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8 Reasons Sylvester Stallone Could and Should Win an Oscar For ‘Creed’

8 Reasons Sylvester Stallone Could and Should Win an Oscar For 'Creed'

In 1977, “Rocky” won Best Picture. The rousing and romantic boxing drama took home two more trophies, as well: One for director John G. Avildsen and the other for film editing. While very much a presence at the ceremony, the writer, lead actor, original creator and face of the franchise, Sylvester Stallone, went home empty-handed, if undoubtedly excited about the picture’s overall performance. He’d been nominated for Best Writing (as it was called back in the day) and Best Actor, but lost out to the talents behind “Network” for both. With a career that took him to the top of Hollywood’s blockbuster peaks, nothing Stallone made after “Rocky” generated much Oscar buzz. 

Until now.

Creed” landed this Thanksgiving week on a wave of rapturous reviews, with much respect being paid to director Ryan Coogler — who somehow crafted a film structurally similar to the “Rocky” films yet wholly its own artful interpretation — and star Michael B. Jordan, delivering another powerful, emotional turn with his “Fruitvale Station” director at the helm. Yet Stallone’s name immediately came up — and not just because everyone loves Rocky. Serving the franchise for the first time as an actor only, the man who created the iconic character dug deeper than ever before to deliver a moving, poignant and downright imperative performance as Rocky Balboa. That character work could pay off come January when the Oscar nominations are announced. Here’s how.

READ MORE: Review: ‘Creed’ is a Rocky Revival Worth Rooting For

1. That Scene

For anyone who hasn’t made it to “Creed” yet, please do yourself a favor and head to your local cineplex right now. …okay. Back? Good. Now you know exactly what scene we’re referring to above. After Rocky collapses while sparring with Adonis (Jordan), he’s in and out of the hospital faster than you can say, “We’ve got training to do,” but it’s not the sight of the heavyweight champ in a hospital gown that grabs you. It’s when he’s called back to learn his diagnosis and upon hearing the word “cancer,” a wave of memories flood his face. “My wife tried that,” Rocky says when told it’s time to start chemotherapy, and with those words a million men, women and grown children wept.

This is one of a handful of scenes requiring Stallone to really dig deep — to find that “stuff in the basement” — but it’s in that repeated line, when you see so much history shoot across Stallone’s face, that his purest moment is found. It’s a truly significant scene for the film — as Adonis’ love for Rocky helps him not only become a better fighter, but more importantly, to find his own “stuff” and come to terms with it in the ring — but it’s also bigger than “Creed.” Stallone’s intimate confrontation with death changes Rocky and “Rocky” forever by allowing Adrian and Rocky’s love story to live on in “Creed.” Stallone, who obviously created these two characters so long ago, finds the passion they shared once more, for the betterment of both the past and the present.

2. The Body Language

In many ways, it makes sense that an actor known for rough and tumble action flicks would be a master of movement — just look at Tom Cruise’s impeccable body control for Example A — but Stallone does more than make his physicality work for him. Take the scene following what’s discussed above, when Rocky makes his way back to the gym and cinematographer Maryse Alberti tracks him walking from ringside to the locker room and back. Near the end of the shot, Stallone briefly looks like his mind is elsewhere, grappling with the weighty news just given to him. But before that you can see it in his gait, his hands and his eyes. Something’s different. Something’s changed. It’s not the casual, light plodding Rocky usually strolls around with, but a heavy, burdened and false congeniality. Stallone’s voice conveys as much too, but it would be a mistake to overlook the awareness within his physical performance.

3. The Story

Much has been made about how Stallone’s personal story parallels that of his character — a no-name given an improbable chance makes the most of it — but that thinking also applied to the ’77 Oscars. No one really thought “Rocky” was going to win. I mean, it was going up against “All the President’s Men,” “Network” and “Taxi Driver.” Who would pick the little movie that could to take down top tier films from established legends in the biz? But it did. Now, no one was talking about “Creed,” let alone Stallone being part of the Oscar race before it was screened. Yet here we are, with Stallone once again hanging around as an underdog, trying to win his first Oscar for not just reprising but revitalizing the role he earned his one and only acting nomination for 38 years prior. That’s quite a story; one many Academy voters might want to see come true.

4. The Other Story

Let’s not forget Sly was once a big shot Hollywood A-lister. After some creative and personal setbacks, Stallone fell so far from that mountaintop he was doing straight-to-video work before VOD (back when “video” was a very dirty word). He’s built himself back up, maybe not to the “Cliffhanger”-status he once enjoyed, but certainly to the point where his movies are being released on the big screen. That, in and of itself, is another underdog story that could appeal to the Hollywood elite specifically. If Warner Bros. chooses to fully back Stallone — as they should, rather than the solid but less appealing Supporting Actor contender Joel Edgerton in “Black Mass” — it would be easy for the marketing machine to remind voters how Stallone fought his way back to prominence: Via Rocky or, more specifically, “Rocky Balboa.” Stallone’s gone on record saying getting the sixth “Rocky” film made was harder than the first, but the effort helped him and the film become better than any preceding sequel — and it reminded people of their love for the Rock as well as the man who played him. Now he’s back (for the final time?), so why not reward this humbled superstar?

