Close

5 Plot Point Breakdown: First Blood (1982)

By Xiaofeng Chen · February 6, 2015

Screenplay Genre: Action

Movie Time: 93 minutes

Vietnam ex-soldier John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) has been drifting around America since he retired from the war. He goes to see his war buddy Delmar, but he is told that Delmar died of cancer last summer. Delmar’s family is blaming it on the defoliants that America dusted around Vietnam. Rambo, with sorrow and loneliness, leaves.

1. INCITING INCIDENT

Aimlessly, Rambo drifts into Holidayland, a mountain community and small town. He wants to eat and get off his feet for a bit, but the sheriff of Holidayland: Teasle (Brian Dennehy) won’t give Rambo a welcomed embrace. He takes Rambo across town and dumps him in the raining suburb. But Rambo wouldn’t accept the exile. He turns back and goes to Holidayland again. Sheriff Teasle gets angry and arrests Rambo. (8:55)

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

Teasle takes Rambo to the police station and charges him for “drifting” and carrying assault weapons: a massive, bladed knife. The deputy sheriff Galt (Jack Starrett) and other officers keep torturing and insulting Rambo. Cue Vietnam shell shock. And when they’re waving a shaver in his face, Rambo can’t bear it any more and finally snaps (16:07). He hits the police and severely beats them all and escapes. He snatches a motorcycle in the street and gets the hell out of dodge, Sheriff Teasle not far behind. The two have a race and soon get to the mountain’s foot. Teasle’s car is overturned on the steep slop. He can’t do anything but see Rambo run into the “jungle.”

Teasle calls all his men and a helicopter to search for Rambo in the mountains, sniffing out Rambo’s trail with Police dogs. They trace it up the mountain and push Rambo to the cliff. Rambo is cornered and climbs down the cliff wall, but gets stuck. The helicopter approaches Rambo and Deputy Sheriff Galt keeps shooting at Rambo. The bullets are close, missing him by inches. Rambo has no choice but to jump down the cliff. The trees buffer his fall, but his arm gets torn to shreds.

Galf won’t spare Rambo’s life. He orders the pilot to descend and kill Rambo. Rambo then pitches a rock at the helicopter and breaks its windshield. Galf falls down from the helicopter and gets killed. Rambo, as people are dying, tries to surrender, but the Police continue to fire round after round at him, forcing him to run off again.

3. FIRST CULMINATION (Midpoint)

Teasle loses it once his Deputy Sherrif has been killed. He rallies the town up to go on a Rambo hunt around the mountain; little do they know that Rambo is really hunting them. In the “jungle,” Teasle hears his men falling into Rambo’s traps one by one, screaming and howling for help. But he still can’t see his enemy, until Rambo jumps out from nowhere and squeezes his knife on his throat. (42:00) But Rambo doesn’t kill Teasle. He just warns him and then lets Teasle go.

What is happening in Holidayland becomes breaking news. The FBI, National Guard and Medias get involved. While Teasle and FBI officer Kern (Bill Mckinney) are arguing about Rambo an uninvited visitor comes: Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna). Trautman claims he was a commander in the Green Berets. He trained his men for special missions in Vietnam and Rambo was the best of them. Trautman advises Teasle to stop the hunt and give Rambo a way to go, so they can find and arrest him in another city a couple of days later without casualties. But Teasle insists to continue his private war against Rambo. He knows Rambo has a walkie-talkie from the Policemen, so he asks Trautman to radio Rambo. If he replies, they will spots his location by the radio wave.

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

Rambo is hiding in an abandoned mine cave in the mountain. He hears Trauman calling for him on the radio and can’t remain silent anymore to his commander. Trauman persuades Rambo to surrender. Rambo refuses. The National Guard track the radio wave and find the mine cave. After a short exchange of fire, the National Guard’s patience runs out and they blow up the entrance to the cave with rocket launchers. Rambo is sealed in the cave.

People believe Rambo’s dead and begin leaving. But Rambo is still alive. He tries to find another way out in the cave. After a long run in the dangerous maze, he finally finds a hole that leads to an exit. Rambo thanks God and climbs out. (69:00)

5. THIRD ACT TWIST

Rambo decides to seek out revenge for the oppression and injustice he suffered. He hijacks a military truck which is carrying weapons, dumps off the chasing patrol cars, rushes through the roadlock, and heads back to Holidayland!

Teasle finds out Rambo is still alive and coming. He evacuates the inhabitants, dissolves his men, waiting in the Police station alone for the final duel with Rambo…

The Night Rambo comes into town, he blows the gas station and weapon shop up. Teasle is confused by the explosions and doesn’t know where Rambo is coming from. He pulls back on the roof and waits there for Rambo.

Rambo comes in and sees the opened ladder to the roof and knows Teasle was up there. He crosses the room with a flash. Teasle shoots at him through the skylight, but misses. Rambo fires back and hits Teasle. Teasle falls down from the skylight. When Rambo is killing Teasle, Colonel Trautman comes and stops him from doing it. (84:13) He reminds Rambo his war has ended, and he won’t have any chance to get away from the hundreds of Policemen out there. Rambo breaks down in front of his commander, crying and telling him his grievances to this country and his nightmares about Vietnam. Trautman is touched and feels so compunctious for what this country did to the solders like Rambo.

Rambo surrenders to the police at last. He is arrested, but still hold onto his military honors.


For all the latest from The Script Lab, be sure to follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

And become a member of TSL 360 to enjoy the LARGEST screenwriting education content library, featuring masterclasses, deep-dive interviews, and lectures from Academy Award-winning screenwriters, TV show-runners, producers, literary managers, agents, studio executives, and leading educators – all in one place.