IMDB #230 Rocky

Hey we’re officially over twenty entries! I may well be serious about this. First, I have one question for you, internet: Do you believe that America is the land of opportunity? Because Apollo Creed does. That’s right, it’s 1976’s Best Picture winner, Rocky!

The best part about this particular obsessive past-time is that I’m doing miles of catching up on the films that ‘cause people jaws to drop when I mention I’ve never seen them. Yes, I’d never experienced Rocky, or Rocky (Roman Numeral) of any kind before, which makes me more of a tomato than a contender. But that ends now.

The Key Players:

Written by and starring Sly Stallone who, Rambo excepted, was launched to fame with this Academy Award nominated role (and screenplay). He mostly plays Rocky (six times), Rambo (four times), and other musclemen in films of lesser repute (of which I may have only seen Judge Dredd. Yeah.).

Our director is John Avildsen, who would go on to direct all three Karate Kids before returning for Rocky V, along with plenty of other films I’m sure. Here's the rest of our cast, along with what I know them from without looking it up: Carl Weathers (Predator, “Arrested Development”), Burt Young (uh.. the other Rocky’s I bet), Burgess Meredith (I think he was the Penguin in the Batman show), and Talia Shire (.... Jason Schwartzman’s mom. Nailed it!).

Is my knowledge of film history not breathtaking?

The Story:

Somehow without ever seeing this film I knew most of the story from references, parodies, Bill Simmons columns and other pop culture ephemera. Rocky (Stallone) is a loan shark enforcer and boxer that never got a shot at the big time. He pals around working-class Philadelphia folks, woos terminally shy pet store clerk Adrian (Shire), and does his best to get by without breaking people’s thumbs for his boss.

But then, undisputed heavyweight champion of the world Apollo Creed (Weathers), suddenly in need of an opponent for a Christmas day bout, decides to choose a local underdog to give a shot at the big time, and guess he who chooses!

Then it’s up to our boy Rock to get ready with the help of Adrian, her nosy brother (Young), and his suddenly interested trainer Mickey (Meredith), and it all culminates in the big fight. What’s gonna happen?

The Artisticness:

A much more austere and moody film awaited me than I expected, which is probably unfair of me, but hey- it’s a boxing movie. I liked the use of long tracking shots to give us a feel for the neighborhood Rocky lives in, or wide shots of Rocky and Adrian at the skating rink. Even down to the huge perspective on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a famous scene that inspired a statue somehow.

Plus there are plenty of great details in this film to make it a product of it’s time, and not just an underdog story- from impromptu a cappella groups on street corners to the gaudy lampshade that hangs right above Rocky’s pet turtles. The film takes plenty of time to put us in a real world before it gets a little fantastical.

Not to mention that no matter what you think of Sly, he was made to be Rocky. The rest of the cast hits the right notes too- nobody has that many histrionic Oscar speeches (yet four of them got nominations anyway). I liked the relatively drawn out romance between two lonely souls that keeps the film together- it’s halfway through the film before Rocky and Adrian even kiss.

And of course, Bill Conti’s score is by far the most familiar element to anyone, and gives Rocky an orchestral seventies pep that’s just too infectious to resist.


Rocky, doubtful of winning, tells Adrian he just hopes he can “go the distance” with Creed, which no opponent has done before. Being completely boxing illiterate, I kind of thought that meant last ten rounds, but it really means 15. Go figure.

After an early knockdown of Creed (who realizes he might have to fight, for serious), the match gets brutal and intense and other boxing terms for tough. After fifteen rounds, Creed wins by split decision (again, not really sure what that means), but Rocky doesn’t care- he just calls out his famous “Adrian!” and our two awkward lovebirds embrace. He went the distance and got the girl. Cue credits.


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

I’d like to say I kept some sort of cynical reserve and found flaws, but come on- it’s Rocky. Like Apollo Creed said, there’s a whole lotta sentimental people out there that love an underdog story, and I’m one of them.

Suffice it to say that I was taking notes while watching the movie (because I’m studious and all), but I have no notes from the beginning of the fight to the end because I got too caught up in it. Yeah.

The Legacy:

Three Oscars (Picture, Director, Editing) out of ten nominations (including Stallone, Shire, Young and Meredith), one of the best sports movies of all time, and so on.

It’s got the training montage that launched all other training montages, it spawned five sequels and a statue of Rocky Balboa in Philadelphia (which is crazy, but better than Milwaukee’s statue of The Fonz. Sigh). I think we can assume it’s a staple.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube

I don’t think I’m allowed to go with anything but the training montage, set to Bill Conti’s (Academy Award nominated) “Gonna Fly Now.”

Leftover Thoughts:

  • I thought I would recognize way more lines than I actually did, like when I watched Casablanca for the first time. Ones I had heard in places were “Adrian!” and “You're gonna eat lightnin' and you're gonna crap thunder!”
  • I liked how the announcers were hardly audible during the fight, instead of laboriously explaining everything very loudly like in modern sports movies, or every episode of “Friday Night Lights” that actually contains football.
  • I laughed the most when Rocky says hi to Adrian while on the news: “Yo, Adrian! It’s me, Rocky.”

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