Rambo III (1988)

rambo iii poster 1988 movie
5.5 Overall Score
Story: 4/10
Acting: 3/10
Visuals: 6/10

'80s action

Not as good as the original nor fun as Part II

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Rambo III

Studio:  Carolco Pictures

Genre(s):  Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  May 25, 1988

MPAA Rating:  R

rambo iii richard crenna hostage

No, man…John Rambo is coming for you and you’re the one who is in trouble…

John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is trying to live a life in peace in Thailand.  When he is contacted by Colonel Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) and Robert Griggs (Kurtwood Smith) to help rebels with the Russians’ invasion of Afghanistan, Rambo declines.  Colonel Trautman is captured by the Soviets, and Rambo vows to save him.  Teaming with the rebels, Rambo must infiltrate the Russian camp if he hopes to get Trautman out alive…and he’ll face an entire army to do it!

Directed by Peter MacDonald with a screenplay co-written by Stallone, Rambo III is an action-adventure sequel.  The film followed Rambo:  First Blood Part II from 1985 and dropped the First Blood portion of the title.  The movie received big numbers at the box office, but mixed reviews from critics and a Razzie win for Worst Actor (Stallone) with nominations for Worst Picture, Worst Supporting Actor (Crenna), Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay.

While First Blood and Rambo:  First Blood Part II were culture events, Rambo III felt gratuitous and a desperate attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the character.  The violence wasn’t as intense (or personal) and First Blood Part II, but the body count was huge.  Rambo III just comes off as almost a parody of itself at points.

rambo iii horse game helicopter sylvester stallone

Hey…good thing this helicopter showed up to slaughter all your people…I was about to win the game you invented

The movie’s plot also has come into contention…for different reason at different times.  In 1988 when the movie was released, the conflict between the Soviet Union and the U.S. was cooling down and some worried that the anti-Russian theme could heat up issues.  Now, Rambo III is looked back on as the movie where Rambo helped the Taliban since they evolved out of the rebels trained by the United States.  It also smacks of “White Savior” rhetoric which feels like older even less PC movies (Rambo even can win the cultural game they are playing the first time he plays).

The problem isn’t the social issues as much as Rambo III is just really kind of dumb.  Like Rambo:  First Blood Part II apparently no one can hit John Rambo and the military really needs to train their soldiers to fire better.  The movie lacks the energy of the first two entries and frequently is dull and slow paced.

Stallone is Stallone.  He grunts, screams and flexes his almost inhuman looking muscles.  I have stopped feeling sorry for John Rambo at this point and almost feel that conflict finds him.  He is surrounded by men who constantly profess to the underestimation of Rambo and all their dialogue is delivered with superficial and overdone gusto.

rambo iii tank vs helicopter

It like a bad Atari game…Tanks vs. Helicopters

The movie is a typical action film of the ’80s.  It is loaded with big explosions and almost all of them are ridiculous.  The movie culminates in a showdown with the rebels and Soviets and literally has Rambo in a tank facing off against the villain in a helicopter…it doesn’t get more action than this (plus you get Stallone and his flow-y mullet).

Rambo III isn’t very good.  First Blood is a rather good film with Rambo:  First Blood Part II being a fun and gratuitous film.  Rambo III feels like rehash with any sentimentality taken out.  Fans of the series will appreciate it and people who want big ‘80s action might like it as well (though I would still stick with Part II if that is what you are going for).  Rambo III was followed by Rambo twenty years later in 2008.

Related Links:

First Blood (1982)

Rambo:  First Blood Part II (1985)

Rambo (2008)

Rambo:  Last Blood (2019)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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