Rocky (1976) Revisit
Original Episode: #3 Rocky (1976) (released March 12, 2020)
New Episode: #179 Rocky (1976) Revisit (released September 6, 2023)
Sylvester Stallone as Robert "Rocky" Balboa
Talia Shire as Adriana "Adrian" Pennino
Burt Young as Paulie Pennino
Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed
Burgess Meredith as Michael "Mickey" Goldmill
Thayer David as George "Miles" Jergens
Joe Spinell as Tony Gazzo
Tony Burton as Tony "Duke" Evers
Pedro Lovell as Spider Rico
Stan Shaw as "Big Dipper" Brown
Joe Frazier as Himself
Rocky was released on December 3, 1976 to overwhelming critical praise particularly for Stallone.
Rocky, on a budget of around $1 million, would go on to be the highest grossing film released in 1976 grossing over $225 million, and would be the second highest grossing film of 1977 behind only Star Wars.
The film would garner nine Oscar nominations including Best Actor (Stallone), Actress (Shire), two Supporting Actor nominations for Burt Young and Burgess Meredith, Best Original Screenplay, Sound, and Original Song (Gonna Fly Now); winning Best Picture, Director (Avildsen), and Film Editing.
The Directors Guild of America awarded Rocky its annual award for best film of the year in 1976, and in 2006, Sylvester Stallone's original screenplay for Rocky was selected for the Writers Guild of America Award as the 78th best screenplay of all time.
In June 2008, AFI revealed its "Ten top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Rocky was acknowledged as the second-best film in the sports genre, after Raging Bull.
In 2008, Rocky was chosen by British film magazine Empire as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. In contrast, in a 2005 poll by Empire, Rocky was No. 9 on their list of "The Top 10 Worst Pictures to Win Best Picture Oscar".
In 2015, The Hollywood Reporter polled hundreds of Academy members, asking them to re-vote on past controversial decisions. Academy members indicated that, given a second chance, they would award the 1977 Oscar for Best Picture to All the President's Men instead.
Rocky has appeared on the following list from the AFI:
AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (1998) – #78
AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills (2001) – #52
AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions (2002) – Nominated
AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains (2003)
Rocky Balboa – #7 Hero
AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs (2004)
"Gonna Fly Now" – #58
AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes (2005)
"Yo, Adrian!" – #80
AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores (2005) – Nominated
AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers (2006) – #4
AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) (2007) – #57
AFI's 10 Top 10 (2008) – #2 Sports Film
Rocky has spawned five sequels and a spinoff franchise in Creed, multiple video games, a musical, and countless documentaries and parodies since its release.
In 2006, the Library of Congress selected Rocky for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
Rocky currently holds a 92% among critics on RT, a 70 score on Metacritic, and a 4.1/5 on Letterboxd.
Plot Summary: "Rocky" is a sports drama directed by John G. Avildsen and written by and starring Sylvester Stallone as the titular character, Rocky Balboa. Set in Philadelphia, the story follows Rocky, a small-time boxer and debt collector, struggling to make ends meet in his working-class neighborhood.
One day, Rocky is given the chance of a lifetime when he is offered the opportunity to fight Apollo Creed, the reigning heavyweight boxing champion. Apollo is looking for a fresh opponent for an upcoming match, and decides to choose Rocky as a publicity stunt believing him to be an easy opponent. Rocky sees this as his chance to prove himself and transform his life. The film showcases Rocky's grueling training regimen, his developing romance with Adrian Pennino (Talia Shire), and his emotional journey of self-discovery.
The climax of the film is the highly anticipated boxing match between Rocky and Apollo, and, despite being the underdog, Rocky's determination and resilience impress the crowd as he fights with unwavering resolve against the formidable champion. The intense match becomes a metaphor for Rocky's struggle to overcome obstacles and prove his worth. "Rocky" is a story of hope, perseverance, and the human spirit's ability to triumph over adversity.
