The Right Stuff

  • Directors: Philip Kaufman
  • Producers: Irwin Winkler
  • Writers: Philip Kaufman, Tom Wolfe
  • Genres: Adventure, Drama, History
  • Actors: Fred Ward, Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Sam Shepard, Barbara Hershey, Lance Henriksen, Veronica Cartwright, Jane Dornacker

Muroc Army Air Field in 1947 sets the scene for the start of the movie. This dusty, arid air force base is where high-speed aircraft are being tested in secret including the rocket-powered X-1, poised to fly at supersonic speeds. When a number of test pilots have died in the attempt to break the so-called “sound barrier,” the base liaison officer, war hero Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) is offered the chance to fly the X-1. While on a horseback romp with his wife Glennis (Barbara Hershey) through the underbrush surrounding the base, Yeager collides with a tree branch and suffers a couple of broken ribs. Refusing to admit defeat, he triumphs (with the aid of a sawed-off broom handle) in flying the X-1 faster than the speed of sound, beating the “demon in the sky.”

The film travels forward to 1953, where Edwards Air Force Base (renamed for one of the test pilots killed at the base) remains the place to be for the “prime” pilots with Yeager engaged in a contest with test pilot Scott Crossfield (Scott Wilson).[1] Crossfield and Yeager were fierce but friendly rivals for speed and altitude records. Edwards is both a very different place and yet remains the same with the celebrated Happy Bottom Riding Club run by Pancho Barnes (Kim Stanley) still the gathering place for those with the “right stuff.” New pilots such as Gordon “Gordo” Cooper (Dennis Quaid) and Virgil “Gus” Grissom (Fred Ward) are part of a constant stream of “pudknockers” as Barnes characterizes them. Cooper’s wife, Trudy (Pamela Reed) questions the need for pushing dangerous boundaries to the limit, but is resigned to the fact that her husband like all the others, is driven by ambition as well as chasing fame. Other wives that share similar feelings have to learn to suppress their fears. By that time, the press are a familiar part of the background, recognized as the key to ensuring that essential funding never dries up.

The films concludes with Cooper’s successful launch in May 1963 – the last in which an American flew alone into space.

Rocky III

  • Directors: Sylvester Stallone
  • Producers: Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler
  • Writers: Sylvester Stallone
  • Genres: Action, Sport
  • Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Mr T, Tony Burton

Rocky III begins with the ending of the 15th round of the rematch between Rocky and Apollo Creed, with Rocky Balboa becoming the new heavyweight champion of the world. This is followed by an opening montage of scenes that explain what happened in the time between Rocky II and Rocky III. In the five years since winning the heavyweight title from Apollo, Rocky has a string of 10 successful title defenses. As his winning streak grows, so does his fame, wealth and celebrity, and soon Rocky is seen everywhere, from magazine covers to TV show guest star appearances. Rocky is also heavily merchandised, sponsoring varied products and services. At the same time, a ferocious new boxer named James “Clubber” Lang (Mr. T) is climbing the ranks, rapidly becoming the number one contender for Rocky’s title.

Rocky’s brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young) has grown jealous of Rocky’s accomplishments. After a night of heavy drinking, Paulie stumbles into a video arcade, destroys a ROCKY pinball machine in a rage and is arrested. Rocky bails him out of jail and, on the way to Rocky’s car to ride home, Paulie begins berating Rocky for forgetting him on his climb to the top. Paulie swallows his pride and asks Rocky for a job, which Rocky grants him.

Soon afterwards, Rocky and Apollo return to Mickey’s gym, with Apollo revealing the price of his training: a third fight with Rocky. However, this time it would only be a sparring match between two new friends, which Rocky accepts.

Rocky IV

  • Directors: Sylvester Stallone
  • Producers: Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler
  • Writers: Sylvester Stallone
  • Genres: Action, Sport
  • Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Tony Burton, Brigitte Nielsen, Dolph Lundgren

The story opens with “Eye of the Tiger” during the climax of Rocky Balboa’s rematch against Clubber Lang, where Rocky defeated Lang with a KO in the third round to regain his title. The picture then fades and we see Apollo Creed presenting his favor to Rocky shortly after the Lang fight for helping him train. Meanwhile, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), a highly intimidating 6´5ft, 260 pound Soviet boxer, arrives in America with his wife Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen), an Olympic gold medal swimmer, his manager, Nicolai Koloff (Michael Pataki), and a team of trainers headed by grizzled Russian coach Igor Rimsky (George Rogan), and the Cuban Manuel Vega (James “Cannonball” Green) to challenge the best American fighters. His manager takes great pride in showing off the hi-tech equipment which aids in improving Drago’s performance. As a demonstration, Drago throws punches at a machine that measures the hit’s strength, exceeding 1800 psi per punch.

