Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Top 5 Movie Guide: Sylvester Stallone

For the latest edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we head back to the 80's action well and take a peak and some of our favorite films from one of its most notable stars, Sylvester Stallone. Making his solo return to the acting stage for the first time since 2008's "Rambo", Stallone looks to kick the adrenalin up even more with "Bullet to the Head". And while Sly is one of the most recognized movie stars across the globe today, it took him a while to really get going. He started his career in a variety of bit film and television roles, most to poor reviews. His first real break, most would say, was as Machine Gun Joe in "Death Race 2000" (1975). But Stallone had bigger aspirations; he also was determined to make a name for himself as a screenwriter. And the following year, with a film inspired by a Muhammad Ali-Chuck Wepner fight in Cleveland, he did just that.


In 1976, "Rocky" hit theaters, and was an instant success. It was inundated with praise and awards, picking up ten Academy Award nominations and winning three, including that of Best Picture. After "Rocky", Stallone had made it. He spent the next few years working on some smaller films, but mostly focusing on two Rocky sequels. Both performed well at the box office and were generally accepted as successes. But in the early 1980's, Stallone decided to take a break from the iconic series to gear up for his next, the first film of which was titled "First Blood". The film and follow-up, "Rambo: First Blood Part
II", both did well with audiences but were criticized strongly for their still-fresh messages on the Vietnam War. But as the 80's wore on, and the Cold War was more prominent in everyone's mind, Stallone returned to the ring for "Rocky IV" to face-off against Soviet Ivan Drago.

Stallone followed the film up with a variety of other notable action films, some successful and some not so much, even eventually returning to both of his storied franchises many years later. On the opposite end, some of the notable lead roles in which Stallone has turned down over the years include those in films like "Superman" (1978), "Beverly Hills Cop" (1984), "Die Hard" (1988), "Pulp Fiction" (1994), and "Face/Off" (1997).

Love him or loathe him, Sylvester Stallone has built an enviable and highly respected career in Hollywood, and has considerably influenced modern popular culture through several of his iconic film characters. Hit the jump to see which films registered as some of our favorites!

Alex Schopp -
Plenty of great action films to choose from for this list. Stallone is easily one of the best action stars of all-time, and I love that he's kept at it for five decades.

     1. Rocky (1976)

I'm a sucker for sports movies, and along with a great soundtrack and some epic montages, this movie has more heart than you'll find in most sports films.
     2. First Blood (1982)
Pretty protocol in these first two picks, I know, but you have to give credit where credit is due. I remember first watching the First Blood movies with my dad when I was very young; nothing like sneaking in those graphic war movies while mom was out of town! While there are aspects of the sequel I enjoy possibly more, the overall grittiness and cinematography is really nice in this film.
     3. Rocky Balboa (2006)
I was trying to only put one Rocky movie on this list, but this film is just such a great final chapter to this series that I had to include it. I'm very foggy on any of the other middle films, but the first and last might be the best book ends of any 5+ movie series ever!
     4. Tango & Cash (1989)
Yep, I would like an epic 80's team-up starring two of the greatest "dude characters" of all-time. The 80's buddy cop/opposite personality partner template might be one of my favorite formulas in film.
     5. Cop Land (1997)
There are a lot of other solid films you could slot here, but I'm going to give 90's Stallone some recognition. I love this entire cast, and the era and grittiness of the film is very much to my liking. A solid cop drama that I don't think really got the attention it deserved.

Ben Foutch -
It hurt to leave some films off the list, but that's the nature of a Top 5. Hopefully the other guys pick up the ones that fell through the cracks.

     1. First Blood (1982)
I only wanted one Rambo film on the list and this one beat out "Rambo" (2008).
     2. Death Race 2000 (1975)
This is trash cinema at its finest. I watch it once or twice a year and it still makes me laugh.
     3. Cobra (1986)
Oh man this is so cheesy. It's just fantastic.
     4. Rocky IV (1985)
Same as with Rambo, I only wanted one Rocky on here. This one beat the first installment for its pure 80's flair.
     5. Tango & Cash (1989)
A Stallone and Russell team-up. If you haven't seen this yet, what have you been waiting for?

Derek Clem -
Unfortunately a few duds exists in his two main franchises, making it impossible for me to list the franchise as a collective whole. This is a major disappointment for me, as I had to leave off such wonderful titles as "Cop Land" and "Demolition Man".

