Rocky (1976)

This is why I’m proud to be a Philadelphian.

When world heavyweight boxing champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) wants to give an unknown fighter a shot at the title as a publicity stunt, his handlers pick palooka Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), an uneducated collector for a Philadelphia loan shark. Rocky doesn’t have much going for himself, except his girl-friend Adrian (Talia Shire), until he starts to pick up some steam with this fight up ahead.

Whenever anybody thinks about ‘Rocky’, most just say that they love the first but the others really ruined its legacy. I don’t know where I stand because even though I appreciate all of them, except for ‘Rocky V’ because Tommy Gunn was a puss, I can’t fully remember the last time I actually watched them all. Now after seeing the first one, I want to go back.

The main reason why this film works so well and only gets better and better with age is because of one thing and one thing only: under-dog story. Americans, Canadians, Japanese, Chinese, Yellow, Orange, Periwinkle, basically all people love these kinds of stories because it’s like a fairy-tale that gives hope to anybody out there who thinks they can’t do something special, but when they look at a dude like Rocky, they realize they can.

Rocky is the perfect example of your average, every-day guy who one days gets his shot at being big and absolutely takes it. He’s not a superhero with a big red cape or a knight in shining armor on a horse, he’s just a dude who considers himself a “bum”, drinks 5 raw eggs in the morning for breakfast (tried it before and it tastes terrible), walks around Philly at night talking to everybody while throwing some jokes around, and goes down to the meat-shop to knock on some meat. Rocky is the everyman that we all love and care about and it’s so hard not to like him considering you could probably find a guy right down your street that’s just like him. Well, that is without the boxing career but then again you never know.

The direction from John G. Avildsen and the screenplay from Stallone himself just comes together perfectly almost like peanut butter and jelly. Avildsen is a guy who’s movies I haven’t really seen all that much of but he gives this fairly low-key approach that has a lot of grittiness and dark elements to it but it’s still entertaining as hell to watch, especially when you know where the hell Rocky is throughout the whole film. I’m not sure how he won Best Director that year because even though I thought it was a good direction, it wasn’t anything spell-binding like so many other films that year.

When it comes to the script though, then we have something to really talk about. Everything in this film seems like real people actually talking and even though there is the usual schmaltz and predictability to the whole approach, it still doesn’t feel like a cheat. There is a perfect mixture of drama, romance, humor, and sports that comes together perfectly where one moment you could really feel something for Rocky and these other characters, but then you could be laughing your ass off the next moment when Rocky is making jokes about not knowing how to talk to a door. It also helps that just about everything in this film is so damn memorable and the only reason why we see so much of the same shit used nowadays is because at the time, this was so original and I will definitely have to call you a liar if you say you didn’t feel like trying hit a boxing bag after watching that awesome training montage.

Speaking of Sylvester Stallone, it’s pretty obvious that his performance as Rocky is just about perfect considering it’s the one that should have given him the Oscar that year and basically kicked off his career, but it’s a lot better because of the finer details that lie within his portrayal. The script, as I have already stated, is perfect but that’s also a lot of thanks to Stallone for not hamming it up once as this total meat-head. Rocky is of course the dude that has bigger muscles than a brain, but he’s still a lovable guy that jokes around with everyone and with Stallone, what you see is just about what you get from him. The whole time I could feel like Stallone was just being himself, almost as if everything was improvised because when he’s emotional, it’s not corny or overly sentimental, and when he’s just talking out of his ass, it feels like he’s saying whatever hits him first. It all works and I also have to give a lot of props to Stallone considering half of the shit he does here when it comes to training, I could have never done. Except for the claps in between one-handed push-ups, I do them every morning I wake up…

Let’s also not forget the rest of the cast of characters that easily made this film lovely no matter where the story went. Talia Shire is great as Rocky’s man squeeze, Adrian, and the scenes her and Rocky have (especially the ice-rink scene) all feel real and genuine; Burgess Meredith is awesome as Rocky’s trainer, Micky, and is an absolute riot just about every time he’s up on screen; and Burt Young is great as the worst best friend in the world, Paulie. The one performance I was surprised that really annoyed me was actually Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed. I don’t know why but I just felt like this guy was trying so hard to be Muhammed Ali impersonator that it just got annoying after awhile but then again when you have a cocky, black world-heavyweight champion of boxing, it’s hard to not act like one of “the greatest”.

Consensus: Rocky is a perfect film for anybody who ever believes that they have what it takes because of it’s perfect screenplay, genuine performances from everybody involved, and just the overall good and happy feeling that this film will give you once you start to here Rocky yelling out “ADRIAAAAAN!”.

9.5/10=Full Price!!

Happy New Year’s Everybody!!


  1. Gosh darn it give the film the extra .5!! 😉

    Hahaha on a serious note, great review Dan, Rocky is one of my favorites. And honestly, as much as people love to hate me for this, I think the Academy chose right in crowning this Best Picture..

  2. I had never seen any of these movies until the most recent one – Rocky Balboa – came out. Then, I sat down and watched all of the Rocky films together, in order. I enjoyed them all and while I do get what you are saying about Carl, I believed him and enjoyed his performance. My only quibble is that I sometims have trouble understanding what Sly is saying. But I get the gist and think that each of these pictures has quite a lot of heart going for it.

    • Sly is awesome and Carl tried, but he came off too annoying for me. Still, I had a great time with this flick and it’s just a perfect classic. Thanks!

  3. I just watched this for the first time recently. Stallone is brilliant. I then went away and watched Copland which he is also brilliant in. It’s a shame he hasn’t done consistently better stuff. Not sure if I’ll bother with Rocky 2-5 but defo need to see Balboa. Great review!

  4. I LOVE the Rocky movies (even V, which isn’t at all good). I think you should absolutely watch them all again…even if II and Balboa are the only good sequels. (Rocky IV is my favorite even though it’s over the top and soooo cheesy.)

  5. ” Stallone was just being himself”

    Ill bet Stallone would be insulted by that – yknow he’s a member of Mensa! I doubt Rocky could be!

    I only watched all the films recently and covered them on my Classic Columb for MAN I LOVE FILMS. ROCKY remains a testement to Stallones skill as a writer and actor

    • He’s incredible in both fields and even though he has kind of fallen down the ladder recently, he still has this near perfect film under his belt for both credits. Thanks Simon!

  6. Ah, great film to review. This remains such a fun-to-watch movie even today. Loads of underdog stories get made for the screen, but few have managed to be so endearing or enduring in their appeal.

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