On this day in 1976, Rocky, starring Sylvester Stallone as the underdog prizefighter Rocky Balboa, debuts in New York City. The movie, which opened in theaters across the United States on December 3, 1976, was a huge box-office hit and received 10 Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay for the then-little known Stallone. Rocky ultimately took home three Oscars, including one for Best Picture, and made Stallone one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.
Sylvester Stallone was born on July 6, 1946, in New York City. By the early 1970s, he had begun his professional acting career, appearing in off-Broadway shows and bit movie roles. Frustrated by his lack of success, Stallone started penning screenplays, including The Lords of Flatbush (1974), in which he co-starred with another relatively unknown young actor named Henry Winkler. Stallone’s career was transformed after the success of his next screenplay, Rocky, in which he insisted on playing the lead. Produced on a shoestring budget, the film told the story of Rocky Balboa, a small-time, down-on-his-luck Philadelphia boxer who works as a debt collector for a loan shark before getting a shot at the world heavyweight championship. Rocky includes such memorable lines as “Yo, Adrian!” (directed at Rocky’s love interest, played by Talia Shire) and “You’re gonna eat lightning, you’re gonna crap thunder,” as well as the now-iconic scene in which Rocky takes a training run up and down the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art as the movie’s theme song, “Gonna Fly Now,” plays. Stallone went on to write and star in five more Rocky movies: Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), Rocky V (1990) and Rocky Balboa (2006).
Stallone struck Hollywood movie-franchise gold a second time playing the action-hero John Rambo, a troubled ex-Green Beret and Vietnam War vet. Stallone portrayed Rambo in First Blood (1982), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Rambo III (1988) and Rambo (2008).
In addition to the Rocky and Rambo movies, Stallone’s long list of film credits includes Rhinestone (1984) with Dolly Parton; Tango & Cash (1989), with Kurt Russell; Cliffhanger (1993), with John Lithgow and Janine Turner; and Cop Land (1997), with Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta. Stallone made his directorial debut with Paradise Alley (1978) and has also helmed several of the Rocky and Rambo films.