5. The Shift in Character

With the possible exception of “Rocky IV” (which was a fairly straight action yarn) and “Rocky V” (which we can all agree to collectively ignore), Rocky has always been on an ever-changing character. He took perhaps his biggest steps forward in “Rocky Balboa,” adapting to a new fighting style, coping with loss and accepting the limitations of age (even as he rebelled against them). But “Creed” brought on even more unfamiliarity to a very familiar character, starting with the obvious — he doesn’t fight, nor is there even a hint that he might fight — and ending on the existential. Rocky deals with death on dual fronts in “Creed,” as he makes decisions about his own fate while being haunted by the ghosts of his past. Stallone approaches the material with proper gravity. His voice cracks and his chest heaves as he tries to control his emotions in a tense conflict with Adonis, and earlier we saw Rocky fall for the first time “without getting hit.” This is a new form of “Rocky” — one tailor-made for this film and fully embodied by Stallone.

6. The Heart

“Rocky” movies have always been about overcoming insurmountable odds with one thing and one thing only: Heart. Okay, hard work, determination, family and a few others fall in there, too, but they all relate back to what’s beating inside your chest, and the Rocky in “Creed” showed more heart than ever before. Connecting with the bastard son of his best friend; fighting his own fight; finding new meaning in life during his twilight years; all of these are huge — and new — challenges for the character, but Rocky handled them all with a smile. He’s an extraordinarily likable character, from his off-beat jokes to his general, widely-applied kindness. On the artistic side of things, one could say Stallone covered a wide range of emotions with stately grace. On the human side, voters might just like Rocky and Stallone or Stallone as Rocky enough to check the box next to his name. (Both, for the record, are good reasons to do just that.)

7. The Unofficial Lifetime Achievement Award

Like it or not, the Academy gives these out from time to time. Winners are crowned based on more than just their eligible work, but for a lifetime of good credit. Yet almost a decade after Martin Scorsese took home his first, long overdue Oscar, is anyone upset about it? If anything, “The Departed” has only gained admiration since it won Best Director and Picture in 2006. There are other examples for the other side, but the point is sometimes this is okay. Sometimes it’s all right to hand over a trophy to someone respected within the industry, adored by fans and deserving that very year. Sylvester Stallone meets all these requirements, especially when remembering he’s a director, writer and producer in addition to being a movie star. Why not reward two improbable underdog stories by awarding one worthy man? 

8. That Other Scene

No. 1 on this list may have been Stallone’s Oscar scene, but no moment in “Creed” drew bigger smiles than when Rocky woke Adonis for his first day of training with an incomparably adorable dance routine. Rocky has a history of cute moments, and this one certainly ranks near the top. Call it heart, call it charm, call it whatever you want — if he gives us a little spin before collecting his Oscar, the whole damn theater would come down.

READ MORE: The Evolving Style of Sylvester Stallone, the Director

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lisa pryce

Thank you for this excellent article. I have been a Sly fan for 35 years I have a deep love and admiration for Rocky Balboa as a character..Sly’s humble, beautiful and quiet portrayal of this beloved character going through his twilight years deserves the Oscar no question asked!

Mark Hood

I think that Stallone should have won numerous golden globe awards for his films Rocky movies, Rambo movies and a lot more. He has wrote and directed and stared in more movies than any other actor/writer…

Peter Mandzych

This is the most introspective Rocky performance Sly has ever given or will ever see on film. Sly should not put Rocky to rest for all of us to guess whatever happened to Rocky Balboa after this film. If this the last Rocky movie than Stallone ended this series with the Rock on top. His performance was deeply moving.

Peter Mandzych

When Sly plays the Rocky role in proper form and context…it is simply magic !! I fell in love with Rocky Balboa all over again ! To see him win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor this year would be not only the pinnacle in Stallone’s life it would be a wonderful moment for me and all that adore this character. This is not only Stallone’s best Rocky performance…this might be his best acting performance period. GOOD LUCK SLY AND THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART !!!!

Adil Khan

To Sly, Creed has to be what "Scent of a Woman" was for Al Pacino. It’s intended as Oscar winning material. Whether it does or not would depend on the competition. Although the makers missed a trick, by not exploring the motivations of Rocky and Creed in helping each other by helping themselves especially when the former had to decide whether to seek treatment for cancer. A little more focus and exploration would have added more depth.


This is the first Rocky movie i have seen. As someone new to the "Rocky" scene. I can say that although Stallone was not the main character in this movie he was the character that made this movie outstanding. I didn’t know he had so much talent. I will certainly watch the other Rocky films now. Stallone is definitely oscar worthy for this film, anything less would be unsubstantiated.

