The story follows the mercenary group known as "The Expendables" as they come into conflict with ruthless arms dealer Conrad Stonebanks, the Expendables' co-founder, who is determined to destroy the team. Released on August 15, 2014, it is the first film in the Expendables series not to be rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America. It is instead rated PG-13, a decision that upset many fans. The film grossed $214 million worldwide.
The Expendables—led by Barney Ross and formed by Lee Christmas, Gunner Jensen, and Toll Road—extract former member Doctor Death, a knives specialist and team medic, from a military prison during his transfer on a train. They recruit Doc to assist them in intercepting a shipment of bombs meant to be delivered to a warlord in Somalia. Arriving there, they reunite with Hale Caesar, who directs them to the drop point, where Ross is surprised to find out that the arms trader providing the bombs is Conrad Stonebanks, a former co-founder of the Expendables who went rogue and was presumed dead. In the ensuing firefight, The Expendables manage to kill all but Stonebanks, who shoots Caesar twice. As the team attempts to aid him, they are forced to retreat due to Stonebanks' advanced weaponry, and Caesar is severely injured in the process.
Back at the United States, CIA operative Max Drummer, the Expendables' new missions manager, gives Ross a mission to capture Stonebanks in order to bring him to the International Criminal Court to be tried for war crimes. Blaming himself for Caesar's injuries, Ross disbands the Expendables, not wanting his team to get killed following him, and leaves for Las Vegas where he enlists retired mercenary-turned-recruiter Bonaparte to help him find a new team of younger mercenaries to pursue Stonebanks. The recruits include former U.S. Marine John Smilee, nightclub bouncer Luna, computer expert Thorn, and weapons expert Mars. Skilled sharpshooter Galgo (Banderas) asks to be included in the team, but Ross turns him down.
The new team members rendezvous with Ross's rival Trench Mauser, returning a favor for Ross. Drummer has traced Stonebanks to Romania, where he is set to make an arms deal. Ross and the new recruits infiltrate an office building Stonebanks is using as a meeting place and, having to kill a few men in the process including arms buyer Goran Vata, manage to capture Stonebanks. In transit, Stonebanks begins to taunt Ross and explains why he betrayed The Expendables in the first place. Ross nearly kills him to shut him up but, despite Stonebanks egging him on, he stands down. Stonebanks' men catch up to them, with the aid of his GPS Tracker, and fire a missile at the team's van. Ross is thrown into a river, while Smilee, Luna, Thorn and Mars are captured by Stonebanks' crew. Ross kills Stonebanks' retrieval team and escapes.
Stonebanks sends Ross a video, challenging Ross to come after him and giving him his location in the country of Azmenistan. While preparing to leave and mount a rescue alone, Ross is found by Galgo, who offers his services again. Ross gives him a chance, later accompanied by the veteran Expendables. They rescue the young mercenaries, only to learn from Stonebanks that he has rigged the place with explosives. As both the young and veteran Expendables begin to fight one another, Ross convinces them to work together in order to take down Stonebanks once and for all. As the final battle begins, Thorn is able to use a jammer device to delay the countdown, giving them just under half an hour before detonation. Stonebanks then orders the armed forces of Azmenistan to attack the building with full force, including tanks and attack helicopters. Drummer and Trench arrive in a helicopter to help, alongside returning Expendables member Yin Yang.
The new and veteran members of the Expendables work together to kill Stonebanks' men. When a second wave moves in, Drummer lands on the building to evacuate the team. As everyone makes it to Drummer's chopper however, Stonebanks personally attacks Ross after shooting him down. Having been forced to remove the armor and his weapon, Ross and Stonebanks engage in hand-to-hand combat after Stonebanks drops his gun to challenge Ross. Both are evenly matched, but Ross manages to knock down Stonebanks before they both reach for their guns, Stonebanks starts shooting but Ross gets the better of him. At his mercy, Stonebanks questions Ross "What about the Hague?". Having coldly answered "I am the Hague" Ross shoots Stonebanks with his Colt Single Action Army revolver, finally killing him. Seconds after Stonebanks' death, the batteries of Thorn's device run out and the building begins to explode and collapse. The team makes it to Drummer's helicopter and flies away to safety, with Ross clinging to it from the outside.
In the aftermath, Caesar recovers from his wounds, and Ross officially accepts Galgo, Smilee, Luna, Thorn, and Mars into the team. They all celebrate at a bar together.Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross
The leader of the Expendables.
Jason Statham as Lee Christmas
The team's knife expert, hand-to-hand fighter, and Second-In-Command.
Mel Gibson as Conrad Stonebanks
A ruthless arms dealer who was formerly the co-founder of the Expendables before becoming rogue.
Antonio Banderas as Galgo
A former member of the Spanish Legion in the Spanish Armed Forces, Croatian war veteran, and expert sharpshooter. He likes to talk a lot.
Wesley Snipes as Doctor Death
A former medic, knife expert, and one of the original Expendables.
Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jensen
The volatile member of the team.
Randy Couture as Toll Road
The team's demolitions expert.
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Trench Mauser
Barney's former teammate and sometimes rival.
