REVIEW: Rocky (1976) | ManlyMovie

REVIEW: Rocky (1976)

Run Time: 120 Mins
Rated: PG
What To Expect:  A movie worth revisiting, copious use of the insult ‘bum’

Starting this month we’re going to review all of the entries in the Rocky franchise.  It’s kind of a miss not to have reviews for them with a website with this theme.  Of course, the first is the 1976 original and a movie I have not watched for a very long time.  I always knew it was good but had forgotten or not realized just how good.  I’m starting to wonder again if Rocky III or IV are still the ‘best’ in the franchise, even from a fun point of view.

Looking back they were going to cast someone else in the role, offering Sylvester Stallone $250,000 for the script.  Stallone turned this down and insisted he play the title character.  What a decision, not just for Stallone, but for the movie.  In too many ways ‘Rocky’ is just the embodiment of Stallone himself, from where he was in his career down to the droop affable nature of his character.  Y’see, Stallone is such a likeable person that no-one else would have worked.  Can you imagine Burt Reynolds or, worse, Robert Redford in the role?

They really wanted Redford.  Had they gotten their way, they movie probably would’ve suffered and assuredly not had any sequels. Redford, while a tremendous actor, simply could not have conveyed the affable everyman character that Stallone does even while in his sleep.  Likewise, Carl Weathers’ energy would not have gelled with Redford like it did Stallone.  ‘We fill gaps’, says Rocky speaking of his girlfriend — same with his opponent.  No-one but Stallone could’ve held this synergy with Weathers and vice versa.

But John Avildsen should also not be forgotten.  While Stallone is the engine room of the movie, Avildsen is the director who is was no stranger to giving lamentable screen underdogs a push (see: Save The Tiger, or Ralph Macchio’s 100lb outcast in The Karate Kid), the man played no small part for sure.  Although I said the movie ages well, I meant everything but the boxing.  In this day and age it’s pretty rough, even with stable camerawork and such, but the fact that it comprises less than 15 minutes of the movie reminds us that Rocky is barely a boxing movie at all.



  1. Avatar

    Mucho Macho

    January 3, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    One of the very interesting things about the “Rocky” franchise it’s how different in tone some of them are from one another. That’s why I’m so skeptical about a “Creed” sequel being directly tied to “Rocky 4” because they’re just so fucking different in tone, in style, in directing, in soundtrack and everything else.

    “Rocky 1 & 2” play like a 4 hour movie. 3 & 4 play like another long movie. One of the reasons why some people claim that “Rocky 5” failed is because after the tone of number 4, going to a somber part 5, where Rocky loses everything, goes back to the hood and loses brain cells, it felt going from the party to the hangover.

    A lot of people forget that Stallone directed the “Saturday Night Fever” sequel “Staying Alive” starring John Travolta. One of the reasons he was offered the job was because he knew how to make sequels to successful films and “reinvent the wheel” as they say. What Stallone did with “Rocky 3” was kind of brilliant and that it was a different approach but re-energized the franchise.

    And I have often said “Rocky 4” is not the best “Rocky” movie, it’s just the best “fight” movie.

  2. Avatar

    Mucho Macho

    January 3, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    One interesting note about this movie is that the studio did not want to shoot the scene that takes place the night before the fight between Adrian and Rocky. They wanted to cut costs and they felt that the scene was it needed and Stallone who wrote the screenplay said that that scene was the heart of the movie and he was absolutely right. So after much bickering with the studio they finally gave him like 1 take to do it.

    In this scene it gives a story meaning because he talks about “going to distance” and this is the theme of the movie. You see Rocky was a high school dropout, who was part timing as an enforcer to a loan shark and who nobody thought would ever make something of himself. But if he went to distance with Creed, if he did something that no one had ever done before, even if he lost the fight it didn’t matter cause by doing something that no one had done before it will bring value to his existence. Without this scene the ending would’ve been pointless because he loses the fight so Stallone was 100% right in fighting for this scene to be included.

    • Avatar

      Kirk's Toupee

      January 5, 2018 at 2:11 am

      My favorite scene from the movie. We’ve all been there in one way or another. Not asking for anything big just wanting to feel like we’re worth something. And if we go the distance and then some….the then some is just icing.

      • Avatar

        Mucho Macho

        January 5, 2018 at 7:06 am