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Film / First Blood

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Sheriff Teasle: What would possess God in Heaven to make a man like Rambo?
Col. Trautman: God didn't make Rambo. I made him!
"You don't seem to want to accept the fact that you're dealing with an expert in guerrilla warfare, with a man who's the best! With guns, with knives, with his bare hands! A man who's been trained to ignore pain! To ignore weather! To live off the land! To eat things that would make a billy goat puke! In Vietnam, his job was to dispose of enemy personnel... to kill, period! Win by attrition... well, Rambo was THE BEST!"
Colonel Samuel "Sam" Trautman

First Blood is the first film in the Rambo franchise, released in 1982. It is based on the 1972 novel of the same name written by David Morrell.

The film deals with John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) struggling to overcome the trauma he experienced during the Vietnam War. Having just learned his only remaining squadmate is dead, Rambo visits a small Washington State town for a bite to eat. However, the sheriff, Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy), doesn't appreciate "drifters" in his orderly town which he apparently treats as private property, so he drives Rambo out to the town limits to send him on his way. When Rambo turns and heads back, Teasle arrests him for "vagrancy" among other false charges after thinking he was trying to trespass into his town and orders him cleaned up for his trial. Police Brutality ensues as the deputies rough him up while doing so, dredging all of Rambo's war trauma back to the surface.

Ultimately, a flashback to being tortured as a POW results in Rambo escaping from custody, becoming a fugitive from the law. Thus begins a small-scale war with the town police, which escalates to include not only the state police but the National Guard. This attracts the attention and assistance of Colonel Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna), Rambo's ex-commander, who knows what kind of killing machine he trained Rambo to be and hopes to capture him alive. The police would do well to heed his advice, because Trautman knows just how much damage Rambo is prepared to do if pushed too far...

Thanks to it being based on an anti-war novel from the early '70s and being produced and released during the tail end of the New Hollywood era, First Blood is notable for being completely different in tone, genre and feel from the rest of the franchise, being an anti-war psychological thriller that deals with the hefty subject of the dehumanization and mistreatment of Vietnam War veterans, complete with a famous speech on the subject. The One-Man Army Rambo is known as today would not surface until the Actionized Sequel Rambo: First Blood Part II put him back in the battlefield (and thus rather missing the point of this film).

Rambo: First Blood contains examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: Rambo accidentally kills Galt in self defense when the latter tried to purposely kill him in cold blood (and even then, Rambo's actions are just throwing a rock at a helicopter while Galt was leaning out the door). In the book, he disembowels Galt in the police station for reaching for his gun after Rambo overpowered Teasle and stole the razor.
  • Actor Allusion: Teasle was a veteran of the Korean War, his actor Brian Dennehy had played an M.P. named Ernie Connors in an episode of the Korean War-set television series M*A*S*H (which was based on the movie of the same name where Rambo's actor Stallone said he was an extra in). Interestingly enough, Ernie Connors had the rank of Sergeant First Class, whilst Teasle in the novel was stated to have been a Marine master sergeant.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Zig-zagged in that he's more of an anti-hero in the movie series, and in the source material that is the First Blood novel he's a straight-up villain, but in neither continuity was he a hero. Rambo was a much 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 arrests him after coming back once. Rambo's actions also seem more like vengeance and he eventually realizes he is fighting because he likes it, whereas in the movie his actions seem more like self-defense. And while in the film he only kills one person by accident, in the book he slaughters dozens of people, including almost the entire police force and is basically like an evil version of what the character would become in later films, and more or less serves as the Big Bad of the story.
  • Adaptational Job Change: In the novel, Teasel was Chief of Police. In the film, he's a sheriff.
  • Adaptational Location Change: The book and the film take place in a fictional small town called Hope, though the book was set in Kentucky and the film is set in Washington.
  • Adaptational Modesty: Rambo's escape from jail happens after getting hosed, and putting on some clothes. In the novel, he did this completely in the nude.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • While Teasle was still a bit of a jerk in the novel, he was also a far more complex character and more of a Jerkass Woobieinvoked and a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. 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 reveals himself to be a Reasonable Authority Figure when he drives Rambo to a diner to have something to eat before taking him to town limits. The film, despite having a few downplayed Pet the Dog moments, makes him into a clear-cut 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.
    • Due to the despicable portrayal of the sheriff's department, it makes the town Hope they defend a Crapsaccharine World unlike the book's depiction of Madison, Kentucky, where Teasle's police force was stationed instead.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Full name only; the antagonist was named Wilfred Logan Teasle in the novel, but according to the Survival Mode on the film's DVD, he's William Wright Teasle. This name change is proper, considering the Adaptational Villainy and Schrödinger's Cast makeover this film's Teasle received in contrast to the novel's Teasle.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: Colonel Trautman is a close friend of Rambo. In the novel, Rambo barely remembers Trautman and is not friends with him.
  • Affably Evil: While Teasle was Faux Affably Evil towards Rambo initially when they first met, he can also be considered to be this due to actually caring for his town and his deputies under his command and is more civilized than his top henchman and best friend Art Galt. Despite having a dislike for Trautman for also being a Vietnam vet, he does have respect for him with one of the presumed factors being that Trautman is also a fellow Korean War vet like him to confide to, prompting him to Pet the Dog towards Trautman at the town's bar and nearly considered to take Trautman's advise to drop his vendetta against Rambo before doing a Redemption Rejection at the climax.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: In a way, as everything Teasle tried to do was to prove what Korean War vets are made of after being shunned for so long and to uphold the law in his duty as a policeman, yet by the end he's wounded and in a pathetic state, having finally accepted bitter defeat and is about to take more flak than he's ever before imagined.
  • All There in the Manual: According to the DVD's Survival Mode easter egg trivia, Galt served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1953 to 1957 as a motorpool sergeant at Camp Lejeune and then served in the reserves from 1958 to 1973. This might well explain why Galt was so trigger-happy and a Cold Sniper in the film. It also states Teasle is a Korean War veteran and both he and Galt have been friends for a long time, since Deputy Mitch Rogers was still a little kid. In addition, despite being a cop, Galt also has criminal record, which shows Galt is a Hypocrite due to his occupation and also explains what kind of character he is based on his behavior in the film.
  • Anti-Hero: John Rambo is a downplayed example, being an angry and bitter man who takes out his anger on society, while still avoiding causalities.
  • Anti-Villain: Teasle is a Type III with aspects of Type II (but the latter is greatly emphasized in the novel). He may have been a Jerkass and something of a Dirty Cop, but everything he's done was to keep his town safe and to uphold the law as well as to put forgotten Korean War vets back in the light again.
  • 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. They keep fingers on triggers, sweep muzzles through heads and chests, and so on.
  • Artistic License – History: A minor example. In his climactic speech, Rambo mentions that, upon returning to the United States, he was met with protesters at the airport who were protesting HIM, even spitting at/on him. While it's possible that some incidents like this did occur in real life, they had to have been few and far between (soldiers flew home individually on regular commercial flights, so protestors who were willing to go there would have had to wait around the terminal for quite a while to find some soldiers to harass). Most anti-war protesters of the time sympathized with the soldiers sent to fight in Vietnam because they knew the majority of returning soldiers were draftees who had no choice. In fact, many returning soldiers became protesters themselves. There's an entire book, Spitting Image, by Jerry Lembcke, looking at this specific idea - Lembcke concludes that, as far as he can tell, it never happened in real life.
