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Film / The Expendables

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"If testosterone could mate with an explosion, this movie would be its offspring." preview

The Expendables is a 2010 American action film that spawned a modest franchise. The film and its sequels intentionally contain pretty much every trope associated with action movies of The '80s and early '90s. After the success of Rocky Balboa and Rambo IV, Sylvester Stallone became interested in making a film that brought together as many action stars he could get with careers ranging from the '80s to modern day.

The basic premise goes along with some grizzled mercenaries based out of New Orleans who call themselves "The Expendables". Stallone leads them as Barney Ross, with Jason Statham as Lee Christmas, his closest friend. Rounding out the rest of the team is Jet Li as Ying Yang, Dolph Lundgren as Gunnar Jensen, Randy Couture as Toll Road and Terry Crews as Hale Caesar. And, most famously, Stallone's old box-office rival Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Barney's Friendly Enemy Trench, who leads a rival team. Outside of that core group, many other stars have come and gone through the various movies, some as new allies and others as villains.

The actual plot starts with a mission to deal with boat hijackers, Gunnar is expelled from the team for his unpredictable behavior. Ross gets a new job from the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis). He hires the team to go into a Banana Republic and single-handedly take down a dictator's (David Zayas) regime. After a disastrous scouting mission, they learn Church is connected to the CIA and their real job is to upset the profiteering from a rogue CIA agent James Munroe (Eric Roberts), who has a particularly nasty bodyguard named Paine ("Stone Cold" Steve Austin). They initially agree to walk away from a likely suicide mission and from doing the CIA's dirty work, but their contact Sandra (Giselle Itie) is captured by Munroe and they feel obligated to rescue her, and Gunnar is not happy with being rejected from the team.

While unabashedly masculine action movies, they also attempt to show just how depersonalized the body count can be to a mercenary, along with a few quiet moments of reflection and the struggles of aging soldiers staying relevant while feeling their age.

Two sequels quickly followed, roping in ever more Hollywood action veterans: The Expendables 2 (2012) and The Expendables 3 (2014). There is also an original comic story set between the second and third movies. After a lengthy gestation Expend4bles was eventually Saved from Development Hell, produced in 2021, and released in 2023.

This series is the closest we'll probably get to TV Tropes, the Movie.

An all-female Spin-Off was pitched and pretty much every actress who had ever played an Action Girl was suggested, though the project does not seem to have made it past "What if all women, and a stupid pun [The Expendabelles] for the name?".note  Meanwhile, Stallone confirmed the fourth film would be his final appearance in the series, with potential future installments to feature Statham as the lead.

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    In General 

This series as a whole provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Ross chops off a guard's hand and beheads another with his knife.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene:
    • In the first film, Tool (Mickey Rourke) has a scene regarding a woman he could have saved in Bosnia, and the personal cost of not doing so. He laments that if he saved her, he could have saved what remained of his soul. His story inspires Barney Ross (Stallone) to go back to Vilena. It's probably the most powerful moment of the film.
    • In 2, the scene where Billy the Kid tells the story of losing several of his comrades during a firefight in Afghanistan, then returning to base to discover that a stray dog he'd adopted had been shot due to the base commander deciding to disallow animals on base. Billy's funeral also counts, with Barney reading the letter Billy had written to his girlfriend, then asking aloud why so many people who deserve to live get killed, while people who deserve to die survive repeatedly.
  • Actor Allusion: Lots:
    • Christmas's girlfriend not knowing what he does—and him promptly showing her—is a reference to Crank, another Jason Statham movie.
      • "Give this job to my friend here, he loves playing in the jungle, right?" Said to Bruce Willis, who also had a battle-in-the-jungle film of his own. Then followed by this quip: "What's his problem?" "He wants to be president". This is a clear reference on Schwarzenegger's political career and the old buzz about him running for president.
      • Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone are regarded as the best in their field; two musclebound action heroes and leading men who seem to be stuck in a friendly rivalry with each other; it's a mystery to everyone why they don't just work together. That's just their characters in the movie of course. In the real world that was only true in the eighties.
      • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin has his climactic fight showing nothing but wrestling moves, fighting mixed martial artist and Greco-Roman wrestler (as well as a fellow classically trained pro wrestler) Randy Couture.
      • While the car chase with Stallone driving a classic yet modified vehicle is similar to the one in Cobra.
      • In the chase scene, Dolph Lundgren wields one of the prop guns Thomas Jane used in The Punisher, a role he had previously played.
      • Dolph Lundgren's character Gunnar was studying to be a chemical engineer before dropping out. In real life, Dolph Lundgren has a master's degree in chemical engineering.
      • Not the first time Jet Li and Jason Statham worked together to take down the bad guys. Granted the fate of The Multiverse isn't involved.
  • Advertised Extra:
    • Commercials for the first film paid special attention to the scene between Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger, as it was the first time the trio had appeared on-screen together. Of course, that's the only scene that Willis and Schwarzenegger appear in.
    • The sequel included more action scenes for them. On the other hand, there's the example under Put on a Bus.
  • The Alleged Car: The planes in the first and second movies. Especially in the second.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version uses the song "Kizuna" by Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi.
  • Anti-Hero: The Expendables. Mostly pragmatic or unscrupulous heroes, (the "payback" types).
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy:
    • "The Brit" is a bit of a dick. Also Lee (loves his knife-throwing a bit too much) and Yang ("I would have win!") are rare heroic examples.
    • Doc in the third film, to the point of developing a rivalry with Christmas.
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • The Expendables wear body armor that might as well be magical for regularly shrugs off a lot of rounds that should penetrate it. They also suffer no ill-effects as per genre conventions (no broken ribs or severe blunt force injuries that come with being shot, even wearing armor, in real life).
