Three years into his sentence, former commando John Rambo is visited by his old commander, Colonel Sam Trautman. With the war in Vietnam over, the public has become increasingly concerned over news that a small group of US POWs have been left in enemy custody. To placate their demands for action, the US government has authorized a solo infiltration mission to confirm the reports. As one of only three men suited for such work, Rambo agrees to undertake the operation in exchange for a pardon. He is taken to meet Marshall Murdock, a bureaucratic government official overseeing the operation. Rambo is temporarily reinstated into the US army and instructed that he is only to photograph a possible camp and not to rescue any prisoners or engage enemy personnel, as they will be retrieved by a better equipped extraction team upon his return.
During his insertion, Rambo's parachute becomes tangled and breaks, causing him to lose his guns and most of his equipment, leaving him with only his knives and a bow with specialized arrows. He meets his assigned contact, a young intelligence agent named Co-Bao, who arranges for a local river pirate band to take them upriver. Reaching the camp, Rambo spots one of the prisoners tied to a cross shaped post, left to suffer from exposure, and rescues him against orders (though it's possible he lost his camera with the rest of his equipment and couldn't follow them). During escape, they are discovered by Vietnamese troops and attacked. When a gunboat manages to catch up, the pirates betray them out of fear. Rambo gets the POW and Co-Bao to safety, destroys the boat with an RPG-7, and kills the pirates. When Rambo reaches the extraction point, the helicopter is ordered to abort by Murdock, who claims Rambo has violated his orders. When Trautman confronts him, Murdock also reveals that he never intended to save any POWs if any should be found, but to leave them caught to save Congress the money it would take to buy their freedom and evade any possibility of further war.
Co-Bao escapes, but Rambo and the POW are recaptured and returned to the camp. There, Rambo learns that Soviet troops are arming and training the Vietnamese. He is turned over to the local liaison, Lieutenant Colonel Podovsky, and his right-hand man, Sergeant Yushin, for interrogation. Upon learning of Rambo's mission from intercepted missives, Podovsky demands that Rambo broadcast a message warning against further rescue missions for POWs under fatal cost. Meanwhile, Co infiltrates the camp disguised as a prostitute and comes to the hut in which Rambo is held captive. Rambo at first refuses to cooperate, but relents when the prisoner he tried to save is threatened. But instead of reading the scripted comments, Rambo directly threatens Murdock, then subdues the Russians with Co's help and escapes into the jungle. They kiss, and Rambo agrees to take Co back to the United States. However, a small Vietnamese force attacks them, and Co is killed. An enraged Rambo kills the soldiers and buries Co's body in the mud.
Using his weapons and guerrilla training, Rambo systematically dispatches the numerous Soviet and Vietnamese soldiers sent after him. After barely surviving a barrel bomb dropped by Yushin's helicopter, Rambo climbs on board, throws Yushin out of the cabin in a brief but intense fight, and takes control. He lays waste to the prison camp and kills all of the remaining enemy forces before extracting the POWs and heading towards friendly territory in Thailand. Podovsky, pursuing in a Mil Mi-24 helicopter gunship, seemingly shoots them down and moves in for the kill. Having faked the crash, Rambo kills him with a rocket launcher.
Returning to base with the POWs, Rambo, after using the helicopter's machine gun to destroy Murdock's office, confronts the terrified man with his knife, demanding that Murdock rescue the remaining POWs. Trautman then confronts Rambo and tries to convince him to return home now that he has been pardoned. An angry Rambo responds that he only wants his country to love its soldiers as much as its soldiers love it. The film credits roll as Rambo walks off into the distance while his mentor watches him.
Producers considered that Rambo would have a partner in the rescue mission of POWs. The producers allegedly wanted John Travolta to play Rambo's partner, but Stallone vetoed the idea. Lee Marvin (who was considered to play Colonel Trautman in the first film) was offered the role of Marshall Murdock, but declined, leading to the role being played by Charles Napier.
James Cameron wrote a first draft under the title First Blood II. (Cameron had been recommended by David Giler who did some uncredited script work on the first film.) Cameron's script had the same basic structure of the first film but had a character of Rambo's sidekick.