  • Artistic License – Law: This should probably go without saying, but a Sheriff does not have the legal authority to kick anyone out of a town. A town is public property that any citizen is allowed to enter. The only way this could happen is if someone commits a major offense and is found guilty in court. Granted this is Teasle we're talking about so this is probably the case of an Invoked Trope, as this exchange suggests:
    Rambo: "Is there some law that says I can't get something to eat here?"
    Teasle: "Yeah. Me."
  • Asshole Victim: Nobody but Teasle cried when Galt fell out of the helicopter to his death.
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: Rambo's capture, escape and counterattack takes place around Christmas time.
  • Ax-Crazy: Rambo mistakes a kid out hunting game for one of the officers pursuing him and Rambo has to force himself to let the kid go. Col. Trautman himself lampshades this during the climax where he accuses Rambo of having wanted to initiate a fight from the beginning.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Col. Trautman gives one in his introductory scene. Overlaps with Blasphemous Boast.
      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 could've killed them all. I could've 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 fine example of this when he first enters.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: The primary antagonists are law enforcement, with Teasle and Galt being the most corrupt of the bunch.
  • Benevolent Boss: Teasle genuinely cares for his deputies, heck, Galt's death is one of the main reasons why he chases after John. However, he is also a Pointy-Haired Boss, due to Galt's abuse of Rambo, being a Bad Boss towards the more rational Deputy Mitch Rogers by ignoring his advice and even grabbing him by his hair to show him Galt's corpse and vowing vengeance before finally failing to properly organize his deputies to capture Rambo that leads to them being easily overpowered.
  • Berserk Button: Teasle's always glad to drive drifters to the edge of town closest to their destination, but God help the drifter who dares come back and test his patience.
    • Also, it's a bad idea to suggest letting the state police deal with the guy who unwittingly caused the death of his best friend. Just ask Mitch for details.
  • BFG: The M60 machine gun. It helps Rambo a lot during the climax.
  • Big Bad: Sheriff Will Teasle, whose harassment of Rambo sets off the plot.
  • Blade Enthusiast: Rambo has an iconic knife, whose hilt is hollowed out to include a compass and self-suture equipment.
  • Book Ends: The film begins and ends with details about members of Rambo's old squad and how they died.
  • Break the Haughty: After Rambo overpowers the posse during the manhunt initially with just Teasle and his deputies, Rambo pins the sheriff to a tree with a knife at his throat and was able to paralyze the arrogant sheriff with fear upon warning him what Rambo's capable of and telling him to leave him alone while he still has the chance. After departing, Teasle just sinks down sobbing.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Teasle and Galt's mistreatment of Rambo is what led to Rambo to snap and flee and his attempt to summarily execute him personally is what led to Galt's death.
  • Child Soldier: Rambo at the end of the film tears up describing how Joe Danforth was killed by one (implied to be sent by the Viet Cong) with a shoeshine box booby-trap bomb.
  • Chopper on Standby: Averted. This small-town Sheriff's department isn't well-funded enough to have a helicopter, so they commandeer one from a local logging company in their pursuit of Rambo.
    • And then completely subverted when Teasle tries to call the chopper back after Galt's death, only to be told by the sheriff station that the pilot refuses to do so.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: What sets off Rambo is a PTSD flashback to an example of this, with a NVA soldier cutting a helpless Rambo's chest with a knife.
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel Trautman of course.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Rambo. Fully justified in that this is precisely what all soldiers are trained to be, particularly Special Operations personnel. There are no fancy spin kicks, back flips, artful dodging, or extended fight scenes in this movie. Rambo deals with each opponent very quickly and relies on groin attacks, targeting weak spots such as the eyes and nose, knocking people down and incapacitating them while they are struggling to get up, etc. Mitch, being pretty much the only cop who was actually smart enough to add up all the pieces into a very coherent big picture, is aware that that there is much more to Rambo than meets the eye, but his observations fall on deaf ears.
    Mitch: There were three of us on him in that cell block. He went through us like we weren't even there!
  • Composite Character:
    • Mitch in the film seems to be a combination of his novel counterpart and the book's depiction of Art Galt (unlike the In Name Only film version) for being a young cop trying not to get in the way of Rambo.
    • Insofar as many of Teasle's nastier qualities from the book are transposed onto Galt for the movie. And because he lives longer in the movie, he performs the actions of other deputies from the book, such as Shingleton recklessly pulling his gun on the escaping Rambo in public and Lang firing from the police helicopter.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Rambo, to the point he has no idea what he's supposed to do with his life now that the war is over.
  • Cool Guns: Rambo variously uses an M16 assault rifle and an M60 Machine Gun.
  • Cop Killer: Rambo kills sadistic policeman Art Galt in self-defense. Galt's death was accidental, falling from the helicopter after Rambo throws a rock at the windshield because he was leaning out the door with his seat harness unbuckled. Rambo at that point was unarmed, desperate, and looking for any way to return fire, and is visibly surprised when Galt falls to his death.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: While talking to Colonel Trautman by radio, Rambo defends himself by saying the conflict wouldn't be happening had Sheriff Teasle let him eat at a restaurant and left him alone. Trautman replies that Rambo did plenty of "pushing" back.
    Col. Trautman: Seems like bailing you out of trouble's got to be a life-time job for me.
    Rambo: There wouldn't be no trouble except for that king-shit cop. All I wanted was something to eat, but the man kept pushing, sir.
  • Could Say It, But...: John Rambo is arrested by Teasle for vagrancy for choosing to walk into Hope after being told he is not welcomed, which is basically trespassing in Teasle's eyes in all but name, as there is no such thing as trespassing into a public town.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Hope, Washington, seems to be your average quiet little town (and boring, as quoted by Teasle early in the movie). However, little do most of the townspeople know that behind the doors of the sheriff's department they entrust are a Wretched Hive of Dirty Cops led by two Fat Bastards Sheriff Teasle and Sgt. Galt, who are bigoted against Vietnam veterans and drifters and are willing to torture them under their incarceration out of superficial bigotry.
  • Cruel Mercy: Teasle is spared from Rambo's wrath, but is left badly wounded and most likely a cripple. Also, it's implied things will go dark for him once the reason why Rambo went on a rampage through town in the first place gets out in the open.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Repeatedly dealt to the Sheriff's department by Rambo. First, in the holding cells against the deputies who try Police Brutality against Rambo. Again, in the wood when he ambushes them easily. And finally, in the town battle.
  • Deadly Dodging: In the hunting scene, Rambo steps out of the way when Balford is about to shoot, which leads to Ward getting shot in the arm.
  • Deceptively Simple Demonstration: The deputies are astonished that Rambo's knife is so sharp it can cut paper edge-on. Most people would consider a blade that can't unacceptably dull.
  • Decomposite Character: The character of Art Galt in the novel is apparently split into two characters, the In Name Only Dirty Cop and Rabid Cop Asshole Victim and the young Mitch Rogers (who also appeared in the novel, but in the film also fulfills Galt's role as a young cop trying not to get in the way of Rambo in the book).
  • Defiant to the End: Downplayed, unlike future Rambo villains where they play this trope straight by fighting to the very end, Teasle does accept defeat after getting gunned down, but eggs Rambo to Get It Over With and Finish Him! after being wounded in battle, knowing that his death at Rambo's hands would be something of a posthumous victory for Teasle as killing Teasle would damn Rambo in the public's eyes.
  • Desperate Plea for Home: Rambo vividly recalls an incident in which a friend of his ended up getting blown in half by a Vietcong bomber while on leave in Saigon; the friend survived the initial explosion, and while Rambo was struggling to help gather up what was left of him, the man could only scream "I wanna go home!"
