A Look Back at the Insane ‘Rambo’ Series Plotline Over the Years

Rambo - 2008 Sylvester Stallone
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Hollywood has a knack for bringing back movie franchises that long ago lost their cultural cache and somehow making people care about them again. Studios achieve this thanks to a potent combo of bottomless advertising budgets, a bit of borrowed nostalgia, the dearth of quality films, and an uncritical general public. The latest didn’t-miss-but-will-probably-see-anyway lifeless corpse of a franchise to be reanimated? Rambo.

Yes, friends. Rambo: Last Blood hits theaters September 20. This time around, Sylvester Stallone‘s quasi-iconic character is retired and working on a ranch in the Southwest. But then a friend’s daughter gets kidnapped. And guess what? Rambo gets back into action! It’s a real shocker like that. Here’s a refresher on the franchise’s totally insane plot before you inevitably see the latest installment. —J.R. Sullivan, senior editor

First Blood (1982)

Vietnam vet John Rambo escapes jail and stages a one-man revenge war against a local police force.

First Blood Part II (1985)

Rambo, behind bars, accepts a mission to Vietnam in exchange for his freedom, then ends up freeing some long-lost U.S. POWs, because of course.

Rambo III (1988)

Rambo is building a temple (naturally) when he learns he must go save his mentor in Afghanistan.

Rambo (2008)

Rambo kills a bunch of pirates and really freaks out some missionaries.