Jet Li as Yin Yang
The team's hand-to-hand combat expert, now works for Trench.
Terry Crews as Hale Caesar
The team's barrel-weapons specialist.
Harrison Ford as Max Drummer
A CIA field operations officer and pilot who manages the Expendables.
Kelsey Grammer as Bonaparte
A retired mercenary and ally of the Expendables.
Kellan Lutz as John Smilee
A former U.S. Marine, expert motorcycle rider, recruited to the Expendables.
Ronda Rousey as Luna
An athletic nightclub bouncer recruited by Bonaparte.
Glen Powell as Thorn
A highly skilled hacker, climber and drone pilot.
Victor Ortiz as Mars
A sharpshooter and lethal soldier, used to work at DARPA, who is afraid of heights.
Robert Davi as Goran Vata
The head of the Albanian mafia.
In March 2012, cast member Randy Couture said a third installment of The Expendables might begin production in late 2012, after the release of The Expendables 2. In April 2012, Steven Seagal said he was offered a role in a third film. In August 2012, producer Avi Lerner confirmed that Nicolas Cage had been signed for the then-potential sequel. He also said that the producers intended to bring back the series' stars (attempting to have Mickey Rourke reprise his role), had approached Clint Eastwood about a role, and had plans to pursue Harrison Ford and approach Wesley Snipes after his release from prison. Stallone said, "We are thinking about different concepts—the third one is the hardest. The second is the natural progression. The third, that's when the air gets rare. We're thinking ambitiously about it...You now have to give audiences something they don't expect at all—maybe even going into a different genre." Also in August, Chuck Norris said he would not return for a sequel. On August 13, 2012, Jean-Claude Van Damme indicated that Stallone might include him in The Expendables 3 as Claude Vilain, brother of Jean Vilain. On October 31, 2012, it was confirmed that Nu Image and Millennium Films were in the process of pre-selling international distribution rights for The Expendables 3. On December 19, 2012, it was reported that Jackie Chan had agreed to join the sequel on the condition that he would have more than a minor role. Chan later dropped out of the project due to scheduling conflicts.
In March 2013, Stallone confirmed he was writing a script for the sequel, and that he intended for the film to be more humorous with moments of drama. Stallone also said that Seagal would not be in the film, and that he wanted to cast more young actors in their mid-20's. In April 2013, Stallone announced that Patrick Hughes would direct the sequel. In May 2013, Chan, Snipes, Cage, and Milla Jovovich were announced to be in advanced negotiations to join the film. In June 2013, Lionsgate announced that the film would be released on August 15, 2014. In July 2013 it was reported that actor Mel Gibson would portray the film's villain, and later that month Stallone confirmed Gibson's involvement. Also in July, actor Kellan Lutz, and professional fighters Victor Ortiz and Ronda Rousey were added to the cast. It was revealed that the film would feature several younger, technology-oriented action heroes who clash with the veteran Expendables. In August 2013, it was confirmed that Ford, Antonio Banderas and Glen Powell would join the cast, and that Bruce Willis would not be reprising his role as Church. Willis' lack of involvement was cited as a disagreement over money, with production sources indicating that Willis was offered $3 million for four days of shooting in Bulgaria, but wanted $4 million. On September 17, 2013, Kelsey Grammer was announced to be in negotiations to join the film.
Principal photography began on August 19, 2013, in Bulgaria and at the Nu Boyana Film studio in Sofia and ended on October 22. In September 2013, Crews revealed in an interview that Statham survived an on-set mishap when the truck he was driving plunged into the Black Sea after its brakes had failed. In a November 2013 interview, Couture confirmed that filming had finished, and that discussions for a fourth Expendables film were taking place.
The film is the first in the franchise to be rated PG-13 differing from the previous films' R rating, which received backlash from the fans. At the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Stallone announced that he was aiming for a PG-13 rating for the film. Stating that albeit it was close to being rated R, he wanted to reach a younger and broader audience with the new film. On July 1, the Motion Picture Association of America granted The Expendables 3 a PG-13 rating; the given description being "violence including intense sustained gun battles and fight scenes, and for language". However, the first version handed to the MPAA received an R rating, and had to be trimmed down to meet the aspired PG-13 rating.
Since its release, Stallone regrets the PG-13 rating, saying that it was "a horrible miscalculation on everyone's part in trying to reach a wider audience, but in doing such, diminish the violence that the audience expects. I'm quite certain it won't happen again."
On December 19, 2013, the first teaser trailer got released, with the intent of showcasing the large cast of the movie. At 2014 CinemaCon, the official poster of the film was shown for the first time, although it only slightly differs from material shown before, featuring a white background instead of a black one. The marketing scheme of putting a huge emphasis on the film's ensemble cast of famous action actors was continued in early April, when 16 character posters of the film's cast were released and divided over four websites for maximum exposure. One day later, the first trailer with actual footage from the film premiered, again highlighting the film's huge cast, being referred to as a "roll call trailer" by Lionsgate. At the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Millennium Films hosted a special event promoting the film at the Carlton Hotel, with Stallone, Statham, Schwarzenegger, Gibson, Ford, Snipes, Banderas, Lundgren, Grammer, Couture, Lutz, Ortiz, Powell, and director Patrick Hughes attending. The event lasted the entire day and featured the cast driving down the Croisette in tanks.