  • Audible Sharpness: Just about every time any blade is drawn or moved slightly through the air, there's always that familiar zzing sound.
  • Badass Boast:
    • In the first one:
      • Barney's "We are the shadow, the smoke in your eyes, the ghosts that hide in the night", which only appears in the trailers, and is the first line in the song "Diamond Eyes" by Shinedown, which was commissioned by Stallone himself. Too bad the song doesn't appear in the film, either (The extended cut fixes both issues, however).
      • "We will kill this American disease!"
      • "If you fuck with us in any way... my people will come and get your people."
    • In the second one:
      • "If she returns any different from the way she went, you and your bunch of psychotic mercenary cur will never be seen again in the face of the Earth."
      • "Are you afraid of me?" "No, I’m not!" "You really should be."
  • Badass Crew: The Expendables are a formidable mercenary outfit.
  • Benevolent Dictator: General Garza, on the surface, appears to be The Generalissimo of a Latin American Police State who grows drugs for America. However, he's deeply unhappy with the role he's forced to play and would prefer to be ruling peacefully instead. Additionally, he's visibly uncomfortable with the atrocities that his supposed partner James Munroe is willing to carry out, finally deciding he's had enough when Roberts viciously tortures his daughter Sandra for information, and makes a Rousing Speech apologizing to his people and asking for their help in driving out the Americans.
  • Better than a Bare Bulb: What were you expecting from an action film homage?
  • BFG: Caesar wields a fully automatic drum-fed shotgun that fires 250 rounds a minute. They later get loaded with FRAG-12 rounds - grenade rounds.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence:
    • The assault on Garza's mansion in the first movie.
    • The airport shootout in the second movie.
    • The abandoned hotel attack in the third movie.
    • The assault on Rahmat's ship in the fourth movie.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Takes place once a movie:
    • A truly, truly epic one in the first one when half the squad is pinned down in the tunnels under the palace. Enter Hale Caesar and suddenly all you hear is "BOOMBOOMBOOMBOOM" and chunks of guards go flying across the screen.
    • This is Chuck Norris' only role in the second one, including taking out a tank by himself!
    • Drummer, Trench and Yang pull a Gunship Rescue when the Expendables are in a particularly tight spot in the third one.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: While they refuse to hurt civilians The Expendables are a group of mercenaries who don't have many qualms about killing enemy combatants for money and many of them have shady pasts. The people they fight, however, are usually out and out psychopaths who, unlike the Expendables, don't have any standards.
  • Blade Enthusiast:
    • Lee Christmas prefers to fight with his knives and will sometimes use a throwing knife instead of a pistol. Lampshaded by Gunnar, who carries a huge bowie knife himself, and later hands it to Christmas. Ironically, Statham's breakout role in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels had his character get very creeped out by a similar knife-wielding maniac.
    • Tool as well, with whom Christmas has throwing knife competitions.
    • Doc quickly kindles a rivalry with Lee almost as soon as he's sprung from the box, when he tells Lee that one of his knives' balance is off. Also, Doc's stuff, which Barney kept around, is a backpack full of all sorts of cutlery.
  • Bloody Hilarious: Many of the casualties in the first two movies, but any victim of Omaya Kaboom takes the cake.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Everyone to some degree, but in particular Hale Caesar and Gunnar.
  • Bond One-Liner:
    • "Now we can see what’s inside of him. And I see lies."
    • In 2: "Rest in pieces!"
    • In 3: "I am the Hague."
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Gunnar seems to think he should have been a Viking warrior. Or at least, his Ax-Crazy interpretation of what Vikings were like.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Subverted; everyone has run out of ammo for their main weapons, and even Barney's M1911s need reloading after a few shots, for obvious reasons. It should be noted, too, that Barney's 1911s are not fully automatic. He simply uses a technique (which Stallone apparently practiced for hours on the range) to very rapidly fire the pistols in semi-automatic. The shots of him laying down fire, dumping the magazine, reloading and resuming fire are not sped up - that's just how fast you can fire a 1911 with sufficient skill. (Also a testament to how tough the 1911 is.)
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Caesar's FRAG-12 rounds.
    • How do you make an armored guard tower explode? Fire a few miniature warheads at it.
    • His shaving knife is also used to save Ross from being shot in the back near the end of the finale.
    • Gunnar giving Christmas his bowie knife. Christmas later gives it to Munroe.
    • Ross and Lee's Quickdraw contest at the beginning.
    • Played straight and averted with Sandra's drawings - they look almost intended to be tattoos, but nobody let Tool have a look at 'em. At the same time, the General is shown to share his daughter's appreciation for art, and designs his soldiers' warpaint at the end.
    • Caesar describing the psychological effect of the sound of guns. He mentions that shotguns in particular scare the shit out of people. Later, when a couple of the team are pinned down...
    Hale: Remember this shit at Christmas!
    • Gunnar's degree in Chemical Engineering (which the real actor actually has, too) has been brought up early in the sequel. So when they get stuck inside a caved-in mineshaft, he uses his knowledge to concoct an explosive to blow up an escape route. Then it went pfft, and the crew gets rescued by Trench instead....
    • In 3, Gunner mocks Thorn for using a wrist computer, but then begrudgingly decides to wear it during the mission to rescue the captured members. It later saves the group when Thorn uses the computer to disable the explosives in the abandoned hotel before the final battle.
