Today! Because he doesn’t know it’s a damn show! He thinks it’s a damn fight!
Directed by John G. Avildsen
Starring Sylvester Stallone (x3), Talia Shire (x3), Carl Weathers (x3), Burt Young (x3), Burgess Meredith (x4), Tony Burton (x3), Joe Spinell, Stan Shaw, Al Silvani (x2), Thayer David, Jimmy Gambina, Bill Baldwin
Back where it all began! Last February, this grand list of flickers I enjoy kicked off with that USA v. USSR classic Rocky IV, followed two months later by that deluge of Wrestlemania stars knocking Sly around in #356 Rocky III on April 24th. If your worries at that point were along the lines of how many Rocky movies can this guy cram onto this list, that was justified. But here were are, nearly a year later and we finally reach the end of the Italian Stallion’s run. All things considered, three Rocky movies isn’t that bad, right? II didn’t make the cut (even though it’s not my least favorite Balboa adventure) and neither did V (ah, there’s the bottom of the heap) or Rocky Balboa (which is ridiculous nonsense, but come on, still kinda fun).
My dad was a big boxing fan – like, we had a ton of random old fights on VHS tapes, bought tapes, mind you – and so I think Rocky was basically a step down from The Godfather for my old man. I think so, anyway – I seem to remember watching the sequels more than the first one, but for a kid the sequels are way more fun. The original film is only a boxing movie tangentially, kinda like Raging Bull. It’s a character drama, and an inspirational underdog story, and a riveting Bill Conti symphony all propped up by the fisticuffs. And while its obvious greatness was certainly dampened by the endless sequels, if you just watch the first movie and ignore the superhero Sly transformed Rocky into in the ’80s, you still find a wonderfully touching story of overcoming adversity and a cute little romance and an asshole throwing a turkey out the backdoor.
I do think what held boxing movies back from really being embraced by my dad were the boxing scenes themselves. While most sports movies can simulate the on-field/court/rink action fairly realistically, there aren’t a ton of boxing movies that do this well. The reasons are fairly obvious, but nonetheless, for real boxing fans, this seems to distract and detract from the drama, no matter how loud the glove-to-face sound effects are. Is there another sport I’m not thinking of that can’t really be accurately replicated when staged? Like, I’m just saying, the basketball in Teen Wolf is way more like real basketball than the boxing in Rocky, and that movie has a guy in a monster suit hooping like MJ.
But Teen Wolf didn’t win Best Picture (unfairly, I might add)! Rocky is basically the feel good hit of all-time, and so, in a legitimately great year for movie, it snuck in and took home the top prize, along with Best Director for Avildsen and Best Film Editing. It was nominated for 10 Oscars in total, including Stallone for acting and writing, Shire, Meredith, and Young, and Conti for Best Song – but weirdly not for Score, arguably the most memorable thing about the film. His score was nominated at the Globes, where Rocky again won Best Picture, over the likes of All the President’s Men and Network – Taxi Driver was up for the Oscar, but nomination snubbed at the Globes in favor of Voyage of the Damned (which I’ve never seen, but has quite the cast!).
Stallone, Shire, Weathers, Burton, and Young all move to the Threes with their third Rocky outings, while Burgess Meredith joins the Fours on the strength of his one Rocky (III) alongside #336 Clash of the Titans and #331 Twilight Zone: The Movie.