The Evolution of Sylvester Stallone

Daylight (1996)

Sly plays Kit Latura here, though it could have been any number of identikit characters from his CV. Kit is basically a disgraced medic who gets the chance to redeem himself by turning action man to help out in a huge tunnel-based disaster. Hardly groundbreaking stuff, but there's an impressively relentless string of big set pieces to keep things entertaining.

Tough Guy? Resourceful, but he doesn't actually beat anyone up here.

Cop Land (1997)

After a tiny cameo in Men in Black , and an appearance in unreleased comedy The Good Life , Stallone got a real boost in credibility by going fat for Cop Land .

Yes, it's effectively just a slightly quieter version of the Stallone staple we've seen many times before, but he stands up well to the heavyweight cast (Keitel, Liotta, De Niro, plus many soon-to-be Sopranos regulars), and the film became a calling card for director James Mangold.

Tough Guy? The sensitive, portly Sheriff doesn't shy away from the climactic shootout.

Antz (1998)

Stallone voices an ant in this early CGI-animated effort from DreamWorks. Sly apparently got the role of tough soldier Weaver because he was willing to do it for free, whereas first-choice Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted paying.

The film still stands as one of the funniest in DreamWorks canon.

Tough Guy? It's in his nature as a soldier ant (and the little insect bears a strong resemblance to the chiselled big guy).

Get Carter (2000)

Marking the start of the second (and more severe) wilderness period for Stallone, this offensively bad remake is oft-considered Stallone's very worst movie.

It would be bad enough were it not standing on the shoulders of such a classic, with Stallone looking bored throughout. Don't let the presence of Michael Caine fool you.

Tough Guy? There's little going on here besides unconvincing toughness.

Driven (2001)

Stallone was on scripting duties again to try to invigorate his flagging career, but this effort (which sees him reteam with Cliffhanger director Renny Harlin) will satisfy only the most undemanding of tastes.

Sly is in mentor mode in this racing car drama. As veteran racer Joe Tanto, Stallone tries to teach Kip Pardue's newbie how to race, and also how to live his life.

Tough Guy? Disappointingly lifeless.

D-Tox (2002)

Another low point on Stallone's CV. D-Tox sees alcoholic FBI agent Jake Malloy (Sly) attempting to escape the stresses of his job by checking into rehab, only to find out the cop-killer he's been chasing is also holed up there.

This didn't even get a cinematic release, and came with the nonsensical tagline 'Survival is a Killer'. A scare-free thriller that's only likely to remind you of better films it borrows from.

Tough Guy? He's noticeably creaking now.

Avenging Angelo (2002)

Here Stallone teams up with fellow talent-squanderer Madeleine Stowe for another mob comedy: did he learn nothing from Oscar ?

Bodyguard Frankie Delano (Stallone) has to defend his boss's daughter (Stowe) after the big man is whacked. The drifting plot has poorly-drawn stereotypes to spare, but no laughs, thrills or tension.

Tough Guy? Supposedly, but…

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003)

After a cameo in Taxi 3 and a supporting role in gambling drama Shade , Sly took lead villain duties in the second sequel in Robert Rodriguez's kiddie franchise.

Spy Kid Juni has to enter the Toymaker's (Stallone) virtual game world to rescue his sister Carmen. The 3-D effects weren't as polished as they are now, and the plot was wafer thin, but there's still plenty of fun to be had, particularly with Sly's hamming.

Tough Guy? Not quite, but it's a rare bad guy outing for Sly.

Rocky Balboa (2006)

After a few years' hiatus (in which he appeared in a couple of episodes of Las Vegas ), writer-director Stallone returned to play his signature character for a sixth time.

Thankfully, this is more in line with the original than any of the sequels, and sees Rocky inspired to box again after witnessing a computer animation of himself beating the current champ. The nostalgic tone was a hit with audiences, and saw that the franchise finished on a respectable note.

Tough Guy? Impressively so, considering his advancing years.

Rambo (2008)

Unfortunately, Stallone's next trip down memory lane didn't also ape the first in the series, but followed on from the over-the-top jingoism of the sequels.

Rambo's services are acquired by a missionary who asks him to go on a humanitarian escapade to Burma. What follows is a barely coherent torrent of violence, as Rambo and his team rack up the biggest body count of the franchise.

Tough Guy? He's still a killing machine.

Matt Maytum
Editor, Total Film

I'm the Editor at Total Film magazine, overseeing the running of the mag, and generally obsessing over all things Nolan, Kubrick and Pixar. Over the past decade I've worked in various roles for TF online and in print, including at GamesRadar+, and you can often hear me nattering on the Inside Total Film podcast. Bucket-list-ticking career highlights have included reporting from the set of Tenet and Avengers: Infinity War, as well as covering Comic-Con, TIFF and the Sundance Film Festival.