|First appearance||Novel: First Blood
Film: First Blood
|Last appearance||Novel: Rambo III
|Created by||David Morrell|
|Portrayed by||Sylvester Stallone
|Full name||John James Rambo|
Boatman (by Lewis)
|Aliases||Raven, Lone Wolf (field names)|
|Occupation||United States Army Special Forces (former)|
|Family||R. Rambo (father)
Marie Drago (mother)
Colonel Sam Trautman (close-friend, father-figure, trainer, best-friend until death)
|Relatives||R. Rambo (father)|
John James Rambo (born July 6, 1947) is a fictional character in the Rambo saga. He first appeared in the 1972 novel First Blood by David Morrell, but later became more famous as the protagonist of the film series, in which he was played by Sylvester Stallone. The portrayal of the character earned Stallone widespread acclaim and recognition. The character was nominated for American Film Institute's list 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains. The term "Rambo" is used commonly to describe a person who is reckless, disregards orders, uses violence to solve problems, enters dangerous situations alone, and is exceptionally tough, callous, raw and aggressive.
Morrell says that in choosing the name Rambo he was inspired by "the sound of force" in the name of Rambo apples, which he encountered in Pennsylvania. These apples, in turn, were named for Peter Gunnarsson Rambo who sailed from Sweden to New Sweden (SE Pennsylvania/Southern NJ/Northern Delaware) in the 1640s, and soon the name would flourish in New Sweden. The name Rambo was likely derived from a shortened form of "Ramberget" (a hill on the Hisingen island near Gothenburg, where Peter Gunnarsson was born) plus "bo" (meaning "resident of"). Today, many of his descendants can still be found in this region of the US. Morrell felt that its pronunciation was similar to the surname of Arthur Rimbaud, the title of whose most famous work A Season in Hell, seemed to him "an apt metaphor for the prisoner-of-war experiences that I imagined Rambo suffering". Furthermore, an Arthur J. Rambo was an actual U.S. soldier in Vietnam, but he never returned. His name can be seen on the Vietnam War Memorial wall in Washington, DC. By sheer coincidence, the Japanese word "ramb?" () means "violent" or "rough". He was granted the first name "John" as a reference to the song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again".
In the novel and first film, Rambo appears as a soldier who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and has difficulty adjusting to normal life. He is shown to be prone to violence because of the torture he suffered at the hands of North Vietnamese soldiers in the Vietnam War. In the next films and novelizations he is displayed as a man who wants to stay away from conflict but is willing to do anything to save his friends and the people he cares about from any danger. Due to his violent nature, many civil people tend to fear him. However, Colonel Samuel Trautman (who was his commanding officer in Vietnam and is probably his only friend) understands him and the pain and torture he had endured in the war and is the only one able to reason with him when he becomes an outlaw after murdering police officers in the town of Hope.
Rambo has a muscular physique due to his time as a soldier in the army and his intense training regimen. He has a high amount of strength and stamina. Rambo is an expert in surviving in dense forests against a large number of enemies due to his experiences in the Vietnam War. He is also an expert in guerrilla tactics, weapons, and hand-to-hand combat. Rambo has black hair and brown eyes. His height is 5'10". In the DVD commentary for First Blood Morell remarks that the inspiration for Rambo was World War II hero Audie Murphy.
According to the first film First Blood, Rambo's full name is John Rambo. He was born on July 6, 1944 in Bowie, Arizona, to an Italian German Mother and a Navajo Father (whose name according to the last film was probably R. Rambo). In Rambo: First Blood Part II, Marshall Murdock states that Rambo is of Native American and German descent. However, Morrell thought Stallone didn't look German, and made Rambo half Italian and half Navajo in the novelization. Rambo enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 19 on August 6, 1964, although he states in Rambo IV he was "drafted into Vietnam." After he graduated from Rangeford High School in 1963, his military service began in January 1966. Rambo was deployed to South Vietnam in September 1966. He returned to the U.S. in 1967 and began training with the U.S. Army Special Forces at Fort Bragg, North Carolina under Colonel Trautman's tutelage.
