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A small-time 30 year old boxer in Philadelphia is given a once in a lifetime shot at the heavyweight championship title, when he is picked to fight the current champion, Apollo Creed in a bicentennial publicity stunt, when the real challenger for the heavyweight title had to bow out because of injuries.
Won the Oscars for Best Picture and for Best Director. Also Oscar-nominated for Conti's song "Gonna Fly Now," for Best Actress, for 2 Best Supporting Actor nominations, for Best Actor and for Best original screenplay.
Directed by: John G. Avildsen.
Promotional Line: "His whole life was a million-to-one shot!"
Adrian: "Why do you wanna fight?" Rocky Balboa: "Because I can't sing or dance."
Rocky Balboa says to Adrian: "I can't beat him. But that don't bother me. The only thing I want to do is to go the distance, that's all. Because if that bell rings and I'm still standing, then I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I wasn't just another bum from the neighborhood."
This story starts out by introducing the principal character, Rocky Balboa, "The Italian Stallion" (Sly Stallone), who lives in Philadelphia, and has been a boxer for 15 of his 30 years. The scene opens showing us the local Fight Club, with Rocky in the ring with an opponent, in a mediocre fight. Though he finally wins the match, and will receive 40 + dollars, a lady in the audience calls him a bum, which bothers him.
He started to box at the age of 15, on the advice from his Dad, who told him that since he didn't have much of a brain, he had better start using his body. 64 fights later, he had given up the idea of moving up to the professional level, and was boxing on a part time basis, much to the disapproval of his ex-coach Mickey (Burgess Meredith), who runs a boxing gym for those boxers trying to make it in the sport. Mickey is terribly disappointed and frustrated with Rocky, because Rocky had the skill to make it professionally in the big time boxing scene, but chose not to go all the way, maybe because of self-doubt, and lack of dedication.
Instead, to make ends meet, Rocky works during the day as a collections man for the local loan shark, Gazzo (Joe Spinell), a job that he really doesn't like, as Rocky is a decent, kind-hearted man, slow to anger and willing to give others a chance. Several scenes make his character plain to the audience. One morning on money collecting errand, Rocky catches a terrified man who owes 200 dollars to Gazzo. The way he handled the situation brings out his character traits. The man gives Rocky a partial payment, and gets some advice and counciling in return from Rocky. Rocky lets him go without breaking his thumbs as ordered, because the man offered him his jacket as well, though Rocky doesn't take it. Plus, if he had broken thumbs, the man couldn't work to earn the rest of the money owed. Gazzo frowns on such thinking, as it makes him look like a guy who won't come through on his threats, lessening his tough reputation.
However, two people enter Rocky's life, that change the course of his destiny, Adrian (Talia Shire) and Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), the current Heavy-weight Boxing Champion. Adrian becomes a source of supportive love and encouragement which changes Rocky's mindset about himself, and Apollo Creed gives him an opportunity of a lifetime, which causes Rocky to make his boxing career once again his main focus. The screenplay follows these two storylines; Rocky's boxing troubles & challenges and his courting of Adrian, skillfully intertwining the two as the story develops.
In his personal life, he had taken a strong liking to Adrian (Talia Shire), the painfully shy sister of his friend Paulie (Burt Young). On his way to his collections day job, he always stops by to see Adrian who works at the local pet shop, armed with his best joke. On his way home, he does the same. As she is too shy to answer him, her brother Paulie helps their relationship along by asking Rocky to come over on Thanksgiving, without telling her. Rocky and Adrian spend the evening together and find that they fill each other's gaps, and their relationship begins to bloom, as they find love and support in each other, a feeling and reality that both really need, which transforms them both into stronger, confident people, happier with themselves, and empowered to take on the challenges in their lives.
Rocky's life is also changed forever when Apollo Creed, sends a representative to Mickey's training gym and leaves a calling card for Rocky. After an unpleasant exchange with the very blunt, rough-edged Mickey, who berates Rocky for his current choices, Rocky reports to the office of Apollo's coordinator, Jergens (Thayer David) thinking that they want him to be a sparring partner for Apollo. After assuring Jergens that he would not take any cheap shots at the champ, and would be a good sparring partner, Jergens clears up the misunderstanding.