Motivated by patriotism and a desire to prove himself, Apollo is desperate to step back into the ring in an exhibition bout against Drago. Rocky has reservations, but comes round to supporting his friend by helping to train him for the fight. Apollo sets the match between himself and Drago in Las Vegas. With Rocky in his corner, Apollo flamboyantly makes an even bigger show than when he first fought Rocky – including fireworks and a patriotic theme. Starting the fight in his trademark manner, Drago manages to catch him off-guard quickly and batters Apollo with a series of devasting punches. At the break, Rocky pleads with Apollo to quit the fight, but Apollo is determined to finish, which only leads to tragedy when he collapses and dies in Rocky’s arms from Drago’s continuous blows.

In the final round of the fight, Rocky and Drago trade punch after punch. Eventually, Balboa manages to overcome Drago knocking him out, to the shock of Soviet premier (who strongly resembles the then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev) and his aides who have no option but to applaud Rocky for fear of backlash. Following his victory, Rocky gives an impassioned speech to the crowd, acknowledging their initial and mutual disdain for each other, and how they’ve come to respect and admire each other during the fight.

Rocky

  • Directors: John G Avildsen
  • Producers: Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler
  • Writers: Sylvester Stallone
  • Genres: Action, Sport
  • Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith

In November, 1975, Rocky Balboa is introduced as a small-time boxer and collector for Gazzo (Joe Spinell), a loan shark. The WBA World Heavyweight Championship bout is scheduled for New Year’s Day, 1976, the year of the United States Bicentennial. When the opponent of undefeated heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) is injured, Creed comes up with the idea of fighting a local Philadelphia underdog and, because he likes Rocky’s nickname, “The Italian Stallion,” he selects the unknown fighter. He puts it in light by proclaiming “Apollo Creed meets ‘The Italian Stallion.’

To prepare for the fight, Rocky trains with 1920s-era ex-bantamweight fighter Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith), while Rocky’s good friend, Paulie (Burt Young), a meat-packing plant worker, lets him practice his punches on the carcasses hanging in the freezers. During training, Rocky dates Paulie’s quiet sister, Adrian (Talia Shire). The night before the fight, Rocky confides in Adrian that he does not expect to beat Creed, and that all he wants is to go the distance with Creed (which no fighter has ever done), meaning that lasting 15 rounds (the typical scheduled length of championship fights at the time) against him would mean he “… wasn’t just another bum from the neighborhood.”

Creed does not initially take the fight seriously, but Rocky unexpectedly knocks him down in the first round and the match turns intense. The fight indeed lasts 15 rounds with each fighter suffering many injuries. After the fight, Rocky calls out for Adrian, who runs down to the ring. As the ring announcer declares the fight for Apollo Creed by virtue of a split decision, Adrian and Rocky embrace while they profess their love to one another, not caring about the results of the fight.

Raging Bull

  • Directors: Martin Scorsese
  • Producers: Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler
  • Writers: Book, Jake LaMotta, Joseph Carter, Peter Savage, Screenplay, Paul Schrader, Mardik Martin
  • Genres: Biography, Drama, Sport
  • Actors: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty

Beginning in 1964, where an older and fatter Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro) practices his stand-up comic routine, a flashback shifts to his boxing career in 1941 against his opponent, Jimmy Reeves, in the infamous Cleveland bout. Losing the fight by a fixed result causes a fight to break out at the end of the match.[1] His brother Joey LaMotta (Joe Pesci) is not only a sparring partner to him but also responsible for organizing his fights. Joey discusses a potential shot for the title with one of his mob connections, Salvy Batts (Frank Vincent), on the way to his brother’s house in their neighborhood in the Bronx. When they are finally settled in the house, Jake admits that he does not have much faith in his own abilities.[1] Accompanied by his brother to the local open-air swimming pool, a restless Jake spots a 15-year-old girl named Vickie at the edge of the pool (Cathy Moriarty). Although he has to be reminded by his brother he is already married, the opportunity to invite her out for the day very soon comes true when Joey gives in.[1]