In late 1969, Rambo was re-deployed to Vietnam as member of a SOG brigade. He became part of a Special Forces Long-range reconnaissance patrol unit commanded by Colonel Trautman. Trautman's team received the code name of Baker Team and usually consisted of eight men. Other known members were Delmore Barry (an African American operative who quickly became Rambo's best friend), Joseph "Joey" Danforth (another friend of Rambo), Manuel "Loco" Ortega, Paul Messner, Delbert Krackhauer, Giuseppe "Greasy Cunt" Colletta and Ralph Jorgenson. In an event that would haunt Rambo for the rest of his life, Danforth died in Rambo's arms after being fatally wounded by a rigged shoeshine box while their unit was on rest and recuperation time.
During a mission in November 1971 Rambo's unit came under surprise attack by NVA forces. Delmore, Rambo and some other surviving members were captured by North Vietnamese forces near the Chinese-Vietnamese border and held at a POW camp, where many other American POWs were imprisoned and repeatedly tortured. Rambo's unit was decimated during the ordeal, but Delmore and Rambo managed to escape captivity in May 1972. By his own request Rambo was immediately re-deployed afterwards. At some point in his military career he also received training in flying helicopters. Rambo finally received his official military discharge on September 17, 1974.
Upon his return to the United States, Rambo discovered that many American civilians hated the soldiers returning from Vietnam, and he claimed that he and other returning soldiers were subject to humiliation and embarrassment by anti-war "hippies" who threw garbage at them, called them "baby killers", and excluded them from society. His experiences in Vietnam and back home resulted in an extreme case of post-traumatic stress disorder. At the same time, inner questions of self-identity and reflectiveness had commenced to cause Rambo to lash out at society rather than handling difficult situations in a "civilized" manner. First Blood picks up from this point.
In the original novel, Rambo is hitch-hiking in Madison, Kentucky. He is picked up by Sheriff Teasle and dropped off at the city limits. Repeatedly coming back, Rambo is arrested by Teasle and driven to the station. He is charged with vagrancy and resisting arrest, and is sentenced to 35 days in jail. Being trapped inside the cold, wet, small cells gives Rambo a flashback of his days as a POW in Vietnam, and he fights off the cops as they attempt to cut his hair and shave him, beating one man and slashing another with the straight razor, killing him. He flees, steals a motorcycle, and hides in the nearby mountains. He becomes the focus of a manhunt that results in the deaths of many police officers, civilians, and National Guardsmen.
In a climactic ending in the town where his conflict with Teasle began, Rambo is finally hunted down by Special Forces Colonel Sam Trautman and Teasle. Teasle, using his local knowledge, manages to surprise Rambo and shoots him in the chest, but is himself wounded in the abdomen by a return shot. He then tries to pursue Rambo as he makes a final attempt to escape back out of the town. Both men are essentially dying by this point, but are driven by pride and a desire to justify their actions. Rambo, having found a spot he feels comfortable in, prepares to commit suicide by detonating a stick of dynamite against his body; however, he then sees Teasle following his trail and decides that it would be more honourable to continue fighting and be killed by Teasle's return fire.
Rambo fires at Teasle and, to his surprise and disappointment, hits him. For a moment he reflects on how he had missed his chance of a decent death, because he is now too weak to light the dynamite, but then suddenly feels the explosion he had expected - but in the head, not the stomach where the dynamite was placed. Rambo dies satisfied that he has come to a fitting end. Trautman returns to the dying Teasle and tells him that he has killed Rambo with his shotgun. Moments after, Teasle dies, succumbing to his wounds.
The film First Blood takes place in December 1981, and begins with John Rambo (now a homeless, out-of-work drifter) searching for Delmore Barry, an old friend with whom he served in Vietnam. He goes to Barry's home but is told by his mother that he died from cancer due to Agent Orange exposure. Rambo realizes that he is the last surviving member of his Special Forces unit (with unit members Delmore, Westmore, Bronson, Danforth and Ortega now all dead). He then travels to the small town of Hope, Washington (the movie was filmed in Hope, British Columbia, evidenced by the town sign), where he is quickly spotted by the town's arrogant and abusive sheriff, Will Teasle, due to his long, unkempt hair, army jacket and all-around scruffy appearance. Teasle soon picks him up and drives him to the edge of town, refusing to let him have a meal (Rambo only wanted something to eat) while stressing his dislike of drifters and "trouble makers". Rambo begins walking back into town immediately after being dropped off, and Teasle then arrests him and takes him to the local police station.
