It was no surprise that Rocky was greeted with such enthusiasm in 1976. Muhammad Ali was the heavyweight champion, still basking in his epic, late-career victories over George Foreman and then Joe Frazier in their third fight. And the American boxing team in the Olympics earlier that year had introduced future stars Sugar Ray Leonard and the Spinks brothers—Ray and Leon—on prime time. If the timing was fortunate, the execution of the movie was Hollywood genius—the genius being Sylvester Stallone, who wrote and starred in the role of a lifetime. The character and story lines were brilliantly dramatized in the musically enhanced, multicamera fight scenes. The lovable knuckle-head who finds inspiration through opportunity and love endured and endured and endured, as does the fight movie genre. Now they’re making one about Chuck Wepner, the underdog who fought the fight of his life against Muhammad Ali, inspiring Stallone to imagine Rocky.
Rocky gets the shot of a lifetime against flamboyant champ Apollo Creed. Rocky loses a close decision in his home-town but teaches all us guys that, win or lose, persistence will get you the woman.
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Apollo’s pissed at the media so he calls for a rematch. Rocky accepts. After learning how to catch a chicken and running an out-of- the-way route through Philly with kids, Rocky steps into the ring and beats the 10 count to become champ.
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Mr. T’s Clubber Lang invites Adrian to his apartment to be with a real man. He then clobbers Rocky after Mickey dies. After running and jumping with and hugging Apollo on the beach, Rocky returns to the ring to defeat Lang.
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Rocky heads to Russia to fight Ivan Drago, the juiced-up Russian who threatens to “break him.” He trains by running through waist-high snow while wearing a leather coat and sporting a sweet beard, making this perhaps the best training montage. Moral of this one: If you can change, everybody can change.
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Rocky’s broke and has brain damage—no wonder he “didn’t hear no bell”—but he sure knows how to neglect his suddenly teenage son to mentor Tommy Gunn—who then betrays him.
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Perhaps poor sales forced restaurateur Rocky Balboa out of retirement for one final fight after starting a relationship with the “creepo” gal. Rocky doesn’t prevail but still ends up a winner.
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Who knew Apollo was such a playa? His illegitimate son finds Rocky, who becomes his trainer. Creed pays tribute to the original Rocky films: Boxer defies odds, trainer gets hospitalized. But this time, boxer makes catching a chicken so much easier.