The Big 3 of Action Movie One-Liners- by Dustin Brewer

With “The Expendables 2” primed to punch audiences in the face with manliness, Dustin looks at some of the most quote-worthy movies of the film’s Big 3; Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger are considered three of the biggest action stars of all-time. In addition to their on-screen ass kicking, they also have a knack for delivering the greatest catch-phrases and one-liners to ever grace the silver screen. This week, they reteam for “The Expendables 2,” the sequel to the impossibly manly team up of virtually every action star in the history of film. The sequel brings back all of the original cast as well as more screen time for Willis and Schwarzenegger while adding Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Dam to the hijinks. If the first film was a roundhouse kick to the face, the sequel is aiming to be a full Bruce Lee beatdown. With that in mind, here are some of the best quote-worthy films that Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger unleashed on an unsuspecting world, cementing their statuses as the best.

The Sickest Stallone:

Finding the best of Stallone runs as a bit of a crapshoot, whereas Willis and Schwarzenegger deliver their lines with gusto, conviction and annunciation, Stallone’s marble-mouthed delivery can make it hard to decipher, but once you do, there are gems.


Once Sylvester Stallone broke through with Rocky, he showed the world John Rambo and once they got a taste of him dealing death to wrong-doers, his career was never the same. “Cobra” is a 1986 film that follows Stallone as he tries to protect a key witness from a crazed cult. That’s it, the rest is just set piece after set piece that he can blow up, shoot or crash a car through and an endless array of street punks and hooligans he can hit with some CM Punk style Pipe Bombs before blowing them away.

Demolition Man-

This film stands as proof that one great performance can raise the integrity of an entire movie. Here, Wesley Snipes steals the show as Simon Phoenix, a deranged killer who has been removed from suspended animation in a relatively crime-free society. Stallone plays John Spartan, the cop who’s then taken out of suspended animation to bring Phoenix to justice. It makes about as much sense as you would expect, but with Sandra Bullock and Denis Leary rounding out the cast, it’s an excellent addition to Stallone’s catalogue of films “Never Likely to Win an Oscar but if you can’t sleep and it happens to be on TBS one night or something, you watch it and remember how ridiculous he was in his prime.”


Arguably Stallone’s most famous role, John Rambo is a Vietnam veteran who runs afoul of a small town’s local police force. After being mistreated by the police, he doles out some seriously badass vengeance with little to no words before exploding at the end with one of the most impressive monologues in cinema. Rambo lived to fight throughout another 3 movies, but First Blood remains the high mark on Stallone’s belt.


The Best Bruce:

Almost the entirety of Bruce Willis’ career has been playing the resourceful badass, when he shows a surprising range in films like “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable,” many are stunned that he has the acting chops to pull it off, but it should come to no surprise after he essentially remade his image with his appearance in “Die Hard.” Before that film, Willis was best known for the romantic comedy show “Moonlighting,” and then in 1994’s “Pulp Fiction” he showed the signs of depth to come. Throughout his entire career though, wherever he goes, quotable lines follow.

Die Hard-

The movie that started it all is a good jumping off point, “Die Hard” is essentially one long string of one-liners from Willis’ John McClane, a cop just trying to visit his family for Christmas when the building he’s with his ex-wife at is taken over by technological criminals led by the immortal Hans Gruber. A cat and mouse game ensues with McClane picking off Gruber’s men one by one, and infuriating him with his consistent one-liners about killing all his men. Just take a look at this original trailer for the film and tell me if you were sitting in a theatre and this trailer came on, you wouldn’t immediately demand this movie be played instead of whatever you were going to watch.

The Fifth Element-

Although not a movie for everyone, “The Fifth Element” is a pretty solid sci-fi film for a few reasons. It features Gary Oldman as an over-the-top, eccentric weapons dealer, it has Chris Tucker playing an over-the-top, eccentric radio personality and it has Bruce Willis counter balancing all the overacting with his usual dry delivery. No action star plays “guy thrown into horrible, life threatening situation so you got to do what’s necessary” better than Bruce Willis, and from the second Milla Jovovich crashes through Corbin Dallas’ cab and into his life, he owns the screen in a way only Bruce Willis can.


“Red” focuses on the exploits of retired CIA agents played by Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman, who are brought back in after attempts on their lives are made. The film provides solid action scenes and would be overall lackluster if it wasn’t for the presence of Willis and the rest of the cast. Being an action star and getting to a point where you poke fun at yourself isn’t always easy to do (see, Stallone’s “Stop or My Mom Will Shoot”) but when it’s done right (“Jingle All the Way” we’re getting there) it’s a great way to show a side we don’t get to see too often from tough-guys. With quips on getting old and being past his prime while still kicking ass, Willis manages to avoid losing the edge that made him a star while admitting that he’s entering a new phase of his career.

The Awesome-est Arnold:

Here he is, the Godfather of action movies and the badass quotes that come with them; Arnold Schwarzenegger. It goes without saying that there’s a reason we elected an Austrian actor to run the state of California for two terms: when the chips are down, we know that Arnold has always been there for us, albeit through his movies. His campaign almost entirely leaned on him being “The Governator.” If there’s a Mt. Rushmore for action stars, all four better be this face.


Early on, Stallone and Schwarzenegger were rivals, both wanted to be the biggest action stars in the world, so they consistently tried to up the ante with each film. “Commando” serves as Arnold’s “Rambo” with him playing retired soldier John Matrix, when a South American dictator kidnaps his daughter to try and blackmail him, Matrix goes on a take no prisoners rampage to get her back. Scene after scene in this movie provide opportunities for Arnold to showcase his sheer strength and brutality as well as his penchant for timing a perfect zinger.

Jingle All the Way-

You can try to argue this one all you want, “Jingle All the Way” is a perfect cross-over for Arnold, it tells the story of Howard Langston (Schwarzenegger) a dad just trying to get his son’s affection by buying him the hottest toy of the Christmas season, Turbo Man. Naturally, Howard waits til the last second and finds himself in desperate competition with a disgruntled mailman (Sinbad) on a quest to find the action figure. What “A Christmas Story” is to many, “Jingle All the Way” is to me, it features some of the best lines Arnold has ever spoken and if that’s not enough, he knocks out and then drinks with, a reindeer. Yep.

Every Movie He’s Ever Done-

“Total Recall,” “The Running Man,” “Predator,” “Kindergarten Cop,” they’re all seminal Arnold films. Whereas with Willis and Stallone you can cherry pick a few prime examples of their best moments, Arnold’s movies all stand the test of time to showcase just why he is considered the biggest action star ever. His personal charisma and general likability despite being a towering brick shithouse of mass and muscle, made him relatable throughout demographics and genres. Everybody needs a little action in their lives and Arnold is always more than happy to oblige.



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