Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone was born in New York City, New York in the rough Hell’s Kitchen area. He earned a B.A. after attending American College of Switzerland and the University of Miami. He began his career in the entertainment industry taking on small roles such as in the 1971 thriller Klute and the 1971 comedy Bananas as well as an appearance in the 1970 soft-core porn flick The Party at Kitty and Stud’s. Yet, Stallone’s breakthrough role came alongside Henry Winkler in the 1974 teen gang film The Lords of Flatbush. Despite this, lackluster roles continued to come Stallone’s way. Besides his acting career, Stallone also wanted to be recognized as a screenwriter and wrote a script inspired by the 1975 Muhammad Ali-Chuck Wepner fight in Cleveland. Rocky would become a classic in American cinema, garnering 10 Academy Award nominations and winning the 1976 Academy award for Best Picture. The Rocky movie franchise would make Stallone a bonafide movie star and screenwriting legend. Thanks to his ripping physique, his work in gritty action films such as in 1982’s First Blood and its 1985 sequel Rambo: First Blood Part II brought Stallone even more attention. Through the years, Stallone has tried his hand at comedy and less violent action films with mixed results. In 2010, Stallone rounded up a slew of other muscular actors for the high octane actioner The Expendables, even bringing along the man who played his nemesis in 1985’s Rocky IV, Dolph Lundgren, this time as a fellow mercenary/friend. It became a massive hit and has spawned two sequels, the latest of which will be released this August. In honor of his 68th birthday, here is a Top 10 list of Sylvester Stallone movies.
10. The Expendables 2: – This 2012 actioner was the sequel to the massively successful 2010 original. Co-written by Stallone, Stallone’s Barney Ross and his gang of mercenaries from the original return including The Transporter film franchise’s Jason Statham, Lethal Weapon 4’s Jet Li and Bruce Willis among others along with new additions like Chuck Norris and The Hunger Games film franchise’s Liam Hemsworth. The plot revolved around the gang getting back together after Mr. Church (Willis) recruits them for an “easy” assignment, but when the ruthless Vilain, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, murders one of the newest members of the team, it becomes a quest for revenge on top of stopping Vilain from unleashing a deadly weapon on the world. Requisite explosions mixed with humor made this an enjoyable sequel and the newest installment The Expendables 3, which is set for an August release is sure to do the same.
9. Oscar: – This 1991 John Landis-directed comedy was based on the Claude Magnier stage play and a remake of the 1967 French film of the same name, but the setting was moved to the Depression era in New York City. The movie centered around mobster Angelo “Snaps” Provolone (Stallone,) trying to go straight amidst bumbling hijinks from his cronies and his family. Co-starring Marisa Tomei, Chazz Palminteri, Tim Curry, the late Don Ameche, Linda Gray and Peter Riegert, there are miscommunications aplenty as Provolone tries to prove he’s really going straight to the cops who want to nail him as well as his “associates” and his wife and daughter. This movie showed that Stallone has great comedic timing and wasn’t just a brawny, no-brains action star.
8. Grudge Match: – This 2013 sports comedy had Stallone co-starring with Robert DeNiro. The two played rival boxers in their youth, Henry "Razor" Sharp (Stallone) and Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (DeNiro.) Now, 30 years later, "Razor" is low on money and working in a shipyard when approached by Dante Slate Jr., played by comedian Kevin Hart, the son of “Razor’s” now-deceased ex-promoter, who put him in his dire financial situation through his shady business dealings, to do a motion capture performance for a video game. "Razor" initially declines, but then accepts in order to pay for care for his ailing ex-trainer, played by Alan Arkin. “Razor” then learns that Slate also approached “The Kid,” and their rivalry re-emerges, giving Slate the idea of organizing a final grudge match between “Razor” and “The Kid,” which he will promote as "Grudgement Day." Also starring Kim Basinger as “Razor’s” ex-girlfriend Sally Rose, who cheated on him with “The Kid” during their youth and ended up becoming pregnant. Now widowed, Sally wants to reconnect with “Razor,” but he’s reluctant. Meanwhile, “The Kid” tries to form a relationship with his son and grandson. Stallone and DeNiro’s comedic banter was delightful as the two sparred with both their words and their fists and showed that two older guys can still kick *ss, LOL!
7. Rocky Balboa: – This 2006 film was the sixth installment in the Rocky film franchise. Stallone’s Rocky, is now a widower, losing his beloved Adrian to cancer in 2002, leaving him to care for their now grown son, from which Rocky is estranged. Rocky, now in his 50s, lives a quiet life running a small but very successful Italian restaurant named after her, where he regales his patrons with stories of his past. Yet, he still battles private demons involving grief over her death. Rocky reunites and befriends a much older "Little" Marie, played by Geraldine Hughes, a once mischievous neighborhood girl, whom he first met in Rocky, and Rocky forms a bond with her teen son, Stephenson, nicknamed “Steps,” played by James Francis Kelly III. Meanwhile on the professional boxing circuit, Mason "The Line" Dixon, played by Antonio Tarver, is the undisputed world heavyweight champion. ESPN broadcasts a computer simulation of a fight between Rocky (in his prime) and Mason, which ends in a controversial KO victory for Balboa, riling Dixon. The simulation inspires Rocky to take up boxing again and Dixon's promoters pitch the idea of holding a charity exhibition bout at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas to bolster Dixon's falling popularity. With some hesitation, both men agree to the match, creating a media buzz. The fight scenes were wonderful as they were interspersed with Rocky’s memories of Adrian by his side at his past matches. Rocky also repairs his relationship with his estranged son, Robert, played Milo Ventimiglia, who had become ashamed of being Rocky’s son and distanced himself from anything related to boxing. Rocky and his son eventually reconcile and moviegoers were sure to be overjoyed that Stallone made sure to show that Adrian was never out of Rocky’s mind or heart as he visits her grave at the culmination of the film to thank her for helping him get through the match.
