Whether it’s sporting a red headband or shooting menacing looks at bad guys (not to mention the barrage of bullets that swiftly follow), there isn’t much John J. Rambo can’t do.
Since the franchise’s inception in 1982, audiences have grown accustomed to the sight of Sylvester Stallone as the Vietnam veteran and former Green Beret, traipsing through the dense and dangerous wilderness leaving a trail of blood, bodies and bicep envy in his wake.
And now, 37 years, four outings and countless death-defying escapades later, the character returns for a fifth time in Rambo: Last Blood.
The 73-year-old Stallone reprises his role in a story that sends Rambo to Mexico, tasked with rescuing a young girl kidnapped by a feared drug cartel.
To mark Rambo’s return on 20th September, here’s a selection of the most gloriously over the top moments from the series so far.
1. The hunters become the hunted – First Blood (1982)
The Vietnam veteran’s inception as a quiet, lonely drifter burdened by PTSD strikes a far different, more poignant chord from the cartoonish sequels.
But while First Blood carves out neat narrative avenues and intriguing character nuances to be used as fuel for subsequent instalments, director Ted Kotcheff’s film isn’t without its fair share of chaos.
One such sequence sees Rambo — on the run from the local authorities hunting him — hiding out in the woodland outside the film’s sleepy small-town setting.
Backed into a corner by his pursuers, Rambo reverts to what he knows best and crafts weapons and sets booby-traps fashioned from leaves and sharpened sticks.
In increasingly inventive, but non-fatal ways, our hero halts the hapless deputies in their tracks, all the while covering his own. Think Bear Grylls meets Home Alone, basically.
2. The entire final third – Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
Rip-roaring, relentless and reaching first-person-shooter-video-game levels of goon-dispatching, the finale of First Blood Part II is pretty darn spectacular.
As second outings go, it’s fair to say that Rambo’s sophomore escapade has something for everyone. If escaping a POW camp isn’t your cup of tea, you might find Rambo tearing through the Vietnamese jungle more to your taste.
If that doesn’t float your boat, perhaps you’ll enjoy our rugged maverick taking out an army of Russian soldiers singlehandedly before blowing a chopper to smithereens with a rocket launcher.
With explosive excessiveness in abundance, it seems the only thing Rambo appears to be missing in all of this is his t-shirt.
3. Recovery, Rambo style – Rambo III (1988)
Contrary to what the movies might have you believe, Rambo is, in fact, human. And, as any number of his one-man, trigger-happy onslaughts prove, he’s susceptible to injury.
In Rambo’s line of work, one might even call it inevitable. But even after everything he’s been through, seeing Rambo wincing at the piece of shrapnel protruding from his waist is something of an anomaly.
What isn’t, however, is the very on-brand method of self-repair Rambo adopts without even a moment of second thought.
Pushing a metal rod from the wound with his thumb, our hero proceeds to pour gun powder into the bleeding laceration, before swiftly igniting, and thus cauterising it.
All standard stuff in the world of John Rambo, one would assume.
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4. Tank vs Chopper – Rambo III (1988)
It seems all vehicles in the Rambo series serve one purpose, and one purpose only: to be obliterated into a million tiny pieces.
Rambo III takes transport-trouncing to entirely new levels, however. In a final showdown between our hero and the villain — merciless Soviet Colonel Zaysen (Marc de Jonge) — the pair engage in a head-on altercation in which good and evil, quite literally, collide.
With the former in a tank and the latter in a helicopter, it’s a climax that exuberantly evokes the drama of a medieval joust, or a sun-soaked Mexican standoff at the end of a classic Western — only with more metal and added explosions.
5. Rumble in the jungle – Rambo (2008)
After a 20-year hiatus, the popular action series returned in 2008 with its grittiest entry to date. Simply titled Rambo, the film, directed by Sly himself, sees our hero in arguably his most convincing form: an ageing, damaged recluse visibly burdened by his years of ass-kicking.
But of course, in the world of John Rambo, age is merely a number. So, when we see him at the trigger of a jeep-mounted machine gun cutting down an entire army of Burmese mercenaries, it hardly comes as a surprise.
It’s a much bloodier affair two-decades on. More shocking than it is entertaining, the gore gets a serious ramp-up as Rambo and a team of stealthy mercenaries lay waste to an entire stretch of greenery, and pretty much everything in it.
George Nash is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.