AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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Rocky
Director: John G. Avildsen (Dir)
Release Date:   3 Dec 1976
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 21 Nov 1976; Los Angeles opening: 1 Dec 1976
Production Date:   9 Jan--early Mar 1976
Duration (in mins):   119-121
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Cast:   Sylvester Stallone (Rocky [Balboa])  
    Talia Shire (Adrian [Pennino])  
    Burt Young (Paulie [Pennino])  
    Carl Weathers (Apollo [Creed])  
    Burgess Meredith (Mickey [Goldmill])  
    Thayer David ([Miles] Jergens)  
    Joe Spinell ([Tony] Gazzo)  
    Jimmy Gambina (Mike)  
    Bill Baldwin (Fight announcer)  
    Al Salvani (Cut man)  
    George Memmoli (Ice rink attendant)  
    Jodi Letizia (Marie)  
    Diana Lewis (TV commentator)  
    George O'Hanlon (TV commentator)  
    Larry Carroll (TV interviewer)  
    Stan Shaw (Dipper)  
    Don Sherman (Bartender)  
    Billy Sands (Club fight announcer)  
    Pedro Lovell (Club fighter)  
    DeForest Covan (Apollo's corner)  
    Simmy Bow (Club corner man)  
    Tony Burton (Apollo's trainer)  
    Hank Rolike (Apollo corner man)  
    Shirley O'Hara (Secretary)  
    Kathleen Parker (Paulie's date)  
    Frank Stallone (Timekeeper)  
    Lloyd Kaufman (Drunk)  
    Jane Marla Robbins (Owner of pet shop)  
    Jack Hollander (Fats)  
    Joe Sorbello (Bodyguard)  
    Christopher Avildsen (Chiptooth)  
    Frankie Van (Club fight referee)  
    Lou Fillipo (Championship fight announcer)  
    Paris Eagle (Fighter)  
  Streetcorner singers: Frank Stallone, Jr.    
    Robert L. Tangrea    
    Peter Glassberg    
    William E. Ring    
    Joseph C. Giambelluc    
  Special guest appearance by: Joe Frazier    
    Arnold Johnson    
    Butkus Stallone (Dog)  
    Stu Nahan (Fight commentator)  
    Lavelle Roby (Mrs. Creed)  
    Michael Dorn (Creed's bodyguard)  

Summary: In late November, 1975, Rocky Balboa, a sweet, garrulous, slightly over-the-hill boxer, wins his latest match with more fury than talent. Although he is well-known and well-liked in his South Philadelphia neighborhood, back in his dingy apartment, he has only his turtles to whom he can report his triumph. He then visits the local pet store in the hope of winning over the painfully shy clerk, Adrian Pennino, but she barely responds to his efforts. During his day job Rocky works as a collector for local loan shark Tony Gazzo, but when he cannot bring himself to break the thumb of one debtor, Rocky earns Gazzo’s displeasure. Demoralized, Rocky turns to the one place at which he feels at home, the gym, but there discovers that his manager, Mickey Goldmill, has given his locker to a new contender. When Rocky confronts Mickey, the 76-year-old former bantamweight states that although Rocky has heart, he fights “like an ape” and should quit before he loses his one distinction, his unbroken nose. After once again getting nowhere with Adrian, Rocky visits her brother, meat packer Paulie Pennino, to ask why she disdains him. Paulie declares Adrian a “loser,” a spinster at almost thirty, but invites Rocky to Thanksgiving dinner with them the following night. Meanwhile, reigning heavyweight champion Apollo Creed learns that his next opponent, set to fight him in five weeks’ time, is injured and no worthy contender can be arranged. Creed, a colorful attention-seeker, despairs of losing the media coverage and decides to launch an exhibition fight with a Philadelphia unknown on New Year’s Day, the first day of the country’s bicentennial. Declaring that Americans will love the idea of an underdog ostensibly being given his big chance, he thumbs through a list of local boxers and pinpoints Rocky, whose self-appointed nickname is "The Italian Stallion," as an interesting ethnic counterpoint. At the same time, Rocky prepares for his first “date” with Adrian, but upon entering Paulie’s house, realizes that Adrian is unaware of the set-up. Embarrassed, she declares herself unready for guests, prompting Paulie to explode in anger and throw her turkey dinner into the alleyway. Although she locks herself in the bedroom in response, Rocky urges her to come out and takes her to a closed ice skating rink, which he convinces the manager to open briefly. As Adrian skates, Rocky trots alongside her, explaining that he never succeeded as a boxer because he is a left-handed hitter. When he confesses that his father told him he had no brains so had better work with his body, Adrian reveals that her mother told her to develop her brains, as she did not have a good body. Walking to his apartment, he asserts that their weaknesses—his dim-wittedness and her timidity—make them perfect partners. At his stoop, she tries to leave but he charms her into staying, then once inside soothes her skittishness and gently initiates a passionate embrace. The next day, Rocky learns from Mickey that Creed’s promoter, Miles Jergens, wants to meet with him, and both assume Creed is looking for a sparring partner. When Mickey insults