A simple minded but good natured nickel and dime prize fighter is given a shot at the title by the overconfident champion as a publicity stunt.
The original Rocky is another example of a film that has become overshadowed by its legacy, and the franchise has become a glowing example of everything that’s wrong with the studio system. The increasingly laughable and simplistic sequels ignored everything that was good about the original, which was really a story of the underdog who is given a chance at self respect and escape from his hope-free existence. The character of Rocky Balboa was obviously influenced by Terry Malloy from On The Waterfront and Sylvester Stallone’s acting talents are clearly well suited to this shambling, self conscious and inarticulate character; the dialogue is repetitive and lacks eloquence, but this fact actually makes it more realistic. The story is as much about inner city life at the bottom of the food chain and his romance with cripplingly shy wallflower Talia Shire as boxing, and considering the route the franchise took, it’s surprisingly unsentimental. There’s nowhere near enough of Carl Weathers and Burgess Meredith and at the end of the day, it’s a sports movie and as such follows the usual formula, but the gritty approach makes for a surprisingly engaging watch that has stood the test of time quite well.
Quite how it beat Taxi Driver for the Best Picture Oscar is a mystery though.