  • Classically-Trained Extra: Not in the usual sense. General Garza's two bodyguards, who look mind-boggingly similar to one another? Twin MMA fighters Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who at the time competed in the UFC alongside Randy Couture. Sadly, they're not seen in any hand-to-hand combat.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • IN the first one Munroe has Sandra mercilessly water-boarded in an attempt to make her confess "What the Americans want." Whether the use of water-boarding was intended to be a topical statement on the unsavory intelligence gathering methods of the US Government or an attempt at invoking recent news events that the audience might recognize isn't clear.
    • The second one had Maggie do this offscreen to a couple of Sang mooks.
  • Cool Bike: Every Expendables member has one, and there is a film bookend of them driving out on them.
    • Also the Rokon (2-wheel drive motorcycle) from the second movie. However, the Rokon is painfully slow, so it would not have been capable of launching off a roof, clearing a 20-foot gap and taking down a helicopter
  • Cool Car:
    • Barney's pickup truck.
    • The Smart car in 2, by virtue of its passengers being Schwarzenegger and Willis shoulder to shoulder, though it had to lose its doors to contain that much manliness.
  • Cool Plane: The crew travels in an ex-US Navy Grumman HU-16/JR2F Albatross seaplane in the first film. It is replaced for unspecified reasons by a heavily-modified Canadair CL-215 amphibious firefighting airtanker in the sequel, which gets crashed in a Dynamic Entry, and replaced at the end by an Antonov An-2 biplane. The third movie features an Antonov An-26 as their new plane. Each aircraft has been modified with heavy forward-firing weaponry, taken up to eleven with the CL-215’s nose-mounted 75mm howitzer (which was a real feature of some B-25 bombers during WWII).
  • Combat Pragmatist: All of the Expendables display a realistic disregard for the Marquis of Queensbury rules, making liberal use of Groin Attack, drawing pistols during protracted CQC bouts and teaming up on outnumbered foes.
  • Covers Always Lie: Tool? Suited up and ready to roll out with the team? Riiiiight. The bad photoshopping should have tipped you off there. Some posters even add Steve Austin and Bruce Willis to the lineup, but that's a lesser case. One should note that Tool and Church (Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis, respectively) aren't in combat-appropriate uniforms.
    • The sequel had Jet Li appear like they always do, but he's Put on a Bus at the end of the intro.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    Lee: What's he saying?
    Caesar: He's saying we're dead with an accent.
    • Christmas in particular loves finding ways to work in some snark.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • In order to accommodate the larger roles of Willis and Schwarzenegger, and the additional roles for Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Nan Yu and Liam Hemsworth, a lot of the returning Expendables got the shaft. In particular, Yin Yang vanishes after the first ten minutes and Toll Road barely has any lines in the entire film. Yang made up for it by giving us Jet Li's specialty before he left: a One-Man Army Good Old Fisticuffs beatdown for a good five minutes.
    • This also occurs in the third film, as a result of Doc, Galgo, the new Expendables, Trench, Drummer and Yang all taking part in the final battle. Hale is nearly killed during the second mission and incapacitated until the last scene, while Toll Road and several others get next-to-no dialogue for most of the film.
  • Easily Forgiven:
    • Gunnar is accepted back into the team after being ejected for his unpredictability. Even after trying to kill Barney and Yang, which was apparently Nothing Personal.
    • In the sequel, Lacey's cheating is forgiven quickly by Lee, who takes her back.
  • Elite Mooks:
    • In the first movie, General Garza's special forces, identified by their red berets, jungle camouflage, and green-and-yellow facepaint. Notably, they're actually able to force the Expendables to seriously work to kill them, unlike the regular soldiers who they mow down with regularity.
    • Dispensed with in the sequels, absolutely nobody but Vilain and Hector present any challenge to any of the team in the second one.
    • The majority of Stonebanks' lackeys in the third movie are casually slaughtered, but the helicopter commandos, notable for their balaclavas, at times actually manage to be a serious threat.
    Ross: "Look at these clowns. Hand-picked monkeys."
  • Establishing Character Moment: Most everyone gets one, but Gunnar's in the opening scene really sets the tone for the entire movie.
    • "Warning shot!"
    • "It's good to hang pirates!"
    • The new addition to the team, Billy the Kid, gets his by rescuing Barney and Lee from six mooks, sniping them in unison with Barney's pantomimed hand pistol.
    • The third one gives one of these to every new addition to the team, as Barney and Bonaparte recruit each one.
  • Evil Brit: Err... the Brit. Also, Hector in the second one. He's not specifically noted as such, but he speaks with a British accent and the actor playing him is British.
  • Evil Counterpart: Towards the end of the first movie Monroe berates Ross for doing the CIA's dirty business and says they are basically the same, mercenaries who are dead inside and have no allegiances. Unfortunately for him Ross' character arc in the movie was doing something good not simply for money. In the sequel, Vilain seems to think of him and his men to be this, and gives the team a speech about it. In fact, it's the reason he doesn't kill them when he has the chance.
  • Friendly Enemy: Ross and Trench have this rivalry going. By the second film they have clearly come to respect, if not actually like each other. By the third one they’re in extremely good terms and Trench offers his assistance multiple times.
  • Genius Bruiser:
    • Toll Road is implied to be fairly well read, when the crew is heading back after their Opening Gambit doing something, most are maintaining their weapons or flying the plane while he is studiously reading a book. This occurs in both films, in fact.
    • Gunnar has a degree in chemical engineering, just like Dolph Lundgren.
  • Genre Throwback: If Stallone, Willis, and Schwarzenegger's involvement doesn't tell you anything. Stallone wrangled even more 80s action stars for the sequels.
  • Groin Attack: Yang's fighting scenes will include several kicks to the balls. Used multiple times when Ross and Christmas take on a truckload of bad guys in the field. In the sequel, Maggie makes use of a groin kick during the team's ambush of the Sangs in the village.