him, Rocky demands an explanation, and Mickey spits out his disgust that Rocky failed to live up to his early promise as a fighter and instead became “a leg-breaker.” At Jergens’ office, Rocky is stunned to learn that he is being offered a chance at the heavyweight championship but quietly turns down the opportunity, knowing he has no possibility of winning. However, Jergens convinces him that he cannot pass up the chance of a lifetime, and soon after the bout is announced on television. Watching the broadcast later, Paulie points out to Rocky that the commentators were mocking him, and although Rocky professes not to care, he later admits his distress to Adrian. He plans to train alone, and when Mickey visits to plead to be his manager, Rocky brushes off the old man’s desperate self-marketing, declaring that he needed a manager ten years ago when he still had a future. Mickey, for whom Rocky’s fight represents his last stab at success, shuffles out in defeat, but outside stops to listen as Rocky explodes in anger, shouting that this lucky break has come too late for him and he is sure to be beaten badly. Minutes later, however, Rocky chases after Mickey and hires him. Rocky immediately begins a self-imposed, grueling training schedule, running through the city at four a.m. On his first day, he ascends the steep, stone stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and is exhausted by the time he reaches the top. He stops by Paulie’s meat-packing plant, where Paulie, as is customary, pesters him for a job with Gazzo. When Paulie then questions angrily whether or not Rocky has slept with Adrian, Rocky pushes him away, punching a frozen carcass until his fists bleed. Later, a reinvigorated Mickey trains Rocky enthusiastically, and despite agreeing to the trainer’s demand that he swear off women during training, Rocky spends more and more time with Adrian. After weeks of Rocky’s training regimen, which now includes daily workouts punching the frozen meat, a drunken Paulie arranges a television interview in the meat locker. Although Creed, busy preparing his media exposure, ignores the broadcast, his trainer is impressed by Rocky’s tenacity. Afterward, Paulie overhears Rocky complaining to Adrian about him, and threatening them both with a bat, raves that he failed to marry in order to take care of Adrian. With sudden vitriol, she screams that she owes him nothing and no longer wants to feel like a loser, and after Paulie collapses in drunken exhaustion, Adrian and Rocky agree that she will move in with him. Each day, Rocky runs through the neighborhood, receiving the well-wishes of the locals. Finally, after weeks of exertion, he is able to run up the museum steps with ease, and at the top throws up his hands in triumph. His status as the underdog contender has earned him national attention and affection, but on the night before the fight, Rocky visits the empty arena and realizes anew that there is no way he can win. At home, he tells Adrian that it does not matter if he loses, but if he can just last all fifteen rounds, as no one ever has against Creed, he will know for the first time that he is more than “just another bum from the neighborhood.” On the day of the fight, as the arena fills, Rocky prays, then banters with Adrian. As he enters the ring, the announcers report that some have called the bout “the caveman vs. the cavalier,” and that the Las Vegas odds assume that Rocky will be knocked out within three rounds. Next, with supreme fanfare, Creed, throwing money to the crowd, enters the arena, costumed as George Washington on a boat. The fight begins, with Rocky’s friends watching eagerly on the local tavern television. Creed, overconfident, is far quicker than Rocky and jabs at him tauntingly, but when Rocky lands an unexpected strong hit, felling Creed for the first time ever, the champion returns with renewed vigilance. He begins to pummel Rocky, and when Rocky manages to back Creed up against the ropes, Creed breaks his nose. During the ensuing bout, Rocky takes a tremendous beating but continually rebounds to land a few hard punches. Fourteen rounds later, both are still fighting with equal commitment and have suffered multiple injuries. Exhausted, Rocky keeps struggling to his feet, even as the commentators wonder what could possibly be keeping him up, and Mickey demands that he give up. Finally, Rocky slams Creed in the ribs, causing internal bleeding. In their respective corners, Rocky demands that his cut man slice his eye with a razor to drain it of blood, while Creed orders his trainer to let the fight continue. The fifteen rounds finally draw to a close and the crowd roars its approval. As the reporters swarm him with questions, Rocky bats them away and shouts Adrian’s name. She runs toward him, slowed by the crowd, as the announcer proclaims that the fight has ended in a split decision. When Adrian finally reaches Rocky, she falls into his arms. Flush with his own personal victory and barely even registering that the fight has been called for Creed, Rocky declares his love for her. 

