Should I Watch..? 'Rocky'

Updated on October 15, 2019
Benjamin Cox profile image

Ben now has a Twitter account for this blog - follow him at @shouldiwatch2 so you can stay up to date with all his latest content and more.

Film's poster after its Oscars success
Film's poster after its Oscars success | Source

What's the big deal?

Rocky is a sports drama film released in 1976 and was directed by John G. Avildsen. Written by its star Sylvester Stallone, the film follows an underachieving club boxer struggling to get by who is suddenly offered the chance of a lifetime against the heavyweight champion of the world. The film also stars Talia Shire, Burt Young, Burgess Meredith and Carl Weathers. Made on a low budget of just over a million dollars, the film became a smash hit and went on to earn more than $225 million worldwide as well as ten Oscar nominations. The film was also lauded by critics and is responsible for helping establish Stallone as a major star in Hollywood. Such is the film's stature that it was selected in 2006 for preservation at the US National Film Registry at the Library of Congress. This film would be followed by numerous sequels, the first of which Rocky II was released in 1979.


4 stars for Rocky

What's it about?

Thirty-year-old journeyman boxer Rocky Balboa operates out of Mickey Goldmill's gym in Philadelphia and has sadly squandered much of his talent. Working as hired muscle for local loan shark Tony Gazzo, Rocky isn't the smartest of people but he has a kind heart and is hopelessly in love with the shy, part-time pet store worker Adrian. However, he know that he isn't going anywhere and becomes increasingly disillusioned with his lot in life - especially after his locker of six years is given over to another boxer Mickey hopes to train up. Meanwhile, heavyweight champion Apollo Creed decides to fight a local competitor from Philadelphia after his scheduled opponent for the title pulls out. Largely due to Rocky's nickname of The Italian Stallion, Creed picks a fight with Balboa.

Knowing that he is unlikely to get a chance like this again, Rocky begins taking himself more seriously as a fighter through rigorous training and ditching the cigarettes. But as Rocky gets in better shape, his relationship with Adrian develops which threatens the friendship between Rocky and Adrian's older brother, Paulie. As the night of the fight draws closer, the enormity of the task in front of him - not to mention the eyes of the boxing world - starts to create doubt in Rocky's mind about how the fight will go.


Main Cast

Sylvester Stallone
Robert "Rocky" Balboa
Talia Shire
Adrianna "Adrian" Pennino
Burt Young
Paulie Pennino
Burgess Meredith
Mickey Goldmill
Carl Weathers
Apollo Creed
Thayer David
George "Miles" Jergens
Joe Spinell
Tony Gazzo
Tony Burton
Tony Burton, Apollo's trainer
Pedro Lovell
Spider Rico

Technical Info

John G. Avildsen
Sylvester Stallone
Running Time
120 minutes
Release Date (UK)
21st April, 1977
Drama, Sports
Academy Awards
Best Film, Best Director, Best Film Editing
Academy Award Nominations
Best Actor (Stallone), Best Actress (Shire), Best Supporting Actor (Meredith), Best Supporting Actor (Young), Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound, Best Original Song
The film is as much about the unconventional relationship between Rocky and Adrian as it is about the big fight.
The film is as much about the unconventional relationship between Rocky and Adrian as it is about the big fight. | Source

What's to like?

In some respects, Rocky is almost immune for criticism because the entire film has been enshrined in pop culture through memes, parodies and countless imitations. But watching it for the first time today (finger on the pulse, me!), it struck me how much Stallone invests in the film and not just the sheer amount of physical exertion. He genuinely inhabits a character in a way we rarely see these days, reminding us that he is a real actor and not just another muscle-bound meathead. Even his speech, that low and monotonous spiel of his, seems to fit the character well and it's little surprise that it's Balboa and not Rambo which is his signature role.

But Stallone's presence and physicality is just one facet of this film which won me over in spite of deep-rooted cynicism and initial disinterest. Meredith gives a great performance as Rocky's trainer while Spire also provides a reminder of how great an actress she is as Rocky's love interest. The film does feel a little far-fetched at times but it's interesting seeing Rocky as an unpopular thug instead of the baby-faced champion we tend to associate the character with. At times, he's almost unlikable but the script knows the story we want to see and is happy to show us this underdog coming good in the end.

Fun Facts

  • In the film, Rocky has two turtles called Cuff and Link which he bought from the pet store where Adrian works. After shooting finished, Stallone kept the turtles nwhich are still alive and well as of June 2019. Rocky's dog Butkus was also Stallone's real-life dog.
  • Many of the shots of Rocky jogging through Philadelphia were shot on location with no permits or equipment. The shot of the market stall owner throwing Rocky an orange was completely spontaneous as the trader had no idea a movie was being shot or that he would be in it. In reality, many of the onlookers had no idea why Stallone (a relative unknown at the time) was being filmed running up and down their streets.
  • Not only was Rocky the highest grossing film of 1976 but it also was one of the very first films to feature the Steadicam invented by cameraman Garrett Brown. A now ubiquitous piece of film-making equipment, the Steadicam was used to shoot Rocky running up the stairs at the Philadelphia Art Museum which was inspired by the footage Brown shot using the Steadicam of his girlfriend running up the same flight of steps.
  • This film marks the on-screen debut of Michael Dorn who would find fame playing Klingon officer Worf in Star Trek: The Next Generation and their subsequent movies starting with Star Trek Generations. Dorn played an unnamed bodyguard to Apollo Creed.

