A small time boxer gets a once in a lifetime chance to fight the heavyweight champ in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.
Rocky Balboa is a struggling boxer trying to make the big time. Working in a meat factory in Philadelphia for a pittance, he also earns extra cash as a debt collector. When heavyweight champion Apollo Creed visits Philadelphia, his managers want to set up an exhibition match between Creed and a struggling boxer, touting the fight as a chance for a "nobody" to become a "somebody". The match is supposed to be easily won by Creed, but someone forgot to tell Rocky, who sees this as his only shot at the big time.
The film, made for only US$1.2 million, and shot relatively fast in 28 days, was a sleeper hit; it made over US$117.2 million, won three Oscars, including Best Picture, and garnered mostly positive reviews which helped to launch Stallone's career. The film spawned five sequels: Rocky II, III, IV, V and Rocky Balboa.
Rocky received positive reviews when it was released in 1976. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave Rocky 4 out of 4 stars, and Box Office Magazine claimed that audiences would be "...touting Sylvester (Sly) Stallone as a new star". However, Vincent Canby of the New York Times called it "pure '30s make believe" and slammed both Stallone's acting and Avildsen's directing, calling the latter "...none too decisive..."
More than 30 years later, the film enjoys a reputation as a classic and still receives generally positive reviews. Film-goers at the movie website IMDb voted Rocky a 7.9 out of 10 rating, and Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 93% fresh rating. Another positive online review came from the BBC Films website, with both reviewer Almar Haflidason and BBC online users giving it 5/5 stars. In Steven J. Schneider's 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Schneider says the film is "often overlooked as schmaltz."
Rocky received ten Academy Awards nominations in nine categories winning three:
- Best Picture (Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler) (won)
- Best Director (John G. Avildsen) (won)
- Film Editing (Richard Halsey and Scott Conrad) (won)
- Best Original Screenplay (Sylvester Stallone)
- Best Actor (Sylvester Stallone)
- Best Actress (Talia Shire)
- Best Supporting Actor (Burt Young)
- Best Supporting Actor (Burgess Meredith)
- Best Music, Original Song (Bill Conti, Carol Connors and Ayn Robbins for "Gonna Fly Now")
- Best Sound (Harry W. Tetrick, William L. McCaughey, Lyle J. Burbridge and Bud Alper )
The Directors Guild of America awarded Rocky its annual award for best film of the year in 1976, and in 2006, Sylvester Stallone's original screenplay for Rocky was selected by the Writers Guild of America as the 78th best screenplay of all time.