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Franchise: Rambo
aka: Rambo III
"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 troubled Vietnam 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 III features 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:

    open/close all folders 

    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.
  • Animated Adaptation: Rambo: The Force of Freedom, a 65-Episode Cartoon which aired in 1986 alongside a tie-in toyline which was basically a G.I. Joe clone with Rambo as the lead character.
  • Artistic License - History: This film series is the primary source of the persistent Urban Legend that returning Vietnam War soldiers were universally spat on and vilified. While there was some protesting at the veterans' homecomings, these were isolated incidents, and certainly never reached the in-your-face levels Rambo declaims.
  • Appropriated Title: The first movie was actually called First Blood. It wasn't until the sequel, Rambo: First Blood Part II, that the Rambo name was used at all.
  • Asshole Victim: Chances are any villain will be one.
  • 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.
  • Badass Bandolier: Rambo has worn a lot of them.
  • Badass Boast: Lewis in part 4, right after the event described in the Mamet Speak entry below
    Lewis "God didn't save your life! We did!"
    • Which is a variation on Colonel Trautman's line from First Blood:
      Sheriff Teasle: What would possess God in Heaven to make a man like Rambo?
      Trautman: God didn't make Rambo. I made him!
    • Rambo III has 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 Grandpa: Colonel Trautman in the first three movies (especially the third). Rambo himself became one in the fourth movie, since Stallone was 62 without showing it.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • 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.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: All of the sequels, but Part 4 really ups the blood and body count.
    • 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).
  • Bloody Hilarious: Many bad guys in 2 and 3 die this way.
  • Book Ends: For the whole series. First Blood begins with Rambo walking along a lonely road to visit a friend. Rambo ends with him walking a road which will take him home.
  • The Cavalry: Afghan rebels in the third movie, literally; Karen rebels in the fourth.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Oh, I'm sure that unexploded ordnance won't be important later.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel Sam Trautman. He gets more play in the books, and in the first book, he's actually the man who kills Rambo — blowing his old student's head off with a shotgun.
    • You'll need to wait until Rambo III to see him kick any ass in the movies, however.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Rambo himself. As you could probably guess from the chart, this is played for tragedy in the first movie but quickly sidelined in the rest.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Although he's usually sullen and serious, Rambo does manage to crack a few jokes in Rambo III.
    *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.
  • Dirty Communists: The Vietnamese in First Blood Part II and Soviets in Rambo III.
  • Fighting for a Homeland/La Résistance: The Afghans in the third movie; the Karen warriors in the fourth.
  • Flanderization: John Rambo killed precisely one guy in the first film, which was completely accidental and a Karmic Death. Galt, the guy who was killed, had repeatedly gone out of his way to antagonise Rambo, defy orders not to shoot at him and had attempted to murder him in cold blood several times. From II onward however, Rambo was a Badass who made mountains of bodies out of practically everyone in his way.
    • 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 third 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.
  • The Gunslinger: One of the most famous examples of the type B.
    • In the fourth film, Rambo shows that he can also be a type C when he kills half a dozen pirates before they can react.
  • Hot-Blooded: Rambo himself.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The cops of the first film and the Viet Cong and Dirty Communists of the second film. Averted in the third and fourth films, as the accuracy of the villains are such that Rambo gets shot at least once.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Frequently used on Rambo: by the police in the first movie, the Cong in the second, etc.
  • Just Plane Wrong: The Hind gunships in the second and third movies were actually French Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma helicopters, fitted with cosmetic modifications (most obviously the stub wings with rocket pods) to a decent semblance of a Hind. This ended up being carried over to all of the video games, licensed or fan-made.
  • Kick the Dog: Police Brutality directed toward Rambo in the first film triggered his rampage.
    • A literal example in the first movie, when Rambo kills the three dogs the police were trying to use to track him.
    • Tint is a much more horrifying example.
    • The Soviets in the third film.
  • Knife Nut: Rambo's serrated-edge hunting knives have become iconic of the series.
  • Large Ham: Again, Rambo.
  • Lighter and Softer: Parts 2 and 3 where Rambo kicks commie ass.
  • Manly Tears: "Nothing is over!"
  • The Mentor: Trautman, who is like a father to Rambo.
  • Mook Horror Show: Happens in the first two sequels.
  • More Dakka: Rambo practically thrives on this. You could've retitled all the shows 'Dakka: The Movie' and it would be appropriate.
  • 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.
  • One-Man Army: Rambo might well be the Trope Codifier, although see Flanderization.
    • Even in the first movie, John Rambo is considered a one man army. Observe:
    Teasle: Are you telling me that 200 of our men against your boy is a no-win situation for us?
    Trautman: You send that many, don't forget one thing.
    Teasle: What?
    Trautman: A good supply of body bags.
  • One-Liner, Name... One-Liner
  • The Only One:
    • Rambo: First Blood Part II was sort of this. Rambo himself even mentions the wisdom behind going in alone when you're outnumbered.
    • In Rambo III, 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."
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Rambo again.
  • Rated M for Manly: As noted with the image up top, this tends to increase with each sequel; notably, First Blood was not particularly testosterone-poisoned.
  • 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.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The reason Rambo does anything, really.
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: Rambo pwns some Burmese river pirates in the fourth movie.
    • He does same thing for their Vietnamese counterparts in the second movie.
  • Scars Are Forever: Rambo's scar on his face, a product of torture from part 2. The scars on his back and chest obtained during his stint as a POW in Vietnam also count.
  • Screaming Warrior
  • 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.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran / Death Seeker: Possible Trope Codifier.
  • Shirtless Scene: Of course. Averted in the fourth film, though.
  • Shouting Shooter
  • Sole Survivor: Rambo and Delmar Barry were the only ones of their old team to come back from Vietnam. The latter died prior to the start of the first film.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Title
  • 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.
    "You just don't turn it off!"
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Known for being one of the most male-oriented action films.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: That poor Burmese army jeep driver whose death kick-starts the climatic battle of part 4 comes to mind; let's not even get started on the gratuitous explosions.
  • 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.
  • True Companions: Rambo and Trautman. Emphasized with "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" playing over Rambo III's credits.
  • 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.
  • We Do the Impossible

