"You're always going to be tearing away at yourself until you come to terms with what you are. Until you come full circle"
— Col. Trautman
A series of action/drama films starring Sylvester Stallone as emotionally troubledVietnam War veteran John Rambo, who was a former member of the United States Army Special Forces, a Green Beret, and a recipient of the Medal of Honor. First Blood, released in 1982 and the first film in the series, was based on the 1972 David Morrell novel of the same name. The character and franchise became very famous and a verbal shorthand to describe a One-Man Army type of badass.First Blood 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.The film was followed by Rambo: First Blood Part II, which was released in 1985 and was an enormous success. In the film, Rambo is released from prison by Marshall Murdock and sent on a mission to find American POWs in Vietnam. When he does, Murdock orders that Rambo be abandoned and all evidence of the mission be destroyed. Rambo manages to escape from Vietnam, returns to Murdock's command center, destroys it with a machine gun, and threatens Murdock with a knife to get the POWs out of Vietnam. In the end, Rambo tells Trautman that he and other war veterans want their country to love them as much as they love it, and that he would gladly die for his country.The third film, which was simply titled Rambo III and released in 1988, 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 IIIfeatures Afghan mujahideen as good guys, before they morphed into generic terrorists following the September 11th attacks.After a twenty-year hiatus, Stallone returned to the franchise with the fourth film in the series, titled simply Rambo (the film's original production title was John Rambo, partially because of Stallone's other major franchise sequel, Rocky Balboa). Living alone near the Burmese border, Rambo is asked by a group of American missionaries to take them to Burma on a humanitarian effort. While transporting them, they are ambushed by pirates. When negotiations fail, Rambo kills all the pirates, which disturbs the missionaries, but doesn't fully dissuade them from going to the village in Burma - where they end up being captured during an attack. After ten days, Rambo is asked by a pastor associated with the missionaries to lead a group of mercenaries on a rescue mission, to which he reluctantly agrees.Prior to Rambo, however, a cute and heartwarming Gaiden of sorts was created in 2008 by British director Garth Jennings called Son of Rambow. The film details the misadventures of two boys in 1982 who tried to remake First Blood with a bulky VHS-Camera and the vibrant imagination of ten year olds. Sylvester Stallone himself is said to have loved the film.A fifth Rambo film was planned, and details varied as to the plot of the film (one potential plot would have seen Rambo face off against some sort of supernatural/alien creature). However, that project seems to have stalled, and Rambo will remain the final film in the franchise at least with Stallone, who has said the rights holders may make their own sequel but once he finishes a few cuts on the Blu-ray he's done with the character.Both the films and the character have enjoyed massive success and popularity, and - alongside the Rocky series - catapulted Stallone to the position of a major action hero and film star. After the release of the first three Rambo films, Morrell went on to write the novelizations of the first two Rambo sequels because he wanted to include characterization that he felt wasn't in said sequels. There was also a 1986 animated TV series called Rambo: The Force of Freedom that lasted 65 episodes and spawned a line of toys; a few comic books starring the character; soundtrack albums for all the films (but not the animated series, which mainly tracked in Jerry Goldsmith's score for the second one); and many video games including the NES version of Rambo and the Sega Master System versions of Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III. Sega also released an arcade light gun "Rambo" game back in 2008, and it is perhaps a distillation of what makes the Rambo franchise awesome.The latest entry in the franchise was Rambo: The Video Game, a rail shooter based on the first 3 movies of the series. It was released on the PC, Xbox 360, and the Playstation 3 in February 2014. A trailer can be seen here.
Provides Examples Of:
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The four movies:
Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: In First Blood, Rambo's breakdown and monologue in the end. In Rambo: First Blood Part II, the scene with Rambo and Co on the boat where he tells her he's "expendable". There are several in Rambo IV between Rambo and Sarah, most notably her pointing out "Maybe you're right, maybe we won't change anything. But trying to save a life isn't wasting your life." Unfortunately, many of these were cut.
Awesome McCoolname: Say it out loud: John. RAMBO. This name oozes pure testosterone and has been widely adapted as a synonym for raging badass. It also helps that in Japanese (乱暴, rambou) it means violent, rough, lawless.. The character was named after a breed of apple which was, in turn, named after a Swedish-American immigrant.
Rebels save Rambo in the nick of time in parts 3 and 4.
Likewise, Rambo saves a group of Burmese civilians (who are being forced to run through a minefield) with his bow in the fourth film when the mercenaries won't do anything.
