15 Best Sylvester Stallone Movies of All Time

Sylvester Stallone started small in the ’70s until he hit the jackpot with Rocky in 1976 and gained worldwide fame. He finished the ’70s with Rocky II and continued the franchise throughout the ’80s and later on. Rocky Balboa has become one of the most recognizable movie characters ever.

The best Sylvester Stallone movies were made during the ’80s and the ’90s. With the action film First Blood in 1982, Stallone launched another major franchise success and created one more widely recognizable character – Rambo. He continued his success throughout with titles like Cobra and Lock Up, finishing the decade with an awesome action-comedy Tango & Cash (alongside Kurt Russell).

He persisted as an action star throughout the ’90s with movies like Cliffhanger, Demolition Man, The Specialist, and Assassins.

After a decline in the first part of the 2000s and a few years’ break from movies, Stallone had a successful comeback with both popular franchises, the sixth installment of the Rocky series and the fourth installment of the Rambo series.

In the last decade, Stallone, born in 1946, didn’t stop with the action. He started his third movie franchise, The Expendables, and not only did he manage to gather all the major action stars in it, but The Expendables movie series has also become his biggest box office success ever.

For the role of Rocky, Stallone was nominated for the Academy Awards in 1977 (Best Actor). Almost 40 years later, for the same role, in a spin-off sequel with the title Creed, he received the Golden Globe award (Best Supporting Actor).

Let’s take a look at the 15 best Sylvester Stallone movies (in order by release date):

1. Rocky (1976)

Genre: Drama, Sport
Director: John G. Avildsen
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (30), Talia Shire, Burt Young

In his breakthrough film, Stallone plays a struggling boxer who earns a living by collecting debts for a loan shark. His coach, Mickey, doesn’t like what he is doing and believes that he can make it in boxing if only he were willing to work for it. An opportunity is presented to him when heavyweight champion Apollo Creed decides to make a show by giving a local boxer a chance to challenge him.

Rocky is still Stallone’s highest-rated movie on IMDb. Nominated for ten Academy Awards, the film went on to win three: Best Picture, Best Directing, and Best Film Editing.

2. Rocky II (1979)

Genre: Drama, Sport
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (33), Talia Shire, Burt Young

After failing to make it in commercials, Rocky decides to become a boxer again. Adrian is against him going down that road again, which affects Rocky’s training. Apollo Creed wants to fight Rocky again to prove that he can beat him. When Adrian gives birth to Rocky Jr., and after she wakes up from a few days in a coma, Rocky is more determined than ever to win against Apollo.

3. First Blood (1982)

Genre: Action
Director: Ted Kotcheff
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (36), Brian Dennehy, Richard Crenna

With the role of Rambo in First Blood, Stallone has started another successful franchise. He plays a Green Beret veteran who tries to track his old war buddy. When he wanders into a small town, minding his own business, just trying to get something to eat, he is intercepted by the Sheriff and forced out of the town. When Rambo returns, the Sheriff arrests him and after deputies abuse him, war flashbacks start to kick in and troubles for the local police begin.

If Rocky was Stallone’s breakthrough movie, the role of Rambo made him an action hero.

4. Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
Director: George P. Cosmatos
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (39), Richard Crenna, Charles Napier

After the events in First Blood, John Rambo is serving his sentence in federal prison. His commanding officer, Colonel Sam, will pull him out of prison for a rescue mission in Vietnam. Rambo needs to infiltrate the enemy camp and save the prisoners. Before long, he will find himself double-crossed when his government leaves him for dead.

5. Cobra (1986)

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Director: George P. Cosmatos
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (40), Brigitte Nielsen, Reni Santoni

Cobra is another one of Stallone’s popular badass roles. He plays a tough LA cop who deals only with the most violent and dangerous criminals. When a young model becomes a witness to a murder performed by a group of psychopaths, Cobra is the only one who can protect her.

6. Lock Up (1989)

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Director: John Flynn
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (43), Donald Sutherland, John Amos

In this one, Stallone plays Frank Leone, who is near the end of his prison term in a minimum-security prison when suddenly he is transferred to a maximum-security prison. Soon he finds out that this is revenge by Warden Drumgoole because Frank escaped from a previous prison during Drumgoole’s watch. Now he needs to survive the warden’s punishment.

7. Tango & Cash (1989)

Genre: Action, Comedy
Director: Andrey Konchalovskiy
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (43), Kurt Russell, Teri Hatcher

Tango (Stallone) and Cash (Kurt Russell) are the two best cops in Los Angeles. They are polar opposites and don’t like each other. Each one thinks he is the best. When a Crime Lord, furious at the loss of money caused by both cops, frames them for murder and puts them in jail, the two need to put aside their rivalry and find a way out. This is one of the best buddy cop action comedies ever.

8. Oscar (1991)

Genre: Comedy
Director: John Landis
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (45), Ornella Muti, Peter Riegert

A gangster, Provolone (Stallone), made a promise to his dying father (Kirk Douglas) that he would leave the crime world and become “straight.” He is facing a lot of problems trying to do that, like other criminals around him, the police who still believe he is planning some new crime, and on top of that, he has tons of problems with his daughter.

