Ok, I am going to begin this review by saying that when I first saw Rocky a few years back, I didn't really appreciate it for what it was and what it was trying to show to the viewers worldwide but now after re-watching it (as well as the rest of the sequels back-to-back which I hadn't seen before until just after I watched this one again), my eyes were opened to how awesome Rocky really is. I will also admit that at first I didn't really have and excitement to see the rest of the films (apart from Rocky Balboa/Rocky VI) which I actually saw before the first one at the cinema. Time and time again, I have heard from many people that this is the 'underdog story' and the most inspiring film of all time but I think, despite that it is indeed an underdog story and is inspiring, I have watched more inspiring underdog stories in my time.
Rocky Balboa is a small-time boxer who lives in an apartment in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and his career has so far not gotten off the canvas. Rocky earns a living by collecting debts for a loan shark named Gazzo, but Gazzo doesn't think Rocky has the viciousness it takes to beat up deadbeats. Rocky still boxes every once in a while to keep his boxing skills sharp, and his ex-trainer, Mickey, believes he could've made it to the top if he was willing to work for it. Rocky, goes to a pet store that sells pet supplies, and this is where he meets a young woman named Adrian, who is extremely shy, with no ability to talk to men. Rocky befriends her. Adrian later surprised Rocky with a dog from the pet shop that Rocky had befriended. Adrian's brother Paulie, who works for a meat packing company, is thrilled that someone has become interested in Adrian, and Adrian spends Thanksgiving with Rocky. Later, they go to Rocky's apartment, where Adrian explains that she has never been in a man's apartment before. Rocky sets her mind at ease, and they become lovers. Current world heavyweight boxing champion Apollo Creed comes up with the idea of giving an unknown a shot at the title. Apollo checks out the Philadelphia boxing scene, and chooses Rocky. Fight promoter Jergens gets things in gear, and Rocky starts training with Mickey. After a lot of training, Rocky is ready for the match, and he wants to prove that he can go the distance with Apollo.
Sylvester Stallone has always been an actor who cannot give awesome performances and has been voted by many as the worst actor of the 20th century but his debut performance as Rocky Balboa was absolutely magnificent and he rightfully deserved his Oscar nomination. He shows only this one time (and perhaps in Rocky II) that he really can be a great actor but unfortunately didn't express that enough. Talia Shire who made a big name for herself playing Connie Corleone in The Godfather (4 years before Rocky) and in The Godfather: Part II (2 years before Rocky) both directed by her brother Francis Ford Coppola, stars in another franchise set in a similar era but she is in more of a leading role in Rocky. Anyway, her performance was fantastic! What I loved about Adrian's character particularly this one is that when she met Rocky, she was probably the shyest woman in that neighbourhood but as their relationship got better and when they got to know more about each other, she broke out of that! There are a lot of supporting actors in this series and most of them appear in all six (Burt Young is in all six) and I think he is the best supporting actor. Burgess Mederith and Carl Weathers gave awesome performances as well.
John G. Avildsen is a director who is perhaps only best known for directing this film, Rocky V and The Karate Kid original trilogy especially when he won the Academy Award for Best Director when he did Rocky. I do respect a lot of directors who direct films based on someone else's work which they have written and are starring in so in this one, Avildsen is basically directing Stallone in Stallone's own creation. Despite this, he did an absolutely fantastic job! This was a worldwide success seeing as this became not only the first major boxing film but maybe even the first breakthrough sports film too. I also must admit, what a fantastic script! Stallone writing a solid script is almost bewildering especially after his later works weren't so successful.
Overall, Rocky is a great underdog story that does take its rightful place as a fine example of inspiration and courage. It also showed to follow your heart and to take a stand at where you're at or want to get at. Despite that Rocky won Best Picture in 1976 and as awesome as it is, I really don't understand how it beat other nominees Taxi Driver and especially Network. As I predicted from the very start, it is easily the best film of the Rocky franchise and I am pretty sure that everybody thinks the exact same thing. Good one, Stallone!