The Plot of the Movie "Rambo"

by James Rutter

Sylvester Stallone directed, co-wrote and starred in 2008's "Rambo," the fourth entry in a series of movies about the titular Vietnam veteran John Rambo. "Rambo" takes place in present-day Burma, a Southeast Asian country that sits on the southern border of China and also borders Thailand and India. In the film, a harsh military regime rules Burma and persecutes the Karen ethnic minority.


After the death of his former commanding officer, Col. Sam Trautman, Rambo has moved to Thailand, where he works odd jobs such as capturing and selling exotic snakes and ferrying passengers and cargo upriver. Col. Trautman played an important role in the earlier Rambo films, and without him as a mentor, Rambo has given up hope of reintegrating into an American society that no longer needs used-up former mercenaries. He sustains himself by bow fishing, lives in isolation and views the American missionaries and their relief efforts with open hostility.


"Rambo" begins with Burmese military forces destroying a village. Major Tint (Maung Maung Khin) oversees the mission and instructs his men to conscript the young village males into his unit. Tint burns down the village and has the remainder of the villagers executed by forcing them to walk into a mine field. The movie then transitions to a group of American missionaries, who are led by Michael Burnett (Paul Schulze). Burnett asks Rambo to taxi them up river from Thailand into Burma with medical and aid supplies. Rambo initially rejects Burnett's offer, but another missionary, Sarah (Julie Benz), wins him over with her kinder, less-mercantile approach.

Plot Point One

While escorting the missionaries upriver, a group of pirates boards Rambo's ship. They offer to let everyone continue the aid mission in exchange for Sarah. Rambo kills all of them with a pistol. The pacifist Burnett objects to Rambo's actions; when Rambo drops the missionaries offshore, Burnett dismisses him and says that the missionaries will find another way back to Thailand, as they want no part of his violence. Major Tint leads another village raid and captures both Burnett and Sarah. He also kills some of the missionaries.

Plot Point Two

A few days after the missionaries' capture, the pastor of their church arrives in Thailand. The pastor has hired a group of British commandos to rescue them. He offers to rent Rambo's boat for the rescue mission. When he tells Rambo that the missionaries have gone missing, Rambo remembers Sarah's kindness and agrees to take them upriver. Although the mercenary leader, Lewis Reese (Graham McTavish), tells Rambo to stay with the boat, Rambo impresses him by slaughtering a platoon of Burmese infantry with a bow and arrows. Reese agrees to let Rambo help them with the rescue.


Rambo, Reese and the mercenaries infiltrate Major Tint's encampment at night and rescue Sarah and Burnett. Major Tint and his forces pursue them through the jungle, eventually capturing everyone but Sarah, Rambo and an American mercenary sniper. Rambo mows down Tint's forces with a jeep-mounted .50-caliber machine gun. Karen rebels arrive and help Rambo and the remaining mercenaries defeat Tint and his army. At the end of the film, Rambo returns home to America, presumably to reconnect with his remaining family.

About the Author

Since 2005, James Rutter has worked as a freelance journalist for print and Internet publications, including the “News of Delaware County,” “Main Line Times” and Broad Street Review. As a former chemist, college professor and competitive weightlifter, he writes about science, education and exercise. Rutter earned a B.A. in philosophy and biology from Albright College and studied philosophy and cognitive science at Temple University.