  • Destination Defenestration: In the police station breakout, one of the random police officers gets kicked out of a window by Rambo.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the novel, Galt is killed when Rambo first escapes the police station when Rambo slices open his stomach with a straight razor. In the movie, he survives long enough to participate in the manhunt and is killed by falling out of the police helicopter.
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: Christmas decorations are visible throughout the movie, but 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 wordlessly remind the viewer that Rambo is on the lam in a wife beater and jeans during a very cold time of the year.
  • Dirty Cop: Possibly almost all of the cops, especially Galt and Teasle, due to being prejudiced against drifters because of their own rules, and their mistreatment of inmates.
    • Downplayed with Mitch who is clearly uncomfortable with the way they’re treating John at the station but is the youngest member of the force and completely outnumbered so his protests don’t do anything.
  • Disney Villain Death: Art Galt falls to his death out of a helicopter. Since this isn't Disney, however, we see his body soon after, and the results aren't pretty.
  • 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.
  • Downer Beginning: The film begins with Rambo visiting the house of Delmar, the only other remaining squadmate at Vietnam War. His wife tells Rambo he died from cancer due to exposure to Agent Orange. Rambo gives her a photo of his with himself and leaves. The smile on his face is gone.
  • Downer Ending:
    • Rambo tells Trautman how traumatic civilian life is for him, breaks down and is arrested. Teasle is grievously wounded, and Hope has been torn apart. Nobody wins.
    • The original ending was much worse, as Rambo has Trautman shoot him to commit Suicide by Cop.
  • The Dragon: Chief deputy Art Galt, who oversees the brutal interrogation of Rambo, and even attempts to shoot him before falling to his death from the police helicopter.
  • The Dreaded: Most of the police and national guardsmen who are hunting Rambo are scared shitless of him.
  • Driver Faces Passenger: An Army soldier does this when Rambo steals his truck, prompting Rambo to remind him to look at the road.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: It is implied (and the director's commentary mentions) that part of the reason Teasle is so hateful towards Rambo is because of the Korean War (where he served) being pretty much forgotten by the American people while Rambo (a Vietnam War vet) is a symbol of the controversial and easily remembered war. Explicit in the novel.
    • Not to mention Rambo himself:
    Rambo: "Back there I could fly a gunship, I could a drive a tank, I was in charge of a million dollar equipment; back here, I can't even hold a job PARKING CARS!"
  • Eagleland: The town of Hope embodies the traits of Type 2, due to the police force there being mostly Dirty Cops who bare unwarranted hostility against Vietnam veterans and drifters. In addition, it indicates the overall United States is Type 2 in terms of the veterans' mistreatment after returning home: Vietnam veterans like Rambo in this film are portrayed are mostly traumatized wrecks who are shunned by society, while Korean War vets like Teasle are also shunned by society, but take their frustrations out on the more mistreated Vietnam vets, who erased the Korean War conflict, making vets like Teasle rancorously jealous that blinded their judgment. This depiction of America is a complete contradiction to the more optimistic pro-America Type 1 depiction in the sequels.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Needless to say, this film is unlike the One-Man Army action flicks that make up the rest of the Rambo franchise. Here, the action-packed blockbuster scenarios that the following franchise is known for is Played for Horror. It also happens to be the best-reviewed in the series. Notably, in stark contrast to the pop-culture image of an invincible screaming Rambo gunning down hordes of enemies, here he kills exactly one person on-screen, and even then only by accident.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Rambo is clearly an elite soldier but his head is so fucked up that his life couldn't be called glamorous. He has presumably drifted from place to place since the war, clearly needs a good meal and a bath, and is physcholgically hanging on by a thread. His escape and evasion is hardly glamorous too and shows the difficulties of surviving in the wild with minimal gear. Also subverted in the novel with Teasle being a Jerkass but also a decorated veteran from the 1st Marine division in the Korean War.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The opening of the movie shows Rambo walking down the road, by himself, as a huantingly somber instrumental version of "It's a Long Road" plays in the background, followed immediately by Rambo finding out that the last man from his former special ops unit is dead, to which he simply walks off with barely a word. This tells us everything we need to know about Rambo: he's a lone soldier, on his own without friends or purpose now that the war is over.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Mitch is horrified when Art Galt strikes Rambo and knocks him to the floor before the cops start to clean him up:
    Mitch: Galt, what the fuck was that!?
    Galt: Well, the man said "clean him up." [kicks Rambo] Clean him up.
  • Expy: The movie's depiction of Teasle has more in common with the Batman comic book character Harvey Bullock than the novel's version of the character. As both Teasle and Bullock are a Fat Bastard Jerkass Dirty Cop who are willing to antagonize and arrest The Hero due to their backgrounds they loathed (Rambo is a Vietnam vet and a drifter which are both things Teasle despised, while Batman is a costumed vigilante who Bullock views as a freak). However, instead of a Fat Slob as Bullock was to a point he is compared to an unmade bed, Teasle was at least clean and well-groomed.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Rambo first escapes from the station, Galt was about to open fire until Teasle stops him as Galt would have harmed an Innocent Bystander while shooting at Rambo. Then during the initial manhunt, when Teasle hears the gunshots from Galt's attempt to personally execute Rambo out of spite, he tries to radio Galt to remind him that Rambo is to be taken in alive as part of police protocol. Even after Galt was killed and Teasle vows to get his revenge, he still wanted Rambo to be taken in alive, only this time is the case of The Only One Allowed to Defeat You as he wants to be the one to deliver the final blow against him. Also see Pet the Dog below for more information.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: When Trautman tries to explain to Teasle that Rambo would listen to him to stand down because he is not just his commanding officer, but also a trustworthy Parental Substitute, Teasle responds:
    Teasle: Jesus Christ, where the hell do you people come from?
  • Evil Is Petty: The reason Galt wanted to kill Rambo was for his hatred of Vietnam veterans and to retaliate for being physically assaulted back in the station when Rambo first escaped from custody which was prompted by his mistreatment.
  • Evil Virtues: Teasle is a despicable Dirty Cop Big Bad, but in contrast to the later villains, he is more fleshed out in comparison due to being a Benevolent Boss towards his deputies, being more civilized than his dragon Galt, having Pet the Dog moments with the deleted scenes showing more of this aspect, having hints of him being a Tragic Villain and a Tragic Bigot for being a Korean War vet having to live in another's shadow, believing in Honor Before Reason for himself as a Korean War vet even it overlaps with Revenge Before Reason for Galt's death, deciding to just use his infantry tactics and a M16 rifle for the showdown than a helicopter gunship that the Russians would use and finally choosing to Face Death with Dignity after accepting defeat by Rambo.
  • Fallen Hero: Some of the Dirty Cop antagonists were fellow military veterans like Rambo and Trautman:
    • Teasle, as a Korean War veteran like in the novel (and technically a fellow military vet in general like Rambo and Trautman), was presumably responsible for many noble actions on the battlefield to be hailed a War Hero and awarded a Silver Star, Purple Heart and ADSC for his services that all reside in his office back in the station. The trend of Vietnam veterans being the talk of the town that make the Korean War a forgotten conflict has reduced him to a Jerkass Green-Eyed Monster Dirty Cop with an Irrational Hatred of Vietnam veterans by the time of the film.
    • Galt himself is fellow military veteran too according to the film's DVD's Survival Mode, except he had never seen combat unlike the other said three characters. He himself in the film became a worse Jerkass Green-Eyed Monster Dirty Cop then Teasle as he did most of the sadistic abuse towards Rambo presumably out of rancorous jealousy for being a vet who had seen actual combat, while Galt did not.