Did You Know?:
After producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff became interested in the script, they offered Sylvester Stallone an unprecedented $350,000 for the rights. He had $106 in the bank and no car, and was trying to sell his dog because he couldn't afford to feed him, but he refused to sell unless they agreed to allow him to star in the film. They agreed, on the condition that Stallone continue to work as a writer without a fee, and that he work as an actor for scale. After Winkler and Chartoff purchased the film, they took it to United Artists, who envisioned a budget of $2 million with an established star, particularly Robert Redford, Ryan O'Neal, Burt Reynolds, Nick Nolte or James Caan. When Winkler and Chartoff told United Artists that they could only get the screenplay if Stallone starred, United Artists cut the budget to $1 million and had Chartoff and Winkler sign agreements that they would be personally liable if the film went over budget. The final cost was $1.1 million. Chartoff and Winkler mortgaged their houses for the last $100,000.
Rocky's dog Butkus was actually Sylvester Stallone's dog in real life, and, after the end of filming, Stallone kept the two turtles "Cuff" and "Link", and as of June 2019 he still had them, alive and well.
Most of the scenes of Rocky jogging through Philadelphia were shot guerrilla-style, with no permits, no equipment, and no extras. The shot where he runs past the moored boat for example, the crew were simply driving by the docks, and John G. Avildsen saw the boat, and thought it would make a good visual, so he had Sylvester Stallone simply get out of the van and run along the quays, while Avildsen himself filmed from the side door. A similar story concerns the famous shot of Rocky jogging through the food market. As he runs, the stall keepers and the people on the sidewalks can clearly be seen looking at him in bemusement. While this works in the context of the film to suggest they're looking at Rocky, in reality, they had no idea why this man was running up and down the road being filmed from a van. During this scene, the famous shot where the stall owner throws Rocky an orange was completely improvised by the stall owner, who had no idea that a movie was being filmed and that he would be in it.
The ice rink scene was originally written to feature 300 extras, but the production couldn't afford so many people. When Sylvester Stallone turned up to shoot the scene, to his horror, there was only one extra. So, Stallone hastily threw together the scene as it exists in the completed film. This scene has become one of the most popular in the entire Rocky saga.
In the film, the poster above the ring before Rocky fights Apollo shows Rocky wearing red shorts with a white stripe when he actually wears white shorts with a red stripe. This was an actual mistake made by the props department that they could not afford to rectify, so Sylvester Stallone came up with the idea for the scene where Rocky points out the mistake himself. The comment about Rocky's robe being too baggy came about the same way - the robe delivered to the set was far too baggy for Stallone, so rather than hope people wouldn't notice, the character himself simply points it out.
The red satin robe and black hat worn by Stallone in Rocky (1976) are featured in the National Museum of American History. Likewise, the red gloves worn by Stallone in Rocky II (1979), his white Nike boxing shoes, and striped boxing trunks from Rocky III (1981) are archived at the Museum. All items were on display for a temporary period following Stallone's donation in 2006, and have since been moved to the museum archives.
During his audition, Carl Weathers was sparring with Sylvester Stallone and accidentally punched him on the chin. Stallone told Weathers to calm down, as it was only an audition, and Weathers said that if he was allowed to audition with a 'real' actor, not a stand-in, he would be able to do a lot better. Director John G. Avildsen smiled and told Weathers that Stallone was the real actor (and the writer). Weathers looked at Stallone thoughtfully for a moment, and said, "Well, maybe he'll get better." Stallone immediately offered him the role.
The Stanley Rubric:
Original Legacy Score: 9
New Legacy Score: 9.5
Original Impact/Significance Score: 8.5
New Impact/Significance Score: 9.5
Original Novelty Score: 5
New Novelty Score: 7.5
Original Classicness Score: 7
New Classicness Score: 7.5
Original Rewatchability Score: 4.5
New Rewatchability Score: 6
Original Audience Score: 6.9
New Audience Score: 7.95 (90% Google, 69% RT)
Original Total Score: 40.9
New Total Score: 47.95