When searching Rambo, Teasle discovers a large survival knife on Rambo's belt. At the station, the Head Deputy Sheriff, Art Galt, beats Rambo and, along with others, harasses him. Rambo begins having flashbacks to the war when he was a tortured POW. When officers attempt to dry shave him, Rambo finally snaps and fights his way out of the station, beating up Galt, Teasle, and every deputy caught in his path and retrieving his knife. Outside, he hijacks a motorcycle from a man driving past the station and flees into the nearby mountains, while being pursued by Teasle in his police car. Teasle crashes his car, and Rambo escapes. Teasle calls in more officers and a helicopter, while Rambo abandons his motorcycle and makes his way into the deep terrain on foot. He finds an old sack near a dumped truck which he uses as an item of clothing. Later, he finds himself at the top of a cliff face whilst trying to escape the advancing policemen and is spotted by the search helicopter with Galt in the passenger's seat. Galt fires at him a number of times with his rifle, forcing Rambo to leap from the cliff, falling through a tree. Galt continues to fire upon the injured Rambo on the ground. Fighting back, Rambo throws a rock and hits the helicopter's windshield, causing the pilot to lose control, and Galt is thrown to his death. Rambo takes Galt's gun, tends his injuries, and eventually confronts the lawmen on the cliff above. Rambo shouts to them, "There's one man dead! It wasn't my fault!" Teasle tells Rambo not to move or they will shoot. Rambo says he wants no more trouble, and begins to back away, but the men open fire; Rambo flees into the woods, with Teasle and his deputies in pursuit.
The men catch up to Rambo, and they release the tracking dogs. Rambo shoots two and their owner in the leg with his last bullets, and kills the other with his knife. The men begin to flank out and pursue Rambo, but Rambo easily disables them using guerrilla tactics. Rambo severely wounds each man, but does not kill any of them. Using a deputy as bait, Rambo jumps out of the brush and grabs Teasle, putting his knife to his throat. He tells him, "In town you're the law. Out here it's me". He tells Teasle to "Let it go" and give up his pursuit. Teasle refuses, and the State Police and National Guard are called in to assist in the hunt. Colonel Samuel Trautman soon arrives, taking credit for training Rambo. He is surprised to find any of the deputies still alive, and warns that it would be safer to let Rambo go and find him after the situation has calmed down. Teasle refuses to give in. Teasle asks Trautman to try and contact Rambo on the radio he stole to get a fix on his position. Trautman gets Rambo to respond on the radio, calling out his Vietnam company. Rambo says that he cannot turn himself in and tells Trautman, "They drew first blood, not me". Rambo is eventually cornered by the National Guard in a mine entrance where he is hiding. Teasle gets word they have cornered him, and gives an order not to fire. The inexperienced guardsmen ignore this order, and fire a rocket at him. The blast collapses the mine entrance, trapping him inside. The men assume Rambo is dead, but unknown to his pursuers, Rambo has instead escaped into the tunnels of the mine.
Rambo eventually finds an old exit vent, near a main road from out of which the troops are clearing. Rambo hijacks a passing Army truck (throwing its driver out onto the road in the process) and returns to town, crashing it into a gas station. He blocks the highway to anyone in pursuit, by igniting the spilled fuel. Now heavily armed with an M60 machine gun, Rambo destroys transformers knocking out the power to the town. Rambo spots Teasle on the station roof after destroying a gun shop and makes his way to the police station. Rambo takes out the police station's power before making his way inside. Teasle spots Rambo and fires at him, but misses. Rambo shoots back at Teasle through the ceiling, critically injuring him. Teasle falls through the skylight onto the floor. Rambo steps over him, prepared to kill him. Before Rambo can shoot Teasle, Colonel Trautman appears and tells him that there is no hope of escaping alive. Rambo, now surrounded by the police, rages about the horrors of war and the unfair conditions and treatment he came home to. Breaking down, he then weeps as he recounts a particularly gruesome story about witnessing his friend Joey Danforth dying. He tells Trautman how they were in a bar, talking about his friend's Chevy and driving to Las Vegas in it, when a boy came in with a booby-trapped shoeshine box. Rambo had gone into the bar to buy two beers when the box suddenly exploded, tearing his friend's lower body off. Rambo then turns himself in to Trautman, and is arrested.
