Rambo III

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rambo III
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPeter MacDonald
Written by
Based onJohn Rambo
by David Morrell
Produced byBuzz Feitshans
CinematographyJohn Stanier
Edited by
  • James Symons
  • Andrew London
  • O. Nicholas Brown
Music byJerry Goldsmith
Distributed byTri-Star Pictures[1]
Release date
  • May 25, 1988 (1988-05-25) (United States)
Running time
101 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$58–63 million[3][4]
Box office$189 million[5]

Rambo III is a 1988 American action film directed by Peter MacDonald and co-written by Sylvester Stallone, who also reprises his role as Vietnam War veteran John Rambo. A sequel to Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), it is the third installment in the Rambo franchise.

The film depicts fictional events during the Soviet–Afghan War. In the film, Rambo sets out on a dangerous journey to Afghanistan in order to rescue his former commander and his longtime best friend, Col. Sam Trautman, from the hands of an extremely powerful and ruthless Soviet Army colonel who is bent on killing both Trautman and Rambo, while helping a local band of Afghan rebels fight against Soviet forces threatening to destroy their village.

Rambo III was released worldwide on May 25, 1988. At the time of its release, Rambo III was the most expensive film ever made with a production budget between $58 and $63 million. The film was not well received by critics and grossed less than its predecessor, Rambo: First Blood Part II, earning $189 million worldwide.

A sequel, Rambo, was released in 2008 with Stallone reprising his role and also directing the film.


John Rambo settles in a Thai monastery and helps with construction work on the monastery grounds. He supports the monastery by competing in krabi-krabong matches in nearby Bangkok. His old friend and ally Colonel Sam Trautman visits, and explains that he is putting together a mercenary team for a CIA-sponsored mission to supply the Mujahideen and other tribes as they try to repel the Soviet Army in Afghanistan. Despite being shown photos of civilians suffering at the hands of the Soviet military, Rambo refuses to join, as he is tired of fighting. Trautman proceeds anyway and is ambushed by enemy forces near the border, resulting in all of his men being killed. Trautman is captured and sent to a large mountain base to be interrogated by Soviet Colonel Zaysen and his henchman Sergeant Kourov.

Embassy official Robert Griggs informs Rambo of Col. Trautman's capture but refuses to approve a rescue mission for fear of drawing the United States into the war. Aware that Trautman will die otherwise, Rambo gets permission to undertake a solo rescue on the condition that he will be disavowed in the event of capture or death. Rambo flies to Peshawar, Pakistan, where he intends to convince local arms dealer Mousa Ghani to bring him to Khost, the town closest to the Soviet base where Trautman is held captive.

The Mujahideen in the village, led by chieftain Masoud, hesitate to help Rambo free Trautman. Meanwhile, a Soviet informant in Ghani's employ informs the Soviets, who send two attack helicopters to destroy the village. Though Rambo destroys one of them with a DShK heavy machine gun, the rebels refuse to aid him any further. Aided only by Mousa and a young boy named Hamid, Rambo attacks the base and inflicts significant damage before being forced to retreat. Hamid, as well as Rambo, is wounded during the battle and Rambo sends him and Mousa away before resuming his infiltration.

Evading base security, Rambo reaches and frees Trautman just as he is about to be tortured with a flamethrower. He and Trautman rescue several other prisoners and hijack a Hind helicopter gunship to escape the base. The helicopter is damaged during takeoff and crashes, forcing the escapees to flee across the sand on foot. An attack helicopter pursues Rambo and Trautman to a nearby cave, where Rambo destroys it with an explosive arrow. A furious Zaysen sends Spetsnaz commandos under Kourov to kill them, but they are routed and killed. An injured Kourov attacks Rambo with his bare hands, but is overcome and killed.

As Rambo and Trautman make their way to the Pakistani border, Zaysen and his forces surround them. Masoud's Mujahideen forces attack the Soviets in a surprise cavalry charge. Rambo takes control of a tank and attacks Zaysen's Hind gunship in a head-on battle with both vehicles firing high-calibre machine gun rounds, Rambo firing the tank's main gun and Zaysen unleashing volleys of the Hind's high explosive rockets and missiles. The final charge sees the two vehicles collide, but Rambo survives after firing the tank's main gun. After the battle, Rambo and Trautman say goodbye to the Mujahideen and leave Afghanistan to go home.



Development and writing[edit]

Sylvester Stallone later said his original premise of the film "was more in keeping with the theme of Tears of the Sun, but set in Afghanistan."[6]

Bullitt and Red Heat scribe Harry Kleiner was hired to write a draft, but his script was rejected by Stallone.[7]

Several weeks into filming, many of the film's crew were fired including the director of photography and director Russell Mulcahy. Stallone said:

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.[8]


In a 2008 online Q&A, Stallone stated that a disagreement over casting led to him firing Russell Mulcahy as the director:

He went to Israel two weeks before me with the task of casting two dozen vicious looking Russian troops. These men were suppose [sic] to make your blood run cold. When I arrived on the set, what I saw was two dozen blond, blue-eyed pretty boys that resembled rejects from a surfing contest. Needless to say Rambo is not afraid of a little competition but being attacked by third rate male models could be an enemy that could overwhelm him. I explained my disappointment to Russell and he totally disagreed, so I asked him and his chiffon army to move on.[6]