On June 5, a new TV promo with new footage was released. Instead of highlighting the all-star cast like the previous ones, this trailer focused on the new additions to the cast, prominently Lutz, Rousey and Ortiz, contrasting their young characters with the more experienced ones of Stallone and Grammer. The same day, Sylvester Stallone also released a behind the scenes video via his Twitter. On June 17, a long cinematic trailer was released, giving a first look at Mel Gibson as Conrad Stonebanks, as well as showcasing the film's story for the first time. A week later on June 23, the new banner was released, featuring all 17 cast members except Robert Davi. On June 4 a new TV trailer was released, containing new footage, although mostly consisting of footage already released. A longer version of the trailer was released a week later, and one day after that, another TV trailer, themed to coincide with the 2014 FIFA World Cup, was released. At 2014 ComicCon, 16 new character posters in pop art style were released.
On July 25, 2014, three weeks ahead of the film's premiere, a DVD-quality illegal leak was downloaded, via file sharing sites, more than 189,000 times over a 24-hour period. After one week, it was estimated that the leak had been downloaded over 2 million times.
On July 31, 2014, the film's studio, Lionsgate, filed a lawsuit in California federal court against ten anonymous individuals for copyright infringement. The studio reported that one digital copy of the film was stolen and uploaded to the Internet. Lionsgate stated they sent demand letters to operators of the sites (Limetorrents.com, Billionuploads.com, Hulkfile.eu, Played.to, Swankshare.com and Dotsemper.com), but received no reply. In August 2014, cloud hosting provider Hulkfile.eu ceased its operations worldwide, because the company said it had no other option after it was damaged by the Lionsgate lawsuit. In June 2015, Lionsgate settled out of court with the operators of Played.to, a video hosting site for streaming a leaked copy of the movie. The details of the settlement were not released and the site remains operational.
In March 2016, the California court issued a default judgement to the operators of three of the infringing sites (Limetorrents.com, Swankshare.com and Dotsemper.com) to be fined $150,000 each; however, only Limetorrents is still operating and all of those sites are located outside the US therefore it is unlikely Lionsgate will collect the fines.
The Expendables 3 was released via DVD and Blu-ray on November 25, 2014. The Blu-ray Combo-Pack contains an extended version of the film accompanying the theatrical version, as well as behind-the-scenes featurettes, a blooper reel, and a Dolby Atmos multi-channel track. The regular DVD release includes only the theatrical cut.
The Expendables 3 grossed $39.3 million in North America and $175.3 million in other territories for a total gross of $214.6 million.
The film was released on August 15, 2014, in the United States and earned $875,000 during its late night Thursday screenings from 2,200 locations. It did better than it predecessors The Expendables ($870,000) and The Expendables 2 ($685,000). However, its first showing was at 7 P.M., whereas the previous films had their first showings at midnight. It earned $5.9 million on its first day, below the $13 million opening day of The Expendables and $10 million opening day of The Expendables 2. The film grossed $5.7 million on its second day and $4.2 million on its third day for a three-day total of $15.8 million.
One possible reason for this loss in ticket sales is because the film leaked three weeks ahead of its release; however, since most downloads were outside the US, if every downloading American paid to see the movie it would have made only $4 million more. Another possible reason was the PG-13 cut, which was meant to attract younger audience. Only 34% of viewers were under 25 years old, while the less violent cut may have reduced interest from older audiences. Stallone later admitted that toning the film down for a PG-13 rating was a mistake.
The film was released in China on September 5, 2014 and topped the box office in its first week's release earning $33.68 million from 231,836 screenings and 6.92 million admissions.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 32% based on 158 reviews; the average rating is 4.8/10. The site's consensus reads: "Like its predecessors, Expendables 3 offers a modicum of all-star thrills for old-school action thriller aficionados—but given all the talent assembled, it should have been a lot more fun." On Metacritic the film has a score of 35 out of 100 based on 35 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". The film received an average "A−" CinemaScore from audiences, on an A+ to F scale.
Grammer won the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor for his work in the film (along with Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, Think Like a Man Too and Transformers: Age of Extinction), while Gibson and Schwarzenegger were also nominated in that category at the 35th Golden Raspberry Awards.
A fourth film was confirmed in March 2014 by actor Pierce Brosnan, who stated that he had agreed with Avi Lerner to star in a future Expendables sequel. Hulk Hogan stated on his Twitter account that he will be in the fourth film. During an interview, Jean-Claude Van Damme confirmed that he wants to be in The Expendables 4.
While promoting Furious 7, Statham confirmed that he will appear in any new films saying, "I'll do as many as Sly wants. Working with Sylvester Stallone is beyond a 'pinch yourself' moment. I remember growing up watching his films, and to be directed by him in a movie that he's produced, and to be shoulder-to-shoulder with Sly is a privilege anyone who loves action movies would never turn their nose up at."
In December 2016, it was announced that The Expendables 4 is set for release in 2018 and that it will be the final installment.