10 Action Films That Changed Everything

'First Blood'
Technically that photo is from the third Rambo, but you get the idea. Röhnert/ullstein bild via Getty Images

When you saw the title of this list, there's a good chance you pictured Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, his massive muscles covered in grime, a bandana holding back his hair as he clutched a huge machine gun, a triumphant sneer on his face. Rambo is the ideal symbol of the '80s action movie, a cliché of endless violence, infinite ammo and a single invincible American hero taking on an army of inept Communist bad guys.

But the ultimate action movie series started out as something very different. The first Rambo movie, "First Blood," was released in 1982. It's a violent, exciting movie to be sure, but it explores complex themes (a Vietnam veteran returning home to find only alienation and rejection) and has a dark, intense ending.

The bombastic sequel, "Rambo: First Blood Part II," established the '80s action movie template. "Rambo III" brought more of the same, and a parade of muscular action stars came along, too. In this author's opinion, "First Blood" is by far the best movie in the series, and it introduced the world to the man who would become the ultimate action hero: John Rambo.