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As the oldest of the Lost Boys, Rufio took over leadership duties when Peter Pan left Neverland to become Peter Banning, grow up, and marry Wendy Darling's granddaughter, Moira. He is a cocky and charismatic leader, and skilled with the Pan sword, which Peter had left him with, making him a capable replacement for Peter and an intimidating presence. He is much more serious and aggressive than the carefree Peter ever was, and he is reluctant to give up his position when Peter returns, not believing that he is really who Tinkerbell claims him to be. Rufio agrees to help retrain Peter but remains distrustful of him, embarrassing Peter at every opportunity and grows jealous when the other Lost Boys come to believe that he is their former leader. However, when Peter regains the memories of his childhood and becomes Peter Pan once again, Rufio, in amazement, offers back the Pan sword to Peter and loyally falls in behind him, serving as a lieutenant in the Lost Boys' attack on the Jolly Roger to free Peter's children.
During the climatic battle with the pirates, Rufio encounters Captain Hook and challenges him to a duel. Rufio valiantly holds his own but as the duel progresses, his arrogance overcomes him as he taunts Hook and is outmaneuvered and stabbed. Fatally wounded, he tells a saddened Peter "I wish I had a dad... like you." before dying in his arms. Peter's son, Jack, upon witnessing Rufio's death, turns away from the life of a pirate and reunites with his father. After Hook is eaten alive by the momentarily resurrected crocodile following a sword fight with Peter, Thud Butt is chosen to succeed Rufio as leader of the Lost Boys by Peter before departing Neverland with his two children, Jack and Maggie, and returning to London.
Rufio also appears in the many Video Game adaptations of the film. In the Sega Genesis/Super Nintendo versions, he is the boss of the first level. In the Arcade version, he is a playable character alongside Peter Pan, Thud Butt, Ace, and Pockets. In the Atari ST version, he appears as a supporting character throughout the game.
Rufio proved to be a very popular and memorable character in the film.
The pop-punk band Rufio named themselves after him.