Production Company: Chartoff-Winkler Productions, Inc.  
Production Text: A Robert Chartoff-Irwin Winkler Production; A John G. Avildsen Film
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp. (Transamerica Corp.)
Director: John G. Avildsen (Dir)
  Fred Gallo (1st asst dir)
  Steve Perry (2d asst dir)
Producer: Irwin Winkler (Prod)
  Robert Chartoff (Prod)
  Gene Kirkwood (Exec prod)
Writer: Sylvester Stallone (Wrt)
Photography: James Crabe (Dir of photog)
  Garrett Brown (Spec cam eff)
  Jack Willoughby (Cam op)
  Dick Edessa (1st asst cam)
  Ross Maehl (Elec gaffer)
  Gene Kearney (Key grip)
  Elliott Marks (Still photog)
  F&B/Ceco (Photog equipment by)
Art Direction: James H. Spencer (Art dir)
  Bill Cassidy (Prod des)
  David Nichols (Visual consultant)
Film Editor: Richard Halsey (Ed)
  Scott Conrad (Film ed)
  Geoffrey Rowland (Asst film ed)
  Janice Hampton (Asst film ed)
Set Decoration: Raymond Molyneaux (Set dec)
  Mike Miner (Props)
Costumes: Joanne Hutchinson (Cost supv)
  Robert Cambel (Cost)
Music: Bill Conti (Mus)
  Joseph Tuley Jr. (Mus ed)
Sound: John Farrell (Looping ed)
  Ray Alba (Post-prod sd)
  Burt Schoenfeld (Post-prod sd)
  B. Eugene Ashbrook (Sd mixer)
  Harry W. Tetrick (Sd)
  Bud Alper (Sd)
Special Effects: MGM (Titles and opticals by)
Make Up: Mike Westmore (Makeup created by)
Production Misc: Hal Polaire (Exec in charge of prod)
  Ted Swanson (Prod mgr)
  Caro Jones (Casting)
  Lloyd Kaufman (Pre-prod supv)
  Joan Arnold (Prod secy)
  Marge Rowland (Loc auditor)
  Dale Benson (Loc mgr)
  Bonnie Prendergast (Scr supv)
  Joe Letizia (Philadelphia liaison)
  Sylvester Stallone (Boxing choreographer)
  Jimmy Gambina (Tech adv)
  Mike Grover (Transportation capt)
  David Kramer (Pub)
  Janet Crosby (Asst to the prod)
  Gloria Gonzales (Asst to the prod)
  Carol Rosenstein (Asst to the dir)
Stand In: Jim Nickerson (Stunt coord)
MPAA Rating: PG
Country: United States
Language: English
Series: Rocky

Music:
Songs:
Composer: Carol Connors
  Bill Conti
  Ayn Robbins
  Frank Stallone, Jr.
Source Text: "Take Me Back," music and lyrics by Frank Stallone, Jr., performed by Valentine; "Rocky's Theme" and "Gonna Fly," music by Bill Conti, lyrics by Carol Connors and Ayn Robbins, sung by De Etta Little and Nelson Pigford.

