escape Plan made. A direct-to-video special if I’ve ever seen one. At 73 years old, he also decided Rambo needed one last moment. It didn’t blow anybody away but it made back it’s money and nobody takes out bad guys like Rambo. The Razzies were also excited to see the return of action star Stallone and gave him three nominations for the film, the third time he’d gotten a triple nomination from the infamous group.

Advantage Stallone, because regardless of the Razzies, Rambo: Last Blood sold a fair amount of tickets.

Future (16-24)

Arnold: Kung Fury 2, Triplets, The Legend of Conan
Sly: Samaritan, Little America, The Expendables 4

Even 74 (Sly) and 73 (Arnold), neither action star appears to be calling it quits just yet. Of the rumored future projects, I can guarantee you I’ll be checking out Expendables 4, it’s a simple formula – have cool characters and blow stuff up – I’m here for it.

So, Stallone had the early start on the Governator and kept pumping out films despite all indications that no once like them for years establishing a firm lead in the Year-by-Year. However, if you remove points earned again no competition, you have to reduce Sly’s score by 14 and Arnold’s only by 2. That would make the score 14-10 in favor of Schwarzenegger. I don’t think that’s necessarily fair because some of those years Sly would’ve won against almost anything Arnie put up so I still think Stallone takes this category, albeit with a slimmer advantage than is immediately evident.

Finances?

Current estimations put Arnold’s net worth at $400 million. The 43 films credited to Arnold have accrued just over $2.1 billion. Nine of them failed to reach $1 million while Terminator 2: Judgment Day was his most lucrative deal, making $203 million domestically. The average draw for an Arnold film is $60 million and narrowing that to only his 32 lead/lead ensemble roles doesn’t significantly change that number.

Stallone is also estimated to be approximately $400 million, so that category is a wash. His 62 films have made just under $2.9 billion. 14 of them didn’t get $1 million at the gate while Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 pulled in $389 million. His average of $54 million per film drops down to $50 million when his 48 lead/lead ensemble films are the focus. This is primarily because of his top earner, Guardians, being only a supporting role. 

Arnold has a pretty solid lead in this category. Stallone’s volume fails to be quantity over quality.

Awards?

Arnold has no Academy award nominations. I can’t really see him making any noise with the Academy at this stage in his career, but never say never. He is a favorite of the Academy of Science Fiction & Fantasy having received seven Saturn nominations over the years. He’s been nominated for a two Golden Globes, and he won one for Stay Hungry back in ‘76. He also has eight Razzie nominations, received three for The 6th Day by itself, and won a sort of lifetime achievement Razzie in ‘15 called the “World Razzie Loser of Our First 25 Years.” 

Action Hero

Stallone has been nominated for three Academy Awards but hasn’t won one yet. As amazing as it is, I do think he could back into one even now with the right character. He received a pair of nominations from the British Academy of Film & Television Arts for Rocky. He also received a Golden Globe nomination for it and won the Best Support Actor Globe for Creed. Like I’ve mentioned several times, the Razzies love (loathe?) Stallone. He has an astounding and unprecedented 31 nominations. He’s won eight of the individual Razzie awards, some for acting and others for directing and writing. He’s also received three lifetime-achievement Razzies and the only “actor/actress” with more Razzie wins is Madonna (The Next Best Thing, Die Another Day). 

Despite Stallone owning stock in the Golden Raspberry at this point, he has done Academy-worthy work and has the advantage in this category.

Acting? Action!

Typically I’d do a breakdown of the acting skills of the subjects in this section. That wouldn’t take long and it would be horribly depressing, so, in the spirit of this piece, I’ll be looking at the “action skills” instead.

In one corner stands The Austrian Oak, The Governator, Arrrrrrrrrrrnold Schwarrrrrrzenegerrrrrrr! 

Arnold is a massive man. An odd rumor suggested he was short, but that isn’t remotely true as he stands at 6’2”. When he was at his peak bodybuilding physique he weighed a chiseled 235 lb. He wasn’t just for show either, as he won several international lifting competitions and purportedly recommended the following training numbers: Squat: 545 lbs Bench Press: 500 lbs and Deadlift: 710 lbs. 

His films put his insanely large arms front and center often resting a large machine gun in his elbow (Predator, Commando) or flexing repeatedly (Around the World in 80 Days). He was born in Austria and has a thick accent which adds some distinction to his most famous lines. His characters are almost always headstrong, confident, and for the most part protagonistic.

He tussled with terrorists, drug cartels, space cops, Terminators, and the alien hunter species known as Predators. He’s a bad man. 

In the other corner, The Italian Stallion, Sly, Sylvesterrrrrrr Sta-llooooooooone! 

Only 5’10”, he was a cut 163 lbs in Rocky III and bulked up to 197 lbs for First Blood Part II. While not the mountain Arnold was, Stallone averaged a 6% body-fat ratio while filming the Rambo films. 

Stallone used camera angles and wide shots to capitalize on his size and appears to be an absolute beast. While Rocky was a brawler with an iron chin, Rambo was a killing machine proficient in all manners of bringing pain and destruction. Born and raised in New York, Stallone has an accent of his own though it’s hard to tell if it’s always intentional. “Yo, Adrian!” will always be a memorable moment, and the curse of people named Adrian everywhere.

Sly’s victims are almost entirely of the human variety as even his Sci-Fi entries are futuristic Earth stories. I wouldn’t complain, however, if somebody wanted to splice Rambo into Predator. Wait, somebody did? That’s what I’m talking about.

The real question is who wins in a fight between Arnold and Sly?

Physically, I think Arnold is the obvious answer. But we’re talking about actors, so what about their characters? The toughest Arnold character is probably down to Predator, Commando, or Terminator. No matter how tough the military versions are they don’t have a chance against the Terminator. He’s resistant to gunfire, can survive long falls, run at extreme speeds, and survive extreme temperatures. He can repair himself, is capable of operating all kinds of machinery and other technology, has superhuman strength, and is optimized for combat tactics. A formidable warfare machine.

For Stallone, it’s either Rambo or Rocky. Rocky seems to have a certain invulnerability to him but John Rambo is something else entirely. A hunter who becomes one with his surroundings and begins consuming his enemy as if nature itself had become alive with his vengeance. There is no overkill with Rambo, no amount of ordinance he’d be unwilling to dispense. 

Could Rambo kill the Terminator? 

Let me know in the comments! And thanks for reading.

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