Sylvester Stallone: All Films Considered

A rocky career for the Italian Stallion

Average Metascore 48
Films Starring Sylvester Stallone
Average User Score 6.9
Average Gross $49.7m
Highest-Grossing Film
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
Movie Quality Breakdown
# Great 0
# Good bar 3
# Mediocre bar 6
# Bad bar 4
# Awful 0
# Non-scored bar 21

All box office figures are U.S. only.
Data exclude minor roles.

For more than 30 years, Sylvester Stallone has been a Hollywood icon. Arriving as a star in 1976 with his breakout performance in Rocky, Stallone showed audiences that he could be tough, tender and believable as an underdog who makes his grab for greatness. Stallone was also responsible for writing the script to Rocky, showing Hollywood that he was a creative force, interested in telling stories both in front of and behind the camera.

Stallone's career continued to skyrocket though the ‘70s and early ‘80s with Rocky 2 and 3, Nighthawks, and most notably First Blood, the first in the successful Rambo franchise. But, while at his peak, Stallone tried to branch out from action adventure films by co-writing and directing the critical disaster Staying Alive, the unnecessary sequel to Saturday Night Fever. It was one of several mistakes in a career that has had many peaks and valleys.

While 1985 gave Stallone two big hits with Rambo First Blood Part 2 and Rocky IV, the rest of the ‘80s were a string of mostly forgettable generic movies. With commercial flops like Over the Top and critically dismissed (although commercially successful) movies like Cobra and Lock Up, Sly lost most of the acclaim Rocky and First Blood had given him.

After a brief comeback with Cliffhanger and Demolition Man, Stallone stumbled again with the box office failures Judge Dredd and Daylight. He regained some critical respect with Cop Land, but the movie was not a hit with audiences. Stallone closed out the ‘90s by winning the Razzie award for Worst Actor of the Century for "95% of everything he's ever done."

From 2000 through 2005, Stallone did little to change his career status with a series of unimpressive flops like Driven, Get Carter and D-Tox. Finally, in 2006, Stallone returned to the character that made him star and reminded everyone just how good he could be. Rocky Balboa (written and directed by Stallone) was a solid hit with critics and audiences.

And now Stallone is back in front of and behind the camera with The Expendables. Featuring an all star cast of badasses from the past (Dolph Lundgren) as well as some new blood (Jason Statham), The Expendables looks like a throwback to the fun action movies of the ‘80s. In many ways Stallone is still the underdog he first brought to life in the Rocky films all those years ago. We'll see Friday if he can win again.

Sylvester Stallone's 5 Best Movies (As Actor)
  Movie Year Netflix Metascore Users
1 Rocky 1976 n/a n/a
"Stallone is a totally engaging Rocky, playing him with a mixture of boyish intensity, lusty sensuality, and cheerful innocence."
-- Kathleen Carroll, New York Daily News

The one that started it all. Stallone wrote as well as starred as Rocky Balboa, the underdog to beat all underdogs, giving us a character that we can't help but root for, not just in the ring but also in his tender relationship with Adrian, a mousy girl who turns out to be everything he wants. The winner for best picture in 1976, Rocky went on to spawn five sequels and made Stallone a superstar.

  Budget: $1.1m U.S. Gross: $117m
2 Cop Land 1997 64 8.0
"Branching out in a bold new direction, Stallone is quietly devastating."
-- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Going the Robert DeNiro/Raging Bull route, Stallone packed on the pounds to play Freddy Heflin, a sheriff in a town populated by mostly corrupt cops. While he's once again playing the hero, this time Stallone is anything but the pumped-up, unstoppable badass; instead, he's vulnerable and completely outnumbered. In many ways, Stallone's character reflected his own career as he struggled to show everyone around him he could still do good. Critics recognized what Stallone was trying to do, but mainstream audiences did not.

  Budget: $15m U.S. Gross: $45m
3 Rocky Balboa 2006 63 8.7
"Even as Sylvester Stallone's long goodbye to the heroic underdog who made him famous descends from pathos into silliness, and from fairy tale into hallucination, you can't help liking the big galoot."
-- Andrew O'Hehir,

Even after 30 years and five films, Stallone manages to find a way to breathe new life into Rocky Balboa. Retired and a widower, Rocky finds himself back in the ring one last time, up against a young boxer with just as much to prove as Rocky does. Rocky Balboa was a surprise hit with both critics and audiences, with Stallone giving the character an effective and heartfelt closing chapter.

  Budget: $24m U.S. Gross: $70m
4 First Blood 1982 62 8.8
"Stallone ... invests an unlikely character with great authority."
-- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Stallone channels a deep inner rage as John Rambo, a soldier without a war, who's returned to a country that doesn't want him. While First Blood has many traditional action movie elements, Stallone makes us understand just how broken John Rambo really is. Easily the most complex of all the Rambo films, First Blood was a respectable hit that lead to an even bigger sequel.

  Budget: $15m U.S. Gross: $47m
5 Cliffhanger 1993 60 5.3
"Here, as in Rambo: First Blood Part II series, it's exhilarating to behold the speed and sheer balletic confidence with which Stallone swings his overly-muscled body around."
-- Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

As Gabe Walker, a character with a damaged past who has to rise to the occasion, Stallone shows that he can be more than just a one dimensional tough guy. Even though we already know he's going to win every fight, he makes us believe that he's really working for it. Solid direction from Renny Harlin along with John Lithgow's entertaining and over-the-top performance as the bad guy make Cliffhanger one of Stallone's few highlights from the '90s.

