Rambo III

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This article is about the film. For the video game, see Rambo III (video game).
Rambo III
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Peter MacDonald
Produced by Buzz Feitshans
Mario Kassar
Andrew G. Vajna
Screenplay by Sylvester Stallone
Sheldon Lettich
Based on Characters 
by David Morrell
Starring Sylvester Stallone
Richard Crenna
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography John Stanier
Edited by O. Nicholas Brown
Andrew London
James R. Symons
Edward Warschilka
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release dates
  • May 25, 1988 (1988-05-25)
Running time
102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $62 million[1]
Box office $189 million

Rambo III is a 1988 American action film. The film depicts fictional events during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. It is the third film in the Rambo series following First Blood and Rambo: First Blood Part II. It was in turn followed by Rambo in 2008, making it the last film in the series to feature Richard Crenna as Colonel Sam Trautman before his death in 2003.

Sixty-five seconds of the film were cut in the UK version for theatrical release.[2] Some later video releases almost tripled the cuts.[3]


Colonel Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) travels to Thailand to enlist the help of Vietnam veteran John J. Rambo (Sylvester Stallone). After witnessing Rambo win a stick fighting match, Trautman visits Rambo at a Buddhist temple under construction and asks Rambo to join him on a resupply mission for Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan. Despite being shown photos of civilians suffering at the hands of the Soviet military, Rambo refuses and Trautman proceeds with the mission. In Afghanistan, Soviet forces ambush Trautman's convoy, capture him, and send him to a mountain base to be interrogated by Colonel Zaysen (Marc de Jonge) and his henchman Kourov.

Rambo learns of Trautman's capture from embassy field officer Robert Griggs (Kurtwood Smith) and convinces the official to take him through a clandestine operation, though Griggs warns him that the government will deny of his existence if he is captured or killed. Rambo immediately flies to Peshawar, Pakistan, and has the local arms supplier Mousa Ghani (Sasson Gabai) to bring him to Khost, a town in southern Afghanistan close to the Soviet base where Trautman is held captive.

The Mujahideen in the village, led by chieftain Masoud, are already hesitant to help Rambo in the first place, but are definitely convinced not to help him when their village is attacked by two Soviet attack helicopters after one of Mousa's shop assistants tips off the Soviets. In the ensuing chaos, Rambo destroys one of the helicopters with a heavy machine gun. After the attack, the chieftain denies any help for fear of further reprisals by the Soviets. Aided only by Mousa and a young boy named Hamid, Rambo makes his way to the Soviet base and starts his plan to free Trautman. His first attempt is unsuccessful, however, and Hamid and Rambo are wounded in the process while fighting a number of Russian troops. After escaping from the base, Rambo tends to Hamid's wounds and sends him and Mousa away to safety before cauterizing his own wound.

Rambo recovers and infiltrates the base again the following day, just in time to rescue Trautman from being tortured with a flamethrower. He and Trautman rescue several other prisoners and hijack a Hind helicopter to escape the base. However, the helicopter is damaged as it departs, killing one prisoner, and it crashes, forcing Rambo and Trautman to continue on foot while the other prisoners run off to safety after wishing Rambo and Trautman good luck. After Rambo destroys a Soviet attack helicopter with an explosive-tipped arrow, Zaysen sends Kourov and a Spetsnaz team against the two. Rambo and Trautman eliminate the Spetsnaz in an underground cave, but an injured Kourov surprises Rambo as he exits the cave. In the subsequent hand-to-hand fight, Rambo manages to kill Kourov.

As Rambo and Trautman make their way to the Pakistani border, Zaysen blocks them with a large mechanized force and orders them to surrender. But before the duo are overwhelmed, Masoud's mujahideen forces attack the Soviets in a cavalry charge. In the ensuing battle, in which both Trautman and Rambo are wounded, Rambo manages to commandeer a tank and kills Zaysen by firing the tank's machine gun at Zaysen's helicopter. Zaysen's helicopter collides with Rambo's tank, but Rambo survives the explosion. At the end of the battle, Rambo and Trautman say goodbye to the Mujahideen and leave Afghanistan.



Some critics noted that the timing of the movie, with its unabashedly anti-Soviet tone, ran afoul of the opening of Communism to the West under Mikhail Gorbachev, which had already changed the image of the Soviet Union to a substantial degree by the time the movie was finished.[4] 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.[citation needed] However, the body count of the fourth film in the series, Rambo, surpassed that record, with 236 kills.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] The other helicopter depicted is a slightly reshaped Aerospatiale Gazelle.[citation needed] Pre-2001 versions of the film ended with the quote "This film is dedicated to the brave Mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan“; this quote was later changed to "to the gallant people of Afghanistan" in re-releases following the September 11 attacks and the United States invasion of Afghanistan, as many Mujhahideen fighters formed allegiance with Al Qaeda during the civil war after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.[citation needed]

Music score[edit]

An extensive film score was written by Oscar-winning American composer Jerry Goldsmith, conducting the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra; however, much of it was not used. Instead, much of the music Goldsmith penned for the previous installment was recycled. The original album, released by Scotti Bros., contained only a portion of the new music as well as three songs, only one of which was used in the movie (Bill Medley's version of "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother", played over the end credits).

