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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Sylvester Stallone Movies

‘The Expendables 3’ may have bombed, but doesn’t mean people still don’t have love for ‘Rocky,’ ‘Cobra’ and ‘Over the Top’

Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone in 'Rambo.'

TriStar Pictures

The Expendables 3 may have been a box office disappointment, but don't think that's going to slow down Sylvester Stallone. He's been seen as a has-been countless times during his career, only to bounce back bigger than ever. This is a man that willed six separate Rocky movies into existence, and he's currently plugging away at Rambo 5. He doesn't know the meaning of the word "over." We asked our readers to select their favorite Sly movies. Here are the results. 



Sylvester Stallone's status as one of Hollywood's most bankable stars was coming to an end by the time that Cliffhanger came around in 1993. It's the tale of a mountain climber haunted by the death of his friend in a climb. He's persuaded to scale the same mountain to rescue a stranded party, only to find himself in the middle of a desperate search for $100 million lost during a botched heist. Near the end, he gets into a fight with a fairly vicious John Lithgow. It grossed $255 million, but the clock was ticking on these sort of movies. 



During that brief period between Rocky II and Rocky III, Sylvester Stallone played an elite New York City police officer forced to battle an international terrorist that arrives in the city with dastardly intentions. Billy Dee Williams, fresh off Empire Strikes Back, plays his partner. This is probably Stallone's best movie where he has a beard, discounting certain parts of Rocky IV. 



Stallone was originally supposed to star in Beverly Hills Cop, but he wanted to drastically change the script and make it a traditional action movie without any of the comedy. The studio wisely nixed his plan and brought in Eddie Murphy. A few years later, Stallone got the chance to make the movie he envisioned with Cobra.  It's a no-nonsense flick about a cop in Los Angeles who battles an evil cult. It's loosely based on the Paula Gosling novel Fair Game, which was turned into an ill-fated Cindy Crawford movie about a decade later. The less said about that the better, but notice just notice how there hasn't been any Cindy Crawford movies since that one. 


‘The Lords of Flatbush’

Nostalgia for the 1950s was big business in the Seventies. Released near the height of the Watergate scandal, The Lords of Flatbush brought viewers back to the (seemingly) more innocent era of 1958 Brooklyn. It's the story of four greasers that get into mischief around the city. Sly's character marries his girlfriend after she lies and tells him she's pregnant. It wasn't quite as big a hit as American Graffiti from the previous year, but it did put Henry Winkler in a leather jacket shortly before he was cast on Happy Days. 


‘Demolition Man’

Demolition Man paints a very bizarre picture of life in 2032. It's a time where virtually all crime has been wiped out, radio stations play nothing but old TV commercials jingles, swearing is illegal, poor people live underground and eat rat cheeseburgers and Arnold Schwarzenegger is president. That's all fine and dandy until a blond super criminal played by Wesley Snipes is unfrozen. He unleashes a terrible crime wave on the city, and a cop from the 20th century (played by Stallone) is unfrozen to battle him. It's even more ridiculous than it sounds, but it made $160 million. 


‘Rocky IV’

It's hard to argue that Rocky IV is the best movie of the series, but it's definitely the most re-watchable. We don't know if it's Paulie's frighteningly intelligent robot, Dolph Lundgren's ice cold portrayal of Russian boxer Ivan Drago, the amazing James Brown musical number, the awesome training montage in Russia or the overall wackiness of the whole thing, but Rocky IV is just as fun the 50th time you watch it as the first, even if its hard to watch Apollo Creed die over and over. It was just an exhibition match. Why did Drago have to hit so hard? 


‘Over the Top’

Say what you will about Stallone's 1987 movie Over the Top, but it is definitely the greatest motion picture ever created about the bare-knuckle world of arm wrestling. Nothing even comes close. Stallone plays a truck driver in the film that enters a Las Vegas arm wrestling contest to win $100,000, and the respect of his estranged son. Disco legend Giorgio Moroder created the soundtrack, which makes the movie all the more incredible. 


‘Cop Land’

Stallone's career hit some serious roadblocks in the mid-1990s. The Specialist, Judge Dredd, Assassins and Daylight were all debacles, and studios suddenly stopped bankrolling his signature big-budget action movies. Instead of fighting gravity, he took a role in this smaller picture about a sheriff in a corrupt New Jersey town alongside Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta and Harvey Keitel. Stallone gained weight for the movie, and showed he could do more than flex his biceps and blow about bad guys with a bazooka. His career would fall deeper into oblivion over the next few years, and Cop Land remains one of his great great movies from the low point of his post-fame career. 


‘First Blood’

There weren't many Sylvester Stallone movies in the 1980s that critics loved, but was impossible to hate on First Blood. Our hero plays John Rambo, an extremely bitter Vietnam veteran that battles a sheriff (and the entire police department) of a small town in Washington state. Needless to say, they picked the wrong guy to fuck with. It was a chance for Stallone to show his acting chops, even if the series got increasingly cartoonish as the years went by. He's working on a fifth chapter in the series right now. He'll be about 70 when it comes out. 



What other movie could have possibly topped this list? No matter how many films Stallone makes during the rest of his career, he'll always been seen as Rocky Balboa. Stallone wrote the screenplay for the original movie when he was still a struggling actor. The studio loved the script, but they wanted a big name like Robert Redford or James Caan to take the lead role. Stallone stuck to his guns and wouldn't let them make it without him in the lead role. It was a ballsy move, but it paid off in huge ways. The movie was an enormous hit and won Best Picture at the Oscars. There's been talk of a quasi-sequel where Rocky returns to train Apollo Creed's grandson, but its unclear whether or not that project is moving forward.