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The Best and Worst films by Sylvester Stallone

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A couple weeks ago as I was compiling products for our new Sylvester Stallone t-shirt category a discussion (cough cough argument cough cough) arose as to which of this legendary Hollywood icons films were great and which were...well not great.  Stallone has always been very selective in his scripts and after doing some research (i.e. watching some classic movies) I couldn't really come up with more than four bad movies (kind of a record.  The same list from Nicholas Cage would fill the page top to bottom) and six really good ones.  

For the purposes of this list I am going to condense the franchises into one film essentially.  Comparing different Rocky films to see which one was best (after the first one of course) would be a huge waste of mental resources and honestly if we did that Rambo would show up on both lists.  I think we all know how this works.

Sylvester Stallone's Best 6 Movies

6.  Death Race 2000

I know I am indulging my geek side by even putting this film on this blog but honestly I loved this film.  David Carradine as the immortal Frankenstein and of course Sylvester Stallone rocking the house as cult classic bad boy Machine Gun Joe Virterbo.  Of course let's not forget Calamity Jane, Matilda the Hun, and Nero the Hero.  I think this movie deserves props just for the character names alone.  

You might think this film has never had any kind of influence on your life but in fact this was where the points system for driving down pedestrian was invented.  If you've ever sat in the car looking at a pedestrian crossing in front of you and said "2 points" to your buddy you are in fact quoting Death Race 2000.  For the record in the movie women in any age bracket are worth 10 points more than men (misogyny of the 70s), teenagers 40 points (anyone else remember Logan's Run?  Adults in the 70s did not like young people), children under 12 70 points, and anyone over 75 years 100 points (oh yeah they hated old people too).  

5.  The Expendables

The Expendables

Another one that is just fun.  Honestly as an action film this one wouldn't even make the top 20 of all time but if you just want to shut off your brain and enjoy some truly mindless violence without a plot or characters getting in your way this is the film for you.  Plus it has a truly huge list of iconic aging action stars: Dolph Lungren, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Arnold Swartzenegger, Bruce Willis, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Steve Austin, and of course Sylvester Stallone as team leader Barney Ross.  

I loved these films (honestly I thought the second one better than the first) but it always bugged me that for a team called the Expendables no one ever got expended (except of course for the token Red Shirt introduced for the sole purpose of getting killed).  

Of course this film not only starred Sylvester Stallone but was directed by him (for which he got a Golden Raspberry for Worst Director; I guess the Rocky lighting wasn't going to strike twice).  However it can truly be said that Sly is an actor, writer, and director. 

4.  The Demolition Man

Another movie that was kind of bad when it came out but now is freaking awesome.  Wesley Snipes was amazing as Simon Phoenix it it was nice to see a fish-out-of-water story where the fish is a giant shark and the rest of the characters are kind of terrified of him.  Of course who can forget the seashells scene?

Of course this movie came out at exactly the time I was madly in love with Sandra Bullock (now I'm just mostly in love with her.  25 years of rejection has unfortunately slightly lessened my ardor) so that helped a lot.  The only real issue I had was the short length of time (43 years) in which society went from mass gun violence to peaceniks who didn't even know hot to use a gun.  I'm pretty sure someone from 1973 would be not be completely out of place once he or she got some decent clothes and a haircut.  

Interestingly enough Jack Black and a minor role in this film.  Also interestingly the three seashells was inspired by actual seashells in a bathroom.  Truth is stranger than fiction.

3.  Cop Land

In my opinion his best acting role.  For once Stallone didn't play some testosterone super stud.  Instead he was a middle aged small town cop with a hearing disability in a town filled with the guys he normally plays in other movies.  He very accurately portrayed his characters anger, frustration, ambition, and ennui in a brilliant and original manner.  

This film was written and directed by James Mangold who also did Logan and Walk the Line.  Good director IMO.  Of course he also did the Wolverine but they can't all be winners.  

Sly gained 40 pounds to appear to be on out of shape sheriff.  That's dedication.  He gained the weight by eating nothing but giant pancakes from his local pancake house.  

One goof is that in New Jersey individual towns do not have sheriffs.  Only counties do.  

2.  Rambo

Rambo T-Shirts

Of course by this I really mean First Blood.  The rest of the Rambo movies are entertainment but honestly will never compare to the original with all the angst and PTSD.  The plight of the Vietnam veteran has only rarely been better portrayed.  

