In Rocky, world heavyweight boxing champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) wants to give an unknown fighter a shot at the title as a publicity stunt, so his handlers pick palooka Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), an uneducated collector for a Philadelphia loan shark. Gritty, grim and epic, this crowd-pleasing film won the 1976 Best Picture Oscar thanks to John G. Avildsen’s solid direction and Stallone’s root-for-the-underdog script. If you like this movie, there are five sequels about Rocky to see. Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky screenplay displayed an almost literary genius — the classic underdog rags-to-riches plot, the unforgettable characters, the triumphant final 20 minutes of action. Often overlooked are Stallone’s profound themes of human beings getting a second chance at life — Rocky’s overcoming the low self-esteem that has kept him from being the boxer (and the person) he could have been, Adrian’s overcoming her shyness and abusive relationship with her brother, Mickey’s overcoming his ego to humble himself and admit his mistake in not helping Rocky earlier. And, these themes are reflected in symbolism throughout the film — e.g., images of the burned-out city of Philadelphia rising up to host the bicentennial, in Rocky’s working-class training regimen (the meat locker scene is particularly memorable), and in the pet store symbols (the dog released from his cage, turtles coming out of their shells). The closing physical fight aside, some of the film’s most powerful scenes are about the emotional fights the characters have to go through prior to it — Mickey screaming at Rocky that his hit-man career was “a waste of life”, Adrian screaming at her brother “I don’t owe you nothing”, Rocky screaming at Mickey, “you talk about your prime…what about my prime?”. These battles open doors for the characters that allow them to rise to new levels, to realize their full potential as people. The boxing main event, in this context, is just the icing on the cake. While Rocky’s goal is to go the distance in the fight with Creed, we know that he has won before he ever sets foot in the ring. It’s not easy today to consider this movie in proper perspective nearly 30 years after its theatrical release. I first saw “Rocky” in the theater in 1976, and it was a triumph and a revelation. The idea that movie goers might pay to see a film starring an unknown character actor depicting a sad sack, talentless, nobody loser transforming himself into an iconic national hero was ludicrous. In fact, Stallone struggled for years to try and get some studio – any studio – to make this movie. The story goes that he finally got a studio to make a five-figure offer for the screenplay, but the studio would not consider Stallone to play the lead part. Despite the fact that he was virtually broke and had no real prospects at the time, Sly refused the offer; he believed in his screenplay and he believed that he was the right actor to play the part. He eventually got his film made, and it won the Oscar for Best Picture mainly because he portrayed the scrub with such unforgettable pathos and humanity. Rocky, Adrian, Mickey: these characters are beloved by millions of movie goers. Sadly, the things that made this movie so special have been forgotten and lost in the wake of laughably bad sequels and Sly’s own inability to produce anything else close in quality. This movie, though, was lightning in a bottle, and the sole reason why an unknown character actor with determination and a dream became a wealthy man and, for a period of time, one of the world’s biggest celebrities. If you enjoy stories about the triumph of the human spirit then you will cheer for “Rocky”. I have never been a fan of Stallone or of sports movies, so I’ve avoided seeing this film for 25 years. Besides, I had seen several of the sequels and I thought, “Seen one, seen ‘em all.” Boy, was I wrong! Inspirational, touching and incredibly powerful…I was surprised at how involved with and moved by this story I was. This is a movie for anyone who’s been told they “can’t”, and it redefines what the meaning of “victory” is. It’s not necessarily winning…it’s having the guts to give your all. Consider me a convert. So I went over a quarter of a century without seeing this movie, but my husband finally convinced me to continue my “education” (as he put it), and watch it. He watched Rocky his whole life as a source of inspiration — and as the movie went on, I could see aspects of it that had rubbed off on him in real life! Rocky’s character had such an influence on him it’s astounding, and I mean that in only positive ways. I haven’t seen ANY newer movies made like this: violence – only for the sake of the plot, no nudity, cursing or excessive vulgarity, all of the characters were genuinely well-acted, and Stallone’s portrayal of Rocky was simply mesmerizing. I was nearly in shock when the movie was over and I realized that Rocky was an attractive, physically fit man who could have spent the whole movie as a womanizer – yet had such a soft side for a shy, vulnerable woman he tried so hard to get to know and to trust him. Very refreshing… they just don’t make them like this anymore! Can I just say I cried when he took Adrian to that ice skating rink? Only need to point out that as a single lady I could only wish any of the buffoon moronic idiots I meet would ever measure up to Rocky Balboa’s ‘swagger’ on their date. I would have his baby any day of the week and twice on Sunday! Outside of babies, I love the script. I am 31 myself and I’ve had a few failed dreams so far but I still believe I can go the distance and there is plenty to achieve. Years later this movie can stand side by side with all the Avengers, Avatars, blah- blah gazillion dollar budget movies of nowadays and kick their butts and get the Oscar again! Way to hold up! I have seen this movie many times and it is as much fun as the first. Thanks Sly for letting us all have it. Timeless, timeless stunning classical movie. One of the very greatest movies ever made! Drama 1976 PG 119 minutes.
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