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From First Blood to Last Blood: everything you need to know about the Rambo series so far


Put on your best headband and start practicing your action hero scream because Rambo: Last Blood is set to arrive in Cineworld on 20th September.

The first feature film by Adrian Grunberg, who has previously worked as a second unit director on projects including Apocalypto and Jack Reacher, the movie is the fifth entry in the legendary action franchise and is co-written by series figurehead Sylvester Stallone. With the trailer showing a now aged Rambo (Stallone) talking of living in a “world of death” and having to face his past, we can expect big things from this upcoming action smash.

It’s been over a decade since we last saw Rambo in action, and it's more than 35 years since he first appeared on our screens, so you can be forgiven for being a little foggy on his background. If you don’t have time for a Rambo marathon before the new film hits cinemas, here’s everything you need to know about the series so far.

First Blood (1982)

Adapted from the 1972 novel of the same name by David Morrell, First Blood was the film that introduced audiences to the now-iconic action hero, portrayed by Sylvester Stallone at the height of his stardom. It was also the first time that the character was given the name John after only being known as Rambo in the novel.

After being discharged from the Vietnam war, our hero travels to the small town of Hope, Washington to visit an old army buddy, who we soon learn has passed away. On his travels, however, he’s confronted by Sheriff Teasle (Brian Dennehy) who, believing Rambo to be a drifter, escorts him out of town. But when Rambo returns, he’s arrested and tormented by his captors. Unfortunately for the police officers, their cruelty triggers horrific flashbacks of Rambo’s time as a POW, causing him to flee to nearby mountains.

After a failed manhunt, Rambo’s former commander Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) arrives on scene. Following a tense climax and Rambo’s emotional breakdown, he’s taken into custody by Trautman, a different end to the novel in which he dies.

Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

Picking up three years after First Blood, the sequel begins as Rambo is visited by Trautman while in jail. In exchange for Rambo's freedom, the Colonel recruits him for a secret mission to rescue a group of US soldiers being held as prisoners in the Far East. Armed with only a bow and knife, Rambo embarks on his covert mission in the Vietnamese jungle.

However, when he disobeys orders and rescues a prisoner instead of surveying the area, oily bureaucrat Murdoch (Charles Napier), aborts the mission, leaving Rambo to be captured. Of course, he doesn’t stay captured for long when freedom fighter and romantic interest Co (Julia Nickson) manages to save Rambo, only to be killed moments later. Enraged, Rambo goes on a bloody spree, killing the camp’s soldiers and escapes in a helicopter.

Returning home, Rambo demands Murdoch rescues the remaining POWs, and after making an impassioned speech the credits roll on Rambo walking into the distance like the hero he is.

Rambo III (1988)

Like its predecessor, Rambo III begins with Trautman seeking assistance from Rambo, who’s now gone to ground in Thailand while spending his time competing in fight clubs. Rambo's mission this time is to help the Afghan militia defeat Soviet forces - unlike the last film, however, Rambo refuses, claiming he’s tired of war. This results in Trautman being ambushed and captured at the Afghan border.

With no intention of letting his only friend die, Rambo successfully persuades US officials to give him permission to embark on a one-man mission to rescue Trautman. And in typical Rambo fashion, this involves a lot of brutal deaths and over-the-top action spectacles; almost doubling the kill count of the previous film and resulting in 65 seconds being cut from the UK release.

Rambo rescues Trautman just in the nick of time, and the pair have one final epic showdown with the Soviets with help from the Afghan fighters. And in one ridiculously awesome set piece, Rambo defeats the Soviet commander by ramming a tank into his helicopter. Their mission complete and the enemy defeated, the pair drive off together; marking the final time Richard Crenna would appear in the series (he passed away in 2003).

Rambo (2008)

A good 20 years after Rambo III, Stallone returned once again for the fourth installment, the only entry to be directed by Stallone himself.

Back living a quiet life in Thailand in a small village near the border with Burma, which is enveloped in a bloody revolution, the weary hero reluctantly agrees to accompany a group of missionaries across the border for humanitarian work. But despite successfully escorting the group to their destination, they're ultimately captured. Rambo then joins forces with a squad of mercenaries to rescue the missionaries and defeat the tyrannical forces.

The ensuing firefight is the bloodiest in the franchise to date, landing the movie with an 18 certificate in the UK. His work finally complete, Rambo returns home, once again on foot as the series comes full circle, to visit his father at his ranch – which is likely the ranch we see in the trailer for Last Blood.

Now that we’re fully caught up on the series so far, we can look forward to seeing Rambo: Last Blood when it arrives in Cineworld on 20th September.

Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.