The only remaining evidence that Sylvester Stallone might have had a respectable career, this 1976 Oscar® winner (for Best Picture, Director, and Editing) is still the quintessential ode to an underdog and one of the best boxing movies ever made. After writing the script about a two-bit boxer who gets a “million-to-one shot” against the world heavyweight champion, Stallone insisted that he star in the title role, and his equally unknown status helped to catapult him (and this rousing film) to overnight success.
The story is familiar, but it’s handled with such vitality and emotional honesty that you can’t help but leap and cheer for Rocky Balboa, the chump-turned-champ who stuns the boxing world with the support of his timid girlfriend Adrian (Talia Shire) and grizzled trainer Gus (Burgess Meredith). Oscar nominations went to all the lead actors (including Burt Young as Adrian’s hot-tempered brother), but four sequels could never top the universal appeal of this low-budget crowd pleaser.
Burgess Meredith (Mickey): You’re gonna eat lightnin’ and you’re gonna crap thunder!
Sylvester Stallone (Rocky): Adrian!
Sylvester Stallone (Rocky): Yeah, that’s me when I was eight years old, that’s the Italian Stallion when he was a baby.
Sylvester Stallone (Rocky): You gotta be a moron…you gotta be a *moron* to wanna be a fighter.
Talia Shire (Adrian): Yeah. Beethoven was deaf. Helen Keller was blind. I think Rocky’s got a good chance.