     1. Rocky (1976)
This barely qualifies as a boxing movie. It's more of a love story. Stallone really shows off his Brando-esque acting ability in this film. "Rocky" may have the greatest third act of all time. I take absolutely no umbrage in this movie winning Best Picture over "Network".
     2. First Blood (1982)
Again we see Stallone's acting chops shine through as a broken Vietnam Veteran.
     3. Rocky III (1982)
This is when the Rocky franchise started to get a little goofy, and you know what? I'm okay with that. He fights Hulk Hogan AND Mr. T in this movie! What more could you want!?
     4. Rocky Balboa (2006)
The Rocky franchise leaves kitsch behind and returns to form. A dramatic and warm conclusion to a series of films that ran the gamut in style and tone. It serves as a perfect end cap to the tales of everyone's favorite boxer. The nice thing is, if you watch this on DVD/Blu-ray, you can watch a more pleasing yet illogical alternate ending.
     5. Rambo (2008)
Another perfect conclusion to a franchise that had its ups and downs. The nice thing about this movie is that it doesn't sacrifice action or emotion for the other. We get them both. The film could have used some better actors, but overall I think the movie serves the John Rambo character well.

Nathan Hinds -
The toughest part about this list is not writing a novel about how much I love Stallone. Stallone is the last titan of the action genre's finest generation, and the man is still going strong today. Yeah, Arnold is making his comeback, but it's definitely Stallone who has kept the type of action movies we loved so much in the 80's and 90's alive. I truly believe Stallone is one of the best actors ever. People really don't appreciate how good of an actor this guy really is just because he has a weird accent.

     1. The Rocky Anthology (1976 - 2006)
I can't do it, I just can't narrow it down to one. I love all of these movies and they all have something unique and great to offer. Behind The Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter films, the Rocky films are my favorite movies. If you want the Rocky film with the most watchability, you'll wanna check out "Rocky IV". It's got montages out the ass, and who doesn't love a good montage? I know I do. It is also my favorite soundtrack of all time, and you'd better believe that includes the Russian National Anthem, that thing is epic sounding. Plus, I dare anyone to watch those movies and not get an urge to go out and fight someone after you're done.
     2. First Blood (1982)
Here it is folks, the greatest action icon/dude character of all time. I like all of the Rambo films, but this one is on another level than the three sequels - although the fourth film is also awesome. I'm looking forward to this series' future installments.
     3. Tango & Cash (1989)
The best action icon team-up we ever got before The Expendables films happened. I really do love this movie, but mainly this movie just makes me sad that Stallone and Schwarzenegger never teamed up in their prime.
     4. Demolition Man (1993)
This movie is pure fun. Plus it will be nice to see Snipes get back into a relevant movie when he joins the next Expendables film. Also, Sandra Bullock has never looked better than she does in this film.
     5. Cliffhanger (1993)
This is great example of knowing your strengths and playing to them accordingly. There isn't anything amazing happening with the script but the film definitely makes sure to nail the action sequences.

Andy Schopp -

     1. Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

     2. Rocky (1976)

     3. Demolition Man (1993)

     4. The Expendables 2 (2012)

     5. Tango & Cash (1989)



There we have it, folks. A great variety of films this week, as the fifteen different selections should be something of or near a record for the filmmaker series of these lists. A few titles did manage to rise above the rest, though from this filmography, most of all of them were fairly expected. Officially, while no film appeared on all five lists, a couple of franchises as a whole managed the feat. Both the Rocky and Rambo series managed at least five picks, though it was Rocky with a total eight that really stole the show. Nathan featured the entire series in one pick (taking that easy way out), while every other writer featured at least one individual Rocky title on their list (Derek had three!). As no real surprise, "Rocky", the 1975 Best Picture winner, made the most appearances with three. "Rocky Balboa" was the only other Rocky film with multiple selections, grabbing two. The Rambo series was similar, in that at least one film from the series appeared on each list, earning six of the above picks in total. "First Blood" led the way with four, while "Rambo: First Blood: Part 2" and "Rambo" (2008) both hit once more. Together, these two franchises accounted for 14 of the 25 picks (56%). Also worth note, it was a film from each of these franchises that landed the top spot on each list. "Rocky" had the most number-one selections with two.

Otherwise, a couple of other films still made their presence know. "Tango & Cash" actually appeared on four of the five lists, officially tied with "First Blood" as the leading vote-getters this week. "Demolition Man" rounded out the field, hitting on two separate lists.

A pretty great list this week as we saw not only an overwhelming appreciation for two of the better actions franchises of all-time, but in the "filler" picks there was also a really great overall variety presented as well. Definitely a lot to dig into this week if you're not quite up to par on your Sylvester Stallone flicks!

Feel free to pair this list with our previous Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis lists to gear up for "The Expendables 3" next year! And I guess Nic Cage should probably be thrown into the mix now too then, right?

As always, we hope that each of these selections helps you to expand your knowledge and appreciation of some of the best films that Sylvester Stallone has provided over the years, and guides you to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!