Black and Gray Morality: In all four movies but especially the fourth. When a missionary takes issue with Rambo killing a half dozen river pirates (because the whole reason they're there is to help stop the violence) Rambo angrily tells him that if he hadn't done anything they would have made his fiance into a sex slave and killed the rest of them.
The first 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).
Flanderization: John Rambo killed precisely one guy in the first film. From II onward, Rambo was a Badass who made lots of bodies out of anyone in his way. Plus, the first film's kill is accidental and arguably karmic as well, since Galt, the guy who was killed, was going out of his way to antagonize Rambo.
However it should be noted that Rambo was intending to kill the law enforcement at the end of the first movie had Colonel Trautman not negotiated with Rambo to surrender. He had been repressing his killer nature from his days fighting in Vietnam prior to that because he didn't want to kill any of those police men, it was only when they continued to antagonize him that he was getting ready to kill them and fall back into his old ways. Later films are simply showing us what Rambo is like when he isn't holding back.
The second film also demonstrates the lengths Rambo goes to to control and channel his violent impulses into constructive results. At the start, he's fighting in highly lucrative (and violent) prize fights...and giving the proceeds to the monks he lives among.
Forging Scene: In the fourth film. Third movie also had it, but it was cut.
The first one had Rambo building and setting up a bunch of traps and making arrows from freshly cut wood.
Genre Shift: The first movie is a rather thoughtful psychological thriller. From the second movie onwards the series is action-adventure, with Rambo being recruited for highly dangerous missions.
Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Potovski in the second film is a major offender; he sounds more like a stereotypical Nazi interrogator, complete viz ze inability to pronounce a "th" sound.
Hell, Rambo himself; supposedly from "Arizona" but has a thick Brooklyn accent.
Novelization: Notable here mostly because David Morrell, who wrote the original First Blood novel, went on to pen the novelizations of the two movies that followed, specifically noting and then tossing aside the rather egregious Canon Discontinuity that emerged from the fact Rambo died in the book, but lives on in the films.
Ripped from the Headlines: Especially the third and fourth movies (focusing on the Soviet war in Afghanistan and Burmese insurrection in Karen State, specifically) but also the second, which is based on an Urban Legend about POWs from the Vietnam War.
Sequel Number Snarl: The films in the series are entitled First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo III, and Rambo. This caused film critic Roger Ebert to wonder, in his review of Rambo III, "shouldn't this film be titled Rambo II: First Blood Part III?" Outside the US, this complication was often fixed by changing the title of the films to some variant of Rambo: (Subtitle) and having Numbered Sequels.
Stuff Blowing Up: All over the place, natch. An entire boat blows up in the river scene in Pt. II, and that's just getting starting.
The fourth blows up two boats and a whole lot of forest, courtesy of a massive unexploded Tallboy bomb. Mines and grenades aplenty, too, though they're usually treated fairly realistically - big boom, no huge fireball.
Super Soldier: Rambo is a deconstruction. Troutman trained him to become the best but all his abilities are useless in peacetime.
Title Drop: In the first film, twice in one scene.
Colonel Trautman: Well you did some pushing of your own, John.
John Rambo: They drew first blood, not me.
Colonel Trautman: Look, Johnny, let me come in and get you the hell out of there.
John Rambo: [to himself] They drew first blood.
Too Dumb to Live: All of the missionaries in part 4. Even after being attacked by pirates, they still believe they can make a difference by teaching them religion. The leader borders on Ungrateful Bastard, who still threatens to report Rambo to the authorities even after he kills said pirates to save his life (and prevent the girl from being raped).
Well, the leader of the missionaries IS played by Ryan Chappelle what would you expect!
Sarah is actually pretty smart, she recognizes the necessity of Rambo's actions and the dangers they all face, especially herself. In a deleted scene, she blames herself for the situation they're in as she convinced Rambo to take them into Burma.
This trope also applies to Colonel Zaysen from Rambo III. At the end of the film he 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.
Truth in Television: Unfortunately, what the Burmese are doing to the Karen is not an much of an exaggeration.
Many Vietnam veterans were heavily traumatized, and some, sadly, reacted with violence. Stories of crowds of protesters jeering at them upon their return are an exaggeration, though, although some were betitled, and many ended up on the street because they couldn't find a job.