  • Height Insult: A Running Gag involves Yin Yang being mocked over his height, from his fight against the hulking Swede Gunnarnote  to a random discussion with the Scary Black Man Hale Caesar calling Yang "half a man". Eventually subverted by the third movie; Yang was revealed to have joined the rival mercenary team instead, and actually became besties with the other big guy, Trench.
  • Hero of Another Story: Trench, who is implied (and in the sequel, stated) to have his own team in the same manner as the Expendables .
  • Homage: The movie is intended to be an homage to seventies and eighties action films, invoked with a thin story, ludicrous action and exploitative violence.
  • Immortal Iconic Car: Though the island of Vilena is a fictional country, it's intended to emulate a stereotypical Banana Republic, and all the cars there are very old and dilapidated, even though many of such countries that are not Cuba would have people drive far newer cars - indeed, during various overhead shots that are not carefully crafted for this effect (filmed in Brazil), one can spot much newer cars more realistically likely to be found in such a country.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The bad guys. Sometimes realistically, sometimes not.
    • The climax of the first film does show this fairly realistically, as the Expendables open up by destroying the entire palace, and in the ensuing chaos they charge out and are constantly maneuvering and blowing up vehicles and setting things on fire, using speed, mobility, firepower, deadly accuracy, and intimidation to keep Garza's soldiers off-balance.
    • In the second movie, the bad guys are largely an army of poorly-trained East European militia and gangsters who aren't terribly accurate at best, and are getting mowed down constantly, often before being able to return fire. Also played somewhat for comedy when the group encounter a village where the menfolk had been taken away and the only ones left to defend the place was a handful of untrained civilian women who starts shooting on them. Christmas even jokes that the safest place to be is right in front of their guns.
    • The climax of the third movie takes this up to eleven when and entire battalion of the Azmenistani army, with tanks and air support still can’t hit the good guys.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: The good guys have uncanny accuracy.
    • Munroe displays impressive ability with his pistol. While restraining Sandra with one arm he manages to shoot Garze twice in the back and kill three of his guards before any of them got a chance to retaliate. These were elite soldiers wielding automatics under orders to fire on him immediately if he attempts betrayal. He was lucky of course; none of them started aiming at him until the camera pointed at them.
    • Ross shoots a mook almost directly behind Christmas. Christmas isn't quite as confident in his ally's aiming skills.
    • Occasionally averted, the most notable being near the end when Ross clearly fires many, many pistol shots before taking down just one soldier in a group of many.
    • Ross's skills detonate the primer on a thrown artillery round, in such a way that it actually destroys the intended target.
    • Billy the Kid was able to fall six guards surrounding Barney and Lee with his sniper rifle within about 2 seconds. He apologized for the delay. Later, he was head-shotting mooks cruising by on boats.
    • A more subtle one toward the end of the second movie when Church, Trench, and Barney open up on the Sangs. They unload at full-auto on the massed Sangs, and not one nearby civilian is hit. Every bullet hits a Sang.
  • Invincible Hero:
    • The Expendables are infallible, indestructible ubermensch. They are not, however, Boring.
    • Not so invincible in the second movie, where due to heavy fog, the Sangs are able to get the drop on them and take Billy the Kid hostage. The scene ends as a total failure for them, with the prized item lost and Billy dead.
    • Caesar gets shot twice by the Big Bad near the beginning of the third movie. He spends the rest of the movie, barring the epilogue, in the hospital.
  • Ironic Nickname: Church, who curses up a storm and is generally un-church-like.
  • Jump Cut:
    • Every fight scene in the first film is saturated with these. A shot will rarely be held for over three seconds, and tracking shots use Jitter Cam.
    • They cut down on it somewhat in the sequel, and dispensed with Jitter Cam altogether, reportedly due to the fan complaints.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Averted. Mooks are mutilated, blown apart and cut through like wet tissue paper, yet there is little blood in the wake of any firefight and their viscera seems to be composed of boneless Kool-aid.
  • Made of Iron: None of the Expendables suffer meaningful injuries for the duration of the films. Gunnar gets shot just above the heart and is hale and hearty by his next scene.
  • Manly Tears:
    • Tool lets out a few near the end of the story he tells to Ross, who can't see his face but the audience can.
    • Most of the members during Billy's funeral.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • A pretty obscure one. Lee Christmas was a mercenary during the real-life Banana Wars. Genius Bonus for history buffs, and a huge hint that the name is really an alias.
    • The team's name "Expendables", given the plot of the movie, although it also borders on Non-Indicative Name. The CIA considered them expendable, but they showed themselves to be a badass crew of invincible supermen.
      • They are called the Expendables because Barney has become so jaded and dark over the years, that he believes the world would be no better off if he lives or dies. Tool manages to convince him to change this.
    • Is Mauser as a last name merely a cliched stock reference... or a portmanteau of 'Mars' and 'Hauser'?
    • James Munroe could well be a reference to James Monroe, the U.S. president most known for formulating the "Monroe Doctrine", which served as a justification for U.S. meddling in Latin American affairs.
    • Barney Ross was the name of an American boxer from the 1930s. His name could be a reference to the fact that one of Sylvester Stallone's best known characters is a boxer.
    • The Big Bad of The Expendables 2 crosses the line into Speed Racer levels of naming ridiculousness. He's a villain played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, and his name is...Jean Vilain. The reference to sheep, and the fact that the name might allude to a "farm hand" could put this in Punny Name territory for vocabulary geeks.
  • Meta Casting:
    • Dolph Lundgren actually does hold a Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering.
    • Harrison Ford regularly flies his own helicopter in real-life and sometimes participates in wilderness search-and-rescue.
