Sylvester Stallone Doesn't Consider The Rocky Movies Sports Films

The American Film Institute (AFI) named "Rocky" the second best sports movie of all time, second only to another classic boxing drama, Martin Scorsese's "Raging Bull." For its Top 10 list, the AFI defined "sports" as "a genre of films with protagonists who play athletics or other games of competition."

"Rocky" fits that definition, but screenwriter and star Sylvester Stallone still wouldn't call it a sports movie. Stallone recently posted a video to his official Instagram account about the making of "Rocky 4," the one where Rocky squares off against the Soviet fighter, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lungdren). The video begins with Stallone saying, "To this day, I just cannot describe what 'Rocky' is. And maybe that's the beauty of it, that it just touches on a level that even I don't understand."

After that, however, it becomes clear that while Stallone can't say what "Rocky" is, he can say what it isn't. And it isn't a sports film, in his view. He says:

"A lot of the Rocky's I tried to make dramatic, like Rocky 1, Rocky 2, the last Rocky Balboa. Creed. There's a lot of drama in there, yes, but it's not a sports film. It's a drama. It's a drama."

In the video, the voice of director John Hertzfeld chimes in from behind the camera, asking his friend Stallone, "So you don't consider any of the Rocky's sports films?" Stallone doubles down and says, "Not even close."

The Game of Life

The genre labels that we apply to movies are just convenient ways of classifying them, and at a certain point, it doesn't really matter if you want to call "Die Hard" a Christmas movie or "Halloween" a coming-of-age movie. It's not even a stretch, really, to call "Rocky" a drama. I would call it a sports drama and call it a day.

If you listen to what Stallone says, he's talking about "bruised knees and sore knuckles," the battles a boxer faces, as a metaphor for the life challenges we all must overcome. It's not so different from that locker-room speech in "Any Given Sunday," where Al Pacino equates football with the game of life.

The AFI ranked "Rocky" number four on its "100 Years...100 Cheers" list of inspirational movies. Stallone's original 1976 film, directed by John G. Avildsen (who also helmed "The Karate Kid") beat out Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" for Best Picture at the Oscars. It's the very definition of a crowd-pleaser.

"Rocky" turned 45 this year, and perhaps the secret to what makes it so inspiring is how the story has a broader application to people's lives, even those of filmgoers who aren't sports fans. It finds universality in the specific. When Rocky runs up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, he's each and every one of us, confronting our own challenges in the game of life.