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Sylvester Stallone: His 5 Best Movie Performances

With the action thriller “Escape Plan” not even drawing double digit numbers at the box office in its theatrical release this past weekend, why don’t we remember the best of Sylvester Stallone’s finest performances.

5) F.I.S.T (1978)

Plot: Johnny Kovak (Sylvester Stallone), a Cleveland warehouse worker, is tired of the maltreatment of employees and leads a riot in order to reach a deal, but is fired instead. Because of his leadership skills Kovak is then offered a position in the Federation of Interstate Truckers (F.I.S.T.), a corrupt labor union in which he finds that he must sacrifice his values in order to move up.

Why you have to see it: In this film, Stallone’s performance is notable, but doesn’t overshadow some of the other of the stars in the cast like Melinda Dillon, David Huffman, Tony Lo Bianco, Kevin Conway and Peter Boyle. Stallone’s character is one of those you hate to love because he is a brute with a heart of gold. Kovak fights for his rights and that of his fellow workers, but stands as the representation of what an oppressed man will do to rise to the top. This film was inspired by The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and its former president Jimmy Hoffa, making this an American tale that many will recognize even today.

4) Nighthawks (1981)

Plot: Deke DaSilva (Sylvester Stallone) and Matthew Fox (Billy Dee Williams), two NYPD detectives, are assigned to an elite anti-terrorism squad dedicated to tracking down British terrorist Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer). In London, Wulfgar planted a bomb that killed many people including several children and is now being chased by police and fellow mobsters alike. After undergoing plastic surgery he flees to New York City where he resumes his terrorist activities.

Why you have to see it: This American-British-French film may be a quintessential thriller, but it surely packs a punch of excitement like no other. The combination of the action filled scenes like the subway chase, the drug bust and shootings along with Stallone and Hauer’s performances make for a suspenseful ride. In this cat and mouse chase Hauer gives a chilling performance of a criminal; and Stallone an unusual low-key, but effective performance of a tough and enraged cop. Another plus is that Stallone is dressed in drag in one of his missions, so you really can’t lose with this film. Overall this actioner is at times surprising and as a whole satisfying.

3) Rambo: First Blood (1982)

Plot: John Rambo (Stallone), a Vietnam veteran from the Army, travels to Hope, Washington in search of his friend and fellow unit member. He is spotted by sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy) who decides to kick him out of town, but Rambo makes his way back in and is then arrested. Once at the station he experiences abuse from the officers triggering flashback of the time he was a war prisoner. Soon enough Rambo snaps, overpowers the officers, escapes the building, makes his way into the woods armed to his teeth and ultimately ignites a war of hundreds against one.

Why you have to see it: “First Blood” is the first of the Rambo series and was co-written by Stallone, it has been referred to by many critics as the best film of 1982. It is raw, edgy and the essence of what action films should be. Stallone becomes everyone’s favorite heroic figure by being a skilled one-man war machine that becomes a rampage of destruction in the name of justice. His strong and commanding performance along with the jaw dropping and grueling stunts he pulls give zero doubt that he is the star of the film. His character of John Rambo was so well executed that even today, 31 years later, it is still being talked about.

2) Cop Land (1997)

Plot: Freddy Heflin (Sylvester Stallone), sheriff of what seems to be a calm New Jersey town, stands quiet as corrupt New York City cops dominate the place. Soon the corruption grows out of control and he must decide if he will keep being a bystander or risk his life to fight for justice.

Why you have to see it: In what is arguably the best performance in his career, Stallone brings his acting skills to an apex. He takes center stage because it is his through his eyes that we see a change in the plot going from Freddy not participating to being active. Although his character takes time to evolve, Stallone manages to shine even by the film’s more prominent stars like Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel. Here, Stallone returns to thoughtful, captivating and realistic acting.

1) Rocky (1976)

Plot: Rocky Balboa  (Stallone) is a kind, but poor and uneducated struggling boxer that works as a debt collector for a loan shark in Philadelphia. When a heavyweight star visits the city and wants to fight a “nobody,” Rocky sees this as his opportunity to make it big.

Why you have to see it: This three-time Academy Award winner is what made Stallone a household name. It may be the predictable underdog story, but Stallone’s performance brings this film to unpredictable heights. In his role he allows you to connect with him so intensely that you practically feel one with him. You feel the pain of his struggle and the joy of his achievements. What makes this film great is that there are no surprises, no magic wand; it’s just Rocky working his way up to become a champion, a true hero. There is no bigger inspiration than that.

Do you agree with our list? Let us know what you think of our choices in the comments below. 

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