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Film / First Blood

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

The film deals with 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...

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).


This film provides examples of:

  • Accidental Murder: Rambo didn't intend to knock Galt out of the chopper; he was just trying to fight back however he could (throwing a rock) and Galt was leaning out of the helicopter when the pilot lost control.
  • 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).
  • Adaptational Heroism: Perhaps more like "adaptational sympathy", but Rambo was a somewhat darker character in the book. The novel puts more emphasis on the fact that the whole situation mostly happens because of Rambo's own pride, and Teasle actually gives him several chances to leave the town peacefully, as opposed to the movie where he takes him in after coming back once. Rambo's actions also seem more like vengeance, whereas in the movie they seem more like self-defense.
  • Adaptational Modesty: Rambo's escape from 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 Woobie 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 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.
    • 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 Relationship Overhaul: Colonel Trautman, is a close friend of Rambo. In the novel, Rambo barely remembers Trautman and is not friends with him.
  • 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.
  • Asshole Victim: Nobody cried when Galt fell out of the helicopter to his death.
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: Rambo's capture, escape and counterattack takes place around Christmastime.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Col. Trautman gives one in his introductory scene. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Child Soldier: Rambo at the end of the film tears up on how Joe Danforth was killed by one (implied to be sent by the Viet Cong) with a shoeshine box boobytrap bomb.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: What sets off the action 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.
  • 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.
  • "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:
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Rabo'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).
  • 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 wifebeater 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Driver Faces Passenger: An Army soldier does this when Rambo steals his truck, prompting Rambo to remind him to look at the road.
  • Eagleland: The town of Hope embodies the traits of Type 2, due to the police force there being mostly Dirty Cops who bares 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 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, as it was unusual compared to its successors in the sense that it's played much closer to a three-dimensional Psychological Thriller than a mindless action film. It also happens to be the best-reviewed in the series.
  • 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 smells and needs a good meal. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • The Film of the Book: First Blood by David Morrell, as mentioned above.
  • 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 is unarmed despite being Colonel Badass which shows he is the truly heroic character as he'll face a Knife Nut Axe-Crazy Shell-Shocked Veteran with a Cool Gun with nothing at all.
    • Actually, Trautman usually has an M1911 .45 holstered on his belt, but it's usually either hidden under his trench coat, hidden on his right side while the camera views him from his left, or just below the field of view. It's only drawn in the non-canonical alternate ending, in which Rambo uses it to kill himself.
  • Good vs. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 sincerely believes he is fulfilling his role as the law in town to look out for its best interests, but unfortunately his iron fisted procedure approach degrades him into a Corrupt Hick Dirty Cop.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: Invoked. Rambo gets picked up by the police for "vagrancy," which leads to them messing with him and dredging up his Vietnam War trauma, which leads to rapidly escalating troubles, which leads to a dead cop and, eventually, Rambo working a prison quarry. Towards the end of the movie, during the police's Hope Spot when they think they've managed to kill him, Rambo's old 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.
  • Karmic Death: The one guy who goes out of his way to try to kill Rambo is killed by his target accidentally.
  • Knife Nut: Rambo has an iconic knife, whose hilt is hollowed out to include a compass and self-suture equipment.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 till 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.
  • Mook Horror Show: Rambo's ambush of Teasle and his deputies in the woods is played like this. In a matter of minutes, five of them are on the ground with painful but non-lethal wounds crying out in pain and fear, as a thunderstorm rages around them. Even Teasle is left sobbing after Rambo pounces on him with a knife to the throat.
  • Mugging the Monster: The National Guardsmen (who are just average Joes who never expected to be called into service in their quiet town) fire wildly at Rambo's general direction while chasing him down, hooting and hollering like 19th century cowboys... until he returns fire, nearly hitting every single one of them, scaring them into cover. They're so terrified that they refuse to even peek out of cover.
  • Named by the Adaptation: John Rambo had no first name in the original novel.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Revised Ending: The ending of the film was changed not because they were hoping for sequels, it was changed because they felt the film was bleak enough as it was. Apparently, the original author said he was okay with the change. Said original ending can be seen in a flashback in part 4. Trautman shoots Rambo in the gut on his urging. The original ending was played after a 2008 theatrical reissue, following the closing credits and a textual introduction.
  • Save the Villain: Trautman, when he makes his debut and informs Teasle, tries to make sure both Rambo and Teasle make this 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.
  • 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.
  • Slow-Motion Fall: This happens when a character falls out of a helicopter to his death.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • The originally filmed ending was much closer to the novel by David Morrell, which had Trautman killing dying Rambo with a shotgun. However, due to Rambo's more sympathetic portrayal in the film, a new ending was filmed which had Rambo being arrested instead, making the sequels possible. Due to the relative obscurity of the novel, not many are aware that Rambo was supposed to die in the first film.
    • Teasle was also killed in the book, but spared in the film. In fact all the other cops also died.
  • 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.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Rambo spectacularly blows up half the town during the final onslaught.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 such by Teasle when seeing him tying to enter Hope and it what's got the former arrested in the first place with the vagrancy charge as a practical substitute for it.
  • 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.
  • Unbuilt Trope: With Rambo suffering from PTSD and being unable to get a job because his skill set is completely useless in peacetime, this film would be a deconstruction of Rambo's One-Man Army mystique if it weren't his film debut.
  • War Is Hell: The war will never end for those who fought it, as the Dirty Cops found out the hard way.
  • 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).


Example of: