A series of action/drama films starring Sylvester Stallone as emotionally troubled Vietnam War veteran John Rambo, who was a former member of the United States Army Special Forces, a Green Beret, and a recipient of the Medal of Honor. First Blood, released in 1982 and the first film in the series, was based on the 1972 David Morrell novel of the same name. The character and franchise became very famous and a verbal shorthand to describe a One-Man Army type of badass.
Prior to Rambo, however, a cute and heartwarming spin-off of sorts was created in 2008 by British director Garth Jennings called Son of Rambow. The film details the misadventures of two boys in 1982 who tried to remake First Blood with a bulky VHS-Camera and the vibrant imagination of ten year olds. Sylvester Stallone himself is said to have loved the film.
Both the films and the character have enjoyed massive success and popularity, and - alongside the Rocky series - catapulted Stallone to the position of a major action hero and film star. After the release of the first three Rambo films, Morrell went on to write the novelizations of the first two Rambo sequels because he wanted to include characterization that he felt wasn't in said sequels. There was also a 1986 animated TV series called Rambo: The Force of Freedom that lasted 65 episodes and spawned a line of toys; a few comic books starring the character; soundtrack albums for all the films (but not the animated series, which mainly tracked in Jerry Goldsmith's score for the second one); and many video games including the NES version of ''Rambo'' and the Sega Master System versions of Rambo: First Blood Part II (a dolled-up version of a Japanese title, Ashura, that was an In Name Only installment, but did contain an impressive chiptune rendition of the "First Blood" theme that played over its title screen) and Rambo III. Sega also released an arcade light gun "Rambo" game back in 2008, and it is perhaps a distillation of what makes the Rambo franchise awesome, though, bizarrely, had a rap soundtrack. There was also Rambo: The Video Game, a rail shooter based on the first 3 movies of the series. It was released on the PC, Xbox 360, and the Playstation 3 in February 2014. A trailer can be seen here. In October 2020, Rambo was announced to become a downloadable Guest Fighter in Mortal Kombat 11.
A Foreign Remake of the original movie starring Indian film actor, martial artist and stunt performer Tiger Shroff is currently in development.
Rambo media:Original novel
- First Blood (1972)
- First Blood (1982)
- Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
- Rambo III (1988)
- Rambo IV (2008)
- Rambo: Last Blood (2019)
Animated TV series
- Rambo: The Force of Freedom (1986)
- Mortal Kombat 11 (2019)
- Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (2020)
- Call of Duty: Warzone (2020)
- Paladins (2022)
- Smite (2022)
- Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: In First Blood, Rambo's breakdown and monologue in the end. In Rambo: First Blood Part II, the scene with Rambo and Co on the boat where he tells her he's "expendable". There are several in Rambo IV between Rambo and Sarah, most notably her pointing out "Maybe you're right, maybe we won't change anything. But trying to save a life isn't wasting your life." Unfortunately, many of these were cut.
- Animated Adaptation: Rambo: The Force of Freedom, a 65-Episode Cartoon which aired in 1986 alongside a tie-in toyline which was basically a G.I. Joe clone with Rambo as the lead character.
- Appropriated Title: The first movie was actually called First Blood. It wasn't until the sequel, Rambo: First Blood Part II, that the Rambo name was used at all.
- Asshole Victim: Chances are any villain will be one.
- Badass Bandolier: Rambo has worn a lot of them.
- Badass Boast: Every time Trautman talks about Rambo, he provides one:First Movie: You send that many [200 men] after him, you just remember one thing: a good supply of body bags.
Second Movie: What you call 'hell' [the depths of Communist Vietnam], he calls 'home'.
Third movie: [Upon being asked by the Russians if Rambo thinks he's God]: God would have mercy. He won't.
- Big Damn Heroes:
- Rebels save Rambo in the nick of time in parts 3 and 4.
- Likewise, Rambo saves a group of Burmese civilians (who are being forced to run through a minefield) with his bow in the fourth film when the mercenaries won't do anything.
- Black-and-Gray Morality: The first four movies but especially the fourth. When a missionary takes issue with Rambo killing a half dozen river pirates (because the whole reason they're there is to help stop the violence) Rambo angrily tells him that if he hadn't done anything they would have made his fiance into a sex slave and killed the rest of them.
- Bloodier and Gorier: All of the sequels, but Parts 4 and 5 really up the blood and body count.
- Bloody Hilarious: Many bad guys in 2 and 3 die this way.
- Book Ends: For the first four movies. First Blood begins with Rambo walking along a lonely road to visit a friend. Rambo ends with him walking a road which will take him home.
- Broken Aesop: First Blood - two hours illustrating and condemning the dehumanization of soldiers. The sequels - two hours of gleeful carnage by a One-Man Army.
- The Cavalry: Afghan rebels in the third movie, literally; Karen rebels in the fourth.
- Chekhov's Gun: Oh, I'm sure that unexploded ordnance won't be important later.