Aversion: After the second movie, an Urban Legend began to spread that large numbers of American POWs remain in prison camps in Vietnam, where they are tortured and treated horribly. While this undoubtedly happened during the war, there is no evidence any remain there.
Unintentional Period Piece: Parts II & III especially, due to their late Cold War setting. Even the fourth movie is showing signs of this, with Myanmar slowly but surely opening up politically.
War Is Hell: The war will never end for those who fought it.
Artistic License - Gun Safety: In the first film, 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.)
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.
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: First Blood - two hours illustrating and condemning the dehumanization of soldiers. The sequels - two hours of gleeful carnage by a One-Man Army.
In addiction, as said in a Cracked article: "First Blood is a poignant tale about the American institutions' failure to reintegrate war veterans into society, and about how we shouldn't chase them with dogs and helicopters for absolutely no reason. We agree, movie!"
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 first 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.
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 eat within his city limits, and what happened afterwards more than demonstrates how much of a bad idea fucking with a Green Beret is.
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." Well, from the moment Rambo decided to confront the sheriff after the sheriff was nice enough to drive him across town and drop him off close to Portland, anyway...
Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: Invoked in First Blood. 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.
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 in the first film crashes into another car, and both cars explode.
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.
Only Sane Man: Mitch, the young red-haired cop in First Blood, 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.
Revised Ending: The ending of First Blood 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.
Spared by the Adaptation: The originally filmed ending to First Blood was much closer to the novel by David Morrell, which had John Rambo forcing Trautman to kill him. 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.
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."
Electric Torture: Effectively shows just howBadass Rambo is by having him take hours of an entire camp's electricity and still be alive afterward.
Every Boat Is A Pinto: In the riverboat scene, Rambo leaps off just as the two boats have a head-on collision and explode. Makes even less sense than for a car — both because of the relatively slow speed, and because boats have their engines and fuel tanks in the rear.
Honor Before Reason: After Rambo finds a reason to fight once more in the second movie, he practically embodies this trope.
Kick the Dog: Even though he was well over the Moral Event Horizon by that point, Murdock apparently didn't feel like he was rubbing enough salt into Rambo and Trautman's wounds, because when Trautman continues to insist on finding those lost POWs after Rambo escapes the prison camp, he quickly finds himself under arrest on Murdock's orders and confined to the base.
Lock and Load Montage: Rambo prepping up to kick Viet Cong ass is the second film is the definitive version of this trope in action.
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.
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.
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.
"Maybe you've lost your faith in people. But you must still be faithful to something. You must still care about something. Maybe we can't change what is. But trying to save a life isn't wasting your life, is it?"
Attempted Rape: A Burmese soldier enters Sarah's cell intent on raping her. But instead he gets his throat ripped out by Rambo.
Awesome, but Impractical: Schoolboy uses a Barrett .50 caliber anti-material rifle. Such a weapon would be impractical in a jungle environment, where its long range would be negated by the dense foliage and its bulk and weight would make carrying it very unpleasant.
Lewis comes out as the badassest of the mercenaries, being the only one that - despite a crippling injury - has the guts to yell at the enemy commander. A short time later, still with said injury, he downs a bad guy with a Super Headbutt Of Death.
Bald of Awesome: The leader of the mercenaries. Has a penchant for headbutting.
BFG: among others, the 50-cal machine gun that Rambo uses to slaughter the military in the fourth movie, thoroughly wrecking a truck and a patrol boat in the process.
The anti-material sniper rifle, coincidentally running on the same rounds as the machine gun, which Schoolboy so expertly uses to blast enemy soldiers in half and to vaporize heads.
Break the Haughty: Michael the missionary leader believes in law but by the end he beats a soldier to death with a rock to save one of the mercenaries. The "My God, What Have I Done?" look on his face says it all.
Which just proves Rambo's words "When you're pushed, killing's as easy as breathing"
Brick Joke: A sick one. He warned one of the missionaries not to look the Burmese in the eye. He does this later after he is captured and is then fed to pigs.
Dirty Coward: The Burmese commander. He commits all kind of war crimes and other horrible things, but once a real battle appears, he immediately runs away while leaving his own troops to the slaughter after shooting an innocent missionary In the Back.
Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The missionaries only call Rambo "John", after Sarah asks what his name is. The mercenaries know him as "the boatman".
Foreshadowing: Right before Rambo is gonna to save the missionaries, he makes a philosophical thought about "war is in your blood. God can't make that go away". During the last battle, the leader of the pacifistic missionaries smash one soldier to death with a rock, acting only on survival instincts.
