Sylvester Stallone returns to the role of action icon John Rambo in this year's Rambo: Last Blood. It's rumoured to be the last movie in the decade-spanning action franchise, and Stallone has become synonymous with the role of the noble, well-meaning yet haunted Vietnam veteran.
The latest movie promises to send the character out in a blaze of glory, as Rambo's attempts to live quietly on a farm soon invite the attention of deadly, violent criminals. Before Stallone, now at the sprightly age of 72, limbers up for another round of bullet-strafing, arm-breaking action, we're taking things back to the beginning to recap the 10 greatest Rambo moments.
1. Jail escape (First Blood, 1982)
It all started in 1982 with a relatively gritty, more psychologically-oriented take on the Rambo character. First Blood is adapted from David Morell's novel of the first name, and strikes an excellent blend between the source material's darkness and the needs of its muscular star Stallone.
The moment where Rambo, after being arrested for vagrancy after wandering through a small American town, escapes from the local police station is still explosively exciting. Stallone's visceral performance (he broke the nose of one of the extras) and Jerry Goldsmith's thunderous score never fail to get the heart racing.
2. Cliff jump (First Blood, 1982)
Even in the first Rambo movie, which is far more grounded than its increasingly cartoonish successors, there are moments where we must suspend our disbelief. Yet even these scenes are tempered with a sense of believability, Stallone convincing us of Rambo's physical vulnerability. The jump from a dizzyingly high cliff into a tree to escape the local police chopper is a classic white knuckle moment, all the moreso because Rambo ends up injuring himself in the process.
3. Rambo vs the police (First Blood, 1982)
The first Rambo movie, as per the book, isn't intended to be a brainless action movie, rather a sobering account of Vietnam war veterans struggling to acclimatise. The local police of Hope, Montana discover this the hard way when they pursue Rambo into the local forest and force him to unleash his formidable survival skills. The ringleader is belligerent Chief Teasle (Brian Dennehy) who just won't heed the warning signs – even when Rambo, having taken down Teasle's men with an assortment of booby-traps, holds a knife to his throat and promises "a war you won't believe".
4. Rambo's meltdown (First Blood, 1982)
Stallone is a better actor than many would believe, as the likes of Rocky and Cop Land attest. The end of First Blood is a moving and impactful one as Rambo, having laid siege to the centre of town, collapses in an emotional heap. He confesses all his demons to sympathetic Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna), his mentor and former commanding officer, Stallone's convincing monologue brimming with anguish. It's less dark than the ending of the novel where Rambo commits suicide, but it reminds us this is a film with brains as well as brawn.
5. Rambo and the snake (First Blood: Part II, 1985)
The buzzing, orchestral-electronic nature of Jerry Goldsmith's rousing score makes one thing clear: the Rambo sequel is a far more pumped-up, testosterone-laden beast. Looking back at First Blood: Part II now, it's so emblematic of mid-eighties film-making excess that it seems amusing. However, the movie is knowingly campy, the camera virtually poring over the sweat glistening on Stallone's back and brow. As further proof of this, just watch the scene where Rambo gears up for the first time – it virtually screams machismo.
6. Escaping from torture (First Blood: Part II, 1985)
Escaping from dastardly Soviet insurgents is one thing, but Rambo gives it a deliriously OTT twist. Having been framed by oily American bureaucrat Murdoch (Charles Napier), who is in league with Rambo's Ruskie enemies, our hero issues a chilling ultimatum over the radio, promising him vengeance is coming. He then proceeds to blitz the area with a machine gun, shirtless of course.
7. Explosive arrows (First Blood: Part II, 1985)
Rambo's enemies underestimate his sheer tenacity at their peril. Having escaped his Soviet captors Rambo then starts a mini war in the jungle, carving his way through his enemies. And he even puts a spin on the classic bow and arrow, applying explosive tips for added effect. It remains one of the most enjoyably silly yet defining moments in the Rambo canon.
8. Mano a mano (Rambo III, 1989)
Those of a certain generation will remember this scene being hilariously parodied by Charlie Sheen in spoof Hot Shots! Part Deux. The third Rambo movie kicks off in the Far East as the titular character engages in a hand to hand bout of stick fighting. At this point, it's hard to differentiate the Rambo character from Stallone's movie star invulnerability – at this stage in his career, he was at the peak of his powers, so it's little wonder that Rambo becomes increasingly pumped up in the process.
9. Rambo vs helicopter (Rambo III, 1989)
If you thought the second movie was dated, the third is hilariously so, as Rambo teams up with a group of Afghanistan freedom fighters to battle the nefarious forces of the Soviet army. But even though the film's politics have aged as well as moldy borscht, there's still hammy fun to be had in the third Rambo epic. Chiefly, the moment where our hero takes down an attack helicopter with a missile launcher – by this stage, Rambo is pretty much a superhero, and we're OK with that.
10. Eliminating the mercenaries (Rambo, 2008)
After nearly 20 years of waiting, we got our fourth Rambo movie, and it was a far gnarlier beast than many expected. Directed by and starring Stallone, the movie set some kind of record for the most mutilated bodies and gory shoot-em-ups packed within a 90 minute movie. The story picks up with an ageing, contemplative Rambo in the Far East – but of course he's drawn back into action to rescue a group of missionaries. The final showdown is so staggeringly violent that we're loathe to show it here – those who have the stomach can click here to watch.
Rambo: Last Blood is released on 20th September, so tweet us your favourite moments from the series @Cineworld.