  • False Friend: It is implied that Galt's friendship between him and Teasle was fake from the get-go if not just one-sided that Teasle was oblivious of, given his despicable characterization that makes viewers wonder what Teasle and his wife sees in him and Galt refusing to listen to Teasle's orders to take Rambo alive like a true friend should if not just a subordinate.
  • Falsely Reformed Villain: Galt left behind a considerable criminal record and had been arrested in the past according to the DVD's Survival Mode easter egg trivia, yet unlike Mitch who is a Reformed Criminal who became a deputy out of community service and genuinely became a better person, Galt hasn't learned a thing from his crimes and abuses his position as a deputy sergeant up to his death. It can also be presumed he may have manipulated Teasle and used their so-called friendship to get him a job to act out his violent tendencies with no consequences as long Teasle backs him up.
  • Fat Bastard: While not exactly fat and more big boned, Teasle has an imposing physique and described by Rambo to be "king shit".
  • Faux Affably Evil:
    • When Teasle and Rambo first met, Teasle at first seemed to be courteous to a man on a cold December morning and offered him a ride. Teasle's true colors then show when he casually tells Rambo that because he is a scruffy and long-haired drifter, he is not wanted in the town of Hope. According to a deleted scene with Kern and Teasle, this trope is probably what Teasle meant when he said he initially and very briefly treated him as "one of (his) neighbor's kids".
    • Galt has a carefree attitude to the horrible acts he regularly commits. In his debut, he channels his ability to demonize those lesser than him through condescendingly put on a laid-back and somewhat jovial veneer, but when he loses his patience, his true colors show. Even when mistreating Rambo, he acts as mostly a Soft-Spoken Sadist. Then during the manhunt, when trying to get a bead on Rambo, he cheerfully and sadistically shouts "Hey soldier boy!" to him just for him to stick his head out to blow away.
  • Fauxshadow: Teasle asks Trautman if he'd give Rambo a kiss or blow his brains out, foreshadowing the original ending.
  • The Film of the Book: First Blood by David Morrell, as mentioned above.
  • Fire Hose Cannon: One of the tortures the deputies subject Rambo to in the cells is blasting him with a high-pressure fire hose.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Pausing the film at the right moment during the scenes in Teasle's office reveals he has a collection of war medals, similar to Rambo's. In the novel, it's suggested that Teasle and Rambo are the same, as the former was also a Korea war veteran, albeit one who has a chip on his shoulder due to not getting the same kind of attention as Vietnam-deployed counterparts.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse:
    • Teasle absolutely views Rambo as a dangerous fugitive criminal needed to be taken down while not caring if Galt's abuse started this mess nor Rambo's PTSD that he suffers from.
    • While Trautman is more sympathetic to Rambo as his friend and former commander, he also tells Rambo that he's done as much to escalate the conflict as Teasle has, and by the climax outright accuses him of having done it deliberately so he could have his own "private war".
  • Genre-Busting: This film is not only a blockbuster action thriller like its sequels, but also an anti-war drama, a rural manhunt crime-drama, a foggy and misty Southern Gothic movie except set in the Washington mountains than the South's swamps unlike most examples and an overall Psychological Thriller dimensionally rolled into one.
  • Get It Over With: After being badly wounded by Rambo, Teasle, defeated, but Defiant to the End, goads Rambo to kill him by shouting, "Go on, you crazy son of a bitch, finish it!".
  • Good Guns, Bad Guns: The deputies, state troopers and National Guardsmen 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 has a holstered M1911 on his person which is usually well hidden by his coat or the camera.
  • Good Versus Good: With the exception of Rabid Cop and bonafide Dirty Cop Art Galt and maybe fellow crooked cop Teasle, 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.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: First Blood is a rare gem among the 80's action films as it has no clear good guys vs bad guys but a shell shocked veteran up against a squad of flawed yet not downright evil Sheriff and his deputies. And Rambo himself spends the majority of the film avoiding killing any of them. Outside of Galt but he was a Hate Sink character and the act was in self-defense, and an accident.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Teasle's Irrational Hatred of Rambo is fueled by the fact he is a Vietnam veteran stealing attention away from Korean War veterans like Teasle himself.
  • Groin Attack: Rambo's first attack during his escape is a groin kick against Deputy Ward. One especially unfortunate deputy named Balford also appears to suffer one of these when a wooden spike trap slams into him at pelvic level.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Teasle in the first act increasingly loses his patience with Rambo, starting with Rambo returning to Hope, then his refusal of going through the process of being booked while in police custody before finally culminated in Galt's death that really pushed Teasle over the edge.
  • 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.
  • Hate Sink: Galt really was there so that nobody would feel bad about Rambo killing him. Even if it was indirectly.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Teasle serves as a Hero Antagonist to capture fugitive from justice Rambo, but internally just to prove that Korean War vets such as Teasle are more badass than Vietnam War vets such as Rambo and to avenge the death of Art Galt, who's a despicable character to begin with, accidentally caused by Rambo. In general, despite doing his hardest to uphold the law and bring in his brand of justice, it turned him into a viciously prejudiced Dirty Cop and Rabid Cop in order to do so in his view.
  • Heroic Breakdown: Rambo has one of these when Trautman confronts him in the sheriff's office and he tearfully laments about how he was one of the best soldiers of his time, and as soon as he returned to the U.S., he gets treated as a Hero with Bad Publicity worse than trash and can't even find a job or a decent meal.
  • Hero Antagonist: Teasle is performing his duty defending the well being of his town, after all, and still genuinely believes so as he goes about at the expense of Rambo. Subverted since he's also The Bully and something of a Dirty Cop, as the reason Rambo goes on his rampage in the first place is because of how he and his deputies mistreated him for no good reason, and when Rambo accidentally kills Galt and tries to surrender, Teasle instantly tries to shoot Rambo dead instead of arrest him.
    • Teasle plays this role completely straight in the novel to a point he is revealed to be the true hero.
  • Hollywood Healing: Averted. Rambo gives each of the deputies an incapacitating, but non-lethal injury. Each are in excruciating pain and are out of action for the rest of the movie.
    • Played somewhat straight with Rambo who suffers a multitude of significant injuries throughout the film. However it is lampshaded by Trautman that he has been trained to ignore pain and fight on.
  • Honor Before Reason: While his manhunt for Rambo and his refusal to back down is driven by his Revenge Before Reason desire to avenge Galt's death, it's also driven by Teasle's dislike of Vietnam vets and to prove that that Korean War vets are much as efficient as any other soldier who fought in combat and is willing to Face Death with Dignity rather than retreat, grovel or cry like some Dirty Coward if Rambo ever does get the upper hand.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Teasle is genuinely friends with Galt and wants to avenge his death, but not only Galt was a despicable piece of work not worth to avenge, his so-called friendship with him appears to be one-sided due to Galt's own selfish disloyalty towards Teasle at the time of his death.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Lampshaded by Rambo just before his Heroic Breakdown:
    Col. Trautman: You did everything to make this private war happen. You've done enough damage. This mission is over, Rambo. Do you understand me? This mission is over! Look at them out there! Look at them! If you won't end this now, they will kill you. Is that what you want? It's over Johnny. It's over!
    Rambo: Nothing is over! Nothing! You just don't turn it off! It wasn't my war! You asked me, I didn't ask you! And I did what I had to do to win! But somebody wouldn't let us win! And I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport, protesting me, spitting. Calling me baby killer and all kinds of vile crap! Who are they to protest me, huh? Who are they? Unless they've been me and been there and know what the hell they're yelling about!
