Release Date: 20 November, 1976
Oscar Ceremony: 28 March, 1977
Director: John G. Avildsen
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young
Nominees: All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory, Network, Taxi Driver
“I just want to say hi to my girlfriend, OK? Yo, Adrian! It’s me, Rocky.” – Rocky Balboa
Hello, Hollywood. Meet Sylvester Stallone, a 30-year-old Italian-American from Hell’s Kitchen. His first starring role was in a soft core porn film, and he also had minor roles in a few movies here and there. He’s not very attractive, and he has a noticeable speech slur caused by paralysis in the left side of his face. He comes off as a bit simple-minded, but he wrote the story and script for this little movie called Rocky and I’m telling you, he’s about to make it big.
I have never been able to take Sylvester Stallone seriously. I’ll admit I had a bunch of preconceived ideas about the whole Rocky/Rambo mania. However, this particular movie was not half as bad as I thought it would be. I still had trouble taking him seriously, but I thought the whole thing actually contributed to my enjoyment.
Rocky is a classic underdog tale about an uneducated, working-class boxer (Sylvester Stallone) who gets a once-in-a-lifetime shot at the world heavyweight championship. He leads a simple life, living in a beat-up studio with his two pet turtles, Cuff and Link (most likely symbolizing his longing for a more luxurious life). He regularly visits the pet shot to pursue Adrian (Talia Shire), a shy and awkward store clerk. He works in a meat warehouse with her brother Paulie (Burt Young), and acts as a debt collector for a loan shark in the shady areas of Philadelphia. Rocky is definitely not the brightest guy out there, but he has a kind heart and a lot of determination.
While the movie is typically linear and predictable, it’s not hard to understand why America fell in love with it. Despite its simplicity, Rocky is very effective in delivering a rags-to-riches message about the American Dream to the general public. Its key quality is its accessibility; it’s not an intellectual film targeted at a niche audience. Every average American citizen should be able to appreciate Rocky Balboa’s story and come together while rooting for the underdog.
I probably wouldn’t date a guy like Rocky, but I cannot deny the fact that he’s lovable. Watching the way he takes care of animals and the way he acts around Adrian shows that he’s a good guy. I guess for most people, Stallone’s silly personality is probably a hit or miss: it either brings a positive contribution to the movie’s comedic tone, which ultimately makes it stand apart from other boxing/fighting movies, OR it makes him look ridiculous. I’m not a huge fan, but he got a few chuckles out of me and in the end, I’m glad he played the titular role. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a character quite like him. Talia Shire’s portrayal of Adrian is also really cute. They make quite the unexpected couple.
Don’t like boxing? That might not be a huge problem, because there’s more to Rocky than that. If anything, boxing is more like a vehicle for its meaning. During the big match, Rocky’s opponent, Apollo Creed, shows up dressed as Uncle Sam, covered in the colours of the American flag. In that moment, Rocky is not just fighting another boxer; he’s fighting against America and all the obstacles society has thrown his way. Ultimately, the American dream is not about the win – it’s about the fight. Rocky needs to prove himself and go the distance. Whatever happens, he cannot surrender, just like Sylvester Stallone did not surrender while trying to make a name for himself in Hollywood. I don’t know about the other 10 million Rocky movies, but this one was pretty damn empowering.