During his near fifty-year acting career, Sylvester Stallone has portrayed several iconic film characters. Two of them, however, stand far above the rest. The first, Rocky Balboa, is easily the most famous fictional boxer ever. In fact, he’s likely more well known than almost every real-life boxer, outside of the The Greatest, of course — the late Muhammad Ali. Rocky Balboa has been so influential to the sport of boxing that Sylvester Stallone was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The Rocky Balboa statue still stands proudly outside the Philadelphia Art Museum, waiting to take pictures with those who just ran the famous steps.
Just six years after Stallone first portrayed Balboa, the actor brought another iconic character to the big screen: John Rambo. Rambo, who first appeared in the novel, First Blood, by David Morrell, made his first big screen appearance in the 1982 film adaptation of the same name. First Blood was a runaway success, leading the Vietnam vet, who suffers from PTSD, to appear in three subsequent movies, the last of which was the 2008 eponymous film, Rambo. While plans for a fifth film had been long gestating, it was recently announced that Nu Image/Millennium Films would be rebooting the franchise with a new actor in an attempt to create a James Bond-like series.
With that being the case, we felt it appropriate to help with the casting process. Here are 15 Actors Who Could Play Rambo In The Reboot. Just to note, in picking these actors we looked for a combination of physique, ability to portray the stresses of war, and overall franchise-leading capability. Further, we have left off actors who clearly will not be picked (the assumption is that Dwayne Johnson has literally no time for a 50th franchise, and Michael B. Jordan was low-hanging fruit).
15. Casey Affleck
At first glance Casey Affleck may not seem like the obvious choice to play John Rambo. Let’s face it, he does not have that eyebrow-raising physique that Sylvester Stallone has come to be known for. But take a second look and you will see that John Rambo in First Blood was not the physically intimidating beast he became in subsequent films. He was, however, a toned individual with a serious case of Post Traumatic Stress. This is a role in which Casey Affleck could excel, and it would give the criminally underrated actor the chance to headline a franchise.
A good performance to look at for reference is Affleck’s turn in Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace. In that film, Ben Affleck’s baby bro plays Rodney Blaze, an Iraq War-vet who turns to bare-knuckle boxing to pay off his debt. Due to the scarring nature of war, Blaze is unable to get a normal job, yet has too much pride to throw a fight — which he promises to do. This performance is just one of many that proves Affleck has the acting chops to pull off the PTSD aspect of Rambo, while developing enough of a physique to match Stallone’s in First Blood.
14. Anthony Mackie
Anthony Mackie is another actor who would be an interesting choice to play John Rambo. Perhaps even more so than Affleck, Mackie is able to check off all three requirements of the role. First, he easily has the physique down. He did, after all, play a roided-up body builder in Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain. Second, Mackie has the acting skills necessarily to pull off a war veteran. He played a military sergeant in The Hurt Locker and he did display some of the stresses of war in the opening act of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Finally, Mackie has been in enough blockbuster films that he surely can step up as a franchise lead. Who knows, he may even become Captain America at some point.
Perhaps the biggest issue with Mackie is his schedule. Even if the plan for a new Rambo franchise would include a revolving door of actors — like James Bond — the hope would still be to launch the series with the same actor signed for several films. Given the actor’s presumably ongoing commitment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s unlikely that he will be joining another major franchise any time soon. This is especially true if he eventually takes over for Captain America — though Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is probably next in line.
13. Joel Edgerton
Joel Edgerton has all the makings of a great John Rambo. He has the physique, the acting chops, and is overdue for his own franchise. Like Stallone, Edgerton is both a writer and a director, meaning he could potentially add to the creative side of things as well. As for which movies indicate the actor could step up as Rambo, look no further than The Gift, Zero Dark Thirty, and Warrior. While the latter two prove that Edgerton can easily pull off the character’s physicality, The Gift is the performance that cements him as the total package.
