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Rambo III


Buzz Feitshans, Mario Kassar, Andrew G. Vajna
Sylvester Stallone, Sheldon Lettich
Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Marc de Jonge, Kurtwood Smith, Sasson Gabai, Spiros Focas
Music by
Release date
May 25, 1988
$62 million
Preceded by
Followed by

Rambo III (also known as First Blood Part III) is a 1988 American action film starring Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo when he goes to rescue his longtime friend and mentor Colonel Sam Trautman from a Soviet prison camp in Afghanistan. It was Richard Crenna's last appearance in a Rambo film, that is, not counting the parody, Hot Shots! Part Deux, which isn't a Rambo film. He would also appear in several episodes of the hit TV series Judging Amy. Again, not a Rambo film.


The film opens with Colonel Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) returning to Bangkok, Thailand (where Rambo left to at the end of the second film) to once again enlist the help of Vietnam veteran John J. Rambo (Sylvester Stallone). Trautman sees Rambo stick fighting in a warehouse; a fight which he wins, although visibly having a sort of traumatic flashback while doing so. Rambo leaves before Trautman can talk to him, although he sees Rambo give the money he earned to some Buddhist monks. The following day, Trautman trails Rambo to a Buddhist Monastery where he lives, fixing things. There, Trautman visits the construction site of the temple Rambo is helping to build and asks Rambo to join him on a mission to Afghanistan. The mission is meant to supply weapons, including FIM 92-A Stinger missiles, to Afghan freedom fighters, the Mujahideen, who are fighting the Soviets in the Soviet-Afghan War. Despite showing him photos of civilians suffering under Soviet military intervention, Rambo refuses, expressing disillusionment with war and claiming that if he goes in, it won't make a difference, since it didn't before. Those are views Rambo will hold almost 30 years later. Rambo claims that here he can belong to something and lead a peaceful life. Trautman tells Rambo that he must come full circle and realize that he is a warrior and will always be tearing away at himself unless he realizes that and does what he does best. Rambo is unmoved and Trautman chooses to go in on his own. While in Afghanistan, Trautman's troops are ambushed by Soviet troops while passing through the mountains at night.

Trautman is imprisoned in a Soviet base and coerced for information by Colonel Zaysen (Marc de Jonge) and his henchman Kourov (Randy Raney). Rambo learns of the incident from embassy field officer Robert Griggs (Kurtwood Smith) and convinces Griggs to take him through an unofficial operation, despite his warning that the US government will deny any knowledge of his actions if killed or caught. Rambo immediately flies to Pakistan where he meets up with Mousa (Sasson Gabai), a weapons supplier who agrees to take him to a village deep in the Afghan desert, The Mujahideen in the village are already hesitant to help Rambo in the first place, but decide not to help him when their village is attacked by Soviet helicopters after one of Mousa's shop assistants has informed to the Soviets. Aided only by Mousa and a young boy named Hamid (Doudi Shoua), Rambo makes his way to the Soviet base and attempts to free Trautman. The first attempt is unsuccessful and results not only in Hamid getting shot in the leg, but also in Rambo himself getting a piece of shrapnel through his stomach. Rambo sends Hamid and Mousa away back to the camp while he pushes the shrapnel out and then disenfects the wound before cutting the bullet off of an AK-47 round and emptying the gunpowder from the shell into the wound. Rambo then lights the gunpowder, cauterizing the wound.

The next day, Rambo returns to the base once again, just in time to rescue Trautman from being tortured with a blow-torch. After rescuing several other prisoners, Rambo steals a helicopter and escapes from the base. However, the helicopter soon crashes and Rambo and Trautman are forced to continue on foot. After a confrontation in a cave, where Rambo and Trautman kill several Russian soldiers including Kourov, they are confronted by an entire army of Russian tanks, headed by Zaysen. Just as they are about to be overwhelmed by the might of the Soviet Army, the Mujahideen warriors, together with Mousa and Hamid, ride onto the battlefield by the hundreds in an thunderously awe-inspiring cavalry charge. In the ensuing battle, in which both Trautman and John are wounded, Rambo manages to kill Zaysen by driving a tank into the helicopter Zaysen is flying in. At the end of the battle Rambo and Trautman say goodbye to their Mujahideen friends and leave Afghanistan to go home.

David Morell, author of First Blood the novel the first Rambo film is based on, wrote a novelization.


The logo for Rambo III.