Jake has two fights with Sugar Ray Robinson, set two years apart, and Jake loses the second when the judges rule in favor of Sugar Ray because he was leaving the sport temporarily for US ARMY conscription.[1] This does not deter Jake from winning six straight fights, but as his fears grow about his wife, Vickie, having feelings for other men, particularly Tony Janiro, the opponent for his forthcoming fight, he is keen enough to show off his sexual jealously when he beats him in front of the local Mob boss, Tommy Como (Nicholas Colosanto) and Vickie.[1] The recent triumph over Janiro is touted as a major boost for the belt as Joey discusses this with journalists, though Joey is briefly distracted by seeing Vickie approach a table with Salvy and his crew. Joey has a word with Vickie, who says she is giving up on his brother. Blaming Salvy, Joey viciously attacks him in a fight that spills outside of the club.[2] When Tommy Como hears that the two of them rose fists in a public place, he orders them to apologize and tells Joey that he means business. At the swimming pool, Joey tells Jake that if he really wants a shot, he will have to take a dive first.[2] In the fight against Billy Fox, Jake does not even bother to put up a fight. Jake is suspended from the board on suspicion of throwing the fight, though he realizes the error of his judgment when it is too late.[2] This does little to harm his career, when he finally wins the title against Marcel Cerdan at the open air Briggs Stadium.

Going back to the beginning sequence, Jake refers to the “I shoulda have been a contender” scene from On the Waterfront complaining that his brother should have been there for him but is also keen enough to give himself some slack. Darting across the room at the information of the crowded auditorium by the stage hand, the camera remains pivoted on the mirror. The film ends on an ambiguous note with a biblical quote and a dedication to the director’s film mentor at New York University, Haig P. Moonigan, who died of a heart attack before the film was released.[2][3][4]

Goodfellas

  • Directors: Martin Scorsese
  • Producers: Irwin Winkler
  • Writers: Book, Nicholas Pileggi, Screenplay, Nicholas Pileggi, Martin Scorsese
  • Genres: Biography, Crime, Drama
  • Actors: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino

In the opening scene, main character Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) admits, “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster,” referring to his idolizing the Lucchese crime family gangsters in his blue-collar, predominantly Italian neighborhood in East New York, Brooklyn in 1955. Feeling the connection of being a part of something, Henry quits school and goes to work for them. His father, knowing the true nature of the Mafia, tries to stop Henry after learning of his truancy, but the gangsters ensure that his parents no longer hear from the school by threatening the local postal carrier with dire consequences should he deliver any more letters from the school to Henry’s house.

Henry is soon taken under the wing of the local mob captain, Paul “Paulie” Cicero (Paul Sorvino, based on the actual Lucchese mobster Paul Vario) and Cicero’s close Irish associate Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro, based on Jimmy Burke). They help to cultivate Henry’s criminal career, and introduce Henry to the entire network of Paulie’s crime syndicate. Henry and his friends soon become successful, daring, and dangerous. Jimmy loves hijacking trucks, and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci, based on Tommy DeSimone) is an aggressive psychopath with a hair-trigger temper. Henry commits the Air France Robbery and it marks his debut into the big time of organized crime. Enjoying the perks of their criminal activities, the friends spend most of their nights at the Copacabana night club with countless women. Around this time, Henry meets and later marries a no-nonsense Jewish girl from the Five Towns named Karen (Lorraine Bracco). Karen at first is troubled by Henry’s criminal activities, but when a neighbor assaults her for refusing his advances, Henry pistol-whips him in front of her, displaying all of the viciousness and confidence of proven gangsters. She feels vindicated, intrigued, and aroused by the fact, especially when Henry leaves her the gun he used on the culprit.

The film ends with title cards that tell us that Henry has been clean since 1987; Paul Cicero died in Fort Worth Prison of respiratory illness in 1988 at 73 and Jimmy is serving a 20-year-to-life sentence in a New York State prison, not being eligible for parole until 2004. (Jimmy died of lung cancer in 1996, but this was six years after the film was released and thus not listed.)