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
United Artists Corp. 1/11/1976 dd/mm/yyyy LP47252

PCA NO: 24646
Physical Properties: Sd:
  col: Technicolor
  Lenses/Prints: DeLuxe

 
Genre: Drama
  Drama
Sub-Genre: Boxing
  with songs
 
Subjects (Major): Boxers
  Boxing
  Romance
  Shyness
 
Subjects (Minor): African Americans
  American Revolution Bicentennial, 1776--1976
  Boxing trainers
  Brothers
  Dogs
  Drunkenness
  Friendship
  Gymnasiums
  Ice skaters and ice skating
  Italian Americans
  Left- and right-handedness
  Loan sharks
  Loneliness
  Meatpackers and meatpacking
  Pet shops
  Philadelphia (PA)
  Publicity stunts
  Reporters
  Self-confidence
  Television
  Thanksgiving Day
  Turtles
  Urban life
  Wounds and injuries

Note: The film opens as the name “ROCKY” pans across the screen, filling the frame. A title card then appears, reading "November 25, 1975, Philadelphia." Before the opening cast and crew credits appear, there is a brief sequence in which "Rocky Balboa" (Sylvester Stallone) is losing a small arena fight until he suddenly unleashes furious punches against his opponent and wins the match. The credits roll as Rocky is walking home through the streets of Philadelphia.
       According to a Nov 1976 interview with Stallone in NYT , the 1975 championship fight between Chuck Wepner and then reigning World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali inspired him to write the Rocky screenplay. Stallone noted that as he watched the fight, he thought about "stifled ambition and broken dreams." After ruminating for several months, Stallone wrote a rough first draft of the screenplay in three and a half days. This was followed by two other drafts. Stallone, whose only leading role before Rocky was in the 1974 low-budget film The Lords of Flatbush , was determined to play the title role.
       According to a Nov 1976 LAHExam news item, although United Artists and several other companies were interested in the script, offering Stallone up to $275,000 for the rights, Stallone refused to sell unless he could play the lead. In a Nov 1996 LAT article, producer Irwin Winkler recalled that he and his producing partner, Robert Chartoff, tried to convince UA to allow Stallone to star in the picture, but the company insisted that either Ryan O’Neal, James Caan or Burt Reynolds be given the role. An Apr 2001 Var news item added that Robert Redford was also considered for the part. A Nov 1979 NYT article reported that Bette Midler was offered the role of "Adrian," but turned it down.
       According to a Jan 2006 LAT news item, Los Angeles sportscaster and actor Gil Stratton, who was initially to play the "fight commentator," instead took the role of a television reporter, but his scene was cut from the final film. Stallone’s brother, Frank Stallone, Jr., appeared in the film, as did his father, Frank, Sr. Although HR production charts add George Jordan, Jack Gregory, Ben Freeman, Ronald McQueen and Dick Lane to the cast, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Modern sources add the following to the cast: Bobby Cassidy, Robert Leh, Frank Pesce and director John G. Avildsen.
       In the LAT interview, Winkler said that in order to make the film with Stallone, he and Chartoff, who at the time had an exclusive producing deal at UA, then decided to exercise a provision in their contract allowing them to make any movie of their choice costing up to $1,500,000. UA then proposed a $2,000,000 budget for the film, which would allow the company to circumvent the producers’ deal and consequently make the film with a star of its own choosing. In a heated meeting with Mike Medavoy, at the time the head of production at UA, Winkler and Chartoff agreed to make the picture for $1,000,000, while also guaranteeing its completion, thus assuring their complete control over the project. An Oct 1976 article in Women’s Wear Daily added that Stallone was awarded one percent of the gross for writing the film and two percent of the gross for acting in it.