Joel Edgerton wrote, directed, and starred in The Gift. In the film, which marked his directorial debut, he played Gordon “Gordo” Mosley, an old high school classmate of Jason Bateman’s main character. Throughout the film, Gordo ends up awkwardly leaving gifts for, and showing up at the house of, his former classmate. As it turns out, Gordo was bullied in school by Bateman’s character, and as the result of a nasty rumor (started by the latter), is almost beaten to death by his father. Edgerton knocks it out of the park as Gordo, and easily could reflect on this performance when channeling the PTSD Rambo suffers as a result of his military tours.
12. Scott Eastwood
We may be taking a bit of a leap of faith with this pick, but Scott Eastwood does bring enough to the table to warrant consideration. The son of Academy Award-winner Clint Eastwood has a few things going in his favor. First things first, he has the right look for the character. He has shown this to be true as recently as this past summer’s Suicide Squad. He’s also a solid up-and-coming star, someone that seems ready to step up and lead a franchise. Eastwood is only 30 year old, so he could star in quite a few Rambo films before hanging up his boots. While he has not served as a franchise lead yet (he did star in The Longest Ride), he does continue to receive supporting parts in high profile films.
On top of Suicide Squad, Eastwood has appeared in Fury and has roles in upcoming films like Fast 8 and Ben Affleck’s Live by Night. While Eastwood may be one of the riskier picks to play John Rambo, he does have the name recognition to headline the movie, and he’d come at a cheaper price tag than some of the other actors on this list. If he shines in some of his upcoming efforts, maybe we’ll see him take a crack at the original one man army.
11. Karl Urban
Karl Urban is one of the older actors on this list, but he still has plenty of time to star in a few Rambo films. So, what makes Urban, perhaps best known as Bones from the Star Trek reboot series, a good candidate to take over as John Rambo? Well, for starters, he has taken over a role from Stallone before. Another character of Stallone’s that was supposed to be a franchise-starter was Judge Dredd. Originally portrayed by Stallone in the eponymous 1995 film, he was subsequently brought to life by Urban in the 2012 reboot. While having experience playing another Stallone character is certainly not a requirement to be John Rambo, it would be a fun way to continue his legacy.
Obviously, though, Urban needs to have the talent and physique to believably sell his candidacy to play Rambo. Fortunately, the actor has both. He has played physically demanding roles in both The Bourne Supremacy and RED, and will be playing the villainous Skurge in the upcoming Marvel film, Thor: Ragnarok. Plus, after rumors that Urban would get another shot at Dredd and possibly be in the running for Batman did not come to fruition, it’s time to give the guy his due as the lead in a proper action franchise.
10. Charlie Hunnam
Charlie Hunnam is an actor who just looks the part, and at 36, is currently the same age Stallone was when he first played John Rambo. Hunnam already starred in Pacific Rim, a franchise-starting action flick, and will soon be appearing as the title character in Warner Bros.’ King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The latter comes with a $100 million-plus price tag, indicating the studio has some faith in the actor’s ability to lead a blockbuster. Hunnam also stars in the upcoming The Lost City of Z, where he plays a Colonel Percy Fawcett, the military-officer turned explorer who disappears while searching for the lost Amazon city. Of course, the actor also starred in FX’s Sons of Anarchy, so he’s no stranger to playing the leading man.
Both his prior and upcoming film roles highlight Hunnam’s ability to lead a blockbuster action flick. Further, he clearly has the physique needed to play John Rambo. While he has not yet been given the chance to show his full range as an actor, the Rambo reboot would present Hunnam with the opportunity to play a complex character dealing with the casualties of war. And we think he would be more than capable of taking on the challenge.
9. O’Shea Jackson Jr.
Granted, like Eastwood, this pick may seem a bit out of left field. After all, to date, O’Shea Jackson Jr. has only starred in one feature film. That film, of course, was Straight Outta Compton, where the actor played his father, Ice Cube. So, given his lack of experience as an actor, what makes Jackson Jr. a good candidate to play Rambo? First, he proved that he is more than just a man who resembles his father; he’s a good actor. O’Shea Jackson Jr. earned rave reviews for his portrayal of Ice Cube, and it’s clear he has a long career ahead of him.