Stallone later recalled:
I think that James Cameron is a brilliant talent, but I thought the politics were important, such as a right-wing stance coming from Trautman and his nemesis, Murdock, contrasted by Rambo’s obvious neutrality, which I believe is explained in Rambo’s final speech. I realize his speech at the end may have caused millions of viewers to burst veins in their eyeballs by rolling them excessively, but the sentiment stated was conveyed to me by many veterans.... [Also] in his original draft it took nearly 30-40 pages to have any action initiated and Rambo was partnered with a tech-y sidekick. So it was more than just politics that were put into the script. There was also a simpler story line. If James Cameron says anything more than that, then he realizes he’s now doing the backstroke badly in a pool of lies.
The film was shot between June and August 1984.
The film was shot entirely on location in Mexico. The waterfall explosion scene was shot in Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico and the rest of the film in Tecoanapa, Guerrero, Mexico.
Rambo: First Blood Part II opened in the US on May 22, 1985, and was the #1 film that weekend, taking in $20,176,217 on 2,074 screens (which made it the first film in the US to be shown on 2,000+ screens). Overall, in the US, the film grossed $150,415,432 and $149,985,000 internationally, giving First Blood Part II a box office total of $300,400,432. The movie broke various international box office records.
The film grossed $78,919,000 in rentals in the US alone. DVDs of each of the first three movies in the series have been released and selling since 1998, but no figures are available for these yet. As the movie took $300,400,432 at the box office and $78,919,000 from US rentals, it is estimated that with European/international DVD sales of Rambo: First Blood Part II, the overall takings for the movie is $400–500 million.
Rambo: First Blood Part II received negative reviews from critics. The film earned a 30% "Rotten" rating in the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.
The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.
2006: AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers – Nominated
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
The musical score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, conducting the National Philharmonic Orchestra. The main song is sung by Stallone's brother, singer/songwriter Frank Stallone. Varèse Sarabande issued the original soundtrack album.
- Main Title (2:12)
- Preparations (1:16)
- The Jump (3:18)
- The Snake (1:48)
- Stories (3:26)
- The Cage (3:55)
- Betrayed (4:22)
- Escape from Torture (3:39)
- Ambush (2:45)
- Revenge (6:14)
- Bowed Down (1:04)
- Pilot Over (1:52)
- Home Flight (3:01)
- Day by Day (2:06)
- Peace in Our Life - music by Frank Stallone, Peter Schless, and Jerry Goldsmith; lyrics by Frank Stallone; performed by Frank Stallone (3:18)
Note: As released in the United Kingdom by That's Entertainment Records (the British licensee for Varèse Sarabande at the time), the UK version placed "Peace in Our Life" between "Betrayed" and "Escape from Torture," thus making "Day by Day" the final track.
In 1999, Silva America released an expanded edition with the cues in film order. Previously unreleased music is in bold.
A novelization was written by David Morrell, author of the novel First Blood, on which the first Rambo film was based.
A tie-in video game was produced for ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64 called Rambo. There was also an NES game as well as a Sega Master System game, and MSX and DOS games based on the film. Sega later adapted some of the battle scenes in the film for the 2008 arcade game Rambo.
Officially licensed knives from the film, based on Jimmy Lile's designs were made by both United Cutlery and Master Cutlery. Master Cutlery fabricated both a standard and Limited Edition version. The Master Cutlery versions are push tang construction, have a hollow aluminum cord gripped handle that contains an emergency survival kit, and a precision compass mounted in the pommel. The stainless guards incorporate standard and Phillips head screwdriver points in the design. They are 1/4" thick 420 J2 stainless blades.
- Main Title (2:14)
- The Map (1:09)
- Preparations (1:18)
- The Jump (3:19)
- The Snake (1:49)
- The Pirates (1:29)
- Stories (3:27)
- The Camp/Forced Entry (2:24)
- The Cage (3:57)
- River Crash/The Gunboat (3:37)
- Betrayed (4:24)
- Bring Him Up/The Eyes (2:06)
- Escape from Torture (3:41)
- Ambush (2:47)
- Revenge (6:16)
- Bowed Down (1:06)
- Pilot Over (1:54)
- Village Raid/Helicopter Flight (4:55)
- Home Flight (3:02)
- Day By Day (2:08)
- Peace in Our Life (3:19) - Frank Stallone