  • More Dakka:
    • About 60% of the film is pure dakka. Hale's AA-12 makes up 59.9% percent of that dakka.
    • In the second one, one scene stands out. After one battle, there's a single mook remaining. When he pops out, one of the Expendables shouts a warning, and all of them immediately and hilariously turn and fill him with about 200 rounds.
    Ross: "Rest in pieces".
  • Multicultural Team: Barney, Caeser, Toll Road, and Billy are Americans, Christmas is British, Gunner is Swedish, Yin Yang and Maggie are Chinese.
    • Explicitly pointed out (and mocked) in the sequel, when confronted by the women in the village:
    Ross: We're Americans.
    Lee: (To Barney) Since when?
    Gunner: Swedish.
    Caesar: Blackfoot.
    Maggie: Chinese.
    Toll Road: (looking at team, shaking his head) Retards.
  • Never Bring A Knife To A Fistfight: The team kick much ass using real weapons in CQC. Mooks? Not so much.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Back and forth. On the one hand, despite being called "The Expendables" only one team member dies in the first two movies. Doc, however, points out that the current team, made up of six members, is only a shadow of what the team was at its height, which was twenty-two. Barney keeps a collection of the dog tags of each member of the team killed in action in the past.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The Expendables talk between themselves about previous adventures in well-known hot spots of the Eighties and Nineties. It's subverted in the case of Mickey Rouke's character - he describes a woman he could have saved in Bosnia. In the sequel, Billy the Kid talks about his prior tour of duty in Afghanistan.
    • Mauser and Ross seem to hate each other due to a Noodle Incident, judging from their exchange in front of Church in the first movie.
  • The Not-Love Interest:
    • Sandra to Ross. There seems to be some chemistry, but nothing ever comes of it - his primary reason for saving her is that she's a resistance leader.
    • In the sequel, Maggie and Ross have even more chemistry than Sandra and Ross did. But Ross refuses to become involved with her because so many people who have gotten close to him have died.
    • In the third movie Luna implies that if Barney was 30 years younger, she’d go after him.
  • Old Soldier: Kind of the point of the series is show action-hero style actors in the role of mercenaries who have been doing the shooting-and-exploding thing for a long time.
    • One of the first images of the movie was a shot of Stallone's character, barechested and covered in tattoos. Nearly everyone was slack-jawed, saying, "That guy is over 60?!"
    • The series also stars 47-year-old (in the first film) Randy Couture, then-actively competing mixed martial artist and MMA's original tough old man.
    • Chuck Norris is 72, and looks no older than 40-50.
    • Jean-Claude Van Damme still looks every bit as capable at 53 as he did in his prime.
    • Mel Gibson is 58, but is equal to the task of being an action villain in 3. He isn't in Lethal Weapon shape anymore, but his Final Battle with Ross is brutal and physical.
    • After a four-year prison sentence, Wesley Snipes emerges at 52 looking like he hasn't lost anything.
    • Jet Li sure doesn't look like he's nearly 50 in the first movie either, does he? Could convincingly pass for lower 30s.
  • Older Hero Versus Younger Villain:
    • In the first movie got Ross vs Munroe and Toll Road vs Pain. Stallone is ten years older than Roberts and Couture is one year older than Austin.
    • In the second movie got Ross vs Vilain and Christmas vs Hector. Stallone is fourteen years older than Van Damme and Statham is nine years older than Adkins.
    • In the third movie got Ross vs Stonebanks. Stallone is ten years older than Gibson.
  • One-Man Army:
    • "Four and a half men" but close enough.
    • Booker, who cements it in his entrance when he wipes out the entire force (including a main battle tank) that has the Expendables pinned down singlehandedly. The team also notes that he works alone.
    • The others get their moments from time to time. Yang in particular made up for his lack of CQC scenes in the first movie by kicking the hell out of a squad of mooks alone in the sequel.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Mr. Church devised his own nickname on the spot and suggests that Barney Ross (and possibly his entire team) is just an alias.
    • Toll Road? Hale Caesar? Yin Yang? If those aren't aliases this might as well be called "A Boy Named Sue: The Movie"
  • Outrun the Fireball: Several times, someoneis running like heck away from an explosion. It's usually by the bad guys, and it sometimes works for them.
  • Punny Name: Toll Road, Hale Caesar, Yin Yang. In the sequel, the villain's name is... Vilain.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Yin who is present only for the opening mission of the second movie. He air drops out of the cargo plane with the rescued hostage after the mission and is never seen for the rest of the film. When asked when he'll be back, he replies "Maybe soon...maybe never. Maybe start a new life." Jet Li reportedly asked for a reduced role himself. The Bus Came Back in the third movie.
    • Church is explained by Drummond as having retired prior to the events of the third movie. Like Li, this was motivated by Bruce Willis' attitude and salary demands prior to filming, which led to him being removed from the project altogether.
  • Rated M for Manly: Look at the cast! It's like a singularity of manliness!
  • Real Men Wear Pink:
    • Tool's obsession with "decorating" pretty much anything, whether it's Lee's head with a tattoo or a guitar he plans to smash once it's completed.
    • One of the first things Doc mentions after being freed is his desire to put on some “fine threads”
  • Rule of Cool: The entire series is to evoke the graitious coolness of 80s action hero films. Special mentions go to:
    • Stallone's character uses a single-action revolver which he fires in bursts by fanning the hammer. Badass? Yes. Homage to classic Westerns? Probably. Utterly illogical? Who gives a fuck?! note 
    • Ross and Caesar blow up a chopper by throwing a shell and then setting it off in midair, by shooting at it. Wait, aren't those things, like, built to make sure stuff like that doesn't happen? Fuck that! Who needs physics when you've got HSQ?
