Does [SPOILER] Die At The End of Rambo: Last Blood?

Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo in Last Blood

WARNING: Spoilers for Rambo: Last Blood.

Whether John Rambo is dead or alive at the end of Rambo: Last Blood is going to be the film's most debated plot decision. The fifth film in the interchangeably reflective and bombastic action franchise has been billed as the last outing for Sylvester Stallone's Vietnam veteran, and its final battle may have delivered proper finality.

Last Blood's big ending sees Rambo become the low-tech defender against the technological might of a Mexican sex trafficking group, using a variety of home-made traps that would make Jigsaw and Kevin McCallister both wince. But John doesn't come out unscathed, getting hit in the abdomen while bringing the ceiling down on some goons and shot in the shoulder by head honcho Hugo Martínez (who Rambo eventually dispatches by pinning him to a wall with four well-placed arrows and removing his heart). The movie fades out with him reflecting on his life as he slumps in a rocking chair on the front porch of his now-decimated ranch.

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Related: Rambo 3's Deleted Ending Would Have Dated Horribly

The question of Rambo's survival is complicated by Last Blood's end-credits. The film wraps up with a slow-motion montage of all five Rambo movies, including the latest. However, instead of closing once more on the front porch, it continues beyond the ending just witnessed to show John get his horse and ride off towards the Arizona mountains (it's one of the strangest post-credits "scenes" ever). Ultimately, Last Blood leaves it purposely ambiguous whether Rambo dies or not, with him potentially mortally wounded but survival possible.

Rambo Last Blood banner

What's really more important than whether Rambo lives or dies is how this is an ending to his story regardless. At the start of Last Blood, John's still suffering from flashbacks to the horrors of the Vietnam war, and later reveals that he only found true peace from his violent past in caring for Gabrielle and her family. Now he's lost that and has only been able to get some form of warped closure through more violence. As he says in the final voiceover, he's lost his soul and his mind, and through that what came to matter was "only family, only home." There's an acceptance on Rambo's part that this morally-complex calm is the best he can hope for in life - no matter for how long that is.

The end-credits moment then becomes particularly important underlining of that. Rambo's connection to horses is established early on in Last Blood, and at the end they're the one remaining thing that matters to him. Riding off into the distance is also very evocative of classic western Shane, which also ends with the titular hero seriously injured and leaving town with a similarly unclear fate (2017's Logan also referenced Shane more overtly, although there the main hero was undeniably dead come the closing credits).

Of course, keeping Rambo's fate open-ended is also a very handy get-out clause should Stallone and co. decide to make a sixth movie. Although Last Blood is billed as an ending, it wouldn't be the first movie to go back on that marketing promise; money and character affection can be powerful forces. After all, Stallone's already flirted with the fate of his other iconic character, with Rocky suffering from Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2015's Creed, but having fought through it by the time of 2018's sequel. Whether Rambo lives or not will really depend on Last Blood's box office and whether the star can really let go.

Next: First Blood’s Original Ending Killed Rambo: Here’s Why It Was Changed

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