Little-Known Facts Even the Biggest Movie Fan Doesn’t Know About ‘Rambo’

Photo Credit: lisakenobi / Carolco Pictures / TriStar Pictures / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: lisakenobi / Carolco Pictures / TriStar Pictures / MovieStillsDB

The movies in the Rambo franchise are some of the most beloved action flicks of all time. However, there’s more to them than just mindless carnage. A lot of thought went into the production of these films, and it’s easy to have missed some Easter eggs along the way. The following are some interesting and little-known facts about Rambo that you might not have known.

Rambo’s knife was custom made

Serrated knife placed on a table
Knife featured in Rambo: First Blood Part II, 1985. (Photo Credit: Timothy A. Clary / AFP / Getty Images)

One of Rambo’s most distinctive traits is his fearsome-looking knife,, and it wasn’t any old knife that picked up off the shelf by the production team. Sylvester Stallone himself chose knifemaker Jimmy Lile to design the blade. He wanted it to be both a deadly weapon and a useful survival tool that could chop wood, dice up food, and carry survival necessities in its handle, like fishing wire and matches. On the spine of the blade are serrated teeth for sawing.

Visually, the knife was inspired by those carried by US Air Force pilots during the Vietnam War. An interesting fact about those is that, similar to Rambo’s, those blades were self-contained survival kits.

Sylvester Stallone didn’t think First Blood would actually get made

Sylvester Stallone and Brian Dennehy as John J. Rambo and Sheriff Will Teasle in 'First Blood'
First Blood, 1982. (Photo Credit: warnerchild / Carolco Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

Today, it seems weird to think of Rambo without Sylvester Stallone, but that nearly happened during the franchise’s turbulent history. After being passed around numerous movie studios for years and then rewritten over and over again, First Blood (1982) looked like it was never going to happen.

Many high-profile actors took on the role of Rambo during the planning stage, before dropping out, including Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro and John Travolta. Thanks to the popularity of the Rocky franchise, Stallone was eventually offered the role, but knowing First Blood‘s chaotic past, he turned it down.

He later changed his mind when he was given the opportunity to rewrite the screenplay.

Rambo is banned in Myanmar

Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo in 'Rambo'
Rambo, 2008. (Photo Credit: ColTrautman / Lionsgate Entertainment / Millennium Films / MovieStillsDB)

2008’s Rambo focuses on Myanmar, formerly Burma. Maj. Pa Tee Tint is the villain and is seen committing crimes against innocent civilians during the Saffron Revolution. The actor who plays him, Maung Maung Khin, was a former Karen freedom fighter, a group who’ve been involved in civil wars within the country.

This anti-government sentiment has resulted in the movie being banned in Myanmar.

The director of Rambo III was fired two weeks into production

Portrait of Russell Mulcahy
Russell Mulcahy. (Photo Credit: Eric Robert / Sygma / Getty Images)

Russell Mulcahy was meant to be the director of Rambo III (1988), but was fired due to creative differences. As a result, Peter MacDonald had to take his place with just two days’ notice. This must have been particularly terrifying for MacDonald, as the movies was the most expensive ever made at that point, costing $63 million.

When all was said and done, the final cut featured only a small portion of Mulcahy’s work.

Rambo was named after an apple

Sylvester Stallone as John J. Rambo in 'First Blood'
First Blood, 1982. (Photo Credit: Zayne / Carolco Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

Rambo’s name evokes power, but it was, in fact, inspired by something slightly less cool. The first film in the series, First Blood, was based on David Morrell’s novel of the same name. Morrell was having a tough time thinking up a name that would suit his imposing main character – until he ate an apple.

“My wife came home from buying apples at a roadside stand,” the author recalled. “I bit into the apple (I love the symbolism), enjoyed the taste, and asked what the apple was called. She told me, ‘Rambo.’ It’s a popular apple in central Pennsylvania where we then lived. I rushed toward my typewriter.”

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

A real-life weapons heist

Sylvester Stallone as John J. Rambo in 'Rambo: First Blood'
Rambo: First Blood, 1982. (Photo Credit: nadaone / Artisan Entertainment / MovieStillsDB)

While Rambo: First Blood was being filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a real-life weapons heist occurred, which resulted in a number of high-powered guns being looted from the set. According to reports, M60 machine guns, M16 rifles, AR-15-style rifles and two Belgian guns were among those taken.

It wasn’t until 1984 that arrests were made in the case. The authorities took in members of a Canadian militia and charged them with the thefts. Worryingly, just 15 out of the 47 stolen weapons were recovered. While adapted to fire blanks, experts at the time said it would have been easy for the thieves to return them to using live rounds.

There’s an urban legend about the dedication for Rambo III

Sylvester Stallon as Rambo in 'Rambo III'
Rambo III, 1988. (Photo Credit: Zayne / Carolco Pictures / TriStar Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

Rambo teams up with Afghan mujahideen fighters in Rambo III (1988). At the time of the film’s release, some claimed that the dedication at the end read, “This film is dedicated to the brave Mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan.” After 9/11, its dedication is alleged to have changed to, “This film is dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan.”

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

John Rambo doesn’t directly kill anyone in First Blood

Sylvester Stallone as John J. Rambo in 'First Blood'
First Blood, 1982. (Photo Credit: Zayne / Carolco Pictures / MovieStillsDB)

If there’s one fact 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. This choice was made by Stallone, to prevent viewers from seeing Rambo as the bad guy.

In the 1972 book, Rambo’s severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) leads to him going on a killing spree, so, understandably, Stallone made this change to the character.

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Rambo does indirectly kill Deputy Sgt. Arthur “Art” Galt, who attempts to kill the character with his rifle. While Galt is lining up a shot from a helicopter, Rambo throws a stone at the craft, knocking the officer off balance and causing him to fall to his death.

Jesse Beckett

Jesse Beckett is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE