Rocky (1976)  

 

Hard to believe this week marks the 40th anniversary of the original Rocky. The film - directed by John G. Avildsen and written by Sylvester Stallone - released in 1976 and would go on to win best picture and spawn several sequels, including last year's Academy Award nominated spin-off, Creed. In celebration of the first film's impact, here's a 5 plot point breakdown of its impressively structured screenplay (our breakdowns of the sequels can also be found in our breakdown database).

Screenplay Genre: Drama film/Sport Movie

 

Time: 122 minutes

 

 

1. INCITING INCIDENT

 

Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), the heavyweight champion of the world, is looking for a replacement for the boxing match he has planned for the first day of the upcoming bicentennial year. The ranked contender penciled into the fight has dropped out so Apollo comes up with a great idea. He tells promoter George Jergens (Thayer David) that he'll give an unknown boxer, an underdog, a shot at the greatest title in the world. It's a business decision, but for one local boxer, a street-wise, “ham and egger” kid named Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), aka The Italian Stallion, it will be a major turning point in his troubled life. (00:31:03)

 

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

 

 Rocky is offered the chance by Jergens to fight Apollo Creed for the heavyweight championship. He declines, but after Jergens insists it is the chance of a lifetime, Rocky accepts. He will face Apollo Creed at The Spectrum in Philadelphia. (00:57:16)

 

3. FIRST CULMINATION (Midpoint)

 

 Mickey (Burgess Meredith), a local boxing trainer and owner of the gym Rocky frequents, visits Rocky to convince him to take him on as his manager. Mickey pushes Rocky, telling him Rocky needs a grizzled veteran like him standing in his corner. Rocky is resentful because previously Mickey had evicted him from his locker at the gym. Rocky turns down Mickey's offer. After Mickey leaves, Rocky goes ballistic, pounding the wall in frustration. Mickey leaves as the echoes of Rocky's meltdown fill the stairwell outside Rocky's apartment. Moments later, Rocky regrets his outburst and runs outside to catch up with Mickey. He apologizes and hugs Mickey. (01:10:35)

 

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

 

Following a morning walk, Rocky comes home to Adrian who is sleeping. Rocky crawls into bed with her and confesses that he can't beat Apollo. But he also tells Adrian he wants just one thing. He wants to go the distance with the champ and if he can do that he'll prove to himself, and to the people of his neighborhood, that he is no bum. To Apollo, the fight will be an opportunity to demonstrate his showmanship. For Rocky, the fight is a metaphor for his struggles, a chance to stand tall and face his inner demons in the ring with the whole world watching. (01:39:15)

 

5. THIRD ACT TWIST

 

Rocky knocks down Apollo in the first round. The crowd goes wild. It is the first time Apollo has been knocked down in his illustrious career. After taking a moment to regain his composure, Apollo stares at his opponent across the ring. The grand spectacle has just turned into a real fight, one that will conclude with Rocky achieving his desire. The bell rings after fifteen rounds and Rocky is still standing. Adrian joins him and Rocky wraps his tired arms around her. (01:48:00)

 


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