A List Of Rambo Movies In Order

John J. Rambo, played by Sylvester Stallone, has led a bloody life, so after witnessing (and abetting) so much carnage over so many decades, you’ll forgive him for becoming a rancher in his golden years and donning duds that make him look like he’s trying out for the Village People. Stallone’s so vital at 72 as to invite envy, but that makes his 2019 addition to the Rambo franchise — Rambo V: Last Blood — a surprise, especially given that 2008’s Rambo gave the series a solid capper. Once a soldier, always a soldier.

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Rambo 5 is slated for a 2019 release date, which gives you plenty of time to get up to speed on the whole series. You probably need the refresher; after all, it’s been decades since Rambo: First Blood premiered in 1982. So come! Let’s hitchhike down memory lane to 1980s America and recount what happened in every single Rambo movie.

A recap of every Rambo movie

First Blood (1982)

The best film of the series is its most empathetic. We meet Rambo as a scruffy drifter traveling to see his old Special Forces pal, who turns out to have died from Agent Orange exposure. We feel for Rambo — more so when he wanders into Hope, Washington, and runs afoul of Sheriff Teasle (Brian Dennehy). Teasle thinks Rambo’s a bum and runs him out of town. Rambo ain’t taking that, and runs right back in. Teasle arrests him and surrenders him to his officers for hazing, but this triggers Rambo’s PTSD; he fights them off, flees into the woods, and in the ensuing manhunt, non-fatally dispatches Teasle’s deputies, save for one who dies in a helicopter accident. Not that Teasle cares.

As the situation spirals out of hand, Rambo’s erstwhile CO, Trautman (Richard Crenna), arrives to talk Rambo down. Teasle ignores him and keeps pushing Rambo, which in the pantheon of Very Bad Ideas™ ranks up there with giving Jason Voorhees a machete. Rambo goes on a tear and nearly kills Teasle, until Trautman intervenes and persuades him to surrender peacefully (what passes for peacefully, anyway) He comforts Rambo as he breaks down over his grief and past trauma in the film’s most powerful scene.

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Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

Moving as the image of Rambo weeping in Trautman’s arms is, it’s not enough for a Get Out of Jail Free card — so when First Blood Part II opens, we find him pulling heavy duty labor behind bars. But that works for Rambo. Prison gives him much-needed structure and routine.

Trautman offers Rambo a pardon if he goes to Vietnam to track a group of U.S. POWs held by the Vietnamese army. Rambo agrees. The mission only requires some easy recon, but he can’t help himself; spotting one of the POWs tied like Jesus to the cross, Rambo defies orders and the mission goes to hell in a ham sandwich. Making matters worse, Murdock (Charles Napier), the government suit overseeing the operation, kiboshes Rambo’s extraction and reveals he never meant to save the POWs at all. Saving POWs costs money.

Unless you’re Rambo. Falling into the clutches of Vietnamese troops and their eeeeevil Soviet allies, Rambo is freed by rebel Co (Julia Nickson), his love interest, whose death post-escape sets Rambo on a rampage; he steals a Soviet helicopter, levels the Vietnamese and Soviet camp, saves the remaining POWs, and wrecks up the U.S. base in Thailand in retribution for the government’s abandonment of its own soldiers. This time, rather than jail, he gets accolades plus a pardon, and stays in Thailand to meditate with monks. Fair enough.

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Rambo: The Force of Freedom (1986)

Yup, they made a Rambo TV show. Sandwiched between Rambo II and Rambo III, there’s Rambo: The Force of Freedom, which is basically “what if G.I. Joe but with Rambo, and instead of Cobra, S.A.V.A.G.E. (Specialist-Administrators of Vengeance, Anarchy and Global Extortion)?” It’s a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad show, as you might expect, and mercifully didn’t last the year it first aired.

Rambo III (1988)

Surprise, surprise: Rambo’s retirement didn’t last, either. Three years after First Blood Part II, Trautman drops in on Rambo as he stick fights for cash in Thailand, and tries to recruit him for a mission in Afghanistan; the U.S. means to arm the Mujahideen in their fight against the (eeeeevil) Soviets. Rambo demurs, even after Trautman shows him photos of Afghan civilians suffering at the hands of the Soviets, so Trautman goes alone.

Guess what? Trautman gets captured by Soviet troops. After hearing the news from Kurtwood Smith, Rambo hightails it to the Afghan desert to save his commander, and in the process, help the Mujahideen fight their Soviet enemies. Compared to Rambo’s past adventures, this mission goes relatively smoothly. Sure, young Hamid (Doudi Shoua) takes a bullet to the leg, but he lives, and Trautman only suffers a little torture before Rambo rescues him. They steal a helicopter (Rambo’s favorite move), and just about take on the Soviets by themselves until the Mujahideen run in on horseback and save the day.

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And then Rambo drives a tank into a helicopter to kill the Soviet Big Bad, which is goofy and awesome.

Rambo (2008)

Twenty years later, Stallone gave us an unexpected gift: a new meat and potatoes Rambo film. Set against the backdrop of the Saffron Revolution, Rambo sees John exploring secondary careers as a snake catcher and a ferryman when he’s hired by missionaries to take them up the Salween River to give medical aid to Karen villagers.

Not at all surprisingly, the journey goes poorly. Pirates stop Rambo’s boat and threaten bodily harm if he doesn’t hand over Sarah (Julie Benz), the sole woman in the missionary group. Also not at all surprisingly, Rambo kills the pirates, to the revulsion of the missionaries. They send him away, leaving them vulnerable to abduction by State Peace and Development Council Major Tint (Maung Maung Khin). At least he lets them live: His men brutally murder the villagers.

It’s up to Rambo to go on another rescue mission, hired by the missionaries’ pastor to guide a mercenary team through the area before the team’s chief, Lewis (Graham McTavish), sends him away. They’re helpless when they come across Tint as he and his soldiers prepare to torture hostages for fun, but it turns out Rambo followed them — and because Rambo is all that is man, he kills the soldiers with naught but his bow and arrows. Later, he and the mercenaries locate Tint’s camp and free the missionaries, only for Tint to capture everyone but Rambo, Sarah, and the mercenary’s sniper the next day.

Time for another rescue mission! Bow and arrows won’t do this time, so Rambo hijacks the M2 Browning machine gun mounted to one of Tint’s jeeps and turns the jeep driver into chunky spaghetti sauce before taking aim at Tint’s army. The M2 fires really big bullets, so Rambo has a ball cutting dudes in half while the mercenaries, joined by Karen rebels, clean up everyone left. Except Tint. Tint almost makes it out alive, until he makes the rookie mistake of running into Rambo’s machete and getting disemboweled. D’oh!

Rather than prison or Thailand, Rambo ends with John going back to the U.S. to see his dad in Arizona. Presumably, dad won’t make it to Rambo V: Last Blood, but you can bet that plenty of hyper-gory violence will, from throat rips to full-body liquification. Maybe we’ll get some soulful Stallone, too, as that seems to be where he’s at in his career. If Rambo V: Last Blood is the character’s final send-off, give him the stirring, emotional farewell he deserves.

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