    • In a deleted scene, Teasle argued to state police officer Kern that he did his duty as a police officer to book Rambo for vagrancy and resisting arrest:
    Teasle: I did my job, Dave, I booked him for vagrancy and resisting arrest.
  • Ignored Expert: Teasle intentionally ignores Trautman's advice on how to handle Rambo, despite the track record so far.
  • Inspector Javert: Teasle stubbornly views himself as the police officer who holds the responsibility to stop criminals no matter the cost and views Rambo as the criminal needed to be caught.
  • 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 Near-Villain Victory Hope Spot when they think they've managed to kill him, Rambo's old commander has this to say:
    Trautman: Vagrancy, wasn't it? That's gonna look real good on his gravestone 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.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While the manhunt is driven by Teasle's dislike of Vietnam vets and Rambo's Accidental Murder of Galt, he is valid that Rambo should not be let off that easy after committing what Teasle thought was first degree murder (Rambo was also responsible for destruction of property).
    Teasle: Now don't give me any of that crap Trautman. Do you think Rambo was the only guy who had a tough time in Vietnam? He killed a police officer for Christ's sake!
    • Furthermore, when he first arrested Rambo, he was correct that Rambo should not be carrying a dangerous combat knife in public which makes it at least one (possibly the only) good reason to prosecute him and to make matters worse, Rambo was probably carrying it without a license as he could not afford one due to being shunned by the public to support him. It also does not help that Rambo was not giving out a straight clear answer when Teasle, who had already worn out his patience by Rambo's return, first questions him over it. However, the penalty Rambo received was harsher than the crime itself, thanks to the other charges for vagrancy and resisting arrest. Also subverted as Teasle only found the knife when he searched Rambo's bag without Probable Cause, a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution's Bill of Rights (unlawful search and seizure) that would have resulted in any judge throwing the case out of court for police misconduct.
    • However, there is one fact that can mostly be agreed with Teasle, though in his case he is Right for the Wrong Reasons, that Rambo is a dangerous individual who is a threat to public safety.
    • While arresting Rambo for vagrancy seems like Disproportionate Retribution today, but it was legitimately a criminal offense in the post-Vietnam years and Teasle was just fulfilling what other officers in America were commonly doing at the time towards the homeless vets. The novel includes a "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer in the foreword of more recent editions.
    • Ultimately in the film this trope is Subverted as Rambo would’ve turned himself in peacefully had he gotten the chance to calm down. Teasle was the one escalating the conflict and pushing an obviously traumatized individual too far.
  • Karmic Death: After abusing and tormenting Rambo and then going against orders to kill the man himself, during which he neglects his own safety to land the fatal shot, Galt is sent plummeting to his death when Rambo is forced to defend himself against the helicopter. His death may have been accidental on Rambo's part, but certainly not what one can call undeserved given his recklessness and sadism.
  • Kick the Dog: Art Galt tortures Rambo for no reason, triggering his PTSD-induced rampage in the first place. Then he decides to kill Rambo in cold blood for beating him up.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Trautman explains to Rambo that he was shuffled off to a do-nothing desk job at the Pentagon some time after the war ended:
    Rambo: I tried to get in touch with you, but the guys at Bragg never knew where to find you.
    Trautman: Well, I haven't been spending much time there lately. They've got me down in D.C., I'm shining a seat with my ass.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Way before the inclusion of the more disturbing and vile Tint in the fourth film, Galt fulfilled this role of sorts due to being more vile and lawless than Teasle through his cruelty towards Rambo and then his attempt to kill him in retribution for assaulting him after Galt tormented him. The music that plays during his intense scene when he tries to shoot Rambo in cold blood before meeting his death reflects on this trope Galt borders on and can feel like it came straight out of a horror film.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Throughout the movie, Teasle refuses to stand down unless Rambo stands down first, but by the climax, it takes Teasle being riddled with M60 bullets to get to his conscience to accept defeat.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Sheriff Teasle orders his deputies to do this in a fifty feet apart skirmish line he learned in Korea whilst hunting Rambo in the woods, despite losing two of them to Rambo moments earlier because they were separated from the group.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: In contrast to the sequel Big Bads and The Dragon Art Galt, the Starter Villain Teasle is by far ranked the least terrible and villainous out of the major foes that Rambo faced.
  • Lighter and Softer: 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 it in self-defense and two cops who he ran off the road (and who quite possibly survived).
  • Made of Explodium: One of the police cars crashes into another car, and the latter car explodes.
  • Made of Iron: Averted. While Rambo is able to fight through his many injuries he is shown reacting to pain and the many injuries he suffers do add up throughout the movie. The flashback to the Cold-Blooded Torture he endured in Vietnam shows him screaming in agony and still having the scars.
    • Completely averted with the cops Rambo injures. They’re in extreme pain as John delivers each blow and are essentially out of service for the rest of the movie.
  • Mangst: Rambo's been tormented by the deaths of his squad in the Vietnam War and how he was treated when he returned home, and learns right at the start of the film that the one other surviving squadmate he knew of died of cancer. He doesn't show his feelings, however, for most of the film, apart from Rambo telling Col. Trautman over the radio about what became of his squad during their first talk. It's not until the end that he breaks down crying and lets out all of his anguish in a long speech.
  • Manly Tears: The end result of Rambo finally opening up about his Mangst.
  • Mildly Military: The National Guardsmen sent to trap Rambo. They barely use any tactics, avoid direct confrontation with Rambo and their commander moans at Teasle that he has work in the morning.
  • 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.
  • Morality Chain:
    • Trautman is able to talk Rambo out of going through with his massacre while he's been pushed, and not only lives, but even convinces him to surrender!
    • Trautman also tries to be this towards Teasle, presumably as Teasle himself is not only a fellow military vet, but specifically a fellow Korean War vet like Trautman who likely understood how he felt. Unfortunately, Teasle does a Redemption Rejection towards Trautman's attempts to reason him that leads him to be wounded by Rambo in battle.
  • 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... 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.
    • The film is kicked off by one of these. Teasle attempts to bully Rambo and throw him out of town, completely unaware that Rambo is a highly-trained Green Beret. When Rambo finally has enough, he easily beats down an entire station worth of cops and escapes on a motorcycle.
  • Named by the Adaptation: John Rambo had no first name in the original novel.
  • Necessarily Evil: Teasle is a Knight Templar Dirty Cop driven by mostly hatred against drifters and Vietnam veterans, but believes his methods are the way to bring justice.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Teasle does not care that his and his department's mistreatment of Rambo is what caused him to go bonkers in the first place, never accepting responsibility for it.
      *After Lester revealing Galt and the other deputies had been Bullying a Dragon towards Rambo, with Kern calling out Teasle's deputies for causing this situation in the first place.*
      Teasle: It doesn't make one goddamn bit of difference, Dave, and you know it! If one of my deputies... gets out of line with a prisoner then the prisoner comes to me with it. And if I find out it's like he says I kick the deputy's ass! Me! The Law! That's the way it's gotta be! People start fucking around with the law then all hell breaks loose!
    • In a deleted scene from Teasle's and Trautman's initial encounter, Trautman tells Teasle that he picked the wrong man to push (referring to the mistreatment he and his deputies gave to Rambo), but Teasle argues Rambo picked the wrong man (likely referring to Rambo trying to deliberately walk into town to Teasle's opposition that led to Rambo's arrest):
      *After being told by Trautman that he picked the wrong man to push.*
      Teasle: No, Trautman. He picked the wrong man!