- Colonel Badass: Colonel Sam Trautman. He gets more play in the books, and in the first book, he's actually the man who kills Rambo — blowing his old student's head off with a shotgun.
- You'll need to wait until Rambo III to see him kick any ass in the movies, however.
- Conditioned to Accept Horror: Rambo himself. As you could probably guess from the chart, this is played for tragedy in the first movie but quickly sidelined in the rest.
- Cool Old Guy: Colonel Trautman in the first three movies (especially the third). Rambo himself became one in the fourth movie, since Stallone was 62 without showing it.
- Dirty Communists: The Vietnamese in First Blood Part II and Soviets in Rambo III.
- Fighting for a Homeland/La Résistance: The Afghans in the third movie; the Karen warriors in the fourth.
- Forging Scene: In the fourth film. Third movie also had it, but it was cut.
- The first one had Rambo building and setting up a bunch of traps and making arrows from freshly cut wood.
- Genre Shift: The first movie is a rather thoughtful psychological thriller. From the second movie onwards the series is action-adventure, with Rambo being recruited for highly dangerous missions.
- The Gunslinger: One of the most famous examples of the type B.
- In the fourth film, Rambo shows that he can also be a type C when he kills half a dozen pirates before they can react.
- Hot-Blooded: Rambo himself.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The cops of the first film and the PAVN and Dirty Communists of the second film. Averted in the third and fourth films, as the accuracy of the villains are such that Rambo gets shot at least once.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Frequently used on Rambo: by the police in the first movie, the PAVN and the Soviets in the second, etc.
- Just Plane Wrong: The Hind gunships in the second and third movies were actually French Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma helicopters, fitted with cosmetic modifications (most obviously the stub wings with rocket pods) to a decent semblance of a Hind. This ended up being carried over to all of the video games, licensed or fan-made.
- Said Pumas were originally modified for Red Dawn movie, but then they had fake cockpits and were looking remarkably similar to an early Hind-A model.
- In the second movie, Soviets also operated Vietnamese Huey, and this wouldn't be wrong, if it wasn't twin-engined Bell-212.
- Third movie also brought French Gazelles, that, even modified, looks like nothing from Soviet inventory.
- Kick the Dog: Police Brutality directed toward Rambo in the first film triggered his rampage.
- A literal example in the first movie, when Rambo kills the three dogs the police were trying to use to track him.
- Tint is a much more horrifying example.
- The Soviets in the third film.
- Large Ham: Again, Rambo.
- Lighter and Softer: Gradually becomes this as by the time Rambo III hits, it's a blatant Black-and-White Morality.
- The Mentor: Trautman, who is like a father to Rambo.
- Mook Horror Show: Happens in the first two sequels.
- More Dakka: Rambo practically thrives on this. You could've retitled all the shows 'Dakka: The Movie' and it would be appropriate.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Rambo is partially based on Audie Murphy, one of the most decorated soldiers of the Second World War. In particular, the infamous ".50 caliber scene" from Rambo IV is based on a real-life incident in which Murphy hijacked a damaged German tank's machine gun emplacement and single-handedly held off some fifty advancing enemy troops.
- Rambo's career in Vietnam bears uncanny resemblance to the one of Green Beret Robert Howard, who was nominated for the Medal of Honor three times over a 13-month period. Unlike Rambo, however, Howard stayed in service and became a colonel himself.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Rambo himself; supposedly from "Arizona" but has a thick Brooklyn accent.
- Novelization: Notable here mostly because David Morrell, who wrote the original First Blood novel, went on to pen the novelizations of the two movies that followed, specifically noting and then tossing aside the rather egregious Canon Discontinuity that emerged from the fact Rambo died in the book, but lives on in the films.
- One-Man Army: Rambo might well be the Trope Codifier, although see Flanderization.
- Even in the first movie, John Rambo is considered a one man army. Observe:Teasle: Are you telling me that 200 of our men against your boy is a no-win situation for us?
Trautman: You send that many, don't forget one thing.
Trautman: A good supply of body bags.
- Even in the first movie, John Rambo is considered a one man army. Observe:
- One-Liner, Name... One-Liner
- The Perils of Being the Best: Being the best meant Rambo kept getting sent on traumatizing, psychologically damaging missions, and being the best means that regardless of how badly he may want to retire, he keeps getting recruited all over again and thrown back into the meat grinder.
- Person of Mass Destruction: Rambo again.
- Rated M for Manly: As noted with the image up top, this tends to increase with each sequel; notably, First Blood was not particularly testosterone-heavy.
- Real Award, Fictional Character:
- John Rambo is identified as a Medal of Honor recipient by Col. Trautman.
- Sheriff Teasle's office has a Silver Star, a Purple Heart, and a Distinguished Service Cross on display. Though not mentioned in the film, the novel and director's commentary explicitly state he served in Korea.