The monologue at the end of the film between John Rambo and Colonel Trautman is one of the greatest in my opinion.  On par with the Emilio Estevez confession in the Breakfast Club.  What is it about confession breakdowns that is so cool?  I guess you can really feel the pain.  

Unlike most of the rest of the Rambo films Rambo doesn't actually kill anyone in the film.  The only death is the rifle guy who fell from the helicopter when he was shooting at Rambo.  That could be considered killing but honestly it was the pilot who jerked.  Also he was shooting at an unarmed man from a helicopter.

1.  Rocky

Rocky T-Shirts

No surprises here.  The complete underdog story not only portrayed by Sylvester Stallone but also written by him. Who doesn't love the story of the greatest sports loss movie of all time (spoiler alert: Rocky Balboa loses the big match and the end).

Of course this film is really more a romance than anything else.  It's about Rocky and Adrian, not Rocky and Apollo Creed.   

The studio offered Stallone $340,000 for the screenplay so they could have James Caan or Burt Reynolds play Rocky.  Not a great move IMO.  He refused and was paid $20,000 for the script and $350 per week for the time spent filming.  I think United Artists got their moneys worth.  

If you actually clock the distance from point to point in Rocky's iconic run it goes 30.61 miles.  Iron man.  

Of course not everything Sylvester Stallone did was gold.  Sorry Sly but I have to list...

Sylvester Stallone's Worst 4 Movies

4.  Judge Dredd

Judge Dredd

Another personal choice.  This movie truly disappointed.  Not even Rob Schneider could save it although the argument could be fronted that Rob Schneider was part of the problem.  The fact is Judge Dredd is not a comedic comic book character and the movie really didn't need a comic relief.  Just look at the Karl Urban Dredd from a few years ago.  The only humor is dry and gallows.

The other issue with this film is Judge Dredd NEVER takes off his helmet.  He is supposed to be the faceless arm of the law (again a mistake not made in the recent Dredd).  I knew this film was in trouble as soon as Stallone took it off.  

Of course the laundry list is pretty extensive.  Bad story, bad dialogue, no Anderson.  Overall a huge meh.

3.  Over the Top

Does anyone beside me remember this film?  Does anyone really thing that arm wrestling is such a thing that an entire movie needed to be made for it?

Honestly I barely remember this other than it sucking.  Let's let it rest for now.

2.  Zookeeper

OK Sly didn't really act in this one and only did the voice over for Joe the Lion but this steaming pile of animal dung so left a bad taste in my mouth that I can't let a chance such as this retrospective to pass without adding my own dung to the pile.  

Of course this film came out at the time when I (and the rest of the world) was thoroughly sick of Kevin James and his bumbling incompetence yet still have the hot girlfriend/wife shtick.  

I am a fan of my own writing so I will just pull some quotes from the review I did back in 2011.


"...painful and truly hard to watch physical humor..."

"...dialog as bad as human language can get..."

"...Kevin James’s moon face was the most appealing thing in the movie and thus we are subjected to a lot of it..."

"...excruciatingly predicable..."

"...seemed to actually cause me physical pain..."

You get the point.

1.  Tango and Cash

Talk about a failure of epic proportions.  Think about it.  Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone are bad ass cops who play by their own rules.  The story almost writes itself.  You'd have to be incompetent as hell to fail with that and yet somehow the writer and director do.

Snake Plissken shirt

I don't want to say their names but five minutes research on IMDB will reveal that the collective filmography of the writer and director reads like the comprehensive list of crappy movies no one has ever seen.  It seems at some point you would want to gain some acclaim for a decent film (unless of course your name rhymes with Ficheal May) but I guess these guys are cool just cranking out garbage.

I have a hard time seeing what appealed to Sly when he read the script.  I do know that this film spent a long time in re-editing hell as the studio kept sniffing out a bomb.  36% on Rotten Tomatoes seems overly generous to me.  

Oh damn!  The great Jack Palance was in this bomb too.  I totally blocked that out.  Sorry you had to go into this stinker Jack.  

Well that's it.  All subject and my opinion of course.  Feel free to agree or disagree via customer service emails.  I will probably add your comments to this blog.  More of these celebrity categories will be coming soon so keep checking back!


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