  • Sequel Escalation:
    • How do they top the previous movie's cast? Add Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger back in action plus weapons grade plutonium as the MacGuffin.
    • 3 has the entire cast of Expendables from the first film (minus Caesar, who's sidelined because of a near fatal injury), new recruits Doc and Galgo, plus the new, younger group of Expendables, and Harrison Ford flying air support while Schwarzenegger and a returning Jet Li fire out of a helicopter.
  • Shoot the Dog:
  • Shout-Out:
    Trench: I'm Back!!
    • Trench wearing a Hawaiian shirt underneath his jacket during the final shootout at the airport could be a nod to The Running Man, in which Arnold's character Ben Richards also wore a Hawaiian shirt during a setpiece that took place at an airport.
    • Lee Christmas punches a guy into an airplane propeller, killing him in a manner similar to a famous death scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Cemented as a Shout-Out by Lee's slightly Leaning on the Fourth Wall line afterwards (He was actually talking about his knuckledusters)
    Lee: Nothin' beats a classic.
    • In yet another shoutout to the series, in the end, upon seeing that the Expendables are to be taken back home in a very, very old Russian propeller plane:
    • In 3, when the team is running to the extraction chopper, Trench implores everyone to "Run to da choppa!" Later, when asked why he said he was leaving the special ops life for good, he simply replies, "I lied."
    • Barney is the Hague.
    • The title of the movies is probably a reference to this Stallone's line in Rambo: First Blood Part II: "I'm expendable."
    • At one point in 3, Barney mispronounces Galgo's name as "Golgo".
    • In one scene in 3, several N7 jackets can be seen in the background.
  • The Snark Knight: Christmas. Exaggerated in the sequels.
  • Strictly Formula: If you have seen any action movie ever, you already know how the plot of every instalment in the franchise goes. Then again, you're probably not watching it for the story anyway.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The Movie. Somewhere, Michael Bay is watching this movie, dabbing a tissue at the single Manly Tear at the corner of his eye, and whispering, "it's beautiful". Then he throws away the tissue. And it explodes.
  • Summer Blockbuster
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The guys' motto, it seems.
    • A memorable moment in the second has the team finishing off a platoon of mooks and while standing together Barney calls out "One more!" and the entire team empties their collective arsenal into a solitary gunman.
    • Stonebank pulls all the stops in the third one to take out the team. It’s still not enough.
  • Throw-Away Guns: Sometimes to ditch extra weight, sometimes out of necessity. Special mention goes to Yang in the second movie, who throws his not-working gun at a mook to knock them out before grabbing the frying pans.
  • Talk to the Fist: Gunnar's attempts at speaking to Yang and Barney, after trying to kill them in an intense chase when the three of them ends up in a warehouse.
    Gunnar: It's over! Let's talk about this, I forgive you guys!
    [cue Yang suddenly appearing and kicking Gunnar in the face]
    Gunnar: That almost hurt. Back off!
    [cue Gunnar getting another kick to the face]
  • Title Drop: Averted. While the name "Expendables" appears on weapons and motorcycle decals, the name of the group is never actually spoken. Some countries call the film The Mercenaries, and that term shows up a lot.
    • Played straight in the third movie. Where the name of the team is brought up repeatedly.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Gunnar in the first movie...mostly. Not so much in the sequels, where he's become like the rest of the crew.
  • Token Romance:
    • Averted. Nothing between Stallone and Sandra, which is nice considering how tempting it must have been. And while Statham also has a Love Interest, most of their interactions concern the fact that she dislikes his lifestyle.
    • Similarly averted in the sequel. It hints that Maggie has a crush on Barney and they have a verbally affectionate parting by the end, but nothing more.
    • Galgo shows an interest in Luna in the third one, but is not reciprocated.
  • Torture Always Works: Subverted. Sandra is waterboarded for information on the Expendables but does not give in. Instead, Monroe needs to get his information from Gunnar.
    • Played straight in the second one, with Maggie and her set of surgical instruments.
  • Troperiffic: This series is deliberately stuffed with as many action hero tropes as possible. It even provides the page image.
  • True Companions:
    • Plays with it. An early scene implies that the team try to maintain completely professional relationships and nothing else, which is the reason behind their Code Names (Yang suggests he is in it only for the money, claiming he needs more to support his son). The only members who seem to be genuinely close friends are Barney, Lee and Tool. But in spite of that they trust each other with their lives and mid-way through the movie you see them rallying around Barney and his personal mission, the ending scene is everyone having drinks together. Becomes even more clear in the sequel when the entire team hangs out in a bar(even Lacy was there) together during their downtime, then shows again with them all being very visibly upset about Billy's death, with Gunnar even seeming to wipe a tear from his eye.
    • The third film has the line "Everybody needs friends" thrown around a couple of times.
  • Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: invoked Basically the reason these films are made. In the first film there was specifically Dolph Lundgren vs. Jet Li and Sylvester Stallone vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Surprisingly enough, Stallone and Li are playing the heroes and are clearly outmatched by Austin and Lundgren. The sequel promised Stallone vs. Van Damme early on. And the third? Rambo vs. Mad Max (or Judge Dredd vs. Martin Riggs)!
  • The Unintelligible: Stallone, Statham, Li, Lundgren and Schwarzenegger are all known for sometimes being rather hard to understand either due to their accent or just kind of growling out their words. Put them together in the same movie and it's even more noticeable.
    • In the third movie, Drummer hilariously keeps calling Lee out for this.
    Lee: What's the advice?
    Drummer: What language is he speaking?
    Barney: What's the advice?
