10 Forgotten Sylvester Stallone Movies

Among the numerous action stars who dominated the box office in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Sylvester Stallone is one of the few who have maintained their A-list status. Many appear to have settled for lead roles in direct-to-video movies, but Stallone continues to be a part of decent high-budget productions. His Paramount+ crime series, Tulsa King, is undoubtedly one of the best in the genre and his Expendables franchise continues to fascinate audiences.

As consistent as Stallone has been, his Midas Touch has failed to work on a number of occasions, hence there are a few underappreciated movies in his large body of work. Audiences ignored some of the films because they were underwhelming in every possible way while others were made early in his career when he hadn’t yet established himself as a leading man in Hollywood. A few others were excellent, yet they just didn’t become major hits.

10 Capone (1975)

20th Century Studios

Capone is rarely brought up whenever the greatest gangster movies based on true stories are discussed and that’s because there have been a couple of superior movies about the legendary Chicago mob boss. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and The Untouchables are good examples of flawless Al Capone movies and in the latter, Capone’s enforcer Frank Nitti (who Stallone plays in this movie) is portrayed much more convincingly by Billy Drago.

One can thus understand why Stallone’s character was forgotten rather quickly. In addition to that, the early and mid-‘70s was a period that produced The Godfather and Mean Streets, so the bar was quite high. When compared to these two, Capone just doesn’t measure up, Stallone himself even gave a brutal assessment of the film, calling it a “cheesy, mentally challenged inbred cousin of The Godfather.”

9 Lock Up (1989)

Stallone as an inmate in Lockup (1989)
TriStar Pictures

Lock Up’s underperformance was surprising considering that the action flick came out when Stallone was at the peak of his popularity. The entire plot unfolds inside a prison, with the camera mostly focusing on the mechanic Frank Leone, who chooses to fight back after being bullied by wardens and fellow inmates.

RELATED: 10 Major Roles Sylvester Stallone Didn’t Get or Turned Down

It’s definitely not the actor’s best work but its recommendable because it’s molded with the same DNA as First Blood. Just like Stallone’s earlier hit film, Lock Up relies on oppression and abuse themes, hence when the hero decides to get his revenge in a brutal manner, it all feels very justified.

8 Oscar (1991)

Sylvester Stallone in the comedy film Oscar (1991)
Touchstone Pictures

Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger can match each other in every other area except for comedy. While the latter has several hilarious films, the former has struggled whenever he aimed to be funny and Oscar is a great example of the labor he went through while attempting to tap into his slapstick and screwball sides. Though the movie isn’t terrible, fans just couldn’t embrace the huge departure from gun-totting hero to comedian.

In it, mob boss Angelo “Snaps” Provolone has a crisis of conscience because his father wants him to have a decent job. As the old man is on his deathbed, Snaps promises to change. However, making an honest living becomes a lot harder than he expected and as he tries to make it happen, he gets caught up in a lot of awkward moments.

7 F.I.S.T. (1978)

Sylvester Stallone as a labor union leader in F.I.S.T. (1978)

F.I.S.T. is based on the life of notorious union leader Jimmy Hoffa, whose story can be found in both The Irishman and Hoffa. It follows the rebellious warehouse worker Johnny Kovak as he fights for fair working conditions for workers. Soon, he joins the labor union, the Federation of Interstate Truckers (F.I.S.T) ,and becomes its most powerful member. His activities catch the attention of the mob, who strike a partnership with him.

Few movies showcase Sylvester Stallone’s acting skills better than F.I.S.T. His stares and monologues are incredible, and so are his general bodily movements. One of the last scenes, where he has an emotional outburst in front of a senate committee is especially iconic. The movie is heavily fictionalized, but it tells a much better Jimmy Hoffa story than Hoffa and The Irishman.

6 Rhinestone (1984)

Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton in the musical, Rhinestone (1984)
20th Century Studios 

Even the staunchest Stallone fans might find it hard to believe that he made a musical. And it wasn’t any other ordinary musical. It was a musical which also starred Dolly Parton. The team-up between the two celebrities, who were some of the biggest stars at the time, ought to have resulted in an all-time classic, but it didn’t. In 2004, the Golden Raspberry Awards named Rhinestone “The Worst Musical of the Last 25 Years.”

