Plot: Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) has shown some promise as a boxer, but he has never managed to rise above his peers, as his brute strength isn’t always enough to overcome the odds. Between fights he works as a debt collector for a local mafia boss, a fact which causes him some problems, as the owner of his gym doesn’t like to see his boxers in such situations. Mickey (Burgess Meredith) takes away Rocky’s locker and tells him to hang up his gloves, as he is fighting tomato cans and is never going to make it as a real boxer. But Rocky refuses to give up on his dream and soon, when world champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) needs a last minute opponent, he chooses Rocky, giving the underdog the chance of a lifetime. Meanwhile, he tries to train and get back into Mickey’s good graces, as well as woo the girl that has stolen his heart. But can a broken down fighter like Rocky manage to hang with the best in the world, or will he be struck down in a flash like everyone predicts?
Entertainment Value: This is one of the best underdog stories ever told, not just in the sports world, but across the board, for anyone who has dreamed of having one last to make their dreams come true. In the wake of Rocky, the market would be flooded with similar narratives for decades, but few have been able to even come close, as Rocky remains an iconic character and while the franchise is predictable, it is still popular and well received. But Rocky was the first and the best in the series, a gritty, well told story that helped launch Sylvester Stallone’s career and earned three Oscars, including Best Picture. The influence this movie has had is immeasurable, but it also holds up well and delivers on an entertainment front as well, as it is crafted with so much more skill than the genre would see in later decades. The bleak, but hopeful atmosphere, how the city rallies behind Rocky, the dynamic between he and Creed, the romance, and of course, the big fight and fantastic finale, it all combines to forge this great movie that has become a slice of true Americana. If you have even a casual interest in film, Rocky should be on your watch list.
His career is packed with popular, beloved characters, but his turns as Rocky are perhaps Sylvester Stallone’s most iconic performances. His personal investment in the series is massive, as he has taken up the Rocky role in each installment, as well as written and directed most of the movies as well. In this original Rocky, he served as the writer and lead actor, nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes for both roles, which is impressive. Stallone was wise to bring Rocky to life as a beaten down, perhaps even washed up fighter who should probably move on, but his heart and will are so strong, they carry him forward. In other words, he is a true underdog, someone life has been rough on, but he has refused to give up and when he is given his big chance, he relies on guts more than pure skill. The role is one of the most popular and well known in all of cinema, so Stallone deserves immense credit for his work as both the writer and actor that made that happen. Carl Weathers is fantastic as the boisterous Apollo Creed, a role that would be crucial to the film series as a whole, as his relationship with Rocky would be one of the franchise’s foundation elements. The cast also includes Talia Shire, Burt Young, Burgess Meredith, and Joe Spinell.