“His whole life was a million-to-one shot.” The ultimate underdog story and one of the best character dramas ever made (sports-related or otherwise), Rocky tells the story of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), an uneducated but kind-hearted small-time boxer and debt collector for a Philadelphia loan shark who gets a (million-to-one) shot at the big time when he gets in the ring with the undefeated World Heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Rocky, directed by John G. Avildsen, both subverts and transcends sports movie cliches with its gritty and honest storytelling, with a rather brilliant Stallone (who also wrote the screenplay) expertly supported in his corner by Talia Shire as his ladylove Adrian, Burt Young as her gruff and fiercely protective brother Paulie and Burgess Meredith as hardass trainer Mickey Goldmill; Weathers is terrific as well as Rocky’s arrogant yet deeply conflicted opponent. Rocky is arguably Stallone’s all-time best character, and he’s never been more naturalistic and compassionate in playing any other role; there wouldn’t be a part he would ever play more often, either, as the film spawned five sequels, capping off with the almost equally excellent Rocky Balboa (2006). And talk about an underdog story — Rocky was shot in 28 days on a budget of about $1 million and went on to gross over $225 million and win three Oscars, including Best Picture.
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