Speaking of a long career, Jackson Jr. is only 25 years old. Given his young age and lack of time-consuming commitments to other major projects, he would seem to be available to sign on for a franchise-starting role. Further, he is at the right age to portray a military vet who went into the service right out of school and served multiple tours. Finally, Ice Cube himself has starred in several action films, so it’s not inconceivable that his son would look to do the same. The bottom line is that O’Shea Jackson Jr. is an up and coming star who could cement that status as the second man to play John Rambo in live-action, and he looks to be up to the task.
8. Taylor Kitsch
Taylor Kitsch is a guy who really needs a franchise to call his own, and the fact that he does not have one is not for a lack of trying. Kitsch has starred in three failed franchises to date: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (where he played Gambit), John Carter, and Battleship. So you may be thinking, why recommend an actor who seems to be more of a franchise killer? Well, if you take a closer look at his more recent work, you’ll see he might actually be. perfect for the role.
Kitsch’s last two performances playing a military man were in Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor and HBO’s True Detective (the much maligned second season). The actor gave an inspired performance in Lone Survivor, where he played deceased Medal of Honor winner, Michael Murphy. And despite the mixed reception to True Detective‘s second season, Kitsch was able to believably portray the internally conflicted veteran, Paul Woodrugh, and he may well have given the finest performance of the ensemble cast. The time has come for Kitsch to take another shot at leading a franchise, and Rambo would be a fine fit.
7. Nicholas Hoult
Another young actor who is just about ready to lead his own franchise is Nicholas Hoult. Perhaps best known for his take on Hank McCoy/Beast in the X-Men prequel series, Hoult recently had a critically acclaimed turn in George Miller’s long awaited Mad Max: Fury Road. With Hoult’s character unlikely to return in a Mad Max sequel — he certainly seemed to have died — and his time with the X-Men series likely nearing its conclusion, the young actor could be looking for another tentpole to star in.
Perhaps Hoult’s biggest obstacle would be attaining Rambo’s physique. While the actor did have some definition in Mad Max, he came off more scrawny than toned. Still, with a few months in the gym and a proper nutritional routine, Hoult could easily get to a point where he matches Stallone’s look in First Blood. And if he is able to match Rambo’s appearance, Hoult easily has the acting chops to pull off the role.
6. Mike Colter
If there is one thing we know for sure with Mike Colter, it’s that he has the build to play Rambo. Colter is easily best known for his role as Luke Cage in Marvel’s Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. In fact, Marvel was so impressed with Colter’s take on Luke Cage in Jessica Jones they fast-tracked production on the character’s eponymous series. And while Luke Cage is not necessarily a perfect parallel to John Rambo, the characters do share some similarities that suggests that Colter may be the perfect actor to play both.
Like Rambo, Luke Cage is often a one man army. Of course, in Cage’s instance, it comes a bit easier since bullets literally bounce off of him. Furthermore, both characters try to stay away from violence, quite unsuccessfully. Both Rambo and Cage also believe in a code and will fight to protect those they care about. Finally, Colter, for his part, did a nice job portraying Cage’s internal conflict and he could look to that performance when bringing Rambo’s stresses of war to life.
5. Tom Hardy
If the Rambo reboot needs the total package to play the lead role and opts to go straight to the A-list to fill it, look no further than Tom Hardy. The 39 year old certainly has the muscles, acting abilities, and experience headlining major action films. On top of starring in what some are calling the best action film of the decade (Mad Max: Fury Road) Hardy also nabbed his first Oscar nomination this year for his role in the Leonardo DiCaprio-starring film, The Revenant.
Tom Hardy has also showed off his physicality as Bane in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, and was praised for his violent role in 2012’s Lawless. He is set to appear next in Nolan’s WWII epic, Dunkirk, and he’ll be bringing Al Capone to life soon after that, but his schedule appears relatively open after that. Perhaps Hardy will want to try his hand at a franchise-leading role like John Rambo. To date, though he’s starred in sequels, Hardy has never reprised a role in a subsequent film. Maybe he’s been waiting for the Rambo reboot?