(There is an alternative ending where Rambo wants to die and tells Trautman to kill him. Trautman does not respond. Soon after, Rambo hands a gun to Trautman, and he proceeds to pull the trigger and shoot Rambo in the stomach while facing Rambo. Rambo subsequently dies of his wounds and Trautman then is left alone in the station and walks away.)
After the incident in Washington, John Rambo is found guilty after a jury trial and sent to a labor camp prison. At the beginning of Rambo: First Blood Part II (set in 1985), he is visited by Colonel Samuel Trautman who offers him the chance to be released from prison if he goes to Vietnam to search for American POWs at the camp from where he escaped back in 1971. Promised a Presidential pardon if the mission succeeds, Rambo accepts and is officially reinstated in the U.S. Army temporarily. He later meets with Marshall Murdock, an American bureaucrat who is in charge of the operation. He tells Rambo that he is only to photograph the POWs and not to rescue them, nor is he to engage any enemy soldiers. Rambo reluctantly agrees. He is then told that an agent of the U.S. government will be there to receive him in the jungles of Vietnam.
Rambo is then parachuted into the Vietnamese jungles. However, while parachuting, he gets stuck on the plane and cuts the rope holding his equipment which allows him to continue parachuting and is left with only his knife, his bow, and arrows. On the ground, he meets Co Bau, a local woman working with the Americans. She takes him to a POW camp where he is able to rescue a captive, killing a number of enemy soldiers with his bow in the process of doing so. The trio then escape by boat but are attacked by a gunboat.
Rambo destroys the gunboat with a rocket launcher. When Rambo calls for extraction, he is denied, as Murdock fears what will happen to him and his party if the American public learn about Murdock's activities. Rambo and the captive are both captured, and back at the camp Russian advisors soon arrive to interrogate Rambo. Meanwhile, Co enters the camp under the disguise of a prostitute and comes to the hut in which Rambo is held captive. There she witnesses Rambo being tortured by Russian Colonel Podovsky, who demands that the American contact his base and confess to war crimes. After being electrically shocked on a bedspring and then burned on the cheek with his own knife, Rambo pretends to agree to Podovsky's condition, but instead tells Murdock on the radio that "he is coming to get him", after which he promptly escapes with Co's help. They hide in the jungle and Co tends to Rambo's wounds. She then asks him if he will take her with him to the U.S., he agrees and he kisses her. But they are attacked by some Vietnamese soldiers and Co is shot and dies. Enraged and distraught by Co's death, he kills them all (except for their commander, who escapes, but is later killed by one of Rambo's exploding arrows) and then buries Co's body in the jungle so her body is not scavenged upon by animals.
After the violence at the camp and on the river, Soviet and Vietnamese troops are scrambled to find and kill Rambo. While they are hunting for Rambo in a forest, Rambo kills a number of them using guerrilla tactics. Vietnamese soldiers continue to chase Rambo into and through a village. In a patch of tall grass there, Rambo sets a booby trap explosion that ignites a fire, burning many of the Vietnamese soldiers.