Mulcahy was replaced by Peter MacDonald, a veteran second unit director. It was MacDonald's first film as director but he was very experienced and had directed the second unit action sequences in Rambo: First Blood Part II. MacDonald later said, "I tried very hard to change the Rambo character a bit and make him a vulnerable and humorous person, I failed totally."[9] "I knew instinctively what was a good and bad shot," he added. "Stallone knew his character because it was his third outing as Rambo. I wasn't shooting Shakespeare and at times it was hard to take it seriously."[9] MacDonald shot the stick fighting sequence in Bangkok himself using a handheld camera.[9]

The character Masoud, played by Greek actor Spiros Focás, was named after Mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud who fought the Soviets and later the Taliban.[10]


The film was shot in Israel, Thailand, and Arizona. MacDonald:

There were so many restrictions in Israel, where you could and couldn't shoot. The producers and Stallone decided they would go back to Arizona where they had looked long before I was on the film. There was a group there called the re-enactors. We had around two hundred and fifty of these guys who re-enact the American Civil War. They were called on to do fight sequences, which they loved.[9]


The Mi-24 Hind-D helicopters seen in the film are 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 Eastern Bloc.[citation needed] The other helicopter depicted is a slightly reshaped Aerospatiale Gazelle.[citation needed]


The film ends with the on-screen caption, "This film is dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan." At some point after the September 11 attacks, an urban legend began that the dedication had actually read "... to the brave Mujahideen fighters" when the film was released in theaters, but then changed to "the gallant people of Afghanistan" after the 2001 attacks, since the Mujahideen were now associated to some extent with the Taliban. This urban legend has been repeated by some scholars.[11][12] However, this is untrue, and some reviews of the film upon its release even mentioned the "gallant people of Afghanistan" dedication.[13][14][15][16]


Rambo III: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by
LabelScotti Bros.
ProducerJerry Goldsmith
Jerry Goldsmith chronology
Rent-a-Cop: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Rambo III: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Criminal Law: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

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 film (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)


Cut version[edit]

Potentially owing to the proximity of its release to the Hungerford massacre,[17] one minute and five seconds of footage was removed from the film before it could be granted an 18 certificate by the British Board of Film Classification; the amount of deletions was then nearly tripled for its initial video release. Almost all of this footage was restored to the film upon video submission in 2000, aside from a compulsory cut for animal cruelty.[18]

Home media[edit]

Rambo III was released on DVD on November 23, 2004, and a Blu-Ray release followed on May 23, 2008. Rambo III was released on 4K UHD Blu-Ray on November 13, 2018.


Box office[edit]

Rambo III opened in the United States on May 25, 1988, at 2,562 theaters in its opening weekend (the four-day Memorial Day weekend), ranking #2 behind Crocodile Dundee II.[19][20] Overall, the film grossed $53,715,611 domestically and then took $135,300,000 overseas, giving Rambo III a box office total of $189,015,611.[5] The film underperformed at the box-office.[21] 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.[22]

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[23]

Critical response[edit]

The film scored a 41% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 37 reviews and with an average rating of 4.70/10. The site's critical consensus states that "Rambo III finds its justice-dispensing hero far from the thoughtful drama that marked the franchise's beginning -- and just as far from quality action thriller entertainment."[24] Metacritic gives the film a rating of 36 out of 100 based on 15 critic reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[25]

On At the Movies, prominent critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert agreed that Rambo III delivers all the mechanical elements that audiences expect from a big budget action movie but lacks the heart seen in similar films such as the James Bond series and even its immediate predecessor, Rambo: First Blood Part II. Siskel gave it a "thumbs up", while Ebert said he was undecided; however, at the end of the show Ebert's vote was logged as a "thumbs down".[26]

Janet Maslin, reviewing the film in The New York Times, described Rambo III as a modernization of the western film and said that "modern special-effects technology, a huge budget and Mr. Stallone's own derring-do have conspired to let the film pack a wallop that no traditional western or war film could match." She criticized the political themes as one-dimensional, but applauded the film's sense of fun and willingness to engage in self-deprecating humor, though she noted that there are also many unintentionally humorous lines.[14]

In West Germany, the Deutsche Film- und Medienbewertung (FBW), a government film rating office whose ratings influence financial support to filmmakers, earned criticism after it awarded a "worthwhile" rating (in German: wertvoll) to Rambo III.[27]


Award Category Subject Result
Golden Raspberry Award[28] 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 Vajna Nominated
Worst Director Peter MacDonald Nominated

Other media[edit]


A sequel titled Rambo was released in 2008.


David Morrell, author of First Blood, the novel the first Rambo film is based on, wrote a novelization called Rambo III.

Comic books[edit]

A comic book adaptation of the film was published by Blackthorne Publishing.[29][30] Blackthorne also published a 3D version of its Rambo III comic.