    • Zig-Zagged by Rambo himself, who insists that he only did what he had to do to win like he's been trained since "they drew first blood, not [him]." Trautman is more sympathetic, knowing of Rambo's PTSD, but also points out that Rambo "did some pushing of [his] own" by both deliberately walking back into town and stubbornly stone-walling with the deputies before he finally snaps from mistreatment when he could have just walked away and avoided it all. He could have even walked away after the National Guard fail to blow him up and bury him since almost everyone but Trautman wrote him off as dead, but he decides to start his "private war" by attacking the town of Hope.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Teasle is extremely prejudiced against Vietnam War vets, but however, he is more respectful towards Colonel Trautman, likely due to Trautman being not only a Vietnam War vet, but also a Korean War vet like Teasle, which is only thing that prevents Teasle from being totally hostile towards him unlike to Rambo. Even earlier when Rambo first escapes from custody, he initially wanted to take in Rambo alive as part of police protocol despite his prejudice against him for his background unlike Galt who just want to kill him for petty reasons. It's only after his friend Galt had been killed that Teasle loses any moral restraint he has inside to kill Rambo to avenge him.
  • Nominal Hero: Rambo's only fighting to survive and rather brutal with his methods (despite refusing to kill his enemies).
  • One-Man Army: We won't see the full extent of this until the next film, but Colonel Trautman warns Teasle that Rambo is one of these. This is, of course, after Rambo has incapacitated Teasle's eight-man squad by himself, killed his chief deputy (by accident!), and had Teasle himself at knifepoint.
    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.
  • 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 thigh) that's mostly healed by the next time we see him.
    • Colonel Trautman is also the only one who understands the gravity of the situation.
  • The Paranoiac: Teasle initially drove Rambo out of town and then arrested him when returning due to him being a drifter who Teasle believes would disrupt harmony in Hope. In the novel, however, Teasle is Properly Paranoid, due to Rambo being more of a irredeemable psycho than the movie.
  • Pet the Dog: Teasle is a police officer after all and these moments makes Teasle human and fallible. In a deleted scene, he shows remorse towards Galt's widow, who's grieving over Galt's corpse, and attempts to apologize to a deputy's wife for her husband's injuries Rambo caused. He then justified his manhunt by listing out the devastation Rambo caused ranging from his deputies' incapacitation to Galt's widow's grief. In the bar scene, he has a civil talk with Trautman (even started his talk with him by apologizing for being "out of line") after thinking Rambo was killed by the National Guard, confessing his desire to kill Rambo himself to him. In a deleted part of this scene, at the beginning of the scene, he returned the gesture of being congratulated for Rambo's "death," while at the end of the scene, he then offered Trautman a ride to the airport. During the manhunt, when Orval was wounded, he tends to Orval's wounds and then when Deputy Balford was wounded by a booby trap, he freed Balford. Also, just before his final showdown with Rambo, he alerts the townspeople to get off the streets and hide in their homes to be away from danger when Rambo arrives.
    • According to the DVD's Survival Mode easter egg trivia, Teasle's resume in his profile included being a little league coach.
    • This is demeaned however, in a deleted scene involving an argument with Kern where Teasle tries to justify his treatment of Rambo, claiming that he "tried to do him a favor" and treated him like "one of (his) neighbor's kids" (likely referring to Teasle's initial civil and jovial welcome to Rambo while trying to escort him out of town and trying to hold back his Irrational Hatred of Rambo being a 'Nam vet while being civil with him, before Rambo pushed his Berserk Button by purposely returning to town that prompts him to arrest and mistreat him out of said irrational hatred):
      Teasle: I tried to do him a favor, I treated him like he was one of my neighbor's kids.
    • However, the novel's depiction of the character has more Pet the Dog moments than the movie's depiction and was more of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold in a way.
  • Played for Horror: Not only the typical action adventure plot is Played for Drama, it is also this that makes this film's situation a nightmare for the Action Hero.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Rambo would have never come to the area had he known his squadmate Delmar Barry had died.
  • 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.
  • Police Brutality: Galt and the other deputies are ordered to get Rambo cleaned up for his trial. Apparently, this involves spraying him with a fire hose, striking him full-force with a baton when his back is turned, and restraining him in order to shave him dry. When Rambo escapes, Galt tries to shoot at him with a hunting rifle as he flees armed with only a knife, against orders to capture him alive and uncaring about whether innocent bystanders are in the way. He doesn't stop there, either.
  • Porn Stache: Rambo's flashbacks shows he had this.
  • Post-Adventure Adventure: Before the events of the story, where John Rambo is a poor drifter who runs afoul of a small town sheriff (in Kentucky in the novel, Washington State in the film), Rambo was a part of an elite Green Beret unit during the Vietnam War, had a friend die in his arms, became a captured POW, escaped captivity with a surviving squadmate, and had received the Medal of Honor for actions above and beyond the call of duty. An extreme case of PTSD, developed from these experiences, is what triggers Rambo's escalating conflict with the local police.
  • Powder Trail: Rambo blows up a sporting goods store by tossing cartons of bullets and cans of lighter in a pile, then dousing it with gunpowder and laying a powder trail to make a fuse.
  • Protagonist Title: in Italy, the movie is simply known as Rambo.
  • Psycho for Hire: Galt's sadistic and brutal when it comes to treating Rambo in incarceration and reckless when it comes to hunting him.
  • Punch-Clock Hero: The National Guardsmen are made up of the townspeople of Hope (such as the leader Lt. Clinton Morgan being the town's pharmacist) who only go into service part-time such as volunteering to help capture Rambo with inept results. However, they could also qualify as being Punch Clock Villains for being Mooks for Teasle.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: With the exception of Teasle's vile dragon Galt, most of the deputies such as Mitch and Lester and the National Guardsmen are just regular guys doing their jobs and are not really bad people (well, maybe except Deputy Ward, for his willingness to go along with and turning to the blind eye to Galt's abuse of Rambo back at the station and even taunting Rambo not to struggle unless he wants to get his throat cut as he prepares to dry shave him, leading to his escape).
  • Rabid Cop:
    • Teasle is a Jerkass cop who uses heavy-handed protocol against vagrants and gets other officers to do the rest of his dirty work for him at the station.
    • Galt is downright sadistic and brutal when he mistreats Rambo and reckless during the manhunt for him when he doesn't give second thought to a Innocent Bystander in the way when trying to kill Rambo or Teasle's orders to capture Rambo alive.
  • Real Award, Fictional Character:
    • Rambo is identified as a Medal of Honor recipient.
    • Teasle also has a Silver Star, a Purple Heart, and a Distinguished Service Cross on display in his office. According to the novel and its author's commentary, he served in the Korean War.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Colonel Trautman is level headed, practical and wants to spare both his protege's life and the lives of the policemen. Justified as he's also A Father to His Men.
    • Deputy Mitch Rogers also counts, due to abiding by his responsibility as a police officer in contrast to the unhinged and power-mad Teasle and Galt as well as his Jerkass colleagues, knowing from the get-go back at the station that mistreating Rambo was a bad idea and against usual police protocol, which includes that inmates should deserve fair treatment no matter what, while also correctly expressing concern for Rambo's well-being after witnessing his physical battle scars from 'Nam. However, he is of lower rank and most of his advice is ignored by his superiors.
    • Deputy Lester too, despite getting his nose broken by Rambo, he still did what was right and recognized that Rambo was not entirely to blame, making him one of the only decent deputies other than Mitch in the film.
