Film: First Blood

First Blood is the first film in the Rambo franchise, released in 1982. It is based on the novel of the same name written by David Morrell.

The film deals with Rambo struggling to overcome the trauma he experienced during the Vietnam War. After a mini-war with the entire police station of a small Washington State town, Rambo confronts the sheriff at the station and is about to kill him when Rambo's former commanding officer, Colonel Trautman, tells him that it's over. Rambo replies with "Nothing is over!" and has an emotional breakdown where he tells Trautman about the protesters at the airport, how honor and loyalty mean nothing in the real world, and how his friend Joey was killed by a shoe-shining boy in a suicide attack. With nothing left to live for, Rambo decides to turn himself in to the authorities.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Perhaps more like "adaptational sympathy", but Rambo was a somewhat darker character in the book. The novel puts more emphasis on the fact that the whole situation mostly happens because of Rambo's own pride, and Teasle actually gives him several chances to leave the town peacefully, as opposed to the movie where he takes him in after coming back once. Rambo's actions also seem more like vengeance, whereas in the movie they seem more like self-defense.
  • Adaptational Modesty: Rambo's escape from the jail happens after getting hosed, and putting on some clothes. In the novel, he did this completely in nude.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • While Teasle was still a bit of a jerk in the novel, he was also a far more complex character. The novel goes into great detail on his motives, his relationships with his family and other members of the town, and acknowledges several similarities between him and John. He arguably comes off as more sympathetic than Rambo and even drives Rambo to a diner to have something to eat before taking him to town limits. The film makes him into a one-dimensional asshole who the audience has no trouble rooting against.
    • The other cops count as well, most particularly Galt. In the novel, they were, while not the nicest people around, still very sympathetic characters. In the film, the cops, with the exception of Mitch, are all insufferably unlikable douchebags.
  • Anti-Hero: John Rambo.
  • Artistic License Gun Safety: John Rambo could've just as easily sat back and let the sheriff and his deputies kill each other in friendly fire accidents (fingers on triggers, sweeping muzzles through heads and chests, etc.)
  • Artistic License Military: Colonel Trautman should know better than to wear his uniform into a bar.
  • Asshole Victim: Nobody cried when Galt fell out of the helicopter to his death.
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: Rambo's capture, escape and counterattack takes place around Christmastime.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Col. Trautman gives one in his introductory scene.
    Sheriff Teasle: What would possess God in Heaven to make a man like Rambo?
    Trautman: God didn't make Rambo. I made him!
    • After Rambo incapacitates all of the remaining deputies (Galt having died falling from the helicopter), he ambushes Teasle and holds a knife to his throat:
    Rambo: I coulda killed 'em all. I coulda killed you. In town you're the law. Out here it's me. Don't push it. Don't push it or I'll give you a war you won't believe. Let it go. Let it go.
  • Badass Longcoat: Trautman wears a particularly fine example of this when he first enters.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • "Dammit, Dave, you think this kid just waltzed into town, announced he was a Medal Of Honor winner, and then I just leaned on him for the hell of it? I tried to do him a favor." That's kind of exactly what Sheriff Teasle did.
    • There's also the claim that he "treated him (Rambo) like one of my neighbor's kids." Apparently he's in the habit of arresting kids for vagrancy and hitting them with a fire hose.
    • The reporter at the National Guard basecamp describes Rambo as a heavily-armed cop killing psychopath, and that he failed to kill the Sheriffs only because of their 'superior training'. In reality, the deputies all carried assault rifles versus Rambo's knife and stolen hunting rifle, and they only survived because Rambo deliberately avoided using lethal force (Galt's death being an accident).
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The movie inverts this from the book. In the novel, Rambo kills at least a dozen people. In the movie he kills three people at most - one guy who falls out of a helicopter when Rambo throws a rock at him in self-defense and two cops who he ran off the road (and who quite possibly survived).
  • Book Ends: The first dialogue in the film has Delmar Barry's widow telling Rambo how Barry died. The last dialogue in the film has Rambo telling Trautman how Joe Danforth died.
  • Broken Aesop: See notes on Shell-Shocked Veteran below.
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel Trautman of course.
  • Cool Guns: Rambo variously uses an M16 assault rifle and an M60 Machine Gun.
