“Look, if history proves one thing, American history proves that everybody’s got a chance to win. Didn’t you guys ever hear of Valley Forge or Bunker Hill?”

A nobody can become somebody. Given the right chance, a talented nobody can find the power to rise to the top, and that power may have been within him the entire time. Regardless of whether it’s true, that’s the American dream: it’s the land of opportunity where anyone can rise to the top. Stories like that have been told before, but none seem to do it better than Rocky. Directed by John G. Avildsen (The Karate Kid, Rocky V) and starring Sylvester Stallone and Talia Shire, this is a success story that few can deny the power of.

The plot follows Rocky Balboa, a talented boxer stuck in minor matches because he doesn’t take his craft seriously enough. Even though Rocky is essentially a good person, he gets involved in some shady dealings to make ends meet. He meets and falls in love with his friend’s sister, Adrian, which gives him some motivation to start improving his life. Soon, he gets the chance of a lifetime: a shot at the heavyweight world champion title. The fight is offered to him as a publicity stunt, but he still jumps at the chance to finally be somebody.

Beethoven was deaf. Helen Keller was blind. I think Rocky’s got a good chance.

There are a lot of cheesy inspirational 80s movies that owe a great deal of credit to this 1976 movie. The training montage set to triumphant music, the noble nobody taking on the uncaring master of the craft, and the sweet but awkward romance that draws out the best in both characters, while not original to this film, were brought together in an amazing way that other films tried to replicate for years after. Movies like The Karate Kid, Rudy, and to a lesser extent even Flashdance followed this formula, and Rocky itself spawned a slew of sequels in the 80s. It wouldn’t be a huge stretch to say that this formula laid the groundwork for many movies in the 80s.

Rocky calls out for Adrian
Not the face you’d want to kiss, but it works here.

And yet, even with many imitators over the years, Rocky still holds up very well today. The plot is familiar territory, but there’s this almost childlike innocence about it that’s very endearing. Though this is a mainstream movie, it wasn’t an imitator—it portrays a common man rising to the top not because it’s a proven formula but because they just thought it was a great idea, and that honest sense of wonder sets it apart. It’s a joy to watch.

Rocky is one of the all-time greatest feel-good movies. It’s very accessible, and referenced so often that it’s probably one of those that everyone needs to see. It makes for a great movie night, or just a little pick-me-up after a rough week. If you haven’t seen this, I’d definitely put it on your list.

View my complete list of classic, essential, or just plain good movies!

Runtime: 2:02
Director: John G. Avildsen
Year: 1976
Genres: drama
Rating: PG

1 thought on “Rocky”

  1. Director John Avildsen made history with Rocky and The Karate Kid. These two franchises were one of the most successful ones in the 80’s. Even today, fans are still visiting the filming sites of KK in San Fernando Valley – CA , thanks to John. Interesting enough for both franchises John did not have a huge budget, he had unknown actors/actresses and yet Rocky 1 and KK1 were an instant hit in USA and around the world. Fans are asking for a final installment of KK – perhaps a sequel taken place 10 years after KK1 with Daniel & Ali storyline – as a tribute for John and Pat Morita. The remake had only the name “Karate Kid” due to brand recognition to attract the audience but was not in line with the original one. (If they had called” Kung Fu Kid” would not had the same branding and marketing effects…)


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