       In a Mar 1977 NYT profile of director Avildsen, he explained that he was hired to direct Rocky because he had a good record for keeping low-budget films on track, agreed to the producers’ stipulations that Stallone star in the picture, and would hold the picture’s budget at $1,000,000. According to the NYT article and to a 1976 article about Avildsen in HR , the director was given a twenty-eight day production schedule. HR production charts and other sources reported that production began on 9 Jan 1976 and the picture remained on HR production charts until 5 Mar 1976. In order to adhere to the schedule, Avildsen staged numerous rehearsals and choreographed many of the scenes. During the four weeks before the start of principal photography, Stallone and Carl Weathers, who played "Apollo Creed," a character loosely based on Ali, rehearsed the final fight while Avildsen shot Super 8 footage of them so that they could see their weak points. A Mar 1977 LAT article noted that to prepare for his role in Rocky , Stallone trained with Jimmy Gambina every day for about five months before shooting the picture. To economize, according to the NYT article, Avildsen asked Stallone to change a scene in the original screenplay in which Rocky takes Adrian to a busy skating rink. To avoid spending money to hire the extras required for the scene, Avildsen decided that the skating rink would be closed, thus eliminating the need for extras, and creating one of the film's most memorable scenes.
       Garrett Brown, who is credited with special camera effects for Rocky , employed one of the first feature-film-length uses of Steadicam, a stabilization equipment system that allows a photographer to walk around while using a hand-held movie or video camera. Studio publicity material contained in the film’s production file at the AMPAS Library added that the Steadicam was hand-carried during the film’s climactic boxing sequence filmed at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. According to an Apr 1977 NYT article, Brown was granted a patent for the Steadicam process in 1977.
       In the original ending of Rocky , the boxing arena is empty when Rocky walks out. After receiving a word of consolation from a fellow fighter, Rocky takes Adrian’s hand and the two walk down the hallway together. According to an interview with Rocky 's editor, Richard Halsey, in the Sep 1977 issue of Millimeter magazine, after filming was completed, it was decided that the ending was too downbeat and needed to be reshot. To save money, Avildsen filmed the revised finale, in which Rocky yells for Adrian to join him in the ring, in close shots, with just a few extras around them.
       "Gonna Fly," more popularly referred to as "Gonna Fly Now," the Rocky theme composed by Bill Conti, not only occupied the number one spot in Billboard magazine charts, but has been recorded by many artists, including Maynard Ferguson, James Darren, Steve Lawrence and Shirley Bassey. In an undated HR article, Conti said that he used trumpets in the film’s opening sequences to get the audience’s attention and that the fight scenes were scored like a "Bachian" fugue. A Mar 1977 article in Soundtrack magazine noted that lyricists Ayn Robbins and Carol Connors were unknown at the time Conti commissioned them to write the song's lyrics. Before production was to begin, however, UA decided to use its own staff songwriters to write the lyrics. Conti interceded by suggesting that all the names be removed from the music submitted for the film so that the producers could listen impartially and pick the best. Connors and Robbins won the competition, and subsequently "Gonna Fly" won an ASCAP award and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song. Since Rocky 's release, "Gonna Fly" has been used as a theme for many sports and inspirational events.
       Once Rocky was completed, UA launched an extensive publicity campaign to promote the film, including key art featuring Rocky partially wrapped in an American flag, as he appears at the end of the fight with Creed. A 16 Nov 1976 DV article noted that " Rocky has virtually been declared a film classic even though it is still several days from opening." According to the article, a highly orchestrated campaign had assured that articles would be placed in prominent magazines depicting the film as a "Cinderella story" by emphasizing Stallone’s refusal to sell the script, despite lucrative offers, unless he could play the lead. In the article, the film’s executive producer, Gene Kirkwood, noted that sneak preview screenings were for "the right people," such as "one well-known Hollywood gray eminence [ SatRev critic Arthur Knight] who saw it without the final fight sequence but became a valuable public relations asset by calling the picture 'the sleeper of the year' in front of numerous lecture audiences."
       After Rocky was screened for the staff of New West magazine, the resultant cover story sung its praises, assuring that the article would then be picked up by the magazine’s sister publication New York . Kirkwood also noted that Rocky was perceived as a "Frank Capra-type tale." The Var reviewer commented on the underdog theme of Rocky , noting that "the very best way to enjoy [the film] was to simply relax and roll with the Walter Mitty…notion that the least of us still stands a chance of making it big." An opposite view was expressed by Vincent Canby in his NYT review, which described Rocky as an "absurdly oversold…sentimental little slum movie."
