Netflix’s ‘Arnold’ Review: An Incomplete Look At The Extraordinary
(Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images)
— 8 June 2023

Netflix’s ‘Arnold’ Review: An Incomplete Look At The Extraordinary

— 8 June 2023
Garry Lu
Garry Lu

Chances are, this won’t be the first review of Netflix’s Arnold that you’ve encountered online. But hopefully, it’ll be the last.

As a collective, we’ve taken Arnold Schwarzenegger for granted.

Under any other circumstance, just winning the Mr Olympia title seven times would be deemed a herculean effort (“just” lol). As would becoming one of the most bankable names in Hollywood or being elected Governor of California as standalone endeavours.

And while it’s hard to forget the man’s crossed off all three from his bucket list, very rarely do we actually consider what achieving all that really meant; how much effort, dedication, and discipline would’ve been required to pull off the above. This is precisely the need director Lesley Chilcott’s three-part documentary fulfils.

Each instalment of Netflix’s Arnold re-examines a single “life” lived by the pop cultural icon: there’s Arnie the professional bodybuilder, Arnie the Hollywood actor, and of course, Arnie the politician.

Beginning with his early days as a boy whose ultimate dream was to leave Thal, Austria for the US – which was informed by a tumultuous relationship with his abusive father – we learn Arnie’s recipe for decades of success essentially came down to a few key ingredients…

Netflix's Arnold Review  An Incomplete Look At The Extraordinary
  • an inhuman capacity for both self-belief
  • an uncanny ability to charm allies and rivals alike
  • as well as the entire lineup of substitute father figures he encountered throughout his journey to the US (fellow bodybuilding legends Joe Weider and Reg Park)

But right from the outset, it’s clear we’re in for an all-too-polished retrospective, and nothing more than glancing contact with the gritty or unsavoury details of his personal mythology. Whether that’s trauma the stoic Oak of Australia sustained himself or whatever misdeeds he’d committed to others.

The chapter regarding his career as an actor unfolds in a similar hagiographic fashion – feigning profundity when there’s little actually available – featuring A-list appearances from the likes of Sylvester Stallone and James Cameron.

Netflix's Arnold Review: An Incomplete Look At The Extraordinary
(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

It’s only when we arrive at the matter of the unignorable, such as his marital infidelities to former wife Maria Shriver and multiple accusations of sexual harassment, does the fond look back at the glory years interrupt itself for a moment of true honesty. Although even that is rather brief, and as per the criticisms of many, are nothing more than half-hearted attempts at appearing without an agenda.

Arnie suffers from the very same flaws ESPN’s The Last Dance presented given the subject matter (i.e. Michael Jordan) was so closely involved: curation to the nth degree. As the GOAT of documentary filmmaking Ken Burns once explained:

“If you are there influencing the very fact of it getting made it means that certain aspects that you don’t necessarily want in aren’t going to be in, period. And that’s not the way you do good journalism… and it’s certainly not the way you do good history.”

I suppose in these cases, it’s more important to craft an uplifting narrative for the record than it is to paint the whole picture.

Netflix’s Arnold documentary is now streaming on the platform.


Rotten Tomatoes Score
Genre: Biographical Documentary
Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Directed by: Lesley Chilcott

Now that you’ve read our Netflix’s Arnold review, check out our recent thoughts on HBO’s The Idol.

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Garry Lu
After stretching his legs with companies such as The Motley Fool and the odd marketing agency, Garry joined Boss Hunting in 2019 as a fully-fledged Content Specialist. In 2021, he was promoted to News Editor. Garry proudly retains a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, black bruises from Muay Thai, as well as a black belt in all things pop culture. Drop him a line at [email protected]