    • Officer Kern of the State Police. Unlike the local Sheriff's Department, his ego isn't attached to the case and he's merely trying to bring Rambo in peacefully. He also gets extremely pissed when it comes to light how Rambo was mistreated by Teasle's deputies.
    • Played with Teasle in the movie. While it is mostly averted in regards to his general despicable behavior, treatment of Rambo and his lust for vengeance for Galt's death, especially in comparison to State Police Captain Kern, his deputies Mitch and Lester and Colonel Trautman (who all play this role straight unlike Teasle), he still care for the welfare of his town and his deputies and did shown some respect towards Trautman despite tensions for being Rambo's associate and a Vietnam vet and doing a Redemption Rejection towards him at the climax. Also, he proved that he had the basic decency to be able to acknowledge that he may have been in the wrong, and was more misguided and overzealous than actively malicious until Galt's death whereupon he was emotionally compromised and was clearly acting irrationally.
  • Re-Cut: The first rough cut was over three hours, possibly three and a half hours long and according to Sylvester Stallone, it was so bad that it made him and his agent sick. Sylvester Stallone wanted to buy the movie and destroy it thinking that it was a career killer. After heavy re-editing, the film was cut down to 93 minutes; this version was ultimately released in theatres.
  • Redemption Rejection: After thinking Rambo is dead, Teasle mellows down and meets with Trautman to apologize for being a Jerkass Rabid Cop about the ordeal and confessing his desire to kill Rambo to him, making it seem he is preparing to walk away from his personal manhunt to Took a Level in Kindness, but when he hears Rambo is still alive and Trautman still tries to reason Teasle, Teasle aggressively rebuffs Trautman's attempts to take on the chance to achieve his own ends by killing Rambo.
  • Reformed Criminal: According to the DVD's Survival Mode easter egg trivia, Mitch was once a car stereo and speaker thief who own marijuana, for all of that he was busted and became deputy out of performing community service. By the time of the film, Mitch became a better person in contrast to his aforementioned criminal record and his leniency towards Rambo was likely due to knowing out of personal experience of being an ex-con himself and making sure he'll be treated fairly possibly out of Mitch being mistreated similarly by authorities himself following his own past conviction.
  • Reusable Lighter Toss: After knocking over some fuel pumps with his stolen truck, Rambo tosses a lighter on the puddle of gas.
  • Revenge Before Reason:
    • Teasle is far more interested in killing Rambo for the death of Galt than he is about things like the damage Rambo is doing to the town and his men.
    • Galt himself was so determined to get a shot on Rambo that he sat on the edge of a moving helicopter, up in the air, with no safety harness.
    • After Galt's death Rambo wants to deescalate the situation. After the National Guard almost buries him alive in a cave he changes his mind. Even though he's presumed dead and basically free to escape the area, he chooses to return to Hope, destroy the town and kill Teasle, which leads to his arrest.
  • Revised Ending: The originally filmed ending was much closer to the novel by David Morrell, which had Trautman killing the 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. The original ending was played after a 2008 theatrical reissue, following the closing credits and a textual introduction.
  • Save the Villain: Trautman, when he makes his debut and informs Teasle, tries to make sure both Rambo and Teasle make it out alive.
    Col. Trautman: I don't think you understand. I didn't come to rescue Rambo from you. I came here to rescue you from him.
    Sheriff Teasle: Well, we all appreciate your concern Colonel, I will try to be extra careful.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: With a dash of Dirty Coward. When Rambo goes berserk in the jail and starts fighting the deputies, Preston, who'd been coiling up the hose, decides to run away away rather than help his companions.
  • Self-Surgery: Rambo sewing up his wounds in the tunnels.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: One of the most famous depictions of posttraumatic stress disorder in film. Rambo was a POW in the Vietnam War who endured Cold-Blooded Torture at the hands of the Vietcong, and is the Sole Survivor of his unit (he learns at the beginning the only other survivor is dead). He ends up abused in police custody, bringing all his memories of the war back, which soon includes a memory of said torture that triggers an extreme fight-or-flight response, setting off the action.
    • This also comes up in Rambo's monologue at the end, in which he recalls the death of his friend from a bomb in a shoe-shine box, which ended with "pieces of him all over me" - as Rambo speaks, he rips the ammo bandolier from his chest in a panic, clearly reliving that moment.
      Rambo: I can't get it out of my head. I've dreamed it seven years. Everyday I have this. And sometimes I wake up and I don't know where I am. I don't talk to anybody. Sometimes a day - a week. I can't put it out of my mind.
  • Slow-Motion Fall: This happens when a character falls out of a helicopter to his death.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • The novel by David Morrell had Trautman killing dying Rambo with a shotgun. However, due to Rambo's more sympathetic portrayal in the film, the ending was changed to Rambo being arrested instead.
    • Teasle was also killed in the book, but spared in the film. In fact all the other cops also died except the guy whose nose Rambo breaks, and that's only because Rambo hit him so hard he blinded him, so he is effectively out of commission and doesn't accompany his comrades on the hunt.
  • Stop, or I Will Shoot!: Galt tries repeatedly to shoot a fleeing suspect armed with only a knife, using a hunting rifle at that. Later, Teasle threatens to fire upon Rambo from a cliff if he makes a move, while Rambo is (again) only armed with a knife and has his hands up. A couple steps back and the whole unit follows through.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Rambo is shocked to find that he is treated like a villain when he returns from the war.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Rambo spectacularly blows up half the town during the final onslaught.
  • Suicide by Cop: Quite likely attempted when in the end Rambo decides to face down the National Guard with an M16, even though he's completely surrounded.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Rambo only "goes Rambo" with the M60 for the last few scenes of the film. For most of the film, he uses stealth, his knowledge of the forest terrain and his survival training to avoid or outmaneuver and neutralize the police officers one-by-one. They'll kill him in short order if he tries to take them on directly, and he is aware of this. Later on, when he manages to get a rifle and the National Guard get involved, Rambo has the clear edge over the weekend warriors in terms of experience and training, but because there's a lot of them and only one of him, he spends most of the time running away. He barely manages to avoid getting killed several times. But then again, the National Guard know that they're dealing with a fugitive ex-special forces fighter and are rightly terrified of him, which impacts their own ability to deal with him.
  • Surprisingly Similar Characters: Downplayed, but this movie have some connections to the Batman mythos mostly through the film's characters.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: When Teasle walks in the bar to make amends with Trautman for his Rabid Cop nature, Trautman invites him and even buy a Wild Turkey drink for him before Teasle confesses his desire to kill Rambo to him, while Trautman attempts to reason with Teasle to walk away from his vendetta back to his wife, home and flower garden and appealing towards his status as a civilian now. Sadly, by the climax, Teasle does a Redemption Rejection.
  • Tempting Fate: The Movie. Initially writing Rambo off as a persistent vagrant, Teasle and his men get more than they bargained for when the war veteran outwits them at multiple opportunities. Even after being given an out by Trautman, in the form of allowing Rambo to "slip through the gap" and pick him up quietly in a nearby city after putting out an APB for his arrest, Teasle continues to pursue Rambo, culminating in the latter unleashing his own "private war" on the the town of Hope and its police station.
  • 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.
    • It is also part of the lyrics of "It's a Long Road".
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Rambo himself tries to avoid killing anybody, as the majority of the opposition are Hero Antagonists.
  • Token Evil Teammate: While Teasle wants Rambo just as bad he's still willing to go by the book on apprehending him but Galt is not only the most corrupt of the town's law enforcement he was willing to do whatever it takes to bring Rambo down, to the point of attempting to open fire on him in the middle of a crowded sidewalk, with no regard for the pedestrians he could have hit (Teasle stops him at the last second).