It’s a good comedy and it’s interesting to see Stallone in this type of role.

9. Cliffhanger (1993)

Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
Director: Renny Harlin
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (47), John Lithgow, Michael Rooker

A group of thieves lose their suitcases full of money in the snow-capped mountains. Their plan is to call rangers for help and force them to find their money. Gabe Walker, who is still recovering from a climbing accident where he lost a friend, decides to answer the distress call not knowing what awaits him.

This action adventure will keep you on the edge of your seat.

10. Demolition Man (1993)

Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Director: Marco Brambilla
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (47), Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock

In 1996, police officer John Spartan (Stallone) hunted down the psychotic criminal Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes), who took some hostages and killed them. When captured, Phoenix told the police that the hostages had been alive and that John Spartan killed them when he demolished the building. Soon after, both of them were sentenced to a cryogenic prison. In 2032, Phoenix manages to escape during his parole hearing, and the only man who can stop him in a new, non-violent world is the man who caught him the first time.

11. The Specialist (1994)

Genre: Action, Thriller
Director: Luis Llosa
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (48), Sharon Stone, James Woods

In this action thriller, Stallone plays a bomb expert who worked for the CIA and is now a freelancer. His latest client is a beautiful woman (Sharon Stone) who wants to hire him to bomb the mobsters who once killed her parents. Things get interesting when the specialist finds out that his former colleague, a crooked ex-CIA agent, now works for the same mobster that he needs to kill.

12. Assassins (1995)

Genre: Action, Thriller
Director: Richard Donner
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (49), Antonio Banderas, Julianne Moore

Professional hitman Robert Rath, who wants to retire, was doing one of his last assignments when someone else took down his target and stole his contract. Turns out, there is a new hitman in town, and he wants to kill the old one and become number one. Rath teams up with a female hacker named Electra, rather than killing her, to defeat the new sociopathic assassin.

13. The Expendables (2010)

Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (64), Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Steve Austin

A group of highly trained elite mercenaries led by Barney Ross (Stallone) is hired by Mr. Church from the CIA to overthrow a Latin dictator, Garza. What they thought would be a routine assignment, given their level of expertise, will turn out to be almost a suicide mission. They are up against the whole army and an ex-CIA officer who works with Garza.

14. The Expendables 2 (2012)

Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
Director: Simon West
Starring: Sylvester Stallone (66), Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews

A group of mercenaries is hired by CIA man Church to retrieve an item from a plane crash in Eastern Europe. They get ambushed by another group of mercenaries led by an international criminal, Jean Vilain (Jean Claude Van Damme). A new member of Expendables is killed, and the rest of the team led by Barney Ross (Stallone) needs to track and take down the criminals, avenge their teammate, and prevent them from taking plutonium.

It’s the highest-grossing Sylvester Stallone movie with a never-before-seen number of action stars in a single movie.

15. Escape Plan (2013)

Genre: Action, Thriller
Director: Mikael Håfström
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 50 Cent

Ray Breslin (Stallone) runs a firm specialized in testing prison security. He does that by going into prison as an inmate and trying to escape. His skills are challenged when he ends up in a secret and highly secure prison in the world. While in there, he will realize that someone doesn’t want him to get out. Ray must do what he does best: escape the prison and find the person who put him there. This time, he will have help from the inside. A fellow inmate, Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger), will help him.

We hope you like our list of the best Sylvester Stallone movies. Sure, some of the other parts of the Rocky and Rambo franchises could be on the list too, but we decided to add only the best ones from the series and leave room for other awesome Stallone movies.

15 Best Sylvester Stallone Movies According to IMDb

According to IMDb, these are the 15 best Sylvester Stallone movies in the lead role:

  • Rocky (1976) – 8.1
  • First Blood (1982) – 7.7
  • Rocky II (1979) – 7.3
  • Rocky Balboa (2006) – 7.1
  • Rambo (2008) – 7.0
  • Rocky IV (1985) – 6.9
  • Cop Land (1997) – 6.9
  • Rocky III (1982) – 6.8
  • Escape Plan (2013) – 6.7
  • Demolition Man (1993) – 6.7
  • The Expendables 2 (2012) – 6.6
  • The Expendables (2010) – 6.5
  • Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) – 6.5
  • Oscar (1991) – 6.5
  • Cliffhanger (1993) – 6.4

15 Best Sylvester Stallone Movies According to Box Office

  • The Expendables 2 (2012) – $315 million
  • Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) – $300 million
  • Rocky IV (1985) – $300 million
  • The Expendables (2010) – $275 million
  • Rocky III (1982) – $270 million
  • Cliffhanger (1993) – $255 million
  • Rocky (1976) – $225 million
  • The Expendables 3 (2014) – $215 million
  • Rocky II (1979) – $200 million
  • Rambo III (1988) – $189 million
  • The Specialist (1994) – $170 million
  • Cobra (1986) – $160 million
  • Demolition Man (1993) – $160 million
  • Daylight (1996) – $159 million
  • First Blood (1982) – $125 million

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