Release Date: 3 December 1976 (USA)
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith
Running Time: 1hr 59min
It’s 1975, and World Heavyweight Champion boxer Apollo Creed is looking for his next fight. With all challengers injured or out of shape Creed makes a bold move, offering a snow-white underdog a shot at the title. His choice in opponent is southpaw (left-hander) Rocky Balboa, a failed boxer turned debt collector from Philadelphia.
Rocky, originally thinking Creed is looking for a sparring partner, turns down the offer to fight for the title, but eventually agrees to the fight. His ex-trainer, former boxer Mickey Goldmill approaches Rocky about training him, and, after Balboa chews Mickey out for his lack of support over the years, the two men agree to form a partnership.
During this time Ricky courts Adrian, a shy girl who works at the local pet store, and the two fall in love. She helps him through a crisis of confidence, and he admits to her that he knows he can’t win, but he just wants to go the distance with Creed, a feat no fighter has yet managed. If he can achieve this, he will, as for the first time in his life, he feels like a somebody, not a nobody.
The fight takes place on New Year’s Day, and, despite Creed being more skilled, fit, and agile than his opponent, Rocky’s heart, iron jaw, and power result in a points decision for Creed. By the end, Rocky cares little about the result and embraces Adrian as the noise of the crowd fades.
An amateur, out of work, Philadelphia club boxer gets a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship. A film about the human condition. My mother has never seen Rocky – she says she doesn’t like films about boxing. I’ve had many a futile discussion trying to explain to her, Rocky isn’t a boxing movie. Not really. It’s a love story told through the medium of boxing. It’s a romantic-drama; that it happens to be set against a backdrop of boxing is a complete bonus.
Indeed, the entire movie rides on the endearing and incredibly real relationship between Rocky and Adrian. A date where they go ice-skating at an empty rink is a highlight. In fact, the final fight, one of the best put to film, is summed up perfectly by one subtle detail. As Adrian runs towards the ring to greet Rocky, her hat falls off, and as she climbs into the ring, despite his amazing achievement, and the fact he’s all beat up, his first words are ‘Where’s your hat?’ It’s all about her.
Sylvester Stallone’s classic script was written in just three days and catapulted the then-unknown actor to superstardom. There have been several sequels released since, but none has quite matched the heights of the original. Rocky is a true underdog story and will have you welling up at several points before the end.
Stallone is magnificent in the titular role, Carl Weathers is electric as the humbled Apollo Creed, but it’s Burgess Meredith as grizzled trainer Mickey who steals the show. This is a film you can watch again and again, although it still tugs at the heartstrings with every sitting.