While still running away from the soldiers, a Soviet Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter finds Rambo and drops a keg of explosives onto his position. Rambo dives off a cliff into a river as the keg explodes. The Soviet helicopter pursues him, shooting bullets into the water. As the helicopter gets closer to the water while shooting bullets, Rambo jumps up from under the water, yanks the gunman into the water, and climbs into the helicopter where he confronts the Soviet soldier who tortured him. As they fight inside the helicopter, the helicopter flies away and Rambo throws the Soviet soldier out of the helicopter to his death. As Rambo approaches the pilot, the pilot also jumps out of the helicopter. Rambo gains control of the helicopter and flies it back to the POW camp to rescue the remaining POWs. He kills the remaining guards and gets the captives into the chopper. Another Soviet attack helicopter, this one with Colonel Podovsky at the cockpit, then tails Rambo's chopper. After he loses Rambo's chopper in a haze of smoke from firing at it, he notices it smoldering in a river. As the Russian chopper flies in low to investigate and finish off the bird, Rambo - who had appeared to be dead - suddenly sits up, rocket launcher in hand, and fires through the windshield, finishing off Colonel Podovsky once and for all.
Rambo then returns to the base and, using the M60E3 machine gun from the helicopter, destroys Murdock's command center. He then unsheathes his knife and threatens Murdock, ordering him to find and rescue the remaining American POWs in Vietnam, snarling almost under his breath, "You know there's more men out there. You know where they are. Find 'em... or I'll find you." Trautman then comforts Rambo and tries to pacify him and to convince him to rejoin the Special Forces, also telling him he would get another Medal of Honor for his actions. Rambo, however, visibly angry and fighting back tears, says that the soldiers he rescued deserve the Medal of Honor more than he does, and he only wants the same thing as the soldiers he rescued: for their country to love its soldiers as much as its soldiers love their country. Rambo then starts to leave. Trautman asks him, "How will you live, John?" Rambo replies, "Day by day". The film ends as Rambo walks off into the distance while his mentor watches him. Because of his actions in saving the POWs, Rambo is granted the Presidential pardon he had been promised and stays in Thailand.
Rambo III opens with Colonel Samuel Trautman returning to Thailand to once again enlist the help of Rambo. After witnessing Rambo's victory in a stick fighting match, Trautman visits the construction site of the temple Rambo is helping to build and asks Rambo to join him on a mission to Afghanistan. The mission is meant to supply weapons, including FIM-92 Stinger missiles, to Afghan rebels, the Mujahideen, who are fighting the Soviets in the Soviet-Afghan War. Despite showing him photos of civilians suffering under Soviet military intervention, Rambo, fearing the same betrayal of the U.S. government similar to the last mission and wanting a life without more bloodshed, refuses and Trautman chooses to go on his own.
While in Afghanistan, Trautman's troops are ambushed by Soviet troops while passing through the mountains at night. Trautman is imprisoned in a Soviet base and coerced for information by Colonel Zaysen and his henchman Kourov. Rambo learns of the incident from embassy field officer Robert Griggs and convinces Griggs to take him through an unofficial operation, despite Grigg's warning that the U.S. government will deny any knowledge of his actions if killed or caught. Rambo immediately flies to Pakistan where he meets up with Musa, a weapons supplier who agrees to take him to a village deep in the Afghan desert, close to the Soviet base where Trautman is kept. The Mujahideen in the village are already hesitant to help Rambo in the first place, but are definitely convinced not to help him when their village is attacked by Soviet helicopters after one of Mousa's shop assistants has informed the Soviets of Rambo's presence. Aided only by Mousa and a young boy named Hamid, Rambo makes his way to the Soviet base and starts his attempts to free Trautman. The first attempt is unsuccessful and results not only in Hamid getting shot in the leg, but also in Rambo himself getting splinters in the side. After escaping from the base, Rambo tends to Hamid's wounds and sends him and Mousa away to safety.
The next day, Rambo returns to the base once again, just in time to rescue Trautman from being tortured with a blow-torch. After rescuing several other prisoners, Rambo steals a helicopter and escapes from the base. However, the helicopter soon crashes and Rambo and Trautman are forced to continue on foot. After a confrontation in a cave, where Rambo and Trautman eliminate several Soviet Spetsnaz commandos including Kourov, they are confronted by an entire army of Soviet tanks, headed by Zaysen. Just as they are about to be overwhelmed by the might of the Red Army, the Mujahideen warriors, together with Mousa and Hamid, ride onto the battlefield by the hundreds in a cavalry charge, overwhelming the Communists. In the ensuing battle, in which both Trautman and John are wounded, Rambo manages to kill Zaysen by driving a tank (somehow doing the work of a four-man crew all by himself, by also loading and firing the main gun) into the Russian's helicopter. Rambo survives the explosion and gets out of the tank. At the end of the battle Rambo and Trautman say goodbye to their Mujahideen friends and leave Afghanistan to go home.
