When we talk about movies like the Rambo franchise we love to talk about how it’s John Rambo vs. at least 100 guys and the fact that he takes them all out. We love the death count. We love the action. We love that the movie’s got blockbuster written all over it. However, what we don’t realize is that the very first film in the franchise, First Blood, was actually a pretty serious movie with some decent acting in it.
Sure, John Rambo goes nuts, takes over an entire town and blows things up. But why does he do this? As a teenager you see a movie like this and think Rambo’s a badass. This cool guy is back from war ready to destroy things. But as an adult you realize that Rambo is really a broken man suffering with trying to be a citizen after going through hell in Vietnam. He’s merely a man trying to make it in society but is essentially told he’s not allowed to. This is when Rambo cracks.
But it all comes to a head in this moment in the movie (video below). I actually think Stallone did a decent job in this scene and it makes you realize that the issues of PTSD are very real. Don’t forget this movie was made in 1983 so this was well before studies on PTSD became prominent. While it was known stress disorders came from military involvement as far back as the 1950s it wasn’t until 1980 that the APA added PTSD to DSM-III, which stemmed from research involving returning Vietnam War Veterans, Holocaust survivors, sexual trauma victims, and others. Links between the trauma of war and post-military civilian life were established and from that point on PTSD became a more common issue to speak about.
I don’t think it’s a surprise that Sylvester Stallone did this movie. He’s too smart to have done otherwise. I can all but guarantee his main focus was on Vietnam vets and the suffering they went through post-war. It was just brilliant how he used a one man wrecking crew as a way to make this awareness commercial.