Screenplay 101: ROCKY

Where does a character gather the resilience and perseverance that will allow him to fight the odds and come out ahead at the conclusion of a story?  Well, in the case of ROCKY, written by Sylvester Stallone and number 78 on the WGA's list of the 101 all-time greatest screenplays, who knows? And more importantly, who cares? One reason why this film manages to end in such a high note at the end – despite the fact that Rocky doesn’t win the fight – is because for almost the entire film, Rocky gets dumped on, over and over and over. And that builds sympathy for him. Rocky has a terrible existence. He’s poor, nobody respects him, the aging gym trainer tells him he’s no good, and he gets called a bum multiple times. On top of all that, he really is too old to get taken seriously as a contender.

And yet, through all this, Rocky still manages to defy the odds. But he doesn’t do it in a determination no-holds-barred I’m-gonna-prove-it-type-to-them type of way (except in the scene included here, in which Rocky tells Adrian that fighting Apollo means he will be able to tell the world that he isn’t a bum). Instead, he does so with genuine optimism. His character simply bounces back from every insult and setback, period. And we’re not even sure why that is. We don’t know anything about his past or childhood that might give us an insight as to why he must succeed, except for that one photograph he looks at of himself as kid. He is simply a guy who just sort of seems to forge ahead no matter what comes at him. And in that sense, he is really a fresh protagonist.

Thou they're labeled individually with earlier dates, the pages here are from a January 7, 1976 draft.


Here’s the deal: Throughout 2014, we’re posting pages from every script on the WGA’s list of the 101 Greatest Screenplays, as chosen by Guild membership, because we have every one in our library. Sure, we have other scripts that didn’t make it onto the list, either because they didn’t make the cut or because they were produced after the list was generated (presumably SHARKNADO, which we totally have a copy of, is only in the latter category).