Directed by John G. Avildsen
Netflix sleeve: When world heavyweight boxing champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) wants to give an unknown fighter a shot at the title as a publicity stunt, his handlers pick palooka Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), an uneducated collector for a Philadelphia loan shark. Gritty, grim and epic, this crowd-pleasing film won the 1976 Best Picture Oscar thanks to John G. Avildsen's solid direction and Stallone's root-for-the-underdog script.
This is a film that reaches far back into my memory. I'm pretty sure I was introduced to this franchise when Rocky III came out. It had Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. Rocky and Apollo worked together; they were friends. Imagine my shock when I finally sat through Rocky as a teenager and Apollo was the bad guy. Sort of. Rocky wasn't exactly a good guy. But that's who you pull for. And he doesn't win. But that's not the point of the story. The challenge for the Italian Stallion was to go the distance. He just wanted to go toe to toe with the champ and last 15 rounds. Which, spoiler alert, he did. On a personal note, I'd like to say that my favorite of the series is Rocky IV, in which Stallone single-handedly takes down Communism. Also, the soundtrack has a lot of amazing "get psyched" songs.