  • Could Have Avoided This Plot: All Rambo wanted was to buy lunch before leaving town, but Teasle apparently decided that it was a crime for transients to patronize the local restaurants. See the Film subpage of Disproportionate Retribution for the extent of the destruction such pride cameth before. In the original novel, this was averted as the sheriff was willing to let Rambo buy some food in town - so long as he ordered it to go.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: Christmas decorations are visible throughout the movie, though nobody ever actually makes mention of the holiday.
    • Supposedly, the Christmas decorations were already up when they began shooting, and they left them both for the ironic quality and to worldlessly remind the viewer that Rambo is on the lam in a wifebeater and jeans during a very cold time of the year.
  • Dirty Cop: Possibly most of the cops, due to their own rules prejudiced against drifters and mistreatment of inmates.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: As Teasle should have remembered, pride cometh before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. His pride ended up refusing to let a Green Beret and Medal of Honor recipient eat within his city limits, and what happened afterwards more than demonstrates how much of a bad idea fucking with a Green Beret is.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: How many Rambo fans remember that the original Rambo (First Blood) was a depressing film about a Shell-Shocked Veteran fleeing the law? Ironically, the first film is the best reviewed of the series.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Lampshaded as Rambo is clearly an elite soldier but his head is so fucked up that his life couldn't be called glamourous. He has presumably drifted from place to place since the war, clearly smells and needs a good feed. His escape and evasion is hardly glamourous too and shows the difficulties of surviving in the wild with minimal gear. Also subverted in the novel with Teasle being a Jerk Ass but also a decorated veteran from the1st Marine division in the Korean War.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Mitch is horrified when Art Galt strikes Rambo before the cops start to clean him up. "Galt, what the fuck was that!?"
  • From a Certain Point of View: Quoth Trautman: "You did everything to make this private war happen." Except for Rambo being the innocent victim when Teasle chose to harass him, arrest him on trumped up charges, before subjecting to cruel mistreatment at the hands of his fellow officers. All Rambo did was deliberately head back into town to spite Teasle for kicking him out, as well as exercise his right to remain silent when refusing to answer any questions.
  • Genre Savvy: Even before finding out that Rambo is an ex Green Beret, Deputy Mitch was the first one to point out that Rambo was able to escape the police with surprising ease, being stronger and more skilled than the usual drifter. After they confirm his identity, he notes that chasing a special forces soldier into the woods is a very bad idea, but is ignored.
    Mitch: We ain't hunting him, he's hunting us!
  • Good Guns, Bad Guns: The deputies, state troopers and National Gaurdsmen carry M16's. Justified as they are the official "good" guys. Rambo uses these and an M60 too, so he's using the Good Gun. Teasle uses an Heckler and Koch G3, which is justified as he is both an authority figure but not necessarily good, so it shows he can be viewed either way. Trautman is unarmed despite being Colonel Badass which shows he is the truly heroic character as he'll face a Knife Nut Axe Crazy Shell-Shocked Veteran with a Cool Gun with nothing at all.
    • Actually, Trautman usually has an M1911 .45 holstered on his belt, but it's usually either hidden under his trench coat, hidden on his right side while the camera views him from his left, or just below the field of view. It's only drawn in the non-canonical alternate ending, in which Rambo uses it to kill himself.
  • Good Versus Good: With the exception of Jerkass Victim Art Galt most of the people Rambo fights are regular, reasonable guys who are trying to hunt down an escaped killer. Rambo himself is good too, and goes out of his way to avoid killing the deputies. The final showdown between Trautman and Rambo is a classic non-violent take on this.
  • Harmony Versus Discipline: Rambo just wants to be left alone and is more than capable of living off the land. Teasle wants a nice, quiet, orderly town.
  • Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: Invoked. Rambo gets picked up by the police for 'Vagrancy', which leads to them messing with him and dredging up his Vietnam-war trauma, which leads to rapidly escalating troubles, which leads to a dead cop and, eventually, Rambo working a prison-quarry. Towards the end of the movie, during the police's Hope Spot when they think they've managed to kill him, Rambo's old general has this to say:
    Trautman: Vagrancy, wasn't it? That's gonna look real good on his grave stone in Arlington: Here lies John Rambo, winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, survivor of countless incursions behind enemy lines. Killed for vagrancy in Jerkwater, USA.
  • Jerkass: Most of the cops, but particularly Galt.
  • Knife Nut: Rambo has a very iconic knife.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang: Sheriff Teasle orders his deputies to do this whilst hunting Rambo in the woods, despite losing two of them to Rambo moments earlier because they were seperated from the group.
