7 Interesting Things We Didn’t Know About Rambo

Photo Credit: Carolco Pictures / MovieStillsDB

The Rambo movies are some of the most beloved action flicks of all time. But there’s more to them than mindless carnage. A lot of thought went into the production of these movies, and it’s quite easy to have missed some things along the way. Here are some interesting Rambo facts you might not have known.

1. Rambo’s knife was custom made for the movie

One of Rambo‘s most distinctive traits is his fearsome-looking knife. But this wasn’t any old knife picked up off the shelf by the production team.

The knife used by actor Sylvester Stallone in the film Rambo: First Blood Part II
Knife used by Sylvester Stallone in Rambo: First Blood Part II. (Photo Credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

Sylvester Stallone himself chose knifemaker Jimmy Lile to design it. Stallone wanted the knife to be both a deadly weapon and a useful survival tool that could chop wood, dice up food, and carry survival necessities in the handle like fishing wire and matches. On the spine of the blade are serrated teeth for sawing.

Visually, the knife was inspired by knives carried by pilots in the Vietnam War era. Like Rambo’s knife, these were self-contained survival kits.

2. The director of Rambo III was fired two weeks after production began

Russell Mulcahy was meant to be the director for Rambo III but was fired from the role because of creative differences. Peter MacDonald took his place with just two days’ notice. This must have been especially terrifying for MacDonald as the movie was the most expensive ever made at that point, costing $63 million. The completed film only had a small portion of Mulcahy’s work kept in it.

3. Rambo was named after an apple

The apples that Rambo got his name from.
Rambo apples. (Photo Credit: Mary Daisy Arnold & Royal Charles Steadman via Wikimedia Commons)

Rambo’s name evokes power, but it was inspired by something slightly less cool. The first movie (First Blood, released in 1982) was an adaption of David Morrell’s 1972 novel First Blood. Morrell was having a tough time thinking of a name that would suit his imposing main character, until he ate an apple: “I took a bite of the apple and discovered that it was in fact delicious. ‘What’s it called?’ I asked [my wife]. ‘Rambo,’ she replied … Instantly, I recognized the sound of force.”

1982’s First Blood made Rambo’s first name John, as the novel didn’t give him one.

4. There’s an urban legend about the dedication of Rambo III

Dedication from Rambo III
The original dedication (top) along with the photoshopped version that spawned the urban legend (bottom). (Photo Credit: Nyar99 / Reddit)

Rambo teams up with Afghan mujahideen fighters in the 1988 Rambo III movie. At the time of its release, some people claim that the movie’s end dedication said, “This film is dedicated to the brave Mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan.” After the September 11 attacks in 2001, the movie’s dedication was allegedly changed to “This film is dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan.”

While this urban legend has gained some traction (and even spawned a meme), it is not true, as several movie reviews from the time the movie was released mention the dedication to the “gallant people of Afghanistan.”

5. Stallone didn’t think First Blood would ever get made, so he turned the role down at first

Actor Sylvester Stallone attends the premiere of "John Rambo" on January 28, 2008
Photo Credit: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

Today, it seems weird to think of Rambo without Stallone, but that very nearly happened during the movie’s turbulent history. After being passed around numerous studios for years and then being rewritten over and over again, the film looked like it was never going to happen. Many high-profile actors took on the role of Rambo during the movie’s planning before eventually dropping out. Some of these include Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro, and John Travolta.

Thanks to Rocky’s popularity, Stallone was eventually offered the role of Rambo, but knowing the movie’s chaotic past, he turned it down. He later changed his mind when he was given the opportunity to rewrite the screenplay.

6. Rambo (2008) is banned in Myanmar

2008’s Rambo focuses on Myanmar, formerly Burma. Major Pa Tee Tint is the villain of the movie, and he is seen committing crimes against innocent civilians during the Saffron Revolution in Myanmar. The actor who plays Tint, Maung Maung Khin, was a former Karen freedom fighter, a group who have been involved in civil wars within the country. This anti-government sentiment has resulted in the movie being banned in Myanmar.

7. John Rambo doesn’t actually directly kill anyone in First Blood

Scene from First Blood showing John Rambo hitchhiking.
Photo Credit: Carolco Pictures / MovieStillsDB

If there is one thing everyone knows about Rambo, it’s that he’s a one-man killing machine. However, he doesn’t actually kill anyone in the first movie; he only causes serious harm to his enemies who are hunting him. This was a choice made by Stallone to prevent audiences from seeing Rambo as the bad guy. In the 1972 book the film is based on, Rambo’s severe PTSD causes him to go on a crazed killing spree, so it’s understandable Stallone made this change to the character.

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Rambo does indirectly kill Deputy Galt, who was attempting to kill Rambo with his rifle. While Galt is lining up a shot from a helicopter, Rambo throws a stone at the aircraft, knocking Galt off balance and he subsequently falls to his death.