IMDb Top 250: #219 Rocky

Rocky (1976)

Director: John G. Avildsen
Writer: Sylvester Stallone
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young

Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer, gets a supremely rare chance to fight heavy-weight champion Apollo Creed in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.

***

It’s late 1975 in Philadelphia, and Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) works as a debt collector for a money-lender. He’s a big man, with fists like slabs of meat, but he also has a gentle nature that is at odds with a job that often requires him to deliver beatings to late-paying clients. Rocky also earns pocket money fighting in boxing matches. He could have been great, but his lack of discipline meant that he never quite achieved the status in the fight game that he might have had if he’d applied himself. 

Rocky drifts through life, secretly haunted by the knowledge that he let his talent in the ring go to waste, while Apollo Creed, the undisputed Heavyweight World Champion (inspired by Muhammad Ali) learns that his intended opponent has had to pull out of their championship bout, and decides to offer an opportunity to fight a no-name as a publicity stunt. He eventually selects Rocky, attracted by his nickname, The Italian Stallion. Rocky’s immediate reaction is to turn down the offer, but he eventually realizes that he won’t be able to live with himself if he lets such an opportunity pass him by.

The movie is in no rush to get to the bout with Creed. It takes its time getting to know the characters, and the run-down working class environment in which they live, and nearly an hour has gone by before Rocky begins his training in earnest for the bout. The now-obligatory montage sequence played out against pounding music follows, topped off by the iconic shot of Rocky bounding up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Rocky is a testimony to the simple power will that a man can summon. A story of hope and courage.

“Champions keep on going when they don’t have anything left in their take.”

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