After his beginnings as a struggling actor for a number of years upon arriving to New York City in 1969 and later Hollywood in 1974, he won his first critical acclaim as an actor for his co-starring role as Stanley Rosiello in The Lords of Flatbush. In the following years, he mostly only found gradual work as an extra or side character in films with a sizeable budget.
Stallone achieved his greatest critical and commercial success starting in 1976 with his self-created role as the boxer Rocky Balboa, in the first film of the successful Rocky series (1976–2018). In the films, Rocky is portrayed as an underdog fighter that does battle with numerous brutal opponents, and wins the world heavyweight championship twice. The last two entries in the series are Creed and Creed II, that serve as spin-off films focusing on Adonis “Donnie” Creed, to whom the long retired Rocky is a mentor. Reprising the role during the 2010s brought Stallone praise, and his first Golden Globe award for the first Creed, as well as a third Oscar nomination, having been first nominated for the same role 40 years prior.
Stallone had similar box-office success, portraying the PTSD plagued soldier John Rambo in the five Rambo films (1982–2019) and as mercenary Barney Ross in the three The Expendables films (2010–2014). In 2013, he starred in the successful Escape Plan, and acted in its sequels. He wrote or co-wrote most of the films in his three biggest franchises, and directed many of them.