‘Rocky’ Starring Sylvester Stallone Premieres in Theaters Today in 1976

by Joe Rutland

On this day in 1976, Rocky Balboa stepped into the ring and drew millions of cheers as Rocky premiered in movie theaters.

Sylvester Stallone wrote the script and starred in the movie, along with Carl Weathers, Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith, and Burt Young.

Rocky is a small-time club fighter who gets a chance against world champion Apollo Creed, played by Weathers. Apollo selects Rocky as his foe, probably thinking the young, scrappy boxer will be a pushover.

Well, as the world knows, that was not the case.

‘Rocky’ Showcases Philadelphia; Stallone Starts Writing After Ali-Wepner

The film, which was directed by John G. Avildsen, showed different scenes of Rocky training. From punching slabs of meat, chasing chickens, to the iconic run up the 72 steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, these scenes have become ingrained into the public’s memory.

Stallone has told the story about his inspiration for the character. The actor was at home watching world boxing champion Muhammad Ali fight Chuck Wepner. Wepner was no marquee attraction as a movie star. Far from it. But Wepner knocked Ali down on March 24, 1975. It ends up being one of the rare times Ali was sent to the canvas.

Yes, Ali did win the fight but seeing the knockdown from Wepner was enough to inspire Stallone about writing his screenplay. It took Ali until the 15th round to knock out Wepner. The actor states that Wepner’s fight didn’t directly lead to Rocky being done.

Movie Earns $225 Million At Box Office, Leads To Multiple Sequels

Rocky becomes a film done on a $960,000 million budget. It collects $225 million box-office receipts, which is equivalent to $1.02 billion in 2020.

This movie would open the floodgates to eight sequels. Stallone’s involvement is there throughout the sequels. Without a doubt, Rocky Balboa led him to fame and fortune all over the world.

It also didn’t hurt that Bill Conti penned a movie anthem for the ages. People will hear the movie’s theme song and they know what’s connected to it.

Hollywood also recognized the film as it won three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing.

Stallone would go on and create another iconic character in John Rambo.

In 1982, he co-wrote and starred in First Blood as the lead character. Stallone last played Rambo in a 2019 film, Rambo: Last Blood. Supposedly, it’s the last film of the franchise. Another film in his collection was the 2010 flick The Expendables. Stallone is joined over the installments by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Burce Willis, Mel Gibson, and Jason Statham.

Still, it all remains a part of movie lore along with Rocky.