2. Rocky (1976)
Hey, remember when Rocky Balboa wasn’t considered an example of lunkheaded Reagan-era jingoism, but rather a soulful, working-class underdog? There’s a reason the original Rocky won a Best Picture Oscar: It’s a surprisingly lived-in, sensitive drama about a broken-down boxer who gets one last, very unlikely chance to prove himself against the World Heavyweight Champion, played by a wonderful Carl Weathers (just because you’re a nemesis doesn’t mean you can’t have a soul). Those hang-dog eyes, that sensuous mouth, that shrinking demeanor, even his characteristically slurred speech – there’s something so noble about this very human bruiser, and the then-unknown Stallone, who also won an Oscar for the screenplay, must have seemed like such a revelation. And if you want sports-movie symbolism, you could not do better than the driven, determined Rocky going for round after round with the red-white-and-blue clad Creed – the American dream as Sisyphean beat-down. BE
21. Victory (1981)
Based on the Hungarian film Two Half Times in Hell, director John Huston’s potboiler stars Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, and Brazilian superstar Pele as WWII POWs who’re going to use a match against the Germans as an opportunity to escape. Everything is ready to proceed as planned — and then the players wonder if they can actually do more good by beating the Nazis on the pitch. The football-ignorant Stallone may be a surrogate for all the early 1980s Americans who were just starting to learn more about “the beautiful game.” But watching the legendary Pele display his footwork on the field (that bicycle kick!), you almost believe the soccer god could have singlehandedly stopped Hitler’s troops in their tracks. NM
Bizarre late 1970s teaming of footballing superstars (Pele, Bobby Moore), Hollywood stars (Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone) and Ipswich Town players as a ragtag team of POWs taking on the Nazis in an exhibition match.
Stallone stars as the goalie.
When he asked if he could score the winning goal in the final match, someone had to explain that it wouldn’t really work that way in real life.