1 Year, 100 Movies: #57 Rocky (1976)

rocky-posterFor 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

Believe it or not I’ve never seen Rocky before. It’s shocking, I know. I was really missing out. I loved this film. Rocky held my attention from the opening scene to the end credits.

It’s the classic underdog story based on a boxer past his prime who has never honed the skill that he has. Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is a softhearted ‘debt collector’ for a loan shark in Philly, who fights in the local boxing club. He falls for the local pet store clerk, Adrian (Talia Shire), who is his friend Paulie’s (Burt Young) sister. The current heavyweight boxing champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) is looking for a new opponent for the heavily publicized New Year’s Eve bout after Mac Lee Green bows out with an injured hand, and he decides to find an unknown and unranked local fighter. He chooses Rocky because he likes his nickname, ‘The Italian Stallion.’

The relationship that Rocky and Adrian have is an unusual Hollywood tale. Each of them are a bit awkward, and they are in their early thirties- very different from most of the Hollywood romances we get today. Rocky talks all the time, and although much of his dialogue is of little consequence, his tone and delivery – and those nuggets of truth give us a measure of his character. Adrian is quiet and painfully shy, but Talia Shire’s acting is of such quality that she can portray the depth of her character through the silence. He draws her out of her shell and she makes him a better person and a better fighter. This relationship is one of my favorites that has come from the ‘silver screen’. It’s tender, real and wonderful.

Back to the boxing. Rocky trains with Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith), a 1920’s-era ex-bantamweight fighter, and gym owner, who considers Rocky’s potential to be wasted from lack of effort. Even though Mickey had never made Rocky a priority before, Rocky accepts his offer to train because he really can learn from him. Rocky’s friend Paulie also lets him practice punching the carcasses hanging in the freezers at the meat packing plant he works at, (never any news on how the owner feels about the free meat-tenderizer). Here we get – to my opinion – the best sports movie montage ever of Rocky training for the big fight. He knows it’s his last big shot.

After the big match both fighters are just destroyed, but they have a moment of equality and respect. Apollo says there will not be a rematch and Rocky says he doesn’t want one. Apollo fended off this unexpected ‘cinderella’ opponent, and Rocky made it through all the rounds. This is where we have the famous scene where Rocky is calling for Adrian through the crowd. He’s just held his own with the defending heavyweight champion and all he can think about is her, he just wants her there to share in this momentous moment with him.

After I watched this movie I was surprised and impressed to find out that Sylvester Stallone not only starred in this film, but he also wrote the story. It’s the movie that turned Stallone into a star, spawned five sequels, and was the highest grossing film of 1976. It also won three Oscars, including Best Picture. I went into this film not knowing much about Stallone, and came out a fan.

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:

5star

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