This is a movie I've seen a decent amount of times; in fact, I had up a brief review of it from a few years ago when I first joined Letterboxd. I figured it was time to see it again and give the film a better review. Besides, I am thinking it will be next week that I see the Director's Cut of the much-maligned remake, and that will make comparison easier for me.
I imagine everyone is familiar with the bare bones plot of how Arnold has to get his ass to Mars as he had his memory wiped and he's actually fighting against Ronny Cox and his minions in order to expose a huge discovery and to save the poor denizens of the planet. Yet to me the best part of the movie isn't all the great one-liners still remembered today or Arnold's exaggerated facial expressions or his famed yelling in pain noises, or even all the great ultra-violence. Rather, it's the ambiguity and how the film leaves it up to the viewer to decide what is real and what isn't.
It can certainly be believed that Arnold as Hauser has his memory wiped and set up on Earth so he's an average Joe (or in this case, an average Douglas, as in Douglas Quaid) married to Sharon Stone, only to have those memories of Mars and after a failed implanting of memories at the Total Recall office, goes on a wild adventure where he returns to Mars and helps lead the resistance. Yet, it is very well possible that everything which you see after he sits down is the secret agent adventure he paid to have put in his mind and nothing more. Maybe he went crazy after going to Recall, and heck, maybe he died after Recall and we are looking at his dying memories... there are several ways to look at it and from what the movie presents throughout, all of them are not out of the question. As a mutal mentioned in his review of this, bad things happen to a few people that get on Quaid's case in "real life", so that is evidence of "it was all a dream."
That makes the movie rewatchable and it is certainly more thoughtful and intelligent than a typical Schwarzenegger picture; having a talented director like Paul Vorhoeven behind the camera and loosely adapting the Phillip K. Dick story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” will do that for you. And all that is in a motion picture where a woman with three breasts appears.
In addition, Jerry Goldsmith provides a memorable score, all the practical effects are great to see and many of them are still effective and believable today, the cast all does a solid job (to bring up one example, it is no surprise seeing both Ronny Cox and Michael Ironside do a swell job playing bad guys, as they are always great when they play bad guys) and I imagine this blows the 2012 remake out of the water. Still, I'll try to be fair with that.