The 2008 film opens with newsreels of the 2007 crisis in Burma. Burma is under the iron fist rule of Than Shwe and takes harsher stances against the nation's pro-democracy movement. Rebels are thrown into a mine-infested marsh and then gunned down by the Tatmadaw, while the Burmese military officer Major Pa Tee Tint, who ordered the genocides, watches the shootings grimly.
Former U.S. soldier John Rambo is still living in Thailand and resides in a village near the Burmese border. He makes a living capturing snakes and selling them in a nearby village. He also transports roamers in his boat. A missionary, Michael Burnett, asks Rambo to take him and his associates up the Salween River to Burma on a humanitarian mission to give aid to Karen tribespeople. Rambo refuses, but he is convinced by Sarah Miller to take them.
The boat is stopped by Burmese pirates who demand Sarah, in exchange for passage. After negotiations fail, Rambo kills them all. Although his actions save the missionaries, it greatly disturbs them. Upon arrival, Michael says that they will travel overland and will not need Rambo's help for the return trip, informing him that he intends to report him. The mission goes well until the Tatmadaw, led by Major Tint, attack. They kill most of the villagers and two missionaries and kidnap the rest, including Michael and Sarah. Ten days after the missionaries are scheduled to return, their pastor comes to ask Rambo's help in guiding hired mercenaries to the village where the missionaries were last seen.
Rambo agrees to transport the soldiers then returns to his village and forges himself a new machete. At their destination, Rambo tries to accompany the mercenaries with a black-wrapped package in hand, but their leader, described as a former "old school" and egotistical S.A.S. trooper, refuses. After arriving at the destroyed village with their guide, a Karen freedom fighter, they are forced to hide when some Tatmadaw arrive by truck and force their villager prisoners to run a gauntlet of hidden land mines thrown into the village rice paddies. The mercenary leader will not order a rescue, as he is concerned that the missing Tatmadaw will put the rest on alert. However, Rambo shows up with what is revealed to be his compound bow and shoots down the Tatmadaw. Rambo confronts the leader when the man threatens him, and with his arrow pointed at his eye socket, Rambo tells him and the others that soldiering is what they are and do, and gives them the option to "Live for nothing...or die for something". When Rambo stands down and tells the others to come, they follow without question with the leader in tow. They plan to save the hostages at a P.O.W. camp. Rambo helps Sarah and the others to escape. The Tatmadaw unit finds the hostages missing and organizes a massive manhunt. Everyone is captured except for Rambo, Sarah, and the mercenary sniper "School Boy". But just as the group is to be executed, Rambo seizes a truck-mounted .50-caliber machine gun and massacres the Burmese army, giving an opening for School Boy to shoot down the Tatmadaw near the others and provide them also with weapons. Karen rebels join the fight to help Rambo and the mercenaries win. Major Tint attempts to get away, but is personally disemboweled by Rambo with his survival knife.
Encouraged by Sarah's words, Rambo leaves Thailand and returns to his home in the United States. He is seen walking along an Arizona highway until he sees a horse farm and a rusted mailbox. Reading the name "R. Rambo", Rambo smiles and walks down the house's gravel driveway.
Various special duty badges can also be seen on Rambo's "Class A" uniform, including:
|Birth name||John James Rambo|
|Other name(s)||"Raven", "Lone Wolf"|
July 6, 1944 |
Bowie, Arizona, U.S.
||United States Army|
|Years of service||1964-1974|
The medals and service awards are either mentioned in dialogue or displayed on Rambo's uniform within the Rambo franchise. In the "Rambo Prepares Knife" deleted scene from Rambo III, Rambo's "Class A" uniform can clearly be seen in his footlocker with the following 13 ribbons. Although his rank isn't revealed, the cross-arrows of a special forces officer on his uniform suggest he was probably an officer.
