Rocky (1976)

Joel originally from Top 10 Movies of All-Time

You can hear the theme music que as the name Rocky scrolls across the screen. The ultimate training film, sports film, inspirational film, maybe ever! I’m sure there would be much debate over my claims, but still Rocky would have to be considered as one of the greats! I remember watching the Rocky series and relating it to my interest in basketball. In fact, I know my brother can relate to it as well because I’d remember him drinking raw eggs, running down to the park at 5:00 AM in the morning to work on his game. Even mocking rocky as he finished running up the mountain (this was rocky IV of course) and screeming “DRAGGOOO!!!” at the finish. Feeling a sense of accomplishment. Working your butt off to be the best you can be…this is Rocky.

What’s cool about watching the film now is that in rocky he’s 30 years old–my age!!! To understand how much he really struggled…how much he really worked…how he was put down by Micky, even neighborhood punk/kids…and still managed to “try” and do the right things. That was cool. Rocky wasn’t a saint by any means–he was a collector for a loneshark–but he still strived to do what he could to make the best of his life…he even learned that and never went back to “collecting” even when he got poor again.

His ability to endue and his will to survive and achieve blows me away. That’s what I learned when I first watched this film. What I get from it now is watching how much character and integrity Rocky has as a person.

Reid
Joel,

I really enjoy reading posts where you can tell the writer really cares about what he or she is writing–and that’s what I read in your posts above. (Maybe should make separate threads–reviews?–for movies like Raiders and Rocky)

Anyway, you know I love both films. Both films may actually be the best of films of their respective genres. (I heard that Rocky didn’t make ESPN’s top 25 greatest sports films, which totally baffles me.)

Both films have great musical scores, too. Rocky can be a little cheesy and over-the-top, but who cares. I can talk a lot about both films.

1 Response to “Rocky (1976)”


  1. Reid

    In the post above, Joel suggests that this might be the “ultimate sports film,” and I also express confusion about the film’s failure to make ESPN’s 25 greatest sports film list. After recently watching this film with my eleven year old nephew, I can understand why the film didn’t make the list. For one thing, the actual boxing and training scenes are limited to approximately forty-five minutes or less of screen time. But a more substantive reason is that, at the heart of the film, Rocky is more about two losers who find each other and help each other out, than an underdog boxer with a shot at the heavyweight championship. Notice I said two losers. I felt for a long time that Rocky was more than a boxing film or even a sports film, but this viewing made me think the film is about Adrian almost as much as it is about Rocky–so much so that the film could be called Rocky and Adrian. That might be going to far, but let me make a case for it.

    First of all, the character of Adrian really impacted me more than I can remember. From her first appearance on the screen, a sadness struck me. I saw this frightened and lonely person crushed by an overwhelming negative self-image–an image built up through years of put downs from people inside and probably outside of her family. The layers of clothes and her overall homely appearance are almost a physical manifestation of her psychic prison. When Adrian yells at Paulie, “You made me feel like a loser. But I’m not a loser!” the outburst really got to me. I saw it as a person struggling to break free. (As an aside, I think this is the first time I watched the film with subtitles, and I never understood that when Paulie tells Adrian, “You’re busted,” he was saying that she was, in effect, a whore.)

    I think a similar desperation drives Rocky. Consider the dramatic scene where Rocky gets up from a knockdown despite Mickey imploring him to stay down. Why does he get up? He doesn’t get up just because he’s tough or has a desire to beat the champion. Instead, he gets up out of desperate need to be valued. He is realistic enough to know that beating Creed is all but impossible, but if he can last sixteen rounds without being knocked out–to “go the distance”–something no one has ever done, he can prove to himself and others that he is a somebody. In a way, it’s Rocky’s moment to “scream:” I’m not a loser!

    This self-image of being a loser has oppressed both Rocky and Adrian. They’re both people trying to overcome this idea, except where the idea has been a kind of prison for Adrian, for Rocky the idea has been an opponent, something Rocky has fought and struggled against all his life. Indeed, I saw the fight with Creed as an extension of this larger fight Rocky faced everyday, a fight involving cruel words and degrading treatment rather than blows from a fist. The filmmakers establish this in the first half of the film, which is essentially a depiction of Rocky getting hammered: Mr. Ganz’s sidekick insults him; Apollo delivers cheap shots on camera; a young girl, Rose Marie, that Rocky tries to help, disrespects him; even Mickey initially treats Rocky scornfully. But Rocky perseveres. He perseveres by continuing to be a decent, caring person. He could resign himself to despair and bitterness, turning over completely to a life of crime and depravity. But that would be giving up, and Rocky is tough; he’s not a quitter. I like to believe that it’s this toughness and resilience that allows Rocky to endure Apollo’s punishment. Rocky can take the physical punishment, not just because of his intense physical training, but because he has endured blows no less painful his entire life.

    Despite this inner toughness, Rocky still sees himself as a loser or bum. This makes sense when you think of the way people develop their self-worth. The comments of others provide one source, but another source is personal accomplishments and actions. Rocky knows he hasn’t accomplished anything significant with his life. The fight with Apollo Creed becomes his opportunity. The fame and fortune, but his self-worth is what is at stake. For if Rocky can go the distance, he will prove to himself, if not the others, that he is not a loser. It is his knock-out blow.

    Adrian is the only one that understands, and she understands this in a profound way. She has experienced the pain of being branded a loser, and only with Rocky’s help is she able to break free. She is the only one who knows that the fight is Rocky’s chance to do the same. That is what makes the ending so meaningful and moving. Rocky is utterly indifferent to the results of the fight (or a rematch); all he wants is Adrian–not just because she is the only one who understands this, but because she’s his partner–his partner in the real fight: it’s their moment, not just his. When Rocky says “I love you”–a line that can be corny and hollow in a moment like this–it is real and full of meaning. In those three words Rocky manages to say all of the following: you understand and love me; you have stood by me in the biggest challenge of my life; I love you because of this; most of all, I love you because you’re the most important thing in my life–more important than the heavyweight championship.

    This is why I think the film is just much about Adrian than it is about Rocky. Or, to be more accurate, why I think the their relationship is near the heart of this film. The film is about people who society has branded losers try to overcome that designation. The beauty of the film lies in the way these two people at the bottom of life’s barrel find each other and help each other out. That’s why Rocky is ultimately not a boxing film or even a sports film. It’s also a reason Rocky and Adrian may be a more appropriate title.

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