The movie was shot mainly in Thailand and Israel. The scene in the Buddhist monastery was shot in Wat Phra Phutthabat Tak Pha, Lamphun, Thailand. US Embassy scene was shot at East Asiatic Company Thailand Building in Charoen Krung 40, Bangkok. Stick Fight and Long tail boat scene was shot in Bangkok Yai Canal nearby Wat Sangkrachai Worawihan Temple in Bangkok, Thailand while others were shot in Eilat, Jaffa and Tel Aviv, Israel. The Afghan market scene was a decorated set in Peshawar, Pakistan, where the scene took place. The film was nearing completion when the film was forced to remove from Israel to film, instead resorting to filming the ending scenes at the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation in Yuma, Arizona in America. This led to the loss of authentic Soviet and Afghan weaponry.

Original director Russell Mulcahy was replaced after two weeks of filming by Peter MacDonald due to creative differences. Three cinematographers (directors of photography) also succeeded. The character Masoud (Spiros Focas) is a reference to Ahmad Shah Masoud, a real-life leader of the Afghani resistance against the Russian occupation, minister of defense of Afghanistan (after the Russian occupation ended) and later again a leader of the resistance, this time against the Taliban regime. 

The 1990 Guinness World Records deemed Rambo III the most violent film ever made, with 221 acts of violence, at least 70 explosions, and over 108 characters killed on-screen. However, the body count of the fourth film in the series, Rambo, surpassed that record, with 236 kills. The Mi-24 Hind-D helicopters seen in the film are in fact modified Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma transport helicopters with fabricated bolt-on wings similar to the real Hind-Ds which were mainly used in the former Soviet bloc nations. The other helicopter depicted is a slightly reshaped Aérospatiale Gazelle.

The film's extensive score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, although the full version was not used. However, on the soundtrack, it was restored to its normal length.


Rambo III ultimate edition DVD.

The film, although a box office success, was panned by critics and often viewed as a disappointment. Fans did not find it as well-paced or riveting as its predecessor, and most consider it the weakest film in the series. Although fans still liked the film, they felt it was significantly weaker than its predecessor and didn't enjoy it quite as much, although fans would later applaud the next sequel, Rambo IV, which came out in 2008. Rambo III is almost unanimously regarded as the most outrageous or stereotypical film in the series, but fans still like the film. Rambo III is also the most lighthearted film in the series, with Rambo himself even cracking one-liners to Trautman. Rambo is much more serious in all of the other films, so this is another area that fans are divided on.

It scored a 36% 'rotten' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 28 reviews. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Tribune were split on Rambo III. Siskel awarded it the 'thumbs up', and Ebert gave it the 'thumbs down' to those expecting more from the film, although he did recommend the film to fans, saying that the film was entertaining and 'delivers the goods'. The New York Times gave a negative review of the film.

Rambo III opened in the US on May 25, 1988 at 2,562 theatres on Memorial Day weekend. Overall in the US, the movie grossed $53,715,611 million and then took $135,300,000 million internationally, giving it a box office total of $189,015,611 million.

At the time of its release, Rambo III was the most expensive film ever made, with a $63 million budget.

Reaction and Controversy[]


Public reaction to how the Soviets were portrayed as the evil villains and the Mujahideen portrayed as the angelic protagonists received some public backlash. Some political experts state that, despite the Soviet's atrocities, they would have stabilized Afghanistan had the CIA not assisted the Mujahideen.

However, other commentators like the LA Times' Ernest Connie, point out that there was a lack of public outrage at Soviet war crimes committed against the Afghan people.

Connie wrote:

"..., there is never an excuse for the calculated, deliberate massacre of civilian non-combatants as a matter of policy. ...Yet the world seems hardly to notice (or care) that Soviets and their supporters are committing the same kind of deliberate atrocities in Afghanistan."

Connie also cites two human rights reports that conclude that the Soviets were using terror against civilians as major strategy stating that "The killing of innocent people isn't a byproduct of the strategy, but its very heart."

It is worth noting that it was the conquest and war crimes committed against Afghans that led to the formation of the Mujahadeen.

However, a Mujahideen's victory meant that the political unrest in the middle east would snowball into various other conflicts, including the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. But other commentators would say that such extremism would never had taken place if the Soviets didn't start the conflict in the first place.

The current US led NATO action is winding down with an uncertain outcome. The stereotypes in Rambo III are generally regarded as the most inaccurate in the entire series, and as a result, is often parodied.

However, the Mujahideen that was praised in the movie in 1988, are not the same Mujahideen in post 9/11 Afghanistan; since the group was politically split and entered a period of civil war, after the Soviet occupiers were expelled in 1989.

Films: First BloodRambo: First Blood Part IIRambo IIIRamboRambo: Last Blood
John Rambo on: First BloodFirst Blood Part IIRambo IIIRambo IVOn-Screen Kills
Cast: Sylvester StalloneRichard Crenna
Video games: RamboRambo: First Blood Part IIRambo (1987)Rambo IIIRambo on FireRambo (Sega)Rambo: The Video Game