Rocky’s road to glory
Rocky earned Sylvester Stallone an Oscar, and inspired many sequels and several spin-offs including Creed (all of the Rocky movies are now available to watch on Showmax). Trace his rise to fame with our pick of the best.
Rocky had enough guts, glory and tenacity to win hearts worldwide, becoming the highest grossing film of 1976. Mirroring a real contender’s story on screen and behind the scenes, this film made Stallone famous. He only had $106 to his name but insisted that he starred, refusing to sell his script in spite of a $350 000 offer!
Directed by The Karate Kid’s John G Avildsen, the spirited boxing sports drama became an all-time classic. The first Rocky set in motion the winning formula and trademark elements. Saying “Yo, Adrian”, training montages, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s steps, butcheries, taking a beating, the timeless Rocky theme and Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger made “Rockyland”.
Rocky II (1979)
Rocky II sees the Italian Stallion facing off against Apollo Creed in a grudge match. Taking the role of star, writer and director, Stallone was wearing more hats than the black fedora he made famous. In this sequel, his loyal supporting cast truly come alive with Talia Shire as the ever-supportive Adrian, Burgess Meredith as his give-em-hell coach Mickey, Burt Young as his schmuck brother-in-law Paulie and Carl Weathers as his greatest opponent Apollo.
The Rocky brand was cemented through his unorthodox training regimen, one arm push ups, tiger motifs, the classic “gettin’ strong now” theme and Rocky Steps. Training in a red headband, he unwittingly spawned John Rambo and his action career. It’s fascinating to watch the character’s journey, afraid of being labelled a “bum” and suffering through comically bad driving and reading.
Rocky III (1982)
Rocky III finds Balboa at the height of his fame, struggling to strike a balance between family, boxing and celebrity. Trading the leather jacket for a suit, he wins Apollo’s favour as the sworn enemies become allies. Confident enough to start with a rousing Eye of the Tiger opening sequence to recap Rocky II, it conjures up exhilarating highs and fighting spirit with promise of what’s to come.
Rocky had a major influence on pop culture and launched many careers. Hulk Hogan’s epic wrestler-versus-boxer encounter with Balboa put him on the map as a star-spangled, blonde-bearded colossus. Then, Mr T’s star-making role as the furious, trash-talking Clubber Lang made it possible for him to pity fools as The A-Team’s strongman, BA Baracus.
Rocky Balboa (2006)
Tenacious ‘til the end, it’s not surprising to learn of yet another comeback for Stallone’s never-say-die character. Reflecting his film career and tipping the fedora to where it all began, this film revisits Rocky decades later. Following the previous films, there must have been some intrigue as to what became of the boxer, his son and his legacy.
Introducing Rocky to a new generation, reconnecting longtime fans and embodying the same underdog spirit, Rocky Balboa is a fitting tribute. Stallone picks up where he left off, showing there’s still fight in the old “warhorse”. Determined to do what he knows best, the old slugger picks an unwinnable fight with the current heavyweight champ.
Watch: Rocky “Eye of the Tiger” Tribute
Bonus: Creed (2015) and Creed II (2018)
It’s not the end for Rocky. In the latest incarnation of the franchise, we meet a new hero. As the son of Apollo Creed, the great opponent of Rocky Balboa, Adonis Johnson (played by Michael B Jordan) has boxing in his blood. Never having known his late father, Adonis decides to find Rocky and ask him to be his trainer in Creed: Rocky’s Legacy. Things go well for the duo, and in Creed II, Adonis takes on Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan Drago.