  • Made of Explodium: One of the police cars crashes into another car, and both cars explode.
  • Manly Tears: "Nothing is over!"
  • Mook Horror Show: Rambo's ambush of Teasle and his deputies in the woods is played like this. In a matter of minutes, five of them are on the ground with painful but non-lethal wounds crying out in pain and fear, as a thunderstorm rages around them. Even Teasle is left sobbing after Rambo pounces on him with a knife to the throat.
  • Mugging the Monster: The National Guardsmen (who are just average Joes who never expected to be called into service in their quiet town) fire wildly at Rambo's general direction while chasing him down, hooting and hollering like 19th century cowboys running down slaves... Until he returns fire, nearly hitting every single one of them, scaring them into cover. They're so terrified that they refuse to even peek out of cover.
  • Named by the Adaptation: John Rambo had no first name in the original novel.
  • Only Sane Man: Mitch Rogers, the young red-haired cop, is the only one to express dismay when Galt starts messing with Rambo. He's the lowest ranking officer, though, so no one listens to him. For his part, he does get off lighter than the rest of the cops, as Rambo disables Mitch by simply stabbing him in a non-vital area (the ass) that's mostly healed by the next time we see him.
    • Colonel Trautman is also the only one who undersatnds the gravity of the situation.
  • Police Are Useless: Mitch thinks he and his fellow officers are this and felt they should leave the matter of capturing Rambo to the state police professionals, but Teasle stubbornly refuses to accept this fact.
  • Porn Stache: Rambo's flashbacks shows he had this.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Colonel Trautman is level headed, practical and wants to spare both his protege's life and the lives of the police men. Justified as he's also A Father to His Men.
    • Deputy Mitch Rogers also counts, due to his occupation as a police officer in contrast to the unhinged and power-mad Teasle and Galt as well as his Jerkass colleagues; however, he is of lower rank and most of his advice is ignored by his superiors.
  • Revised Ending: The ending of the film was changed not because they were hoping for sequels, it was changed because they felt the film was bleak enough as it was. Apparently, the original author said he was okay with the change. Said original ending can be seen in a flashback in part 4. Trautman shoots Rambo in the gut on his urging. The original ending was played after a 2008 theatrical reissue, following the closing credits and a textual introduction.
  • Self-Surgery: Rambo sewing up his wounds in the tunnels.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Trope Maker. The movie is one of the best representations of PTSD ever made.
    • Except that it's really not. Most of the scenes that display the anguish of Rambo's personal psychological trauma (and represented it very well) were deleted from the final cut. Also, real post-traumatic stress cases (which include combat veterans, police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, and anybody else who has experienced a traumatic event) manifest with depression, hypervigilance, nightmares, insomnia, and often alcoholism and/or drug abuse. Violent behavior is rare, even among combat veterans, and when it does happen it is almost always self-destructive (as of 2015 there is an alarming epidemic of suicide by Iraq/Afghanistan veterans, yet almost no violent crimes committed against others). In fact, mental health professionals agree that violent aggression is a sign of other problems besides post-traumatic stress. This movie has unfortunately built the violent Shell-Shocked Veteran stereotype, which has almost no basis in reality, to the point that violent criminals (who usually never served in the military, or if they did, never went near a war zone much less actually fought) will sometimes claim this trope in Real Life and people believe them without question. This trope has also led to many returning war veterans experiencing some level of ostracism when they come home, which some argue increases the problem of depression and suicide as they fear the social stigma of admitting they suffer from this badly-misunderstood condition. Very sad when you consider that the movie was intended as an indictment of the mistreatment of Vietnam veterans by American pop culture.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • The originally filmed ending was much closer to the novel by David Morrell, which had Trautman killing dying Rambo with a shotgun. However, due to Rambo's more sympathetic portrayal in the film, a new ending was filmed which had Rambo being arrested instead, making the sequels possible. Due to the relative obscurity of the novel, not many are aware that Rambo was supposed to die in the first film.
    • Teasle was also killed in the book, but spared in the film. In fact all the other cops except Galt all apply.
  • Title Drop: Twice in one scene.
    Col. Trautman: Well you did some pushing of your own, John.
    John Rambo: They drew first blood, not me.
    Col. Trautman: Look, Johnny, let me come in and get you the hell out of there.
    John Rambo: [to himself] They drew first blood.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: "You did everything to make this private war happen. You've done enough damage. This mission is over, Johnny, do you understand me? This mission is over."