Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), a Philadelphia boxer, is but one step removed from total bum-hood. A once-promising pugilist, Rocky is now taking nickel-and-dime bouts and running strongarm errands for local loan sharks to survive. Even his supportive trainer, Mickey (Burgess Meredith), has given up on Rocky. All this changes thanks to Muhammad Ali-like super-boxer Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). With the Bicentennial celebration coming up, Creed must find a "Cinderella" opponent for the big July 4th bout -- some unknown whom Creed can "glorify" for a few minutes before knocking him cold. Rocky Balboa was not the only Cinderella involved here: writer/director Sylvester Stallone, himself a virtual unknown, managed to sell his Rocky script (one of 35 that he'd written over the years) on the proviso that he be given the starring role. Since the film was to be made on a shoestring and marketed on a low-level basis, the risk factor to United Artists was small. For Stallone, this was a make-or-break opportunity -- just like Rocky's million-to-one shot with Apollo Creed. Costing under a million dollars, Rocky managed to register with audiences everywhere, earning back 60 times its cost. The film won several Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
by Hal Erickson synopsis