  • Unorthodox Reload: Played with - Barney reloads his M1911 normally, he just does it incredibly fast. With enough practice, any experienced shooter can do it, too. Now, doing it while being shot at by fifty men with assault rifles in the open...
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Inverted: Barney and Trench hate each other's guts, but talk as if they were old buddies.
    • Surprisingly, Yang and Gunnar are like this in 2, after having no shortage of real anger at each other in the first film. When Yang departs the group, Gunnar even sounds a little sad when he says, "Who am I going to pick on now?"
  • War for Fun and Profit:
    • Ultimately averted by the end of the first movie, finally going in to kick ass because an innocent woman's going to get murdered if Barney doesn't save her.
      • Initally played straight for the rest of the team, since a $5 million paycheck made goo-goo eyes at them.
      • And Barney was highly considering not rescuing the girl until he talks to Tool and realizes he'll get to deal with the guilt of not rescuing her for the rest of his life.
    • Also averted in the sequel. Church accuses Barney of stealing the $5 million and threatens to make them disappear from the face of the earth unless they do another job to make up for it. Later, they decide to chase down Vilain to avenge Billy.
      • Played straight with Villain, though, who's only interested in selling the plutonium.
    • In the third movie Stonebanks claims their differing approaches to these trope is what led to his original falling out with Barney.
  • Weaponized Car: A weaponized seaplane.
    • With four machine guns hidden in the nosecone, and a fuel dump to ignite and use as a Fuel/Air Explosion. Very very good at spreading out a cushion of air that turns people's innards to jelly.
    • In 2, they have a new (though very similar) plane with what appears to basically be a small hand-loaded howitzer in the nose. However, it's not especially accurate given it can only shoot at exactly what the plane is pointed at, so it acts more like a tank cannon.
    Ross: "You missed!"
  • Weapon-Based Characterization - An interesting case in that each character has their preferred weapon, but all characters switch between guns and fists/knives to fit the situation - or are forced to drop them due to situation change.
  • World of Badass: Everyone but the girl fits in the first film; the girl is totally included—in both sequels.
  • World of Ham: Considering it's a movie with Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Arnold Schwarzenegger, this trope was pretty much unavoidable. The sequels are even worse in that regard!
  • Would Hit a Girl:
    • In the original movie, Paine and Lacy's new boyfriend.
    • In 2, Maggie beats the hell out of several mooks in hand to hand combat, none of whom seemed squeamish about trying to hit (or shoot) her.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: A lot of wrestling moves are used, even though only one actor is a (professional) wrestler.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • Gunnar gets upset with the Mook he's stuck with during his high-speed ambush of Ross and Yang, up to the point he crushes the Mook's head against the dashboard with his boot.
    Gunnar: Insect.
    • Munroe, to General Garza after the dictator decides to kick his ex-CIA partners as well as the Expendables out of his country.
    • In 2, Vilain does this to his laborers, shooting a few and leaving the rest entombed in the uranium vaults.
    • In 3, Stonebanks shoots a military general and tech operator after getting frustrated that the Expendables are mowing through the army he sent to kill them.

    The Expendables 

The Expendables provides examples of:

  • Attempted Rape: Averted, and then played straight. It looks like the bad guys are going to do this to Sandra when she gets forcibly thrown down on the table. But then she gets waterboarded instead. Later on, two random soldiers burst in and attempt to rape her, but Ross objects. And his objection is very, very sharp.
  • The Dulcinea Effect:
    • Part of Ross' motivation is saving Sandra, their contact for a mission they didn't want to do. He seems to realize that it doesn't make much sense.
    • Christmas defending the honor of his cheating ex could be interpreted as this.
  • Easily Forgiven: Gunner is accepted back into the gang without any trouble, in the final scene.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Garza turns on Munroe because of this, and the fact Munroe isn't keeping his promises.
    • Munroe alludes to it, saying that he was raised not to hit a woman...but he employs people who don't have "that moral dilemma."
  • Evil Is Hammy: Eric Roberts as Munroe loves to gloat and chew the scenary.
  • The Generalissimo: The Expendables' mission is to eliminate one such general. He is slightly more sympathetic than the usual examples.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: The long focus on Tool's face during gives the audience a lovely view of his spit-moistened lips.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Munroe calls Garza's men out on this, for letting Ross and Lee into the country. Special mentions go to the soldier tasked with guarding Munroe and the General. He lets Gunnar walk in with a shotgun (!) because "He wouldn't let me take it from him."
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Gunnar's "warning shot" to the pirate leader. It's worth noting that the victim of this single shot has his legs fall off and his upper body launched fifteen feet backwards into a wall rather than being horizontally bisected at the waist, which might have made sense by comparison. It does however set the tone for the rest of the film rather nicely; not to mention establish his character.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Gunnar is a particularly indecisive version of this. First, he's kicked off the team for being psychotic, is promptly hired by Munroe to kill Barney, and nearly impales Yang. During the chase scene, he also seems to be trying to run down his allied mooks and also kills his overseer. Then he gets shot by Barney, and... is back on the team, having been forgiven. It's suggested he's been known to have problems with drugs and so long as he stays sober they trust him.
  • Heel–Face Turn: General Garza starts having second thoughts when it's his own daughter being tortured by Munroe and Paine. Pity Garza turns his back on Munroe to speak to his soldiers... One of the rarest characters in film is the sympathetic South American Generalissimo.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Gunnar is kicked off the team for being unpredicable.
  • My Greatest Failure: Not saving a woman attempting suicide in Bosnia is one to Tool. His telling the tale to Ross motivates him to go back to Vilena and save Sandra.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Tool clearly gets a kick out of taunting Lee by mentioning "Christmas time".
