Friday, February 1, 2013

Top 5 Films Featuring Sylvester Stallone

 Sylvester Stallone

This list is in no particular order. These are just some of my favorite films that Sylvester Stallone, the actor and one of the stars of the new film "Bullet to the Head" has been in over the years that I enjoyed either based solely on their performance or it was just a generally well made and enjoyable film that they happened to part of in a supporting capacity.

Out of all the action stars to come out of the 80's, Sylvester Stallone had the strangest career of them all. Going from being nominated for both writing and acting credits for his breakout hit "Rocky", to an all out action movie icon in "First Blood" and its many sequels, then trying his hand at comedy with such misfires as "Rhinestone" and "Stop! or my mom will shoot", overly sentimental dramas like "Over the Top", then having a mid-life career resurgence with "Cliffhanger" and "Demolition Man" and now in what seems to be his twilight years he has wrapped up both his signature franchises and has even started a brand new franchise with "The Expendables". It's more than evident that Stallone has made some questionable career choices over the years (he won the Razzie award for the worst actor of the century!), but there is no denying the impact he has had on the filmmaking world. He is a truly unique brand of action star, with writing, directing and of course acting credits to his name, and despite what you may think of him, he is without equal in the realm of Hollywood.

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"Rocky" was a monumental step forward for Sly. It cemented his place in Hollywood forever and despite being part of another high profile franchise years later, this is still the one character most associate with the fabled action star. Rocky, the character, was a perfect fit for Sly. He was an underdog, a lowlife in some respects but as his trainer Mic liked to point out, he had a lot of heart. Watching him train in the gutter of the world as his opponent, an over confident Apollo Creed plays celebrity and scoffs at the idea of this Italian Stallion ever dethroning him, you start to see that heart on display which results in one of the greatest underdog movies ever made. Even if Sly did ostensibly sell out later in his career, "Rocky" stands tall as that one solitary shred of proof that he is capable of much more than most give him credit for.


Although the character of John Rambo was somewhat transformed into this one man army killing machine with the subsequent sequels, this first film in the series (based off a novel) is in a league all its own. If you were to watch "First Blood" with no knowledge of its sequels and where the character eventually goes, there would be little doubt that most would find the film to be one of the most emotionally moving action films ever made. John Rambo used to be a very sympathetic character, even when taking out a posse of local law enforcement officers who hunt him down deep in the woods, its hard not to sympathize with the Vietnam vet who just wanted to grab a bite to eat in a town. As powerful as he was in "Rocky", you know you have a special sort of action movie when the finale doesn't conclude with a hail of gunfire and explosions, but instead with Sly giving one of his finest performances of his entire career during a heartfelt moment of reflection and regret. Even it's lesser more action based sequels can't detract from the quality of this landmark action film. 


Quite possibly one of the best action/comedies ever made. "Demolition Man" successfully took the over the top style action formula and mixed it with the strangest future society ever committed to screen which resulted in this bizarrely wonderful parody of big franchise food chains (Only Taco Bell survived the franchise wars!), fear of diseases (no physical contact during sex), no more foul language (you are charged for each swear word), a laughable prison system that tries to better its inmates through hypnosis (Stallone becomes a seamstress) and all within this framework of a world that has become an excruciatingly overly polite and cordial society ("You inspire Joy Joy feelings in all those around you!"). The only thing that tops this stupendously ridiculous future is watching Sly and a brilliantly cast Wesley Snipes as his nemesis, the deliciously evil Simon Phoenix, tear it apart in their epic struggle to kill each other. A pre-stardom Sandra Bullock even turns in one of her best performances of her career as the adrenaline fueled but oh so cute and naive partner. "Demolition Man" is that rare film that cobbles together a lot of radical ideas and genres and fuses them together to make an extraordinary experience that turned out better than it had any right to be and gave us the eternal question, how do you use those three sea shells?


There is always at least one guilty pleasure made by every actor and the buddy cop flick "Tango & Cash" is the most worthy of that title. Let's be honest here, this is not a good movie. At least not in the traditional sense of the word. It is good fun, but not good. Sly attempts to play against type as the business conscious L.A. detective Tango and Kurt Russell is type cast as his usual happy go lucky smart ass partner (of sorts) Cash. The fun of the film comes from its unabashed absurdity. It functions as more of a parody of the buddy cop formula than anything else, it has court scenes, prison scenes, interrogations, a geek who supplies them James Bond style gadgets and Jack Palance as the insanely over the top villain! You name it, this thing has it. and not once during its entire runtime does it every take itself seriously. With Kurt Russell dressing in drag, excessive and relentless action (a building blows up 4 times!), a super SUV from hell and of course Sly having more fun than ever, as long as all you are looking for is to have a good time, you just can't wrong with this relic of an era long gone. 


As far as straight up action movies go, this is the best Sly ever made. Actually, this is one of the best (and last) great action movies of its kind. What immediately stands out is how director Renny Harlin filmed most (not all) of the film on an actual mountain. The cinematography alone puts this one above most other action films and that opening scene is possibly one of the best opening moments of any film ever. It even has a brilliant trailer that all other trailer makers out there should take a note from. But this an action flick in the end and it delivers a constant stream of thrills that will leave you breathless by the time it is all over. While it can be boiled down to just "Die Hard on a mountain", its simple premise works well and the action scenes are without equal (that plane robbery is still impressive to this day). If there were one film on Sly's resume that would best represent his career as a whole, not exactly his best film per say, but more of an amalgamation of all his work, past,  present and future, it would have to be "Cliffhanger".



Anonymous said...

Incredible list, as a huge Sly fan, I feel that this list is fair and incredibly well put together, nice movies chosen as well.

Rocky and First Blood are incredibly brilliant, I just hope that more people would see the excellency in those two films.

Great job.

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