    First Blood 
  • 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 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. 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.
  • 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.)
  • Asshole Victim: Nobody cried when Galt fell out of the helicopter to his death.
  • An Ass Kicking Christmas: First movie.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass: Most of the cops, but particularly Galt.
  • 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.
  • Porn Stache: Rambo's flashbacks shows he had this.
  • 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.
  • Self-Surgery: Rambo sewing up his wounds.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Trope Maker. The movie is one of the best representations of PTSD ever made.
  • 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.
    • Teasle was also killed in the book, but spared in the film. In fact all the other cops except Galt all apply.
  • 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."

    Rambo: First Blood Pt II 

    Rambo III 
  • Acrophobic Bird/Ramming Always Works: Rambo destroys the Big Bad in his Hind gunship by ramming it with the main gun of his tank.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Unwilling Suspension: Realistically portrayed, especially in the third film. Being lifted up by chains on your wrists is painful.
  • The War Sequence: Rambo and Trautman face down an entire Soviet army.

    Rambo (4) 
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Sarah finally manages to convince Rambo to take them into Burma with this:
    "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.
    • Schoolboy uses the close quarters variant of the rifle, which is lighter and more maneuverable than the standard version, and is more suited for shorter engagement distances.
  • Badass Crew: The mercenaries. Rambo becomes their Sixth Ranger.
    • 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 Cutie: Sarah.
  • 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.
  • Child Soldiers
  • Darker and Edgier/Bloodier and Gorier: Yes, even in comparison with the sequels. This is Up to Eleven.
  • Defiant to the End: The mercenaries in the end.
  • Depraved Homosexual: The Big Bad is a paedophile, and is only known victim was a boy.
  • Dirty Coward: Major Tint. 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: School Boy 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.
  • Grand Finale
  • Infant Immortality: Horribly averted.
    • A baby impaled on a bayonet getting waved around like a flag in the background. Crosses the line twice if you're an especially sick fuck.
      • Then there was that boy who was ripped away from his mother and thrown into a burning hut.
      • Several children are shot at close range, one is stepped on and shot while under the boot of his killer.
  • It's All My Fault: In a deleted scene, Sarah blames herself for everything that's happened as she convinced Rambo to take them into Burma.
  • Landmine Goes Click: Averted. Louis steps on a landmine while making their escape and it just blows up, shredding his leg in the process.
  • Made of Plasticine: Justified with Schoolboy's Barrett M82 and Rambo's M2 Browning, both of which fires a BMG .50 cal round, thus shredding bodies to pieces and makes them explode into geysers of blood if there's a head shot. Also counts as Reality Is Unrealistic; see below.
    • Rambo ripping the throat out of a rapist with his bare hands, however, firmly qualifies.
  • Mamet Speak: This exchange from part 4:
    "Let's move!
    "Where's the boatman?
    "And Sarah?"
    "15 minutes, that's the deal. We're leaving".
    "Let's go!"
    "5 more minutes!"
    "He knew the deal!"
    "We came together and we fucking leave together!"
    "Your life. Let's go."
    "Not without Sarah!"
  • Mean Brit: Lewis, the former SAS guy turned merc.
  • The Missionary: A bunch of Christian missionaries were pretty much the MacGuffin for Rambo to go do his thing.
  • Nice Girl: Sarah is by far the friendliest of the missionaries.
  • Morality Pet: Sarah to Rambo.
  • Off with His Head!: Done via forged machete and .50 BMG bullets.
  • One-Woman Wail: Battle Adagio.
  • Only Sane Man: Sarah among the missionaries. She recognizes the danger they are facing, and is the only one of them to recognize the ugly necessity of Rambo killing the pirates.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: The mercs are extremely badass (see Badass Crew above), but they're still completely overshadowed by Rambo.
  • Precision F-Strike: Rambo's first line in English is "Fuck off." As Rambo had never sworn much before it was good indication of where his mind is at.
  • 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.
  • Recycled Premise: The whole movie looks like part 3. Then it gets worse...
  • 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.
  • Scenery Gorn: The destroyed Karen village.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: The Big Bad Major Tint.
  • 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."
  • Baleful Polymorph: During the ending of the NES adaptation of First Blood: Part II, the player can throw Japanese text at Murdock, which turns him into a frog.
  • Dolled-Up Installment/Spiritual Successor: Rambo: The Video Game is arguably one to Teyon's previous Light Gun Games, Heavy Fire.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The NES version of Rambo has some mild language that includes "hell" and "damn" and "I swear to God".
  • Lock and Load Montage: The cartoon included one of these in every episode, with Rambo tying his boots, tying his bandana, and putting his knife in his boot sheath.
  • Multiple Endings: In the NES version you can finish the game much sooner and get a different ending if you follow Murdock's orders.
  • Quick Time Event: The Rambo arcade Light Gun Game features sequences where you must press the Start button at the correct times to succeed, or swiftly "click" on marked spots on the screen à la fellow Sega game GHOST Squad to fistfight a villain. Rambo: The Video Game also includes traditional Quick Time Events, as well as a notorious "perk" that disables them entirely.
  • Rated M for Manly: The SEGA arcade game, in spades.
  • 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.

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alternative title(s): First Blood; Rambo III; Rambo First Blood Part II; Rambo; Rambo; Rambo; First Blood; Rambo First Blood Part II
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