4. Armie Hammer
Another actor who has had some trouble when it comes to franchise-starting flicks is Armie Hammer. The actor starred in Disney’s box office disaster, The Lone Ranger, which barely earned more than its $225 million budget and fell well short of breaking even overall. Subsequently, Hammer starred in Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which was a remake of the television series of the same name. Despite decent reviews, U.N.C.L.E. was only a modest box office success and likely will not spawn a sequel. So, with two franchise failures already under his belt, why is Armie Hammer a good choice to take over for Stallone as John Rambo?
Despite the past shortcomings of his films, Hammer does have all the makings of a franchise lead. He has the physique and should be able to replicate the traumatic stress that Stallone suffers. Perhaps his biggest issue is his height. Hammer is 6’5, which is nearly half a foot taller than the original big screen Rambo. Still, few fans would likely care about such a deviation — we’re not talking a comic book adaptation. Hammer most recently starred in the well-received Oscar contender, The Birth of a Nation, providing further evidence of his acting talents.
3. Jack O’Connell
Here’s a young actor primed for a leading role in an action franchise if there ever was one. Jack O’Connell has recently had critically acclaimed turns in war films like ’71 and Unbroken, and he’s also received praise for his role in Money Monster, a film in which he played a man struggling in the wake of the financial crisis. But it is his performance in ’71 that really proves he is ready to step into the role of John Rambo. While he is on the shorter end, O’Connell still can put together the physique to play the war veteran. And, as previously stated, the actor doesn’t have to be a carbon copy of Sylvester Stallone’s later roles. What is important is that O’Connell can play a believable war vet struggling with the ramifications of his past experiences — and that shouldn’t be a problem for this hyper-talented young man.
Going back to his physique, O’Connell would likely need to put on some weight to play Rambo. However, if you look at the actor in films like Unbroken and 300: Rise of an Empire, it’s clear that it would not take that much work. Get this guy a nutritionist and a proper trainer and he will be jacked in no time.
2. Ryan Gosling
Ryan Gosling is a must-include on this list if for only one reason: he’s Sylvester Stallone’s first choice. Last year, when Stallone was out promoting Creed, his seventh film playing Rocky Balboa, he stated if he were to be replaced as Rambo, he would want Ryan Gosling to play the one man army. While The Notebook star may seem like an odd choice at first, we urge you to take a second look. The Oscar-nominated actor is quite simply one of the most talented actors in Hollywood today. If Nu Image/Millennium Films is looking for more than a simple run-of-the-mill action flick, Ryan Gosling would be a great choice to lead the way.
While there are several films that highlight Gosling’s skills as an actor, a good one to look at would be The Place Beyond the Pines. In that film, Gosling plays Luke Glanton, a stuntman-turned bank robber looking to support his family. He can certainly pull off the physical aspects of the character, as evidenced by the numerous movies in recent years in which he has his shirt off for no reason. While Gosling may be an odd, perhaps even unlikely, choice to play Rambo, he could be the idea choice for a more thought-provoking action flick.
1. Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal is another Oscar-nominated actor just about due for a leading role in a franchise film. There are a lot of talented actors on this list, but none are quite as accomplished as Gyllenhaal. Nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Brokeback Mountain, Gyllenhaal has since showed his range in a wide array of different film. Highly acclaimed appearances in recent films like Prisoners and Nightcrawler show that the actor can easily pull off the internal struggles of a man suffering from PTSD.
And just take a peak at the picture above for proof that Jake Gyllenhaal can look the part. For his role in Southpaw, the actor spent five months training as a boxer, and the commitment to his craft showed, as Gyllenhaal was widely praised for his performance (though the film itself earned mixed reviews). The actor’s last attempt at headlining a franchise was 2010’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Though that film flopped, it’s now been six long years, and the time has come for Gyllenhaal to take another crack at a big budget action franchise — hopefully one that’s a bit headier than the surface level fluff that defined Prince of Persia.
Who takes over for Stallone as John Rambo will depend on what type of film is being made. A straight action film likely requires less of an accomplished actor, as the movie would be sold on its visuals. However, should an attempt be made to produce a gritty, thought-provoking action franchise, a completely different type of actor will be required. What do you think? Who would you like to see play John Rambo in the reboot? Let us know in the comments!