Additionally, in this same scene, Rambo's Social Security Number is revealed: 936-01-1758. However, the Social Security Administration does not issue a SSN with the prefix 936. Citizens in Arizona, Rambo's home state, are issued SSNs with the prefixes 526-527, 600-601, and 764-765. This was probably done to avoid the chances that Rambo's fictional SSN would match that of a real living person.
In a measure of discontinuity within the storyline, Rambo's Silver Stars and Distinguished Service Cross were missing from his ribbon rack as well as the National Defense Medal and the Good Conduct Medal, both of which he would have been awarded. However, if an officer as suggested, he would not possess one unless he had been an enlisted man for at least three years before being commissioned. Officers were not awarded Good Conduct Medals.
John Rambo is considered a cultural icon. The character influenced many action heroes and films in the 1980s and '90s. The John Rambo character became a prominent part of pop culture, and "Rambo", a word that can function as a noun, adjective, or a verb, became part of the English language. Perhaps more crucial from a cultural perspective, Rambo is a word that can be found in the prestigious Oxford English Dictionary. According to this source, Rambo is "a Vietnam War veteran represented as macho, self sufficient and bent on violent retribution." As well, it is widely popular to use adjectives such as Ramboesque, Ramboid, or Ramboism, to denote an ideological position that resembles Rambo's attitude and behavior.
Rambo has become the quintessential representation of America during the Reagan years. President Ronald Reagan referred to Rambo in public speeches to exemplify his political ideology and aggressive foreign policy. Towards the end of the 1985 Beirut hostage crisis, President Reagan stated at a press conference that: "Boy, after seeing Rambo [First Blood II] last night, I know what to do next time this happens." Reagan often referred to Rambo: First Blood II as a model for his domestic and foreign policies. For instance, in his 1985 Labor Day speech, Reagan stated that he would clean the federal tax system "in the spirit of Rambo".
The Rambo film series also introduced and popularized the concept of the One Man Army in films, in which a protagonist is a well trained individual who can defeat countless enemies by himself. Rambo's weapons also became part of American pop culture. Weapons such as the M60 machine gun and the bow became synonymous with the character. But it was his signature weapon, the survival knife that became popular, which led to an increase in knife sales during the 1980s.
Rambo has also been mentioned or referenced in many films, such as Die Hard, TV shows, cartoons, novels and comic books. The character of John Rambo has been featured in many lists of greatest action heroes. In 2007, the film Son of Rambow is set during the early 1980s; the film is a coming of age story about two schoolboys and their attempts to make an amateur film inspired by First Blood. In 2013, Rambo was #6 in a list of the top 50 action movie heroes in Total Magazine. In 2013, Rambo was voted #1 in WatchMojo.com's top 10 film soldiers of all times.
In the legal profession, a "Rambo lawyer" is one who habitually engages in "all manners of adversarial excess, including personal attacks on other lawyers, hostility, boorish and insulting behavior, rudeness and obstructionist conduct" or embraces "a 'take no prisoners' attitude."
Rambo has been merchandised in multiple media, including action figures, video games, and other collectibles.
In the 1989 movie Tango & Cash, LAPD narcotics detective Ray Tango (ironically portrayed by Sylvester Stallone) is described by a county sheriff as "think[ing] he's Rambo" after roughing up a team of truckers he suspects of smuggling cocaine, while out of his geographic jurisdiction. "Rambo is a pussy" was Tango's response.
In the 1994 movie True Lies, Jamie Lee Curtis says "I married Rambo," after discovering her husband Harry (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a very capable CIA operative. The film's director, James Cameron. co-wrote the screenplay for the second Rambo film along with Sylvester Stallone.
In 2013, a Cheetos commercial features a little boy (played by child actor Indiana Wilson), who is dressed up like Rambo, as he goes around blowing darts through a blowgun just by taking deep cleansing breaths and aim at targets throughout all over town.