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Oscars Challenge #40: Rocky (1976) Movie Review


Throughout film history, several movie franchises made a name. Franchises like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Matrix, etc. It's challenging to be able to establish one, let alone be successful as well. It takes incredible writing, story-telling, and direction to continue its success.


This is the first of several movies for the Rocky franchise. Even though the film debuted in 1976, sequels are still being developed today, almost 50 years since it was shown.


The story begins with an Italian-American southpaw boxer, Rocky Balboa, who fights in small matches and works as a collector for a loan shark. He is famous in his neighborhood and has a romantic affection for a pet store clerk, Adriana. Meanwhile, the current heavyweight boxing champion, Apollo Creed, plans to hold a title bout in Philadelphia. However, his opponent cannot continue due to a hand injury. Creed and his promoter decided to settle for a local contender as a challenger. He selects Rocky Balboa, although he is pretty reluctant at first, but he eventually agrees because the fight will pay him $150,000. Rocky undergoes several weeks of unorthodox training, such as using beef sides as punching bags.


Mickey approaches Rocky. He is a former boxer turned trainer to help him elevate his training. He accepted the offer, and the 2 became partners.


Rocky and Adriana

Rocky builds a romantic relationship with Adriana and seeks the help of her brother, Paulie, to be his corner man. Her brother doesn't want to agree at first and becomes jealous of Rocky's popularity, but he is able to convince him by promoting his meat business.


One night before the fight, on New Year's eve, Rocky loses confidence. He reaches out to Adriana and tells her he is afraid he won't win. However, he promises to give a good fight against Creed and wants to prove to everyone that he is excellent.


The fight happens as scheduled. Rocky entered the ring in a simple fashion, while Creed went in with an Uncle Sam and George Washington getup to boast his skill and confidence against his opponent. During the first round, Rocky knocked down Creed, which surprised him and the audience. Creed takes Rocky more seriously but still has a big ego. The fight lasted 15 rounds, with both fighters injured and barely standing. Rocky's eye is severely swollen and needs to be cut open to restore his vision. Creed meanwhile suffers a broken rib and difficulty breathing. The two fighters fought like champions, but Creed's superior skill outclassed Rocky, and he was declared the winner.


Rocky telling Adriana about the fight

Adriana went up to the ring and hugged Rocky. Both profess their love for each other, not caring about the outcome of the fight.


I want to take a moment and really praise Sylvester Stallone here. Rocky Balboa is embedded in his career, and just like Indiana Jones or Tony Stark, he is the only one who can play that character. I will protest if someone plays Rocky with a different actor.


Rocky Steps

The plot focuses on the typical rags-to-riches concept. It starts with the main character doing small fights while trying to earn a living. He has no proper gym to train or equipment to strengthen his muscles. He also lives in a ragtag apartment with his pet turtle. Then when the opportunity came to grab a lot of money, he took it and won the people's hearts. I imagine someone, a boxer or not, getting inspired by the film. It's that inspirational, in my opinion.


A couple of things that are memorable in this film are, of course, Rocky's very unorthodox style of training. The egg-drinking, jogging across the neighborhood, the meat-punching bag, etc. If you have watched modern boxing movies, those are the things you usually see.


This film is also one of the most successful sports movies ever created. It became the highest-grossing film back in 1976. It's quite an astounding feat for a low-budget movie.


The Main Event

This movie popularized the so-called Rocky Steps, which became one of Philadelphia's cultural landmarks. They also placed a Rocky statue at the top to commemorate the character's success. It's marvelous, considering that he is just a fictional character.


Some consider Rocky the surprising winner during the 49th Academy Awards, going toe-to-toe against All the President's Men and Taxi Driver. But if a particular movie is remembered even a couple of decades after it was shown, it deserves that prestigious award.


I believe this is a must-watch if you are really into sports movies with good stories and incredible influence. It might be a slow burn at first compared to modern standards, but don't sit this one out. If you plan on watching the Creed movie with Michael B. Jordan playing the son of Apollo, you might want to check the Rocky films first just to give yourself some background of his story.


I absolutely like the film and give it a thumbs up.


A solid 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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