Rocky Celebrates 45 Years Since Sylvester Stallone’s Iconic Film Breakthrough


Rocky Celebrates 45 Years Since Sylvester Stallone's Iconic Film BreakthroughScreenProd/TCD/Prod.DB/Alamy

It’s been 45 years since a then little known actor named Sylvester Stallone hit the big time with arguably the most iconic sports drama in movie history.

Being so much more than that training montage, Rocky (1976) tells the story of a working-class club fighter from Philadelphia who overcomes extraordinary odds to compete against a world heavyweight champion.


For decades, the character of Rocky Balboa has inspired countless people from all walks of life with his fierce determination. The story of how the film came to be is also somewhat of a rags to riches tale, with Stallone having had just $106 in the bank at the time producers took a chance on his screenplay.

The film would go on to gross $225 million at the global box office, from a budget of a little over $1.1 million, and would one day be deemed worthy of preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant’.

However, Stallone – who was so broke before his big break that he had to sell his own dog – couldn’t have known back then just how important Rocky would eventually be to generations of movie lovers.


Stallone had the script written up in just three days flat. Impressed producers at United Artists offered him $300,000 for it, but couldn’t initially see Stallone in the title lead, looking instead towards established names such as Robert Redford or James Caan. This didn’t sit well with Stallone.

Reflecting on this pivotal moment in The Rocky Story, Stallone said:

I thought, ‘Alright, you’ve really managed poverty very well. You’ve got this down to a science. You really don’t need much to live on’.

So I thought, ‘You know what? I know in the back of my mind if I sell this script and it does very, very well, I’m gonna jump off a building if I’m not in it’. There’s no doubt about it. I’m gonna leap in front of a train. I’m gonna be very upset.

So this is one of those things where you just roll the dice, and you fly by the proverbial seat of your pants and say, ‘Alright, I gotta try it. I gotta just do it. I may be totally wrong, and I’m gonna be taking a lot of people down with me, but I just believe in it’.

Rocky (United Artists)United Artists

Going against the advice of his agent, Stallone turned instead to producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, who managed to get Rocky greenlit with Stallone as the star for a relatively low budget. The rest, as they say, is history.

The classic movie has since led to no fewer than eight sequels/spin-offs: Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), Rocky V (1990), Rocky Balboa (2006), Creed (2015), Creed II (2018) and Creed III (2022).

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Topics: Film and TV, rocky, Sylvester Stallone


Film Legacies/YouTube
  1. Film Legacies/YouTube

    The Rocky Story

Julia Banim
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