A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that First Blood is the 1982 classic action movie in which Sylvester Stallone plays a Green Beret Vietnam veteran who fights back against a bullying small-town police force. This is the first of the Rambo franchise, and while it's not as violent as the sequels, the movie nonetheless has its fair share of violent and bloody moments. While Rambo doesn't directly kill anyone, many of the police officers are injured and maimed by the booby traps Rambo sets up in the woods, including spikes to the chest. One of the officers falls to his death out of a helicopter; his dead body is shown sprawled across the rocks below. Rambo suffers brief flashbacks showing his torture and imprisonment at the hands of the Viet Cong. A cop beats Rambo with a billy club. Violent explosions occur, especially when Rambo reemerges from the woods and reenters the small town. Some profanity includes "f--k" used several times. Brief, nonsexual male nudity (buttocks) is seen when Rambo is being hosed down by the bullying cops. The sheriff uses chewing tobacco; other characters drink and smoke cigars. Now, years after its release, it's clear that the movie addresses PTSD in veterans, as well as the emotional scars they carry upon returning home, especially if the public treats them with contempt or indifference.
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What's the story?
FIRST BLOOD introduced John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), a cross between G.I. Joe and Tarzan, and an icon of American film in the 1980s. We see him first as a shaggy-haired drifter trying to visit an old platoon comrade in rural Washington state -- where he learns that the man, his last surviving friend, has died of Agent Orange-related cancer. The downcast Rambo is subsequently sighted by bullying local cops, and is harassed and arrested for vagrancy. When the small-town lawmen brutalize him in the town jail, flashbacks to Rambo's wartime torture by Viet Cong push the well-trained Green Beret back into full combat mode and instincts. Escaping into the wilderness, he fights back using guerilla weapons and tactics. Ultimately, he makes one-man war on the entire town with captured National Guard firepower.
Is it any good?
This '80s classic is a crude but often effective actioner. Even if its worthwhile themes about the country's treatment of its soldiers kind of get lost in the fiery mayhem and the now-classic pose of the Rocky leading man brandishing enormous rifles and bandoliers.
The problem-plagued production shot alternate endings, one in which Rambo died, another in which he didn't. Audience reaction to First Blood made the filmmakers take the softer option -- and made the producers very wealthy when the film and its sequels became a hit. At least Rambo got to deliver a powerful climactic monologue (the only time he speaks at length) that puts into words the vet's feelings of anger and betrayal. And that reminds us that Stallone could be a fine actor, when not caricaturing himself.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difference between the military and the civilian mindsets in First Blood, and how Rambo was educated by the Army: "When in doubt, kill."
You can also discuss the shabby treatment of American Vietnam veterans compared to that of other war vets, and how Hollywood's portrayals of those veterans -- as either psychos or super commandos -- contributed to the problem.
Families can also talk about whether the amount of violence in the movie is fitting, given its subject matter. Are there times when violence needs to be graphic to get a filmmaker's point across? Why or why not?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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