What's not to like?

I did feel that many of the early scenes are noticeably under-lit, which doesn't help identify characters of actions as we are trying to do so. It isn't just in Rocky's run-down apartment that could benefit from some illumination - Paulie and Adrian's place also feels obscured by darkness for some reason. I was also bothered by the relationship between Paulie and Adrian which needed some clarification for me. However, my biggest issue - which admittedly might be due to the current climate in Hollywood regarding female representation and sexual harassment - was the relationship between Rocky and Adrian which fails to find any sort of footing in the film. Given the awkward circumstances of their first date, it feels slightly creepy watching Rocky hit on a woman clearly uncomfortable of her surroundings. But before we know it, there are unable to keep their hands off each other despite an obvious lack of chemistry. I felt a little sorry for Shire, to be honest.

The film's pace also seems a little off. Until the prospect of the fight is dangled in front of Rocky, the film drags its heels showing our hero being miserable as his life slowly seems to choke the enthusiasm out of his existence. But the training scenes and the fight itself, brutal and sweaty in stunning detail, run along at such a rapid pace that the film seems to all but forget about the romantic subplot other than the famous "Adrian!" dialogue at the movie's climax. Am I being too picky? Possibly but what's a boxing film without a few cheap shots, huh?

Meredith (right) puts in a memorable performance as Rocky's trainer, despite still sounding like his famous Penguin in the Batman TV show of the 1960s.
Meredith (right) puts in a memorable performance as Rocky's trainer, despite still sounding like his famous Penguin in the Batman TV show of the 1960s. | Source

Should I watch it?

For boxing fans, this is a totally unmissable movie that romanticises the sport in a way better than any fairy-tale. Stallone fans should also make Rocky an essential watch as it is a fine testament to Stallone's talents as both a writer and actor which tend to be overlooked these days. Aside from a few minor issues and the awkwardness of the film's two lovers, this film is a country mile better than the slew of boxing movies that emerged in its aftermath (including its own sequels) and has inspired both admiration and imitation in equal measures.

Great For: boxing fans, Stallone's career, United Artist's coffers

Not So Great For: anyone put off by combat sports, the hard of hearing who might struggle to hear Stallone's dialogue, Italian-American stereotypes

What else should I watch?

Rocky also holds another record - it is the leading Best Picture winner to have as many sequels as it does with seven so far. The first - Rocky II - is probably the closest to this film in terms of critical reception (as you may have guessed, I haven't seen any of the others just yet) but the series would get increasingly stagnant over the years until the 2006 reboot/revival Rocky Balboa which saw a now sixty-year-old Stallone return to the ring for one final bout. It might not be the greatest movie ever made but it is a considerable improvement on the wretched Rocky V.

Thankfully, the series took a detour with the release of 2015's Creed which instead focused on the son of Rocky's formidable opponent Apollo Creed. With Michael B Jordan starring in the lead, Stallone wisely moves to the sidelines as Rocky now turns into a trainer himself. With the series revived once again, one wonders how much longer they can keep making these sort of films. However, the critics still hold one other boxing film in higher esteem than any of the Rocky films including this one. Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull is a powerful study of one of boxing's most notorious characters Jake LaMotta with Robert De Niro playing the boxer in and out of the ring. Today, it is often considered as one of the best film of Scorsese's career and arguably the greatest boxing movie ever made.

© 2019 Benjamin Cox

Soap Box

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Benjamin Cox profile imageAUTHOR

      Benjamin Cox 

      12 months ago from Norfolk, UK

      Thanks very much. I blame my lack of experience in the Seventies - I was born in 1980!

    • Sam Shepards profile image

      Sam Shepards 

      12 months ago from Europe

      I still prefer Rocky on an "emotional level" over Raging Bull, although Raging Bull is probably the better (boxing) movie. Rocky seems to be as much Stallone surmounting obstacles as the title character. Maybe I'm a little bit too dramatic here, but it really struck a nerve when I was a decade younger and that's why it really sticks in my mind. Excellent review! I also found Creed to be enjoyable.

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      I actually knew that! I feel smart!

    • profile image

      Pat Mills 

      12 months ago from East Chicago, Indiana

      Another fun fact is that the inspiration for Rocky was the 1975 fight between then-heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali and unheralded journeyman Chuck Wepner, which nearly went the distance. I'm glad Rocky's saga went the way it did with the Creed movies. Some of these entries are Stallone at his best.

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      Yeah I was always thought the scene In rocky's apartment was a little off between Rocky and Adrian. Didn't think about it until just now when I read your article. Good review!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)