20 Wild Facts We Never Knew About Sylvester Stallone's 'Rambo' Films

What late '80s, early '90s kid didn't spend at least one summer afternoon with a bandana tied around their head, impersonating the legendary John Rambo? First Blood, America’s introduction to the character, is a post-Vietnam deconstruction of small town America, in which political commentary meets gratuitous action. The movie essentially jump-started the modern action era along with films like Death Wish and The Terminator, and helped Sylvester Stallone really establish himself as an action superstar with his own impressive mythos.  

The franchise facts you’re about to read are especially fascinating, especially when it comes to the way Stallone had the foresight to keep his character alive in order to franchise his second golden-egg-laying, muscle-bound goose (the first being Rocky, obviously). Aside from stories of Stallone’s rise to power, these Rambo series facts will reveal which actor from the golden age of Hollywood almost derailed the series, and the interesting way that Stallone was paid for Rambo III.  

Photo: Rambo III / Tri-Star Pictures

  • A Catchphrase From 'Rambo' Inspired Burmese Freedom Fighters

    A Catchphrase From 'Rambo' Inspired Burmese Freedom Fighters
    Photo: Lionsgate

    The fourth Rambo film, which goes by the somewhat enigmatic title Rambo, is set in Burma/Myanmar and features John Rambo rescuing Christian missionaries and Burmese hostages from the State Peace and Development Council army (the harsh apparatus of the military junta).

    Rambo took a lot of details from what was really going on in Burma at the time, so it shouldn't surprise you the government banned the movie. However, bootleg copies made their way into the country, and into the hands of the Burmese Freedom Fighters, who took up the line "live for nothing or die for something" as a mantra. Members of the group collect bootleg copies of Rambo and distribute them to their friends and family.

    A Rangoon-based activist told The Telegraph: "I like the movie very much because Rambo fought against Myanmar soldiers. I watched the movie at home with my family, and gave it to my friends because I wanted them to see it."

  • Stallone Demanded A Jet As Payment For 'Rambo III'

    Sly Stallone decided it was time to go big or go home with Rambo III (since he'd never gone big before that point) and demanded a whole jet as payment.

    He got it, too, which shows serious faith on the part of the producers who ponied up $12 million for a Gulfstream in order to get Stallone in the headband for a third time. 

  • Stallone Considered Slamming His Hand In Burt Reynolds's Door To Get Out Of 'First Blood'

    In the DVD commentary for First Blood, Stallone claims he thought about backing out of his commitment to the project, going so far as to consider injuring himself by slamming his hand in a door at Burt Reynolds’s house to get out of the movie. Why? According to the Italian Stallion, it seemed to be spiraling out of control in pre-production, which didn't bode well for the film's success. Luckily, he ended up staying anyway, and the rest is history.

  • Stallone Fired The Director Of 'Rambo III' While The Movie Was In Production

    A few weeks into filming Rambo III, the most reviled film of the series, Stallone fired and replaced a shocking number of people. Specifically, he fired the director, director of photography, and basically the entire camera crew. 

    Stallone later told the LA Times it had to do with people not thinking ahead:

    The canvas of this movie is so large you have to constantly think 10 scenes ahead. You can't wing it. They didn't go into the Battle of Waterloo not knowing what their strategy would be. Well, this movie is kind of like a cinematic warfare. We have a huge cast and crew (more than 250 people) and tough locations to deal with. Everyone and everything has to coordinate.

    Yes, Stallone compared the making of Rambo III to Waterloo. The same article in which Stallone spoke his piece also includes the following: "According to sources on the set, the problems stemmed from some key crew members' varying interpretations of what the next Rambo movie should look like, to personality conflicts among crew members, the producers and/or Stallone."

  • Shots Were Fired On The Crew Of 'Rambo,' And Stallone Called The Location 'A Hellhole Beyond Your Wildest Dreams'

    Shots Were Fired On The Crew Of 'Rambo,' And Stallone Called The Location 'A Hellhole Beyond Your Wildest Dreams'
    Photo: Lionsgate

    While filming Rambo in the Salween River region between Thailand and Myanmar, the crew was almost mowed down by automatic gunfire. Stallone told USA Today

    We had shots fired above our heads. We were told we could get seriously hurt if we went on... We hear about Vietnam and Cambodia but the results of this conflict are more horrific. This is a hellhole beyond your wildest dreams.

  • 'Rambo: First Blood Part II' Producers Wanted To Cast John Travolta As A Techy Sidekick

    For Rambo: First Blood Part II,  producers thought the beloved protagonist should have a tech-oriented partner to help rescue POWs in Vietnam. Who did they think had the chutzpah play Stallone's partner? None other than John Travolta.

    Stallone ultimately nixed the idea and had Rambo team up with a young local woman who (spoiler alert) sadly didn't last, and ended up perishing at the hands of her own people.