       The picture went on to become a huge hit, becoming the second highest-grossing film of 1977 (after Star Wars ), and by Dec 2006, according to a HR article, had grossed $225,000,000 worldwide and over $117,000,000 domestically. Rocky attained such acclaim that according to a Sep 2006 LAT article, in 1982, when Stallone donated a life-size statue of Rocky Balboa to the city of Philadelphia, where most of the film was shot, the statue was placed on a site near the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the steps Rocky ran up while in training, one of the film’s most iconographic scenes. The steps became a popular tourist attraction for Rocky fans, many of whom would run to the top to imitate the boxer’s triumphant pose.
       In 2007 Rocky was ranked 57th on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving up from the 78th position it occupied on AFI's 1997 list. In addition, the film ranked 4th in 2006 on AFI's 100 Years--100 Cheers list; the character of Rocky was ranked 7th on AFI’s 100 Heroes and Villains list and Rocky’s memorable "Yo, Adrian!" line was included on AFI's 100 Years--100 Quotes list.
       Rocky , which at the time of its release was considered a longshot to win any Academy Awards, won for Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Picture, and was nominated in the following categories: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Stallone), Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Stallone), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Burgess Meredith and Burt Young), Best Actress in Leading Role (Talia Shire), Best Sound and Best Song. Rocky garnered the following Golden Globe nominations: Best Motion Picture Actor-Drama, Best Motion Picture Actress-Drama, Best Director, Best Original Score and Best Screenplay. The picture also won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, and was awarded a Golden Globe by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for Best Motion Picture-Drama. Stallone was nominated for the Writers Guild Award for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen, and Shire won the New York Critics' and National Board of Review's awards for Best Supporting Actress.
       Following Rocky ’s release, several lawsuits were filed against the film. In an undated HR news item, local attorneys Herb Dowdell and Howard Rosoff, who owned twenty-five percent of the New Picture Co., filed a $19,000,000 lawsuit against Kirkwood, on the grounds that producers Chartoff and Winkler contracted with New Picture Co. and not Kirkwood for their services on the picture. In response, Kirkwood claimed that in 1972, Dowdell, the founder of New Picture, gave the firm to him in exchange for twenty percent of the company’s stock, and that the company was defunct when he took it over. The outcome of that suit is unknown.
       In 1977, John Roach and Ron Suppa, producers of Force Ten Productions, filed at $30,000,000 suit against Winkler and Chartoff, according to an Apr 1977 HR news item. The suit charged that Force Ten owned exclusive options with Stallone to write and star in a film titled Hell’s Kitchen , which the company claimed was based on a theme about a "club prize fighter who would build a reputation…until a climactic fight which he would lose." Force Ten charged that Rocky was an outgrowth of Hell’s Kitchen , which had a working title of Paradise Alley . An Apr 1977 DV article noted that despite the suit, Universal decided to finance Hell’s Kitchen , which was released in 1978 as Paradise Alley .
       According to a Nov 2003 HR news item, in 2003, former heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner sued Stallone for a share of the profits from the Rocky movies, claiming that the first in the series was based on Wepner’s life. In 2006, according to a LAT news item, Wepner settled the suit for an undisclosed amount. In the wake of Rocky ’s success, A Party at Kitty and Stud’s , a soft-core porn film in which Stallone appeared in 1970, was released on videocassette under the title The Italian Stallion and promoted as "Sylvester Stallone Star of Rocky Goes X Rated." A 21 Jun 1977 Var article quoted Stallone as saying that, to his knowledge, the film was never released theatrically, and he deplored the video release's exploitation of him and Rocky .
       Rocky spawned five sequels, even though, at the end of Rocky , Creed and Rocky agree not to have a re-match: Rocky II (1979) (in which Rocky defeats Apollo), Rocky III (1982) and Rocky IV (1985); all were directed and written by Stallone and featured the principal cast from Rocky . Rocky V , written by Stallone and directed by Avildsen, eliminated the character of Apollo, who died in Rocky IV , and added Sage Stallone, the son of Sylvester Stallone, as Rocky’s son "Rocky, Jr." In Rocky Balboa (2006) written by Stallone and directed by Avildsen, Adrian has died, making Rocky a widower. 

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Display Movie Summary
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