Much to his surprise, he finds out that he was personally picked by Heavy -Weight Boxing Champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), "The Master of Disaster," to be Apollo's opponent in a bicentennial fight scheduled to take place on New Years Day in Philadelphia. While at first Rocky declines the chance to fight Apollo, Jergens talks him into it.
Before Rocky knows it, Mickey is at his door, wanting to coach and train him. After Rocky blows off some steam through a closed door, about how Mickey has treated him in the past, he winds up running after the dejected Mickey outside on the sidewalk, hugs him, and shakes hands with him, asking him to be his trainer. This scene is presented to the audience with a wide camera shot, from a down the street point of view showing this reconciliation, using body language alone to tell the story.
How he trains for his big fight and the climatic boxing match itself are highly entertaining and take the audience into the world of boxing, gives some insight into the determination and heart of a man who also is fighting for self-respect.
This film is a classic because of its terrific screenplay & gifted direction, and inspired performances from the cast, which earned 4 Oscar nominations. It wonderfully blends humor, drama, poignant moments with montage training sessions and terrific boxing action scenes. It's various elements come together to create this uplifting, inspiring, low budget film, which showcases the "triumph of the human spirit." It is not surprising that "Rocky" received the Oscar for Best Picture.
"Rocky" was superbly directed by the talented John G. Avildsen, who won the Oscar for Best Director, which he richly deserved. He truly got the best performances out of his talented cast, and made the screenplay work in this truly entertaining film telling the story about how an underdog, supported by love and encouragement from his coach and girl friend, rises to meet the biggest challenge in his boxing career, on an inner strength he didn't know that he had within himself.
Sylvester Stallone wrote this wonderful Oscar nominated screenplay, that was "all about: pride, reputation, and not being another bum in the neighborhood." He wrote the screenplay and sold it for a small amount of cash, and a share of the profits, with the understanding that he would play the main character Rocky himself, hoping to give his acting career a boost. His great success with this film not only gave his acting career a shot in the arm, but also gave him financial backers for his future screenplays, such as "Fist," "Rambo: First Blood," Rambo: First Blood 2 & 3, Rocky series 2,3, 4, &5, and "Cliffhanger."
Sylvester Stallone earned a Best Actor nomination for his convincing performance of Rocky Balboa, a man struggling with the feeling of being a nobody, being unsuccessful in life. He portrays Rocky's transformation with a wide range of emotions, as he grows while living through all his experiences. He does an excellent job in his "physical acting" sequences of scenes, which adds great credibility to the action element of the screenplay.
Talia Shear earned a Best Actress nomination for her portrayal of the shy, withdrawn Adrian, who goes through a blooming transformation throughout the film because of her relationship with Rocky. She finds the strength to stand up for the first time to confront her drunken brother, who had always put her down verbally.
Burt Young earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his portrayal of Paulie, Adrian's brother, who is a very unhappy man, stuck in a job at a meat packing plant that he hates, worried about his shy sister, and has a big problem with alcohol. Despite his faults, he and Rocky are good friends, and he does get Rocky and Adrian together, though he has mixed feelings about their relationship.
Burgess Meredith also earned a much deserved Best Supporting Actor nomination as Rocky's gravel-voiced, trainer coach, Mickey, with no social graces, being a rather blunt, plain-talking man who had always longed to train a talented contender to go for the big prize.
A powerful sequence of scenes between Mickey and Rocky is when Mickey has to swallow his hat and go to visit Rocky to offer his training services, which is described in detail in the story description paragraphs above.
Rocky has been rated PG. While there is only a little kissing and perhaps mildly implied hanky panky off-screen between Adrian and Rocky, the climatic boxing scenes are pretty realistic and seem very real, an accurate portrayal of what the boxing ring is like. Sensitive children may be upset. Basically this is a great family movie because of the values it stresses about what is needed to reach high goals, and the tenacity of the human spirit. Also, the basic truths that words can hurt people, and love can help in healing old wounds are important lessons to learn.