- Ripped from the Headlines: Especially the third and fourth movies (focusing on the Soviet war in Afghanistan and Burmese insurrection in Karen State, specifically) but also the second, which is based on an Urban Legend about POWs from The Vietnam War.
- Ruthless Modern Pirates: Rambo pwns some Burmese river pirates in the fourth movie.
- He does same thing for their Vietnamese counterparts in the second movie.
- Scars are Forever: Rambo's scar on his face, a product of torture from part 2. The scars on his back and chest obtained during his stint as a POW in Vietnam also count.
- Screaming Warrior
- Sequel Number Snarl: The films in the series are entitled First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo III, Rambo and Rambo: Last Blood. This caused film critic Roger Ebert to wonder, in his review of Rambo III, "shouldn't this film be titled Rambo II: First Blood Part III?" Outside the US, this complication was often fixed by changing the title of the films to some variant of Rambo: (Subtitle) and having Numbered Sequels.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran / Death Seeker: Possible Trope Codifier.
- Shirtless Scene: Of course. Averted in the fourth film, though.
- Shouting Shooter
- Sliding Scale of Antagonist Vileness: Each Big Bad in a succeeding installment is shown to be more vile than the last, with the first film's Teasle being the least terrible and the fourth and fifth film's Tint and Hugo being the most.
- Sole Survivor: Rambo and Delmar Barry were the only ones of their old team to come back from Vietnam. The latter died prior to the start of the first film.
- Spotlight-Stealing Title
- Stuff Blowing Up: All over the place, natch. An entire boat blows up in the river scene in Pt. II, and that's just getting starting.
- The fourth blows up two boats and a whole lot of forest, courtesy of a massive unexploded Tallboy bomb. Mines and grenades aplenty, too, though they're usually treated fairly realistically - big boom, no huge fireball.
- Super-Soldier: Rambo is a deconstruction. Troutman trained him to become the best but all his abilities are useless in peacetime."You just don't turn it off!"
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: That poor Burmese army jeep driver whose death kick-starts the climatic battle of part 4 comes to mind; let's not even get started on the gratuitous explosions.
- True Companions: Rambo and Trautman. Emphasized with "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" playing over Rambo III's credits.
- Truth in Television:
- Unfortunately, what the Burmese are doing to the Karen is not an much of an exaggeration.
- Many Vietnam veterans were heavily traumatized, and some, sadly, reacted with violence. Many ended up on the street because they couldn't find a job.
- Aversion: After the second movie, an Urban Legend began to spread that large numbers of American POWs remain in prison camps in Vietnam, where they are tortured and treated horribly. While this undoubtedly happened during the war, there is no evidence any remain there.
- Universal Driver's License: In the first film Rambo mentions that he could pilot a gunship and drive a tank, and the sequels show he indeed knows how to do both.
- While Rambo's ability to fly Huey in second movie is completely plausible, his use of a Mi-24 and T-72 (he had no prior knowledge on vehicle's internal layout, startup procedures etc) is definitely not.
- The Vietnam Vet: Rambo's fighting in the war has left him with a seriously messed up psyche.
- Viler New Villain: Constantly. First movie: Overzealous and prejudiced town sheriff. Second: Cruel Soviet officer, torturing Rambo and calling POWs "war criminals". Third: Unhinged and sociopathic Soviet officer, that actually enjoys torture and killing civilians with no remorse. Fourth: Cowardly and sadistic Burmese officer, that commits numerous atrocities against Karen people, and uses his spare time for exercising in depraved pedophilia. Fifth: Mexican human trafficker who kidnaps and drugs young girls before selling them to sex slavery to pay off a profit.
- War Is Hell: The war will never end for those who fought it.
- We Do the Impossible
- Dolled-Up Installment/Spiritual Successor: Rambo: The Video Game is arguably one to Teyon's previous Light Gun Games, Heavy Fire. The Sega Master System game is a dolled-up version of Ashura (and known as Secret Commando in Europe; the Rambo license apparently not being expected to sell enough units in Europe to justify licensing the property outside of North America).
- First Installment Wins: Rambo: First Blood Part II is seen as the best Stallone-based game on the Master System, being a highly competent top-down shooter (similar to Ikari Warriors on the NES), compared to Rocky (a rather lackluster boxing title) and the later Rambo III (which was a decent Light Phaser game in its own right, that said).
- Lock-and-Load Montage: The cartoon included one of these in every episode, with Rambo tying his boots, tying his bandana, and putting his knife in his boot sheath.
- Press X to Not Die: The Rambo arcade Light Gun Game features sequences where you must press the Start button at the correct times to succeed, or swiftly "click" on marked spots on the screen à la fellow Sega game GHOST Squad to fistfight a villain. Rambo: The Video Game also includes traditional Quick Time Events, as well as a notorious "perk" that disables them entirely.
- Rated M for Manly: The SEGA arcade game, in spades.
- Unstoppable Rage: In the Rambo arcade game, killing enemies results in Rambo's "Rage" meter going up. When it maxes out, four things happen: