First Blood

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For other uses, see First Blood (disambiguation).
First Blood
First blood poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
Directed by Ted Kotcheff
Produced by Buzz Feitshans
Mario Kassar
Andrew G. Vajna
Screenplay by Michael Kozoll
William Sackheim
Sylvester Stallone
Based on First Blood 
by David Morrell
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Andrew Laszlo
Edited by Joan E. Chapman
Anabasis Investments N.V.
Elcajo Productions
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release dates
  • October 22, 1982 (1982-10-22)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million[1]
Box office $125.2 million[2]

First Blood is a 1982 American action adventure movie, directed by Ted Kotcheff, co-written by and starring Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, a troubled and misunderstood veteran. Brian Dennehy and Richard Crenna appeared in supporting roles. It was released on October 22, 1982. Based on David Morrell's 1972 novel of the same name, it was the first of the Rambo series.

Despite initial mixed reviews, the film was a commercial success. Since its release, First Blood became seen as an cult and influential film in the action genre. It spawned three sequels, all co-written by and starring Stallone, who also directed the fourth installment.


John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is a Vietnam veteran who served in an elite U.S. Army Special Forces unit and received the Medal of Honor. In December 1981 he learns that one of his friends from the unit, Delmar Berry, has died from cancer due to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. Rambo realizes that he is now the last living member of the unit, though this is not immediately revealed. Rambo walks to the small town of Hope, Washington.[3] The town's arrogant sheriff, Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy), interprets Rambo's long, unkempt hair and army jacket as evidence that he is a "drifter" and drives him back out to city limits despite Rambo wanting to eat something there. Rambo defiantly turns back towards town, so Teasle arrests him.

At the police station, Rambo stays silent and refuses to cooperate with the deputies. Led by Teasle's chief deputy Art Galt (Jack Starrett), they bully and harass him, causing Rambo, who was tortured in Vietnam, to experience terrible flashbacks. Rambo overpowers the three officers restraining him, fights his way out of the station and steals a motorcycle, fleeing toward the nearby mountains. The cops give chase. Spotting the fugitive from a helicopter, Galt ignores Teasle's order to bring him in alive and attempts to shoot him in cold blood. Rambo, cornered and under fire, throws a rock at the helicopter, causing it to pitch; Galt falls to his death.

Rambo attempts to explain that Galt's death was an accident, but the police open fire, prompting him to run. Teasle leads the attempt to capture him. His inexperienced, disorganized deputies like Mitch (David Caruso) and Ward (Chris Mulkey) bicker and then are quickly disabled by Rambo, who uses guerrilla tactics and a booby trap to severely wound but not kill each man. Hunting dogs led by Orval (John McLiam) are dealt with as well. Amid the chaos, Rambo isolates Teasle and, holding a knife to his throat, warns that he could have killed him and his men, and will fight back harder if the sheriff does not "let it go."

Members of the Washington State Patrol and the Washington Army National Guard are called in and a base camp is assembled outside the woods. Rambo's former commanding officer Colonel Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) arrives and explains that the Army has sent him to "rescue" the police and National Guardsmen—he expresses surprise that Rambo left any of Teasle's men alive. After expounding Rambo's capabilities as an expert in guerrilla warfare, survivalism, and "[disposing] of enemy personnel", he urges the sheriff to let Rambo go and find him again once the situation has calmed down. Teasle refuses.

The novice National Guardsmen enter the woods and corner Rambo at a mine entrance. Against Teasle's orders to wait for assistance and not to fire on Rambo, they fire a M72 LAW rocket at him, collapsing the entrance and trapping him inside. They presume Rambo is dead; angry and humiliated, the sheriff berates them for disobeying him. Teasle gloats to Trautman about the way Rambo met his fate at the hands of mere amateurs; Trautman has a hunch that he is still very much alive.

Rambo, who escaped death by moving deeper into the mine, exits through an air vent, hijacks a passing National Guard cargo truck and crashes through a roadblock set up by state troopers. Returning to town, Rambo crashes into the pump of a gas station and starts a fire. With the police and fire department kept busy fighting the blaze, Rambo moves through Hope undetected and, using an M60 machine gun from the truck, shoots out utility lines to cut the power. After destroying another business in an attempt to confuse Teasle and find out where he is, Rambo spots the sheriff on the police station's roof.

Rambo enters the station and darts under the skylight to draw fire from the sheriff so as to reveal the sheriff's exact location. When Teasle immediately shoots at him, Rambo returns fire through the ceiling and critically injures the sheriff, who falls through the skylight onto the floor. Rambo steps over him, prepared to kill him, but before he can do so Trautman appears and explains there is no hope of escaping alive. Realizing the hopelessness of his situation, Rambo snaps and rages about the horrors of war and the shoddy treatment he has received since coming home, then breaks down crying. He turns himself in to Trautman and is led away from the station while Teasle is put into an ambulance.



Shortly after David Morrell's novel was published in 1972, Columbia Pictures bought the filming rights, which were then resold to Warner Bros. Ted Kotcheff was offered the project, picking out of many screenplays the one done by Michael Kozoll and William Sackheim. While Kotcheff was prepping the movie, Warner decided to pull the plug as they thought Vietnam was too recent and the film was not going to work. Kotcheff only returned to work on First Blood after Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna of Anabasis offered to finance one of his projects. Kotcheff offered the role of John Rambo to Sylvester Stallone, and the actor accepted after reading the script through a weekend.[4]

Long before Stallone was hired to play Rambo, other actors were being considered for the role such as Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro, Paul Newman, Nick Nolte, Ryan O'Neal, James Garner, Kris Kristofferson. Terence Hill, as recently confirmed during an interview to an Italian TV talk-show, was offered the role but rejected it because he considered it "too violent". Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta declined the role for the same reason. When Al Pacino was considered for the role of John Rambo, he turned it down when his request that Rambo be more of a madman was rejected. Prior to Stallone taking the lead role, Steve McQueen expressed interest in it. When David Morrell wrote the novel in 1972 the producers first considered McQueen but then rejected him because they considered him too old to play a Vietnam veteran from 1975.[5][6]

For the role of Sheriff Teasle, the producers approached Academy Award winners Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall but both turned the part down. Lee Marvin, another Oscar winner, turned down the part of Colonel Trautman. Kirk Douglas was eventually hired, but just before shooting began, Douglas quit the role of Colonel Trautman over a script dispute; Douglas wanted the film to end as the book did, with the death of the Rambo character. Rock Hudson was approached but was soon to undergo heart surgery and had to pass up the chance to work with Stallone. Richard Crenna was quickly hired as a replacement; the role of Trautman became the veteran character actor's most famous role, his performance of which received much critical praise.[4]

Various screenplays adapted from Morrell's book had been pitched to studios in the years since its publication but it was only when Stallone, who at the time had limited success outside of the Rocky franchise (most of his non-Rocky films either barely broke even or were flops altogether), decided to become involved with the project that it was finally brought into production. Stallone's star power after the success of the Rocky films enabled him to rewrite the script, to make the character of John Rambo more sympathetic. While Morrell's book has the Rambo character violently kill many of his pursuers—Kozoll and Sackheim's draft had him killing sixteen people—in the movie version Rambo does not directly cause the death of any police or national guardsmen. Stallone also decided to let Rambo survive the film instead of keeping the book's ending where he dies. A suicide scene was filmed but Kotcheff and Stallone opted to have Rambo turn himself in at Trautman's urging.[4]

The film was shot in British Columbia, Canada in the winter.[4] The town scenes in the movie were shot in Hope,[7] while the rest of the movie was shot in Golden Ears Provincial Park and Pitt Lake in Pitt Meadows. The weaponry used in the film had to be imported into Canada. Over 50 of the imported firearms were stolen midway through the filming.[8][9]

First rough cut of the movie was over three hours, possibly three and a half hours long and according to Sylvester Stallone, it was so bad that it made him and his agent sick. Stallone wanted to buy the movie and destroy it thinking that it was a career killer. After heavy re-editing, the film was cut down to 93 minutes; this version was ultimately released in theaters.[10]


The film's score was composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith, whose theme "It's a Long Road" added a new dimension to the character, and featured in the film's three sequels and animated spin-off. The soundtrack was originally released on LP by the Regency label, although was edited out of sequence for a more satisfying listen. The album was reissued on CD with one extra track ("No Power") twice, first as one of Intrada Records' initial titles, then as an identical release by Varèse Sarabande. The complete score was released by Intrada in a 2-CD set, along with a remastered version of the original album, on November 23, 2010, as one of their MAF unlimited titles.

Track listing[edit]

CD 1 – Complete Original Soundtrack
  1. "Theme from First Blood" (pop orchestra version)
  2. "Home Coming"
  3. "My Town"
  4. "Under Arrest"
  5. "The Razor"
  6. "A Head Start"
  7. "Hanging On"
  8. "Over the Cliff"
  9. "A Stitch in Time"
  10. "Mountain Hunt"
  11. "No Truce"
  12. "First Blood"
  13. "The Tunnel"
  14. "Escape Route"
  15. "The Truck"
  16. "No Power/Night Attack"
  17. "Hide and Seek"
  18. "It's a Long Road" (instrumental)
  19. "It's a Long Road (Theme from First Blood)" (vocal: Dan Hill)
CD 2 – Original 1982 Soundtrack Album
  1. "It's a Long Road (Theme from First Blood)" (vocal: Dan Hill)
  2. "Escape Route"
  3. "First Blood"
  4. "The Tunnel"
  5. "Hanging On"
  6. "Home Coming"
  7. "Mountain Hunt"
  8. "My Town"
  9. "The Razor"
  10. "Over the Cliff"
  11. "It's a Long Road" (instrumental)
  12. "It's a Long Road" (recording session piano/vocal demo)
  13. "Carolco Logo"
  14. "Rambo" (Special Summer 1984 trailer)


Box office performance[edit]

First Blood topped the North American box office for three weeks in a row,[11] and its $6,642,005 opening weekend was the best October opening at the time.[4] The film ended as a significant financial success, with a total gross of $47 million domestically, ranking as the 13th highest-grossing film of the year,[12] and $125 million worldwide, against a $14 million budget.[13]

Critical reception and legacy[edit]

In 2008, First Blood was named the 253rd greatest film ever by Empire magazine on its 2008 list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.[14]

Contemporary and retrospective reviews of the film have been positive, and it is considered by many as one of the best films of 1982.[15][16][17][18] First Blood's release on DVD sparked a series of contemporary reviews, earning it an 87% "Fresh" rating from Rotten Tomatoes[19] and a score of 62 ("generally favorable") from Metacritic.[20]

In a 2011 article for Blade Magazine, by Mike Carter, credit is given to Morrell and the Rambo franchise for revitalizing the cutlery industry in the 1980s; due to the presence of the Jimmy Lile and Gil Hibben knives used in the films. In 2003, Blade Magazine gave Morrell an industry achievement award for having helped to make it possible.[21]

The film's three lead actors received much praise for their performances. In his review, Roger Ebert wrote that he did not like the film's ending, but that it was "a very good movie, well-paced, and well-acted not only by Stallone... but also by Crenna and Brian Dennehy". He commented, "although almost all of First Blood is implausible, because it's Stallone on the screen, we'll buy it", and rated the film three out of four stars.[22] In 2000, BBC film critic Almar Haflidason noted that Stallone’s training in survival skills and hand-to-hand combat gave the film "a raw and authentic edge that excited the audiences of the time".[23] James Berardinelli of ReelViews called the film "a tense and effective piece of filmmaking". He noted that the film's darker tone, somber subtext, and non-exploitative violence allowed the viewer to enjoy the film not only as an action/thriller but as something with a degree of intelligence and substance. On Stallone's performance, he wrote "it seems impossible to imagine anyone other than Stallone in the part, and his capabilities as an actor should not be dismissed". [24]

