Sylvester Stallone is a miracle-maker, and, no, we’re not talking about his miraculously chiseled physique. Sly’s created two characters so memorable that their respective franchises have gone on for decades and decades — and decades. If you foolishly believe that Rocky and Rambo are basically the same guy, here are six ways to tell them apart.
1. Observe what Stallone is wearing.
Obviously, he’s probably not wearing a shirt, even if he’s in Russia in winter. Shirts aside, Stallone’s wardrobe is always a giveaway. Rocky tends toward trendy duds. In a seventies Rocky, you’ll see a guy in a leather jacket paired with a hat out of Serpico. In an eighties Rocky, Stallone flashes a half-shirt and short shorts in bright neon colors. If you see camouflage, that’s Rambo you’re watching. Period. Neon or leather? Rocky.
2. Listen to how Stallone expresses his love for country.
Both love America but show it differently: Rocky, though punch-drunk, sticks to reasoned argument, fueled by emotion. Who else could win the Cold War with a well-considered speech to a crowd of rich, sympathetic Russians. Rambo never reasons with enemies. He violently shows he wants his “country to love us as much as we love it!” Simple patriotism? Rocky. Troubled patriotism? Rambo.
3. Take note of his weapon of choice.
Rocky only uses his fists. For a pro boxer, he’s actually a pretty nonviolent guy who rarely scuffles outside the ring. Even when fighting his protégé in a back alley in Rocky V, he settles the matter with punches, ignoring the discarded bottles available. While Rambo will use his fists if he has to, he prefers a gun — the bigger, the better. Bare knuckles only? Rocky. A firearm so big a normal man couldn’t even pick it up? Rambo.
4. Check out the women.
We’re certainly not saying Rambo’s gay, but, for a guy who’s got the physique of Zeus, he sure doesn’t get much action from the ladies. Does he even look at a woman? Admittedly, he’s got other stuff going on: his priority is dudes — killing them, rescuing them, intimidating them, or evading them. There aren’t a lot dating opportunities here. Rocky Balboa, on the other hand, loves Adrian more than anything, even his sanity. If Talia Shire is on Stallone’s arm, it’s Rocky. If she’s gone (even from flashbacks), it’s Rambo.
5. See how the enemy addresses Stallone.
Rambo battles amoral Soviet and Vietcong, plus a no-good overweight sheriff. Rocky fights a couple black guys who basically speak in jive and a genetically engineered Soviet super-boxer. Rambo’s enemies call him Rambo. Rocky’s enemies call him Rocky. Okay, that’s obvious. But sometimes when watching a Rocky or a Rambo movie, you need all the help you can get.