Vietnam veteran and drifter John J. Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) wanders into a small Washington town in search of an old friend, but is met with intolerance and brutality by the local sheriff, Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy). When Teasle and his deputies restrain and shave Rambo, he flashes back to his time as a prisoner of war and unleashes his fury on the officers. He narrowly escapes the manhunt, but it will take his former commander (Richard Crenna) to save the hunters from the hunted.
In 1997, a major war between the United States and the Soviet Union is concluding, and the entire island of Manhattan has been converted into a giant maximum-security prison. When Air Force One is hijacked and crashes into the island, the president (Donald Pleasence) is taken hostage by a group of inmates. Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), a former Special Forces soldier turned criminal, is recruited to retrieve the president in exchange for his own freedom.
Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) is a Special Agent for the F.B.I. Utah gets partnered with Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey), an experienced Agent, who is more than committed to his work. The two are asked to investigate the number of robberies committed by a group called The Ex-Presidents, who wear masks of former Presidents Reagan, Nixon, Carter, and Johnson for their robberies. Pappas has a theory that The Ex-Presidents are a group of surfers and asks for Utah to go undercover as a surfer.