Gary Collins

Stallone should win best supporting actor, not for his resume and quality of work past, but doe his performance…period!

Nicholas Gonzalez

Well written! Absolutely give him the Oscar! It is time!

Tracee Loran

Great article, Ben. Whenever someone asks me what my favorite movie is I do NOT hesitate to say ROCKY. I get the side-eye from many folks until I break it down. And when I’m finished with my pitch (memorable characters, acting, dual underdog story—both Sly and Rocky, amazing writing, etc. etc.) I’ve usually won some folks over. I have been counting down to the "Creed" premiere for what seems like months. It did not disappoint! Smart writing, great nods to the original, incredible acting by Sly and Michael B., funny moments, poignant…INCREDIBLE. And guess what I’m watching right now? You guessed it – ROCKY! And since I have the box set I just might make it a marathon night. :-)


Rocky was a new thing, a big big drama, starring a flesh and blood man. In a sense it was and is a revolutionary movie. In what respect is Creed a big movie?


SO happy to see the love Stallone is getting.


Sorry…had more to say but needed a tissue as I was brought to tears again while writing…..ACADEMY AWARD, OSCAR, etc…this takes them all!!!!!! Haven’t been to a movie since the last Rocky where the audience became interactive as if we were all at ringside ! :)


Absolutely amazing!!!! I wasn’t expecting as much as I got! I found myself crying every few scenes whether it was the words spoken from the characters or the emotional facial expressions on their faces. Right from the start Adonis stole my heart…that kid always fighting to stay alive. It’s a cliche as to Rocky always fighting in the ring to stay alive. This movie seems to be another beginning to the end of Rocky…which as a 43 year old upsets me to no end because I grew up with Rocky, my hero and as I grow older Rocky’s legend seems to have come to an end…DON’T MISS THIS MOVIE!!!!!

Adrian dalton

Here in the UK the film hasn’t been released yet so I can’t comment but to say I cannot wait to see my favorite character and role model one more time in Creed. On the subject of Rocky V It holds up ok if it were a stand alone film but when brought in comparison with the other films it pales quite significantly. It felt to me like more of a parody, the characters being more caricatures of themselves. Theres a definately shortfall of creativity and desire from Sly here such scenes with mickey in the gym where he gives a speech to Rocky during a memory scene could be taken as quite stirring if the dialogue were not a word for word copy of what cus d amato said to mike Tyson before his death. The character of George Washington duke is so contrived and over the top it’s hard to take serious and the whole film loses credibility due to it. My wife was made to sit through the Rocky films at my request stroke demand and she fell in love with them with no I’m put from me the rocky characters and world touched another person but when we got to number 5 she said this isn’t like the others it’s depressing the heart and spirit of the others isn’t there it’s not very pleasant to watch after the first 4 and this coming from an outsider who’s just walked into this world. Rocky IV gets flack for its MTV style over substance approach but if you think about the rocky films as not a group of movies but moments in the lives of these characters then yes as a heavyweight champ there will be moments where everything has to be about one oponent and one fight and everything else becomes a secondary consideration, when viewed like that it works.


100% agree that this was an incredible performance by Stallone that is definitely Oscar-worthy. It was simply extraordinary – Staloone’s best-ever performance that is up there with the best supporting performances in film history. I hope the Academy does not ignore him.


I agree with Ted that Rocky V was a good movie. Lets not forget who and what rocky was and still is down inside. A street brawler. As for Creed, WOW. Amazing writing. How a movie from the 70’s was translated to a new generation, while (1)translating the movie with out sacraficing the heart and soul AND (2) including the principal character to the current status of his life. Having been a fan since the beginning, my only point of contention was, what happened to little marie? Here i thought rocky found someone for his golden years and suddenly??????. At the very least, they could have mentioned that she left or some sort of an explanation. The storyline was so well crafted that this could have been included. but alas, rocky survives , for CREED 2??!!!

Adam Stone

Sly will always remain the one star who wrote his first big break through and not only that, getting lots or Oscar awards for that, his heart brought him to the places he deserved to be in in the first place, thx Sly for the motivation you have no idea how you changed millions of lives …including mine


I actually said last night after screening it that if the Academy does the RIGHT thing they will not only nominate Jordan for Best Actor & CREED for Best Picture but that after THAT performance they MUST nominate sly for Best Supporting!!! If they do not, there are A LOT of Rocky fans & new CREED fans that will be completely finished with awards season!!

Ted Johnson

I do NOT ignore "Rocky V" and I refuse to be grouped in as such. Until "Rocky Balboa" came along, "Rocky V" was the one in tone that was most like the first film– it was about characters, not boxing. Rocky being poor and not fighting in the ring does not make it a bad movie. At least it IS a movie; "Rocky IV" is just 8 music videos with some dialogue thrown in every so often.

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