Looking back at the original “Rocky,” it’s easy to see why it’s such an enduring classic. It’s an impressively assembled character study of Rocky Balboa, a marginally employed boxer past his prime who gets a shot at a world championship. It’s *the* underdog story for the ages, the one against which all other underdog movies are measured against, and that’s largely thanks to Sylvester Stallone (who also wrote the extraordinary screenplay). In the lead role, he’s entirely believable and downright endearing: He’s almost Frankenstein-ish in appearance and demeanor but also manages to communicate an emotionally complex inner life without the need for expository dialogue. It’s what makes the character so easy to root for, and by the time the plot kicks in and the movie barrels towards its inevitable (and legendary) climax, the audience is entirely enthralled and committed. It’s a truly memorable drama with a number of classic scenes that still manage to pack an emotional wallop, and is buoyed by excellent performances all around, with particular note going to a never-better Burt Young.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)