One of the mercenaries kept constantly calling the Big Bad a "gutless fuck." Then Rambo guts the said Big Bad in the end.
Friendly Sniper: Schoolboy in the is the textbook example of this trope: although the most warm-hearted, kind and idealistic member of the band of mercenaries accompanying Rambo, he is still a fearsome warrior who rips through rapists and murderers like a hot knife through butter with his .50 cal. anti-material rifle.
Gorn: Yeesh... Specifically the ending battle scene. It's on par with the likes of Saw, Hostel and Kill Bill: Vol. 1. That's not to say that the prior three films didn't contain violence, but they were nowhere near as bloody as this one is. Many critics felt it was a bit excessive. Stallone said that the toned-up violence was to emphasize the badness of the situation in Myanmar.
Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The Burmese soldier who intends to rape Sarah gets his throat ripped out bare-handed by Rambo. Later in the film, the pedophile Colonel gets disemboweled while alive by Rambo. It's probably not a coincidence that the two rapists suffer the most gruesome deaths in the movie.
Happens earlier with the pirates. Initially Rambo tries to talk them down, but when it becomes clear they're going to rape Sarah he kills them all.
Reality Is Unrealistic: Lots of people rolled their eyes at the "exaggerated" carnage at the climax of Rambo, not realizing that a .50 BMG round really will do that sort of stuff to a human body. (It's revealed in DVD bonus features that a soldier in the US military wrote the filmmakers to say how impressed he was with the realistic depiction of the gun.)
Same with the Tall-Boy exploding. As for why he wasn't poisoned by nuclear fallout, as many internet snarkers expected a cookie for pointing out, it's because the Tall-Boy wasn't a nuclear bomb; any big enough bomb, even massive explosions like the battleship Yamato blowing up◊, will form a mushroom cloud.
Red Shirt: Averted. The mercs are quite capable of holding their own, and only one of them definitively dies in the finale. Though another one probably does, and the leader may die of wounds.
Steel Eardrums: Averted. During the final fight, Sarah (who is beside the Friendly Sniper) cries out and covers hear ears while the fight ensues. Many viewers assume this is simply her reacting to the violence around her. It is in fact due to the noise of the sniper's rifle. Those who have ever been next to an extremely powerful firearm such as a rifle chambered in .50 BMG know that the report coming out of the muzzle is EXTREMELY loud (especially since the weapon includes a muzzle-brake which reduces felt recoil, but effectively turns the volume Up to Eleven). To put it into perspective a rifle like that creates a concussion from the muzzle that can be felt on the skin from several yards away. She's not crying out in terror, she's crying out in pain.
Taking the Bullet: Subverted; Rambo dove to save Sarah when a couple of soldiers see them escaping the camp, but the soldiers both get killed by Friendly Sniper Schoolboy before they can shoot.
Violence Really Is the Answer: During the film's climax, Michael (who had previously been a complete pacifist) picks up a rock and uses it to bash in the head of a Burmese soldier.
Your Head A Splode: The result of being shot in the head with the .50, or School Boy's Barrett.
Across Other Media
But Thou Must: At the beginning of the NES version, Commander Trautman gives Rambo a mission that may be difficult. If the player chooses, "I feel safer in prison," the commander won't take no for an answer and will keep repeating that until the player chooses, "I'm not afraid of death."
Divorced Installment: For the Rambo Master System game, Sega's license was only applicable for the American version, so when it ended up being released in Japan and Europe, it was relabeled Ashura and Secret Commando respectively, with all use of Rambo imagery and theme music taken out.
Spared by the Adaptation: Co's death in the NES version occurs during a conversation cutscene that sort of mirrors the events of the movie. Skipping the conversation skips her death scene. The developers actually accounted for this in the ending.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Late in the NES game, Co appears in front of a waterfall. Talking with her (as most players will do by habit) triggers a conversation in which she is shot and killed. Run past her without talking, however, and she will appear at the end, alive and well, with dialogue specific to the ending.
Unstoppable Rage: In the Rambo arcade game, killing enemies results in Rambo's "Rage" meter going up. When it maxes out, four things happen:
Rambo gets unlimited ammo.
Rambo's bullets have a bigger impact radius and deal more damage.
Rambo becomes invulnerable.
You get a sound effect of Rambo screaming "AAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!" at the top of his lungs.