10 Shocking Rambo Moments Where Sylvester Stallone’s Action Franchise Didn’t Hold Back

Known for its action, violence, and exploring the dark side of veteran PTSD, Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo franchise doesn’t hold back. Beginning with Rambo: First Blood, in which John Rambo (Stallone) returns home from the Vietnam War to find his country openly hostile to his service overseas, it follows a veteran’s struggle to reintegrate into civilian society while coming to terms with accepting that he can only thrive in conflict. Though the first film was a thought-provoking drama interspersed with Rambo showcasing his survival skills against local law enforcement, its sequels, beginning with Rambo II revealed his lethality against increasingly dangerous foes.


With each passing film, Rambo became known as an action hero with a ridiculously high kill count, and savage violence became prominent. From Vietnam prison camps to Mexican drug and sex trafficking, Rambo became involved in the most detestable hives of human villainy. While the Rambo movies have often been dismissed as over-the-top, their insistence on showing the realities of war and its repercussions, combined with their unflinching look at the psychological and socio-political problems veterans face coming home, has given them a special place among franchises beyond just their ability to shock and awe fans with increasingly bigger explosions and brutal kills.

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10 Rambo’s Violent Flashbacks & PTSD From The Vietnam War

Throughout First Blood, Rambo suffers from gruesome flashbacks and nightmares that reveal the injuries he acquired from torture as a prisoner of war. These visions not only give an insight into Rambo’s emotional state upon returning home, but also explain his frustration at being dismissed as a second-class citizen after making the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War. Rambo hardly talks in the movies, but his emotional speech about being treated “like a dog” for being sent over to fight a war America didn’t agree with, compounded by not being able to “get a job parking cars” is both gut-wrenching and eye-opening.

9 Rambo’s Prison Escape In First Blood

Rambo in First Blood

After an inciting incident escalates to the point where Rambo is on the wrong side of the law, he gets put in jail. His prison escape offers one of the biggest action sequences of Rambo: First Blood as Rambo puts his wartime ingenuity to use in the woods. Crafting booby traps and other deterrents out of his natural environment, he’s pursued by local law enforcement and the National Guard, while also revealing how much his training has molded him into an instrument of war who can’t be underestimated or shot down.

RELATED: Why Rambo Only Kills ONE Character In First Blood

8 Rambo Becoming A One-Man Army In Part 2’s Prison Camp Massacre

Sylvester Stallone in Rambo First Blood Part 2

Rambo: First Blood Part II saw Rambo being given a choice; either rot in jail or be begrudgingly recruited by Col. Sam Troutman to return to Vietnam and rescue American prisoners of war. As he stalks the camp, the brutal atrocities he witnesses, including water torture and starvation, turn him into a one-man army against the enemy. The sequel had a body count of 75, and started the franchise on a bloody warpath, with Rambo proving himself to be an elite killer who, when push came to shove, could enact vengeance without mercy.

7 Rambo’s Explosive Arrow Destroying A Soviet Helicopter In Rambo 3

Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo using a bow and arrow in Rambo 3

Rambo III took the violence even further when it pits John Rambo against the Soviet Union. Initially enjoying a quiet life in Thailand, Rambo is forced to travel to Afghanistan when Col. Trautman is captured and tortured by the Russians. While on a top secret mission to rescue his friend, Rambo makes a special explosive arrow which he launches at a Soviet helicopter, creating one of the most often-parodied moments in the franchise while also showcasing Rambo’s ability to innovate.

6 Sylvester Stallone’s Hero Treating His Own Traumatic Injury In Rambo 3

Rambo cauterizing his wound in Rambo 3

Rambo has myriad skills crafting makeshift weaponry and booby traps, but Rambo III highlights his resourcefulness in other ways thanks to one shocking moment involving gunpowder. After suffering a particularly nasty wound, Rambo uses lit gunpowder to cauterize it and prevent himself from bleeding out. When it comes to saving his longtime friend Col. Trautman, Rambo won’t let anything hold him back, but the scene is definitely not for the squeamish.

5 Rambo Using A Gatling Gun To Mow Down Soldiers In Rambo (2008)

Sylvester Stallone in Rambo (2008).

Thirty years passed between Rambo III and Rambo (2008) when Stallone decided to direct the triumphant return of his veteran hero. Rambo’s solitary life in Thailand is once again disrupted when he’s forced to rescue some American missionaries from the Burmese army. Though he’s reluctant to return to a life of violence again, he rescues the captives with his particular set of military kills, including commandeering a 50. gatling gun and mowing down Burmese soldiers in one of the most gruesome sequences in the film.

4 Rambo Decapitating A Cartel Leader In Last Blood

In Rambo: Last Blood, Rambo has retreated to a ranch in Montana when his niece Gabrielle is kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel. In order to send a strong message to its members, he catches one of the leaders off-guard in the shower and decapitates him, leaving the body for the local authorities to find. Rambo drops the head out the window of his truck on the drive home, knowing that the cartel will come for him, but counting on the fact that when they do, the fight will be on his home turf.

RELATED: Last Blood’s Biggest Problem Was Rambo 4’s Fault

3 Rambo Failing To Save Gabrielle’s Life In Last Blood

Yvette Monreal in Rambo Last Blood

While fans might think that the majority of Rambo: Last Blood will be devoted to Rambo launching a full scale attack against the Mexican drug cartel to save Gabrielle, her rescue only accounts for the first quarter of the film. In a shocking turn of events, Gabrielle dies due to extreme trauma at the hands of the cartel, including being drugged and sexually assaulted. Even though some fans might think Rambo 5 didn’t honor First Blood’s point, Gabrielle’s death is a stark reminder that the franchise has roots in realism despite how outlandish it can seem, and that the hero can’t always save the day.

2 Rambo Rigging His Home To Destroy Cartel Soldiers In Last Blood

After severing the cartel leader’s head, Rambo returns to his ranch in Rambo: Last Blood and sets about rigging all of its underground tunnels with explosives and booby traps. When the cartel soldiers finally show up, they immediately fall prey to his deadly gauntlet of pain, getting their feet lopped off, their bodies impaled, and their skulls separated in multiple places. The graphic violence differs from certain other sequences in the Rambo films because its not as abstract as a wide spray of bullets.

1 Rambo Shockingly Cutting Out A Cartel Leader’s Heart In Last Blood

Rambo Last Blood Ending Rambo Kills Hugo Large

Rambo: Last Blood is one of the bloodiest films in the franchise because of its visceral death scenes, and nothing compares to the final kill. Rambo pins a cartel leader to the side of a barn with four arrows, and because the man has taken his heart by claiming the life of his niece, he takes his heart in revenge. As unexpected as the moment is, it’s strangely poetic, and serves to remind fans that at the heart of the Rambo franchise is the notion that no matter what he does, its titular hero can’t undo the atrocities of the past.

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