  • Token Good Teammate: Lester doesn't take part in Rambo's torture, and when Mitch confesses the truth, that it was Galt's torment that set Rambo off, Lester comes and relays this information to Teasle. He seems ashamed of what was done even though he didn't take part in it.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Prior to his death Galt was sitting on the edge of a small helicopter with no seatbelt or safety harness. Even if Rambo hadn't thrown the rock that caused his death this was an incredibly stupid thing to do.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Galt is a sadistic brute with a Villainous Friendship with Teasle, who is fellow Jerkass like Galt and its likely both characters encouraged each others' bad behaviors that made them Rabid Cops and Dirty Cops (Teasle however is a Knight Templar and a Well-Intentioned Extremist, but likely his reliance on his bad friend Galt may have play a part in Teasle going down the route of He Who Fights Monsters that makes him bad as Galt and even causing his fall from grace to his decorated Korean War veteran past). He even made a posthumous influence on Teasle after his death that prompts Teasle to misguidedly avenge his death against Rambo that further makes him goes down further into darkness.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Hope, Washington, in a way, whose own dark secret behind the facade of a quiet and boring little town is that the police force they entrust are led mostly by vicious Dirty Cops prejudiced against drifters and Vietnam veterans, treats the public town as their private property and have the tendency to mistreat their convicts.
  • Trash the Set: Rambo ultimately wrecks the town's police station, pumping several hundred rounds of M16 ammo into the place in an attempt to kill Teasle.
  • Trauma Button: Rambo's escape from custody is set off when the deputies try to forcefully shave him, which triggers a Vietnam War flashback to being strung up and tortured with a knife as a POW.
  • Trespassing Hero: Rambo is viewed as one by Teasle, who thought Rambo was trying to trespass into his town of Hope that Teasle seemingly treats as private property and arrested him for it with the charge of vagrancy as a more likely substitute for it due to no such charge as trespassing into a town that in general is usually a public area.
  • Try and Follow: Pursued through the woods, Rambo escapes the on-foot policemen by jumping from a small cliff, using a tall tree's branches to soften his fall. It still hurts, though.
  • Tuckerization: According to Stallone in the DVD commentary, the names of the people on Rambo's team in Vietnam (as read by Col. Trautman) are actually names of various people of the film's crew, including make-up artist Michael Westmore and costume designer Tom Bronson.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Thanks to his Actionized Sequels, Rambo is shorthand for a badass soldier who takes on whole armies and wins while suffering only minor setbacks at best, and when the average person thinks of his films, they think ultra-patriotic war movies in which the enemies of America are destroyed. With this, it's easy to forget that the first film, First Blood, was an anti-war film protesting the degree to which veterans of The Vietnam War were dehumanized and mistreated. Rambo here is a homeless man unable to keep a job thanks to his now-useless skill set, who is tormented daily by PTSD from the war and the fact that he is the only survivor of his squad (he learns right at the start that the only other survivor he knew of is dead), but keeps his feelings bottled up just to function as a human being. His enemies are not a foreign army, but local small-town policemen who abuse him for no good reason, symbolizing the civilian mistreatment of veterans returning from the war and how veterans felt about it.
    The one time Rambo is against a group of enemies, it is a single-digit number and he takes them on one at a time using stealth and cunning. When faced with 200, he backs down and surrenders with encouragement from Trautman, and his reign of terror ends in him suffering a mental breakdown where he lets out all his bottled-up feelings summarizing how tormented and unable to live as a civilian he's become. What's more is that throughout the film, he goes out of his way to not kill anybody because he just wants the abusive cops to leave him alone; the only exception is both a complete accident and a Karmic Death. That's not even getting into how the film was intended to end with Rambo killing himself because he can't adapt to civilian life, or how it was based on a novel where Rambo does kill lots of people but is portrayed as a villain! The overall impression one gets from the film is a deconstruction of Rambo's popular image—or it would be, if it weren't his debut.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Teasle would almost be justified in disregarding Trautman's seemingly-overblown warnings of just how dangerous Rambo is, were it not for the fact that both Teasle and his deputies were just expertly taken down shortly before by Rambo, who made it very clear that they were only alive because he didn't want them dead.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: In the eyes of the town of Hope, Teasle is their sheriff hunting for an escaped fugitive and a Hero Antagonist after all. In addition, according to the DVD's Survival Mode, Teasle had many affiliations in the Hope area and was a beloved member of the community, as shown in the film when he seemed to know everyone who walked past. Teasle at one point won the Hope Little League Coach of the Year award, as well as the Kiwanis Service Award in 1968, a Hope community service award in 1973 and a Mayor's Circle award in 1978. He was a member of the local Hope Kiwanis and Elks Clubs, the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Rifle Association. However, if the ending is any indication, this trope will end for him once the truth about what happened to Rambo that led to his escape and rampage through town gets out.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Galt absolutely loses his cool after Rambo assaulted him, making him intent on killing him in retaliation, even if he has to disobey police protocol and his own best friend Teasle and threatens the helicopter pilot to fly straight. After Rambo threw a rock in self-defense at the helicopter Galt was in while trying to gun him down, Galt pathetically screams in terror as he falls to his death.
  • Villainous Friendship: Galt has one with Teasle. However, it seemingly appears to be one-sided and hollow that was oblivious to Teasle as Galt ignores Teasle's orders on the radio to take Rambo alive and tries to gun down Rambo in cold blood, which would lead to his death.
  • Villainous Underdog: Teasle is a retroactive example, unlike future Big Bads in the sequels. He's no genocidal warlord or some Large Ham madman, just an Inspector Javert Hero Antagonist small town sheriff trying to apprehend an escaped fugitive with moments of being a Tragic Villain which drove him to have a bias towards Rambo, while he relies on his Korean War combat experience to fight the iconic One-Man Army. Ironically, the first film was a "cheer for the underdog" story with Rambo being the underdog, more so than Teasle himself if he applies as this trope.
  • Villainous Valor: Unlike the later outrageous Dirty Communist villains in the sequels, Teasle here is just a hick town sheriff doing his job even he counts for being a Dirty Cop and wanting to avenge Galt's death. However, he is also a Korean War veteran who wants to prove himself to be better than Vietnam veterans after being sick of being in someone else's shadow for so long and relied on his old fashioned infantry combat experience he used in Korea to combat Rambo from thinking of a skirmish line tactic during the initial manhunt to using the rooftop of the police station with nothing, but a rifle and what he learned in past combat rather than an Evil Is Bigger Soviet gunship that the later villains used. When the chips are down, Teasle, despite being wounded and accepting defeat, attempts to angrily Face Death with Dignity and goads Rambo to Get It Over With. All of this actions above are quite noble and honorable even for the absolutely wrong dishonorable reasons.
  • War Is Hell: The war will never end for those who fought it, as the Dirty Cops found out the hard way.
  • Wham Line: Col. Trautman delivers an epic one:
    Col. Trautman: I don’t think you understand, I’m not here to rescue Rambo from you, I’m here to rescue you from John Rambo.
  • 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!"
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Rambo has this with rats, likely due to his war experience. While not outright stated, he reacts in horror to the rats in the cave when they get on him even though they're not attacking him at all.
  • Would Not Shoot a Good Guy: Rambo goes out of his way to avoid deliberately killing any of the policemen, instead trying to take them down non-lethally. The only exception was a complete accident (and would qualify as self-defense given the circumstances even if it wasn't accidental).