Film: Rambo III

Col. Zaysen: Who are you?
Rambo: Your worst nightmare.

Rambo III is the third film in the Rambo franchise, released in 1988.

The film begins with Trautman tracking down Rambo and asking him to join him on a mission to Afghanistan to assist the Afghan freedom fighters who are fighting against the Soviets in the Soviet-Afghan war. Despite being shown pictures of suffering civilians, Rambo refuses and Trautman goes alone. But when Trautman is ambushed and captured by the Soviets, Rambo must go in and rescue him. Just like the James Bond film The Living Daylights, Rambo III features Afghan mujahideen as good guys, before they morphed into generic terrorists following the September 11th attacks.

This film provides examples of:

  • Acrophobic Bird/Ramming Always Works: Rambo destroys the Big Bad in his Hind gunship by ramming it with the main gun of his tank.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Trautman's boast about Rambo coming to rescue him, and the Soviet forces won't be able to stop him.
      Soviet Commander: Who do you think he is? God?
      Trautman: God would have mercy. He won't.
    • Followed later by Rambo introducing himself to the Soviet Commander over the radio of one of the Spetsnaz (Russian Special Forces, literally Rambo's opposite number) troopers he's just killed:
      Rambo: Are you listening?
      Soviet Commander: Who are you!?
      Rambo: Your worst nightmare.
  • Badass in Distress: Trautman is clearly capable of handling himself, but he does get captured which leads Rambo to come and rescue him.
  • California Doubling: Israel and the American Western Desert for Afghanistan.
  • Call Back: When Rambo is informed that if he's captured in picking up where Trautman had left off, he'll be disavowed, he just says, "I'm used to it." This is a reference to when he was captured by the Soviets in the previous film.
  • Colonel Badass: we finally get to see Trautman kick some Reds with Rockets ass in this film.
  • Crew of One: In the climatic battle, Rambo is able to drive a Soviet tank while at the same time loading and firing the main gun and coaxial machine gun.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Although he's usually sullen and serious, Rambo does manage to crack a few jokes.
    *Rambo and Trautman stand alone against an entire Soviet battalion*
    Trautman: What do we do?
    Rambo: Well, surrounding them is out.
    Trautman: Hell of a time for humor, John.
  • Enemy Mine: See The Great Politics Mess-Up below.
  • Flesh Versus Steel: The Afghans on horseback vs. the mechanized Soviets.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: Rambo III saw Rambo team up with freedom fighters from Afghanistan. "Freedom fighters" who soon came to be known by another name: The Taliban. By no means the movie's fault, but still...
    • Not necessarily so: The warriors whom Rambo fought besides were mujihadeen; many but by no means all joined the Taliban after the end of the Cold War; some would instead join the drug-dealing Uzbek warlords and the communist remnant that the Taliban fought and had almost defeated. Not every mujihad is part of the Taliban, just as not every Talib is a mujihad. Ironically, the Uzbek warlords and the communists would later be portrayed as heroes, once they proved to be useful as a U.S. proxy army.
      • If you want to think the specific mujihadeen in the film are not future Taliban supporters, you may latch onto the fact that there's a sequence where they play Buzkashi, a traditional Afghan sport which was banned under Taliban rule.
    • At the time of the film's release, it's anti-Soviet tone was criticized by some for being out of date in the age of glasnost and perestroika. This, after all, was the period when Soviet villains were increasingly renegades. The movie does address this with Trautman's line, "You talk peace and disarmament to the world, and here you are wiping out a race of people!" However, at the time of the film's release, Gorbachev's administration had acknowledged defeat in Afghanistan and the Soviet army was actually in the process of withdrawing, making the Big Bad's insistence that they're on a verge of a "complete victory" a little ridiculous, not that anyone could have known that at the time it was filmed. On the other hand, maybe this means he's a renegade after all. Or the film is just set before the withdrawal started.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Fate of the film's dragon.
  • Human Shield: Used briefly by the film's dragon.
  • I'm Your Worst Nightmare
  • The Only One: Rambo and the Colonel who trained him are attacked and cornered by what seems to be the entire Soviet army.
    Colonel: "Got any ideas?"
    Rambo: "Well, surrounding 'em's out."
  • La Résistance: The Mujahadeen
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Afghans. Truth in television, too.
    "Save us from the claws of the tiger, the bite of the cobra, and the wrath of the Afghan."
  • Railing Kill
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Quite a bit of Jerry Goldsmith's original score for this film was replaced with music from the second movie.
  • Red Scare: This movie is the only one of the series (the second film aside) to explicitly deal with the Soviet Union.
  • Reds with Rockets:
  • Self-Surgery: Rambo digs shrapnel out of his side and then cauterizes the wound with burning gunpowder.
  • Take My Hand
  • Tank Goodness
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: All of the Soviet armor in the Final Battle as a result of the production crew being forced to move to the US (most of the movie was shot in Israel). Doubles as Prop Recycling.
  • Too Dumb to Live: At the end of the film Colonel Zaysen decides ram Rambo with his Mi-24 helicopter while Rambo is in a Ti-72 tank. Just to make things clear: a fully-loaded Hind Helicopter weighs 9 tons, while a Ti-72 tank weighs 42 tons. Helicopters need to be light enough to fly, while tanks are only expected to be heavy enough and tough enough to survive bullets and shells. It ends as exactly as you would expect.
  • Unwilling Suspension: Realistically portrayed, especially in the third film. Being lifted up by chains on your wrists is painful.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: the Mujahadeen assistung two American Special Forces soldiers. Terrible irony considering that the film is dedicated to their struggle against the Soviets.
  • The War Sequence: Rambo and Trautman face down an entire Soviet army.