  Budget: $70m U.S. Gross: $84m
Sylvester Stallone's 5 Worst Movies (As Actor)
  Movie Year Netflix Metascore Users
1 Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! 1992 n/a n/a
"It is your worst nightmare."
-- Rita Kempley, Washington Post

Stallone recently admitted that he regretted doing movies like Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! because they ruined his career. And who can really argue with him? The tired cliché of the overprotective mother is mixed in with a standard cop action movie, and hilarity does not ensue. Another Razzie win for Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! is, as the actor himself acknowledges, the lowest point of Stallone's career.

  Budget: n/a U.S. Gross: $28m
2 Rhinestone 1984 n/a n/a
"There's a moment in 'Top Secret' in which the villains decide to torture their prisoner with Leroy Neiman paintings, then realize that this would violate the Geneva Convention. The authors doubtless hadn't seen Mr. Stallone in a spangled cowboy suit, trying to belt out something tuneful."
-- Janet Maslin, The New York Times

It's difficult to imagine who thought that a team-up between Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton would be a good idea, but Rhinestone was made anyway. Rehashing the My Fair Lady storyline in a country music setting, Rhinestone was failure on all fronts and garnered a singing Stallone his first Razzie nomination and win for worst actor (he has since been nominated for 29 Razzies and won 10).

  Budget: $28m U.S. Gross: $21m
3 Get Carter 2000 24 4.1
"The film itself is a muddle, all rapid-fire step-edits and grainy, blue-filtered hokum. What is good is Stallone."
-- Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle

The classic Michael Caine crime picture gets the watered-down, over-stylized treatment in this 1997 remake. When his brother is killed, mob enforcer Jack Carter (Stallone) comes back home to find out who did it and why. Blowing the chance to take an even harder edge than the original, Stallone seems to be doing little more than going through the motions as the film becomes another generic revenge piece.

  Budget: $64m U.S. Gross: $15m
4 Driven 2001 29 6.5
"Between Stallone's soap opera of a script and Renny Harlin's speed-obsessed visuals, we're never really shown much more than fast cars and obsessed drivers."
-- Sean Axmaker, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Re-teaming with Cliffhanger director Renny Harlin, Stallone rehashes his own Rocky V storyline and once again plays the mentor to the troubled up and coming young superstar. Opting for a racetrack instead of the ring did nothing to win audiences or critics over. Embarrassing CGI racing shots and car crashes, along with Burt Reynolds and Gina Gershon slumming their way through the movie, help make Driven utterly forgettable.

  Budget: $94m U.S. Gross: $33m
5 The Specialist 1994 n/a n/a
"With all the preening, posing and stretching, it's hard to know if 'The Specialist' is an action movie or an exercise video. Or a porn movie without the sex."
-- Hal Hinson, Washington Post

After the success of Cliffhanger and the fun of Demolition Man, Stallone sadly went back to making the same kind of disposable films he'd become known for in the late '80s. The actor sleepwalks his way through the part of explosives specialist Ray Quick, who teams up with May Munro (Sharon Stone) to help her take revenge against the people who killed her parents. Uninspired and lazy, The Specialist did win a Razzie for Stallone and Stone as Worst Screen Couple.

  Budget: $45m U.S. Gross: $57m

What do you think?

Which Stallone films are your favorites -- or least favorites? Let us know in the comments section below.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (33)

  • AB  

    "First changed moviemaking". I lol'd.

  • CJ  

    ?! Where's Over the Top and Tango & Cash... talk about classics!

  • Major Anatomy  

    Yeah, I liked Woods in The Specialist as well. And the John Barry music. My ultimate Stallone combo would be a Demolition Man/Judge Dredd doubleheader. Niether film was all that great, but they were fun and funny in the right places. And Dredd is proof that God does exist: no random universe would be capable of generating Armand Assante as Sly's brother Judge Rico. Holy Drokk!

  • Brandon  

    Hey, I liked The Specialist!...mostly because of James Woods.

  • blackmancer  

    @James - First Blood is such a good movie, you obviously never 'got' it. the whole buildup is about his monologue at the end, its the 'pointy' end of the movie really.

  • ben  

    Still, looking at the numbers.... GEEZUS! I had no idea Get Carter was such a Gigli status flop!

  • ben  

    Watching Rocky Balboa, and getting ready to see the Expendables, I'd honestly say he has a sense of humor about himself. "You're one crazy old man." "You'll get there." I like Stallone, and I love Rocky and First Blood. That man has made a whole lot of crap, and could've been in even more. (One exec suggested that he play Superman... "Yo Lois." But he's made it big with those two characters, and now the Expendables looks nothing short of badass (and is obviously capitalizing on the "expendable" B-movies that he and the cast have done).

  • James  

    Honestly, First Blood is a lot crappier than most people think. No one would seriously start torturing a war veteran because he drifted through a town; the entire point of capturing Rambo was because they wanted him to leave but he kept coming back, yet when he leaves town, they start up a huge manhunt anyway; the villain's motivation is never explained, he just keeps saying that he REALLY wants to catch Rambo. Rambo's character seems to have decent development, even if it does all come in his monologue at the end, the acting is decent, and the action's alright, but it's very overrated, at least among audiences.

  • ivan  

    dont forget OSCAR i really liked that film

  • Chris  

    Agree with Chad. JCVD is bloody brilliant, the best bilingual post-modern action comedy of all time methinks.

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