Video games[edit]

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. Sega later adapted some of the battle scenes in the film for the 2008 arcade game Rambo. In 2014, the film was incorporated into Rambo: The Video Game, based on the first three Rambo films.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, the character of Chop Top jokes 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 film Twins, Arnold Schwarzenegger's character looks at a poster of Rambo III featuring Stallone. He compares his biceps to Stallone's, but waves it off with a smile while shaking his head and walks away.
  • The film Gremlins 2: The New Batch features parodies of Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III.
  • The film Hot Shots! Part Deux, is a parody of Rambo III. It involves the protagonist Topper Harley rescuing his mentor, Col. Denton Walters (played by Richard Crenna, parodying his character from the Rambo franchise).
  • In the film MacGruber, the titular character has retired and lives as a monk in a small Ecuadorian village, before his mentor Col. Jim Faith arrives to ask his help for the retrieving a stolen nuclear warhead.


  1. ^ a b "Rambo III (1988)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  2. ^ "BBFC Cinema Rating, 1988". Bbfc.co.uk. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  3. ^ Hall, Sheldon; Neale, Stephen (2010). Epics, spectacles, and blockbusters: a Hollywood history. Wayne State University Press. pp. 239–240. ISBN 978-0-8143-3008-1. Rambo III (1988) cost a then-record $58 million.
  4. ^ Robertson, Patrick (1991). Guinness Book of Movie Facts and Feats. Abbeville Press. p. 33. ISBN 9781558592360.
  5. ^ a b "Rambo III (1988)". BoxOfficeMojo.com. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  6. ^ a b "Day 3 - Stallone guts some more questions and lets the answers spill out!". Aintitcool.com. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  7. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (May 10, 1987). "Son Of 'Bullitt'". Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  8. ^ 'Rambo Iii' Gets Back On The Track In Israel Los Angeles Times September 22, 1987|PAT H. BROESKE
  9. ^ a b c d David Ellis, "Peter MacDonald: The Man Who Failed to Change Rambo", Film International 20 November 2013
  10. ^ "Rambo III". Los Angeles Times. May 27, 1988.
  11. ^ Prorokova, Tatiana (2019). Docu-Fictions of War: U. S. Interventionism in Film and Literature. U of Nebraska Press. p. 227. ISBN 978-1-4962-1444-7. [T]he ending quote of Rambo III glorifies the Afghan nation: "This film is dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan." This dedication appeared in the film only after 9/11. Prior to that, the film concluded with the phrase "This film is dedicated to the brave Mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan," which proves that the U.S. was on the side of the mujahideen, supporting them in the war against the Soviet Army. - Also 9781496207746, 1496207742: page 186
  12. ^ Davidson, Christopher (October 6, 2016). Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for the Middle East. Simon and Schuster. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-78607-002-9. The credits of the original release included the line 'Dedicated to the brave mujahideen fighters', but after 9/11 this was quietly changed to 'Dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan'.
  13. ^ Howe, Desson (May 27, 1988). "'Rambo III' Shooting, Sitting Ducks, Redux". The Washington Post. Because the movie's "dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan,"
  14. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (May 25, 1988). "Reviews/Film; Stallone's 'Rambo III,' Globe-Trotting Cowboy For the 80's Audience". The New York Times. Retrieved October 29, 2010. Rambo III is dedicated to the gallant people of Afghanistan,
  15. ^ The Civil War in Popular Culture. Washington D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution. 1995. p. 152. ISBN 1560984597.
  16. ^ Malo, Jean-Jacques; Williams, Tony (1994). Vietnam war films: over 600 feature, made-for-TV, pilot, and short movies, 1939-1992, from the United States, Vietnam, France, Belgium, Australia, Hong Kong, South Africa, Great Britain, and other countries. Mcfarland & Co Inc Pub. p. 355. ISBN 0899507816.
  17. ^ "Dear Censor: The Secret Archive of the British Board of Film Classification". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 22, 2021. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  18. ^ "Rambo III - BBFC". BBFC.co.uk. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  19. ^ Easton, Nina (June 14, 1988). "Weekend Box Office: Crocodile Swamps 'Rambo'; Hanks' 'Big' Hit". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  20. ^ Blank, Ed (June 3, 1988). "'Croc' Devours 'Rambo' in First Week in Theaters". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
  21. ^ Easton, Nina J. (January 5, 1989). "Roger Rabbit' Hops to Box-Office Top; 'Coming to America' Hits 2nd". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 4, 2016.
  22. ^ "Preview Review: Rambo IV". Exile.ru. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  23. ^ "CinemaScore". CinemaScore.com. Archived from the original on February 6, 2018.
  24. ^ Rambo III at Rotten Tomatoes
  25. ^ Rambo III at Metacritic Edit this at Wikidata
  26. ^ "Funny Farm, Rambo III, Big, Call Me, Crocodile Dundee II, 1988". Siskel and Ebert Movie Reviews. December 28, 2018. Retrieved February 3, 2023. Event occurs at 6:30-10:02.
  27. ^ Rambo 3
  28. ^ "Razzies.com - Home of the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation". Razzies.com. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016.
  29. ^ "Blackthorne Publishing: Rambo III". Grand Comics Database.
  30. ^ Blackthorne Publishing: Rambo III at the Comic Book DB (archived from the original)

External links[edit]