First Blood originally received generally mixed reviews, with several critics noting that the plot lacks any sense of credibility.[20] Variety called the film "a mess" and criticized its ending for not providing a proper resolution for the main character.[25] Although Bill Chambers of Film Freak Central praised Stallone's performance, stating that he "hits his climactic breakdown monologue out of the park" with a performance that was "sweet and moving", he gave the film two stars out of four. He stated "devotees of Joseph Campbell embrace First Blood because it has clear mythological roots, but recognizable art isn't always valid art".[26] Leonard Maltin gave the film one-and a half stars out of four, saying that it "throws all creditability to the winds about the time [Rambo] gets off with only a bad cut after jumping from a mountain into some jagged rocks."[27]

First Blood has received the most positive reception of the Rambo series, whilst the next three sequels received mixed or average reviews. Still they did develop strong cult followings.[28][29][30]


Author David Morrell recorded an audio commentary track for the First Blood Special Edition DVD released in 2002. Actor Sylvester Stallone recorded an audio commentary track for the First Blood Ultimate Edition DVD released in 2004. This edition also includes a "never-before-seen" alternate ending in which Rambo commits suicide (a brief snippet of which appears in a flashback in the fourth film) and a "humorous" ending tacked on afterwards. Lionsgate also released this version on Blu-ray. Both commentary tracks are on the Blu-ray release.

Momentum Pictures released an HD DVD version of First Blood in the United Kingdom in April 2007. Lionsgate also released First Blood as a double feature on February 13, 2007, along with the 2004's The Punisher.

The film was re-released as part of a 6-disc box set, which contains all four films in the series, on May 27, 2008. However the box set is missing the David Morrell commentary, even though the packaging clearly states it is included.[31] In anticipation of the release, the film was shown back in theaters for one night, May 15, 2008, through Fathom Events; the alternate ending was shown after the main feature.[32]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ This fictional town is portrayed in the film by Hope, British Columbia, Canada.
  4. ^ a b c d e Drawing First Blood. First Blood DVD: Artisan. 2002. 
  5. ^ "Steve Mcqueen Bio". Retrieved July 18, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Trivia for First Blood". Retrieved July 18, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Filming locations of First Blood in Hope, BC, Canada". Retrieved July 18, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Movie Review - First Blood". The New York Times. October 22, 1982. 
  9. ^ "Hope Celebrates 25th Anniversary of First Blood". British Columbia Film Commission. September 20, 2007. Archived from the original on 12 April 2013. 
  10. ^ Sylvester Stallone's DVD Commentary, 1:30:11
  11. ^ "First Blood (1982) - Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  12. ^ "1982 Yearly Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Box Office Information for First Blood". The Numbers. Retrieved January 29, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Empire's The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time". Empire Magazine. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  15. ^ "The Greatest Films of 1982". AMC Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  16. ^ "The 10 Best Movies of 1982". Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Best Films of 1982". Retrieved July 15, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Most Popular Feature Films Released in 1982". Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  19. ^ "First Blood (1982): Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  20. ^ a b "First Blood (1982): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 
  21. ^ Carter, Mike (2011). "Naked Edge". Blade (F&W Media) 39 (5): 126–130. 
  22. ^ "First Blood Movie Review, Roger Ebert". Chicago Sun-Times. January 1, 1982. Retrieved July 18, 2010. 
  23. ^ "BBC Film Reviews, First Blood". BBC. Retrieved July 18, 2010. 
  24. ^ "First Blood: A movie review by James Berardinelli". ReelViews. Retrieved July 18, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Review: First Blood". Variety. December 31, 1981. Retrieved June 25, 2013. 
  26. ^ "First Blood, DVD Reviews". Film Freak Central. Retrieved July 18, 2010. 
  27. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2009), p. 462. Leonard Maltin's 2010 Movie Guide. ISBN 978-0-452-29557-5. Signet Books. Accessed October 21, 2010.
  28. ^ "Rambo: First Blood Part II". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-04-21. 
  29. ^ "Rambo III". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-04-21. 
  30. ^ "Rambo (Rambo IV)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-04-21. 
  31. ^ "Rambo (2008): DVD and BluRay Details". Retrieved July 18, 2010. [dead link]
  32. ^ "First Blood, In Select Movie Theaters Nationwide". Fathom Events. Retrieved July 18, 2010.  Check date values in: |date= (help)

External links[edit]