Rocky (1976)

Sylvester Stallone Stars

Past his prime, not having made the big leagues, struggling boxer, Rocky Balboa steps into the ring with the world champ for what everyone considers an easy knockout. But Rocky is not there to put on a show. He’s there to win.

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“Nobody’s ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I’m still standin’, I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood.” – Rocky

Stars Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Burt Young, Burgess Meredith. Winner of three Academy Awards, and a Golden Globe, among dozens of other prestigious honors.

Philadelphia boxer, Rocky Balboa never made it to the big time, though he has the talent to slug it out with some of the best fighters. At thirty, he’s considered washed up, called a “bum,” and a “loser,” by fight fans and professionals. No one is in his corner. These days, he supports himself with the occasional low-paying fight, and working as muscle for mobster and loan shark, Tony Gazzo. Even Gazzo is displeased with Rocky, when the boxer disobeys his order to break the thumbs of a deadbeat client to send a message that payment is due, and it will be worse next time. Rocky may be big and tough, but he has a heart of gold. He cares about the simple things in life, but because life hasn’t been kind to him, he has little faith in himself.

It looks like it’s the end of the road for Rocky, when after his encounter with Gazzo, he goes to Mickey’s Gym, where he’s rented a locker for years, only to find it’s been given to a new up and comer, and his belongings are now hanging on “skid row,” the designated area for evicted boxers. Rocky and Mick, the gym’s elderly owner, former lightweight boxer and resident trainer, exchange angry words, ending with Mick calling Rocky a “bum.”

Still seething from the confrontation, Rocky stops in the pet store where his friend Paulie’s sister, Adrian works. Rocky has tried to chat her up a couple of times, but she’s painfully shy and has no idea how to act around men in a social situation. At thirty, herself, she’s never dated, and has spent her life taking care of others, and now keeping house and cooking for Paulie, who works at a meatpacking company. Rocky asks Adrian out to a basketball game, and she refuses, which is an improvement over their last meeting, when she didn’t talk at all, and promptly walked away. When Rocky talks to Paulie about Adrian, he discovers, Paulie has little regard for her, but will intervene on Rocky’s behalf, just so Adrian will get out of the house once in a while.

Meanwhile in New York, world champion heavyweight boxer, Apollo Creed has a problem. He and his promoters booked a spectacular New Year’s Day fight for the title, but Creed’s opponent is injured, and every other boxer they approach is not available. Then Creed comes up with a genius idea: he would fight a small-time, underdog boxer, who would have a shot at the big time. It would be a great show, and Creed would string the newbie along for a few rounds before knocking him out. Looking through a catalog of local Philadelphia club boxers, one catches Creed’s eye, not for his formidable physique, but for his name, “The Italian Stallion,” Rocky Balboa.

Back in Philly, Rocky and Adrian are hitting it off. Slowly, she’s opening up to his affection, and a sweet love develops between them (see our Rocky and Adrian #RelationshipGoals Photo Gallery). When Rocky is offered the fight for the title with Creed, he turns it down, but then reconsiders when he realizes this is his last shot. Now, having resolved his differences with Mick, Rocky has a manager and trainer, and he starts the grueling process of transforming his out-of-shape body into a boxing machine.

This fight might be just an easy, money-making event for Creed, but for Rocky it’s the fight of his life.