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Sandra stops Garza from killing Munroe. Two seconds later, Munroe proceeds to kill Garza.
  • Noble Demon: General Garza, though he's a dictator, he would rather be ruling peacefully than having to grow drugs for his CIA dealer. He even admits that his daughter is who he should have been.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Double Subverted. Sandra is left at Vilena because she insists on staying, but then Ross goes back for her. She still doesn't seem to leave, though.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • Munroe attempts to make Ross believe that they are both mercenaries who are "dead inside."
    • Stonebanks claims that the only difference between himself and Barney is that Barney still has a conscience.
  • Offscreen Teleportation:
    • Played to the hilt from the very first scene. When Gunnar attempts to lynch the pirate for the lulz, Yang suddenly appears next to him after silently traversing his way between the cargo hold fifty feet below to the deck of the ship in under three seconds and engages him in a short CQC fight. Seconds later when Yang is at Gunnar's mercy, Barney follows suit, making the same trip just as silently and almost as quickly.
    • The use of Jump Cut in every fight scene means that the protagonists appear to fight like Nightcrawler.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • After the alarm is raised at the Garza's palace, the guys run into the entire army, and are forced to take cover and detonate the charges.
    • The look on the Big Bad's face when his escape helicopter explodes is priceless.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Barney to Munroe: "I didn't come for you, dip-shit. I came for her!" shoots Munroe
  • Prison Rape: Sandra almost falls victim to this from she is thrown to a table by inmates, but is saved by Ross.
  • Psycho Party Member: Gunnar is called unpredictable.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Invoked; the two soldiers who try to rape Sandra receive among the most violent deaths in the movie.
  • Rebellious Princess: Sandra, General Garza's daughter, leads the rebels against him.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Gunnar, assumed to be killed after being shot by Barney, is revealed to be alive at the end of the movie.
  • Re-Cut: An extended Director's Cut of the film was temporarily available via On Demand and is on Blu-Ray (only. Sorry, DVD fans). In addition to containing a bit of extra character development and tightened CG effects, this cut also uses Shinedown's "Diamond Eyes", which was commissioned by Stallone specifically for use in the film, during the climax and again in the credits.
  • Retired Badass: Apparently, Tool (Rourke) has retired from mercenary stuff, but can still easily hit a bull's eye with a knife.
  • Shirtless Scene: Sylvester Stallone's character has insanely chiseled abs.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Awesomely averted with the AA-12. Helps it's loaded with frag rounds meant to go farther than usual.
  • Showy Invincible Hero: It wouldn't be an old school movie throwback without action heroes enduring all kinds of bruises, running through hails of bullets and smacking down villains with style.
  • Snowy Screen of Death: The footage of the custom office's CCTV when Barney shoots the camera.
  • Spiritual Successor: This could easily be seen as a modern reimagining of Commando, especially the grand finale.
  • Stab the Salad: Lee stabbing the basketball to cap his No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on Lacey's abusive boyfriend and his friends.
  • Stealth Expert: All the Expendables, as seen in the first and final fight, despite Barney running around with a high beam torch waving all over the place. Averted by Toll in the final fight, who just beats the shit out of all the guys he runs into.
  • Steel Ear Drums: Averted hard. Virtually all guns are loud, even suppressed ones. However, the team learns just how loud they can really be when Caesar starts mowing down bad guys with a fully-automatic AA-12 shotgun in a narrow, confined tunnel that serves to reflect and concentrate the gun's report, leaving everyone reeling at how ridiculously loud it is and leaving Caesar temporarily deafened by it.note 
  • Storming the Castle: Garza's palace is targeted by the Expendables. Not surprisingly, their plan involves blowing it up.
  • Take That!: This trailer.
    • One could see the Austin/Couture fight as a Take That from MMA to pro wrestling.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: the Extended Cut of the movie has Shinedown's "Diamond Eyes" blaring as the crew storms the courtyard.
  • This Means Warpaint: Garza has his men's faces painted for the Final Battle.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: If several .45 bullets doesn't end Munroe's life, a huge honking Bowie knife clear through the heart will.
  • Too Stupid To Live:
    • The leader of the pirates. You have a group of elite badasses who have all of their Laser Sights directly on you, they have just tossed down a bag of money to peacefully let the hostages go. And you have the audacity and stupidity to ask for more money? As Lee so exasperatedly comments: "Well, what do you know. A greedy pirate."
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Gunnar is clearly seen lifting Ying over his head and over a sharp spike, which makes it obvious from the beginning he betrays the team. They try cheating by making his face blurrier and speeding up the action, but it doesn't work.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Gunnar. Lampshaded by Barney.
  • The Unfair Sex: Averted. Lacey's cheating isn't portrayed sympathetically at all, but Lee does take her back after beating down her abusive boyfriend.
  • Water Torture: Munroe waterboards Sandra in one scene.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Yes, Lee's girlfriend left him for a violent drunk, but that doesn't mean he isn't going defend her honor by beating the absolute tar out of him and his fellow wife-bashing basketball-buddies in broad daylight for insulting and beating her.
  • You ALL Look Familiar: The soldiers' black war paint allowed the director to keep re-using the same stuntmen and actors in close-up fights. Knowing bad 80s movies, this was intentional.
  • "Yes"/"No" Answer Interpretation: Barney shoots the team traitor Gunnar. He asks Barney if he's going to die. Barney just tells him that the shot hit him two inches above the heart. He takes that as a yes. However, he shows up alive and healthy at the end of the film.
  • Your Mom: Let it not be said that Stallone is not down with what the kids are into.
    Paine: (While torturing Barney) How many men do you have?
    Barney: Just your mother!