It was 37 years ago that John Rambo first hit our screens, and star Sylvester Stallone is set to return to Cineworld cinemas on 19th September for the fifth and final (probably!) instalment in the series, Rambo: Last Blood.
So has Sly’s growly Vietnam veteran mellowed out since we last saw him? Erm, judging by the trailer, most definitely not! To celebrate another instalment of murderous mayhem, we look back at some of the most shockingly violent action movies of all time…
1. Rambo (2008)
The first three Rambo movies all had their moments of violence, although the grittier, more psychologically grounded First Blood was more impactful than the cartoonish sequels.
Stallone, however, ramped up the gore and carnage for 2008's Rambo, the first (and so far only) entry in the series that he himself as directed. The movie finds Rambo on a mission to save Christian missionaries from brutally violent Burmese soldiers, and racks up an impressive body count of 200 across a slim 90-minute running time.
The movie is far more barbaric than any of its predecessors, with the finale having gone down in infamy. Bodies are turned to mush, limbs are blown off and bad guys are graphically disembowelled in what amounts to a gore-hound's nirvana.
2. Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)
Bill doesn’t actually get killed in Quentin Tarantino’s fourth film as a director (that comes in 2004’s Kill Bill: Volume 2) – but an awful lot of other people do.
From the would-be rapist who gets his tongue bitten out by Uma Thurman’s character ‘the Bride’, to the goofy barfly whose advances on schoolgirl Gogo Yubari result in his guts being spilled on the floor, Tarantino really lets fly with the gore in this one.
He saves the best till last, though: for the climactic ‘House of Blue Leaves’ scene, where the Bride lays waste to a group of Yakuza gangsters known as the Crazy 88, the director used no fewer than 100 gallons of fake blood – contained in condoms. Some reports have suggested that Tarantino shot the scene in black and white in order to lessen the impact a little and avoid the highest-possible censorship rating in the US. It’s still pretty shocking!
3. RoboCop (1987)
Such was the initial level of violence in Paul Verhoeven’s futuristic crime thriller, the Dutch director reportedly had to submit the film eight times before he was finally granted an R rating in the US.
Watching the final cut, which features one character having his face melted off by toxic waste, another being machine-gunned to pieces by a ‘glitchy’ robot and a third having his limbs blown off one by one by murderous criminals, you have to wonder what the original edit was like.
Despite all the blood and guts, RoboCop topped the US box office in its opening weekend, beating Disney’s reissue of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the process. What that says about us as consumers, we’re not quite sure.
4. Total Recall (1990)
Verhoeven’s follow-up to RoboCop continued in the same, slightly gratuitous vein, with enough blood and guts to shake an Uzi 9mm at.
An adaptation of Philip K Dick’s short story ‘We Can Remember it for You Wholesale’, Total Recall casts Arnold Schwarzenegger as a construction worker who travels to Mars to unravel his mysterious back story. But the thing you’ll ‘recall’ most about the movie is how much death Arnie dishes out, the former Mr Universe notching up a (literally) breathtaking 44 kills.
While all that carnage left some people gagging on their popcorn, it was missed when a somewhat tamer reboot of the film hit cinema screens in 2012 – critic Amy Biancolli of the San Francisco Chronicle dismissed director Len Wiseman’s film as “bland” and “bloodless”.
5. Kick-Ass (2010)
Matthew Vaughn’s take on an unlikely DIY superhero is essentially a goofy comedy – and that’s precisely why the film’s bloody ending comes as such a shock. That, and the fact that the devastation is perpetrated by a girl not yet in her teens.
Chloë Grace Moretz was just 12 years old when she portrayed Kick-Ass’s sidekick Hit-Girl, who exacts bloody revenge at gangster Frank D’Amico’s (Mark Strong) penthouse after her father is murdered. Over two breathtaking minutes, the youthful assassin vanquishes D’Amico’s thugs in a series of ever more creative and disturbing ways.
So shocking is the violence, and the language used by Hit-Girl as she delivers whoop on those hapless hoodlums, the film was met by a barrage of criticism upon its release. As for Moretz, she insisted that she’s nothing like her on-screen persona: “If I ever uttered one word that I said in Kick-Ass,” she later said in an interview, “I’d be grounded for years!”
Rambo: Last Blood is at Cineworld cinemas from 20 September. Click here to book your Rambo: Last Blood tickets.