In 1976, a sports film about a guy who decides to boxer was the feel good hero story that led all the to the top of the box office: Rocky.
Written and starring Sylvester Stallone, the film was directed by John Avildsen. Co-starring Talia Shire as Adrian, Burt Young as Paulie, Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed and Burgess Meredith as Mickey.
Rocky Balboa is a small-time fighter in Philadelphia, working in a factory and acting as muscle for a loan shark.
Thanks to his nickname of the Italian Stallion, he is chosen by the manager of a heavyweight champ Apollo Creed to be his new competitor, a fight to be held for the US Bicentennial on New Year’s Day.
As Rocky begins to train, he also starts to romance shy Adrian, and gains confidence in himself and what he wants to achieve.
Instead of just taking the money and letting what happens proceed, Rocky is convinced by Mickey to take it seriously and in five weeks transforms the unknown Italian Stallion into a real competitor to face Apollo Creed.
A passion project for Stallone, initially United Artists wanted a well-known actor to take the lead, but Stallone convinced them to stick with him. Other actors were considered for Adrian and Apollo Creed, but in the end the director felt Shire and Weathers were the best choices.
With a modest budget of $1 million, the film was released in December 1976 and with box office numbers that kept going up. Opening weekend, the film made US$5 million, which grew to US$171 million in domestic release, all despite mixed reviews saying the film was a weak version of a Frank Capra movie.
But Stallone had the last laugh, writing and starring in the successful film, which went on to win Best Picture at the 1977 Academy Awards, as well as best director for Avildsen and best editing, while being nominated for seven other awards including best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, best sound and best original song.