A small-time boxer gets a supremely rare chance to fight a heavy-weight champion in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.
Rocky is regarded as one of the greatest sports films of all time. It’s just second behind Raging Bull in boxing films. And, it makes sense why it was so well received and why it continues to be known as a classic: it’s a rags to riches story of an average, down on his luck, American guy. So many men were able to relate to the character of Rocky Balboa. My only issue with calling it a “rags to riches” story is that, well, Rocky is just picked out of a book by Apollo Creed because of his name, The Italian Stallion. It’s not like Rocky had actually been a really good boxer but just wasn’t getting his big break. Even Mickey tells Rocky this. He tells him that he could have been a fantastic boxer, but instead chose to work for a loan shark, breaking legs. So, it doesn’t really feel like Rocky worked super hard to get the opportunity to fight Apollo Creed, which I think puts a bit of a damper on the “rags to riches” thing. Rocky does, however, train incredibly hard once accepting the fight with Creed. I will give him that.
I really wanted to make sure that I state how refreshing it was that Talia Shire played Adrian. Talia Shire as Adrian was not the conventional Hollywood attractive that we see in so many films. And that was the point. She was a normal girl, worked in a pet shop, lived with her (horrible) brother in Philadelphia. I think that’s one of the reasons why this love story is so believable. On one hand we have Rocky, who admits himself that he is not the brightest person. He repeatedly calls himself dumb throughout the film. On the other hand, we have Adrian, who is this shy, petite little thing. She’s not drop dead gorgeous, but she’s pretty and she’s smart. Together, as Rocky says, they fill each other’s gaps. Their romance brings a lot of needed heart to the film.
Rocky also serves as a beautiful showcase of Philadelphia, from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to East Tusculum Street and Rosehill Street. It brings the audience the feel of the real Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Museum of Art stairs have since become iconic.
Sylvester Stallone’s script is down to earth. The characters and the city feel real. The dialogue is natural. It’s clear why this film won Best Picture at the 1977 Academy Awards and it’s clear why this film comes in at number 57 on AFI’s 100 Greatest Films over 100 Years.
Honorable mention to Apollo Creed. I wish to be as extra as him.