6. Rocky V: – This 1990 sports drama was the fifth installment in the Rocky film franchise. Co-starring Talia Shire, Stallone’s real life son, the late Sage Stallone and real life boxer Tommy Morrison, a retired Rocky and wife Adrian return to their old neighborhood having lost all their money thanks to Adrian’s brother, Paulie, played by Burt Young, mismanaging Rocky’s fortune. Rocky takes on a protégé in young fighter Tommy Gunn (Morrison.) Yet, Rocky’s real son, Robert, grows jealous of Rocky and Tommy’s bond. Tommy ends up betraying Rocky after being convinced by boxing promoter George Washington Duke, played by Richard Gant, that he must fight Rocky in order to be taken seriously in the boxing world. Of course, the betrayal hurts Rocky, but he creams Tommy in the end and restores his relationship with his son, Robert, in the end.
5. Rocky IV: This 1985 sports drama was the fourth installment in the Rocky film franchise. Co-starring Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Burt Young, Brigitte Nielsen and Dolph Lundgren, Rocky goes up against the Russian boxing powerhouse, Ivan Drago (Lundgren,) who beat Rocky’s rival then friend Apollo Creed (Weathers) to death in an exhibition match. Rocky goes to Russia to avenge Creed and defend the honor of the US, despite Adrian’s (Shire) fervent objections. The fight scenes were brutal as Drago and Balboa fought furiously, culminating in Rocky winning the day, but suffering devastating blows to the head, which would leave him with some brain damage. The movie’s boxing scenes were graphic as Stallone watches his friend die at the hands of the heartless Soviet, who in the aftermath of his fight with Creed, Drago says, “If he dies... he dies.” Yet, Rocky prevails against the cold-blooded Drago In the end and moviegoers cheered Stallone’s Rocky as an American hero!
4. The Expendables: – This 2010 actioner, written, directed and starring Stallone had a hard core cast of pumped actors in its cast including The Transporter film franchise’s Jason Statham, Lethal Weapon 4’s Jet Li, Rocky IV’s Dolph Lundgren, WWE Wresting Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Mickey Roarke, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Stallone played Barney Ross, whose CIA operative team is contracted to take out a Latin dictator and a rogue CIA agent. The film also starred Eric Roberts as the truly cruel villain. Massive explosions intertwined with bouts of humor fill this flick as Stallone as his ragtag crew don’t disappoint in giving moviegoers a true edge-of-your-seat action bonanza!
3. Demolition Man: – This 1993 science fiction/action/comedy had Stallone co-starring with Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock (before she really hit it big,) Benjamin Bratt, Nigel Hawthorne and comedian Denis Leary. Set in 1996, Stallone played John Spartan, a Los Angeles cop, whose mission is to take down criminal Simon Phoenix (Snipes.) Spartan is unjustly imprisoned after he is charged with the death of a bus load of hostages during a showdown with Phoenix, who had kidnapped them. Fast-forward to 2032, both Spartan and Phoenix have been frozen in a “cryoprison” and subjected to subconscious rehabilitation methods. Phoenix escapes and Spartan is “thawed” out to aid in Phoenix’s recapture because the Los Angeles Spartan knew has become a peaceful, violent free zone thanks to the control of Dr. Raymond Cocteau (Hawthorne,) who has prohibited human behaviors such as sex and cursing, etc. so the police have lost any ability with any type of violence. Stallone and Bullock’s comedic timing as a duo was spot-on as Spartan taught Bullock’s Lieutenant Lenina Huxley how to be a real cop complete with real gun play and light profanity. Stallone’s comedic side along with his action prowess came through making this a truly enjoyable action comedy.
2. Assassins: - This 1995 action thriller produced by Richard Donner had Stallone co-starring with Antonio Banderas and Julianne Moore. Stallone played assassin Robert Rath, who wants to leave “the business” after being haunted by memories of killing his mentor, Nikolai, years earlier. Rath agrees to one last contract before he retires. Yet, a fellow assassin and psychopath, Miguel Bain (Banderas) gets to Rath’s mark first and is determined to be the #1 assassin, which to him means killing Rath. Rath’s contractor then gives him one more final assignment before agreeing to let him go, to kill a computer hacker named Electra (Moore,) but both Rath and Bain are contracted to kill her so a cat-and-mouse game develops as Rath befriends Electra and they work together to learn Rath’s contractor’s identity and to keep from getting killed by Bain. Stallone and Moore’s chemistry was captivating and Stallone and Banderas’ lethal rivalry was enthralling as moviegoers wondered who would come out alive.
1. Rocky: - There’s nothing like the original! This 1976 sports drama was the first in what would become a classic film franchise. Written and starring Stallone, it co-starred Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers and Burgess Meredith. Set in the 70s, Stallone played Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer in Philadelphia. Balboa gets a shot to fight the undefeated heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Weathers.) Meanwhile, Balboa develops a crush on Adrian (Shire,) the introverted clerk at a local pet store. He courts Adrian, making her more self-confident and they eventually begin dating, despite her obnoxious, verbally abusive and jealous brother, Paulie (Young.) Creed, who didn’t take the fight with Balboa seriously until he knocks him down, wins the fight, but Rocky professes his love for Adrian at the culmination of the match, not caring about its outcome. It was here that an ever-lasting romance was born and would endure for five more movies until Adrian’s death in 2006’s Rocky Balboa.