Apart from probably never having watched Rhinestone, many might be unaware that it’s one of the movies named after songs. The film draws its name from Larry Weiss 1975 hit song “Rhinestone Cowboy,” and it follows a country singer as she trains a cab driver on how to sing so that they can make money together, away from her condescending manager who won’t release her from her contract.

5 Escape to Victory (1981)

Stallone with the legendary soccer player Pele in Escape to Victory (1981)
Paramount Pictures

Escape to Victory is another great Stallone flick that deserves more attention than it has ever gotten. In it, the head of a Nazi concentration camp organizes a high-profile soccer match between Germans and their Allied captives. As the preparations for the match are going on, one prisoner crafts a plan to escape from the camp.

The film is noted for starring some of the most famous soccer players at the time, notably Brazil’s Pele, England’s Bobby Moore, and several members of the Ispwich Town team. A younger Michael Caine also had a real role. The poor box office figures of Escape to Victory make sense because soccer isn’t the most popular sport in America. Still, in the age of streaming services, it’s never too late for a surge in popularity.

4 Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992)

Stop or my mom will shoot
Universal Pictures

Not one to give up, Stallone kept trying his hand at comedy in the ‘90s and kept on failing. For this film, he did it in order to compete with Schwarzenegger, who was achieving much success in the genre. In fact, Schwarzenneger admitted that he tricked Stallone into starring in Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. The movie centers around a detective who has a hard time dealing with his visiting mother. So proactive is she that she even insists on helping him solve a case.

The title is deliberately crafted in a way to make audiences know they will be in for a laugh fest, but the movie hardly delivers on the promise. There are neither standard scenes that stick to the viewer’s mind nor clever one-liners that keep replaying in the ear. At some point, Stallone even delivers the title line, and it sounds really corny coming from an adult instead of a child.

3 Driven (2001)

Sylvester Stallone as a racing driver in Driven (2001)
Summit Entertainment

There aren’t many movies about professional racing, so Stallone had the chance to offer something special when he made Driven. The film was nominated for seven and during an appearance in Roger Ebert’s At the Movies talk show, Jay Leno described it as the worst car racing movie ever made.

Driven hasn’t aged well either since it focuses on the now-defunct CART FedEx Championship Series. In it, a professional racer loses his form after falling in love. A rookie driver is then tasked with helping him get his groove back, hence a strong bond develops between the two. From there on, audiences are treated to the familiar pattern of tough training followed by a great victory.

2 Reach Me (2014)

Sylvester Stallone in a scene from Reach Me (2014)
Prime Video

Reach Me’s case is somehow laughable because it was deliberately constructed as an Oscar bait, yet it has the worst reviews out of any project Stallone has ever worked on. The poor quality is baffling considering that the film has a star-studded cast consisting of some of the most talented actors in Hollywood. Apart from Stallone, there are Terry Crews, Kelsey Grammar, Danny Trejo, and Omari Hardwick among others.

RELATED: The Best Stallone Movie Moments

The story focuses on different individuals who all decide to change their ways after reading a self-help book by a mysterious author. The dialogue is generally poor, and the plot isn’t solid enough to keep anyone invested. However, Reach Me’s biggest flaw is that it packs in too many characters and never takes time to flesh each of them out. As such, audiences are frequently introduced to new characters that never get to do much for the rest of the movie.

1 Shade (2003)

Sylvester Stallone as a con artist in Shade (2003)

Shade only had a limited release which explains why not many people got to hear about it. Nonetheless, it’s a decent neo-noir with a strong supporting cast that includes Jamie Foxx, Stuart Townsend, Gabriel Byrne, and Thandiwe Newton. In it, a group of con artists figures that more money can be made by scamming a cardsharp. They thus get to work, only to encounter unexpected obstacles along the way.

Apart from being a stylish film with excellent cinematography, Shade teaches audiences a thing or two about gambling. The main characters explain everything they are doing in detail, and for the moves that don’t work, a reason is given. This is also a refreshing Stallone project because the majority of the proceedings take place indoors, hence preventing the plot from being all over the place.


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