  1. It Is Our Destiny – Bill Medley (4:30)
  2. Preparations (4:58)
  3. Afghanistan (2:35)
  4. The Game (2:23)
  5. Another Time (3:54)
  6. He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother – Bill Medley (4:30)
  7. Aftermath (2:42)
  8. Questions (3:34)
  9. The Bridge - Giorgio Moroder featuring Joe Pizullo (3:59)
  10. Final Battle (4:47)

A more complete 75-minute version of the score was later released by Intrada.

  1. Another Time (3:58)
  2. Preparations (06:21)
  3. The Money (0:52)
  4. I'm Used To It (1:00)
  5. Peshawar (1:12)
  6. Afghanistan (2:38)
  7. Questions (3:37)
  8. Then I'll Die (3:34)
  9. The Game (2:25)
  10. Flaming Village (4:07)
  11. The Aftermath (2:44)
  12. Night Entry (3:58)
  13. Under And Over (2:55)
  14. Night Fight (6:50)
  15. First Aid (2:46)
  16. The Long Climb (3:25)
  17. Going Down (1:52)
  18. The Cave (3:31)
  19. The Boot (1:53)
  20. You Did It, John (1:08)
  21. The Showdown (1:26)
  22. Final Battle (4:50)
  23. I'll Stay (9:00)

Filming schedule[edit]

The movie was shot between August 1987 and December 1987.

Shooting locations[edit]

The movie was shot mainly in Thailand and Israel. The scene in the Buddhist monastery was shot in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Some scenes were filmed in Bangkok, Thailand while others were shot in Eilat, Arad, Jaffa and Tel Aviv, Israel. The Afghan market scene was a decorated set in Peshawar, Pakistan, while the final scenes were shot at the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation, Yuma, Arizona, USA.

Release and reception[edit]

Rambo III opened in the US on May 25, 1988 at 2,562 theatres in its opening weekend (the 4 day Memorial Day weekend), ranked #2 behind Crocodile Dundee II.[5][6] Overall in the US the movie took $53,715,611 and then took $135,300,000 internationally, giving Rambo III a box office total of $189,015,611.[7] The movie is the second most successful of the Rambo series, behind Rambo: First Blood Part II. Much like its predecessor, it was well-received with the target young male audience, but not by critics.[8] It scored a 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 28 reviews. Prominent critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert (of At the Movies fame) were split on Rambo III, with Siskel awarding the film "thumbs up", and Ebert declaring "thumbs down" for those expecting more out of Rambo III. Ebert did, however, give "thumbs up" to fans, saying the film was entertaining and that it "delivers the goods". The New York Times took a dim view of the movie.[9]

Award Category Subject Result
Razzie Award Worst Actor Sylvester Stallone Won
Worst Screenplay Nominated
Sheldon Lettich Nominated
Worst Supporting Actor Richard Crenna Nominated
Worst Picture Mario Kassar Nominated
Buzz Feitshans Nominated
Andrew G. Vajna Nominated
Worst Director Peter MacDonald Nominated

Other media[edit]

  • David Morrell, author of First Blood, the novel the first Rambo film is based on, wrote a novelization.
  • In the movie Twins, Arnold Schwarzenegger's character is seen looking at the poster of Rambo III featuring Stallone, where he compares his biceps to Stallone's, but waves it off with a smile while shaking his head and walks away.
  • Various companies released video games based on the film, including Ocean Software and Taito. In 1990, Sega released its own game based on the film for the Master System and Genesis/Mega Drive. The company would later reuse the film's rescue sequence and climactic final battle as stages in the 2008 arcade light gun game Rambo.
  • A comic book adaptation of the film was published by Blackthorne Publishing. Blackthorne also published a 3D version of its Rambo III comic.
  • A character in the 1986 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 notes that the recording of one chainsaw murder sounds like "the Rambo III soundtrack", although at that time, there had only been two Rambo films.
  • In the movie Hot Shots! Part Deux the main character played by Charlie Sheen, is a parody of John Rambo and the plot of the film is the same as Rambo III, which involves Charlie Sheen rescuing his mentor, Col. Denton Walters, played by Richard Crenna parodying his character from the Rambo series.


  1. ^ Spillman, Susan (1988-06-14). "`Crocodile' rocks the box office". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  2. ^ "BBFC Cinema Rating, 1988". 
  3. ^ "BBFC Video Rating, 1989". 
  4. ^ "Preview Review: Rambo IV". 
  5. ^ Easton, Nina (1988-06-14). "WEEKEND BOX OFFICE : Crocodile Swamps 'Rambo'; Hanks' 'Big' Hit". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  6. ^ Blank, Ed. "'Croc' devours 'Rambo' in first week in theaters". Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved 29 October 2010. 
  7. ^ Box Office Mojo, "Rambo 3"
  8. ^ Easton, Nina J. (1989-01-05). "Roger Rabbit' Hops to Box-Office Top; 'Coming to America' Hits 2nd". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  9. ^ Maslin, Janet (1988-05-25). "Reviews/Film; Stallone's 'Rambo III,' Globe-Trotting Cowboy For the 80's Audience". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 

External links[edit]