For decades, Sylvester Stallone has been an action icon in Hollywood. However, at 77 years old, even Stallone has to slow down sometime. Later this month, The Expendables 4 will mark Stallone’s final appearance in the franchise, and possibly his last action movie as well. Regardless of whether it is or isn’t Stallone’s swan song, no one can dispute his contributions to cinema. He wrote and starred in Rocky, which won Best Picture at the 1976 Oscars and spawned a movie franchise that continues to this day with Creed III. Stallone also headlined the Rambo franchise and showed off his dramatic chops in films like Cop Land. He even starred in comedies like Oscar, Tango & Cash, and the relentlessly silly Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.
Since Stallone may finally be done with action, we’ve decided to focus on those types of films when deciding the five Sylvester Stallone movies you should watch in September. He starred in some really great action movies, and that’s one of the reasons why his cinematic legend will endure.
There are five Rambo movies, but the original film, First Blood, has the superior story because it feels like it has something more real to convey. In this adaptation of David Morrell’s novel, John Rambo (Stallone) is a Vietnam veteran who is traumatized by both his experiences during the war and by the mistreatment he receives when he comes back to America. After he is harassed and arrested by Sheriff William “Will” Teasle (Brian Dennehy) and tortured by Teasle’s deputy, Art Galt (Jack Starrett), Rambo goes berserk and escapes from jail.
Rambo does his best to refrain from killing the police officers and deputies who pursue him, but they’ve pushed him too far. As Rambo says in the movie, they drew first blood, and that’s something they will live to regret. No one will claim First Blood is one of the best war movies ever made, but it is an entertaining watch.
Upon its release, Cobra was savaged by critics for using so many familiar action tropes. But in the ensuing decades, it has been celebrated as a cult classic and one of the quintessential action movies of the ’80s. Stallone plays Lt. Marion “Cobra” Cobretti, a member of the LAPD who finds himself on the forefront of a battle against a domestic terrorist group known as The New World.
When model Ingrid Knudsen (Brigitte Nielsen) personally witnesses The New World’s leader, the Night Slasher (Brian Thompson), commit murder alongside his followers, she is placed in the protective custody of Cobretti and his partner, Sergeant Tony Gonzales (Reni Santoni). However, the Night Slasher has a mole in the police department, and Cobretti can’t hide Ingrid forever.
Stallone’s early ’90s resurgence included the leading role in Cliffhanger, a film in which he portrays a Ranger named Gabriel “Gabe” Walker. During the movie’s opening minutes, Gabe tries and fails to save Sarah (Michelle Joyner), the girlfriend of his best friend, Harold “Hal” Tucker (Michael Rooker), during a botched mountain rescue in the Rockies. Eight months later, a dispirited Gabe is willing to leave the mountain life behind him regardless of whether his girlfriend, Jessica “Jessie” Deighan (Janine Turner), comes with him or not.
But before Gabe can take off, he and Jessie accompany Hal on a distress call to the mountains, only to discover that they were deceived by Eric Qualen (John Lithgow), the mastermind behind a U.S. Treasury robbery. And if Gabe and his team don’t agree to help Qualen retrieve the missing cash that was lost in the mountains, then he will kill them all. Somehow, Gabe has to find a way to escape and get his friends safely off the mountain.
Watch Cliffhanger on Netflix.
While Demolition Man was released in 1993, most of the film was set in the then-far-off year of 2032. We haven’t quite reached the peak dystopia as seen in that movie, but John Spartan (Stallone) would probably still feel like a fish out of water in 2023. Back in the ’90s, serial killer Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) framed Spartan for killing his hostages. Consequently, both men are sentenced to decades of cryogenic hibernation and reeducation. But when Phoenix escapes from custody four decades later, the modern police of 2032 just can’t handle his savagery.
Lenina Huxley (Sandra Bullock) has the novel idea of releasing Spartan from hibernation to counter Phoenix’s plans. Unfortunately for Spartan, most of the world has passed him by. But if there’s one thing Spartan knows, it’s how to be a cop.
In the later stages of his career, Stallone came up with The Expendables as a way to bring many of the action stars of the past and present together in the same movie. With Stallone in the lead, of course. Barney Ross (Stallone) is the leader of a team of mercenaries called the Expendables, which includes Lee Christmas (Jason Statham, in one of his best action movies), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Toll Road (Randy Couture), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), and Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren). Stallone even lined up Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger for cameos as Mr. Church and Trench Mauser, respectively.
Shortly after Jensen is thrown off the team for his mental instability, Ross accepts a mission to take down a dictator named General Garza (David Zayas). But the real operation is to stop rogue CIA agent James Munroe (Eric Roberts), who is the power behind Garza’s reign.
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