First Blood (also known as Rambo or Rambo: First Blood) is a 1982 action thriller film directed by Ted Kotcheff. The film stars Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, a troubled and misunderstood Vietnam War veteran, with Sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy) as his nemesis and Colonel Samuel Trautman (Richard Crenna) as his former commander and only ally. 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. Unlike the sequels, which were war adventure films set in foreign countries, First Blood was a post-Vietnam War psychological thriller set in the United States. First Blood lacks the gore and violence that would become a trademark of the series.
Since its release, First Blood has been a critical and commercial success and has had a lasting influence on the genre. It has also spurred many parodies. The film is notable for its psychological portrayal of the after-effects of the Vietnam War, particularly the challenges faced by American veterans attempting to re-integrate into society, something not deeply examined in subsequent Rambo movies.
In 2008, the film was chosen by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.
John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is a former member of an elite United States Army Special Forces unit, awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in the Vietnam War. Now in December 1981, Rambo is searching for one of his friends from his unit, Delmare Berry, and soon learns that he has died from cancer due to Agent Orange exposure. Although not yet revealed to the audience, Rambo knows he is now the last surviving member of his unit. The scene cuts to Rambo entering the fictional small town of Hope, Washington (actually filmed in Hope, British Columbia) on foot. With his long hair and military-style coat, he is quickly spotted by the town's overzealous and overprotective sheriff, Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy), who decides that Rambo is a "drifter" and drives him out of town in his police car. Rambo immediately heads back towards town, angering Teasle, who arrests him.
At the station Rambo stays silent and refuses to cooperate with the deputies. Led by Art Galt (Jack Starrett), Teasle's cruel head deputy and closest friend, they respond by bullying and harassing him. While being processed, Rambo has flashbacks to his time as a prisoner of war. When Galt and two other officers (Chris Mulkey and David Caruso) attempt to dry-shave him with a straight razor, Rambo has a flashback to being tortured in a North Vietnamese P.O.W. Camp and finally snaps. He overpowers the three officers in the room and fights his way out of the station, assaulting most of the deputies and throwing one out of a window. Once outside he steals a motorcycle from a civilian and is pursued into the nearby mountains. The deputies are eventually forced to search for Rambo on foot and he climbs down onto a steep cliff to elude capture. After spotting Rambo from a helicopter, Galt blatantly disregards protocol and attempts to shoot him in cold blood. Rambo drops into a mass of trees and, while cornered, throws a rock at the helicopter which pitches, and Galt falls to his death. Teasle, who had not seen Galt's attempt to kill Rambo, vows to avenge his friend's death.
Rambo is unable to persuade the deputies that Galt's death was an accident, and Teasle leads his deputies into the woods in an attempt to capture him. The deputies are inexperienced and bicker, particularly after learning over the radio about Rambo's combat experience and status as a war hero. Rambo quickly disables the small, disorganized team using guerrilla tactics and booby traps, severely wounding but not killing the deputies; he also kills their three tracking dogs. In the chaos, Rambo isolates and confronts Teasle with a knife to the throat. "Don't push it...or I'll give you a war you won't believe. Let it go!" he warns before disappearing into the woods. A base camp is assembled near the site, and the State Patrol and National Guard are called in. United States Special Forces Colonel Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) arrives, explaining that he trained Rambo, and that the Army sent him to "rescue" them. Aware of Rambo's capabilities, he urges Teasle to let Rambo go and find him once the situation has calmed down; Teasle refuses.
Rambo is eventually cornered by the National Guard in a mine entrance. The novice guardsmen fire a M72 LAW rocket at him, collapsing the entrance and trapping him inside. They assume Rambo is dead. Unbeknownst to his pursuers, Rambo has escaped into the tunnels of the mine. Rambo finds some old fuel and makes an improvised torch with a wood stick whose end is wrapped in layers of canvas. After wading through waist‑deep water and fighting off rats, Rambo cleverly uses the flame of the torch (as an indicator of air flow) to find an escape. Rambo hijacks a passing M35 2½ ton cargo truck and is chased by a police car. He rams the car into an abandoned car, which explodes and overturns it, killing the two people inside. Rambo returns to town, crashing it into a gas station. He blocks the highway to anyone in pursuit by igniting the spilled fuel, also destroying the stolen truck. Armed with an M60 machine gun, Rambo destroys a sporting goods shop and a few other businesses in an attempt to confuse Teasle and identify his position before spotting him on the roof of the police station.
Rambo carefully enters the police station. Aware of Teasle's presence on the roof, Rambo darts under the skylight to draw fire so that Teasle's exact location is revealed. Teasle immediately fires at Rambo, and Rambo then observes Teasle's position. Rambo returns fire through the ceiling with the M60, injuring Teasle, who then 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. He weeps as he recounts a particularly gruesome story about witnessing his friend dying by having his legs blown off by a booby-trapped shoeshine box planted by a Viet Cong child operative. Realizing he has nothing left to live for, Rambo then turns himself in to Trautman and is arrested while Teasle is taken to the hospital. The credits roll as Rambo and Trautman exit the police station.