Sly, a documentary exploring Stallone as the son and Rocky as his anchor


“Sly,” the 2023 Netflix documentary, explores the life of Sylvester Stallone. PHOTO | POOL

There’s a big difference between a movie star and a great actor. Movie stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise and Sylvester Stallone can get people to watch their movies even if their performance is not perfect, they are a box office draw.

Great actors, on the other hand, always give fantastic performances no matter what they’re in but they may not bring in the number in terms of viewership. Today, we’re highlighting a documentary that centres on a movie star whom many millennials regard as their action hero and a star that dominated the 80's and early 90's Box Office.


“Sly,” the 2023 Netflix documentary, explores the life of Sylvester Stallone, or just Sly, and his iconic roles in characters like Rocky and Rambo. This documentary goes beyond his famous roles to delve into his personal life, which includes his relationship with his father and how it influenced him and his career.

I have to admit, I was initially sceptical. In the age of the internet (YouTube to be specific), a lot of us have consumed a lot of Sly’s interviews and even listened to him on his daughter’s podcast.

I felt like I already knew everything about him. I mean, given his extensively documented life, I questioned if there was anything new to discover.

Common thread

What sets this documentary apart is its exceptional editing, seamlessly interweaving vintage clips and audio with contemporary scenes to construct a fast-paced 95-minute narrative.

Unlike typical interviews where the subject is static and merely speaking, the diverse range of locations and constant movement of Stallone keeps viewers engaged.

The cinematography displays both artistic flair and boldness, skillfully framing even the most ordinary objects in a creative and appealing manner.

At its core, the documentary is a look into Stallone’s deeply personal relationship with his father. It explores topics that resonate with many, going deep into the often-overlooked aspect of men’s connections with their fathers and brothers.

While it can be heart-wrenching at times, it’s equally fascinating to uncover how his father profoundly influenced some of Stallone’s most iconic roles.

“Rocky” serves as the common thread that binds everything together. Even if you’re not a die-hard “Rocky” fan, it’s enlightening to see how these films closely mirrored Stallone’s real-life experiences, with his personal journey shaping and elevating the characters.

The documentary is replete with insightful quotes and life lessons, and what’s truly captivating is its ability to capture intimate and unguarded moments.

Something that caught me off was the decision to explore Sly as the filmmaker and writer. While most people know the action hero, there is a lot that we don't know about him especially when it comes to Stallone as the writer, director and producer.

By the documentary’s conclusion, you gain a deep understanding of his filmmaking process and how his input made his work stand out.

The inclusion of Quentin Tarantino and Arnold Schwarzenegger adds layers to the narrative, providing valuable insights into the context surrounding the release of the “Rocky” movies.

Too sanitised

The documentary feels overly sanitised and “over-processed,” lacking a genuine sense of authenticity. Despite its deep exploration of Stallone’s past, it’s evident that carefully selected segments were included, intentionally avoiding controversies from the 80s and 90s.

While striving to maintain Stallone’s positive image is not necessarily a bad thing, it somewhat diminishes the documentary’s authenticity.

Notably, the documentary omits Stallone’s family; we never hear from his wife or children, even though his personal life played a significant role in his journey. It would have been insightful to have scenes with his daughter and wife about life.

The documentary heavily emphasizes Rocky as a defining moment in Stallone’s career, providing valuable depth and perspective to the film series.

It’s so compelling that it makes you want to rewatch the movies. Essentially, the documentary feels more like an extended advertisement for the Rocky movies.


This documentary offers an insightful perspective on an iconic individual, presenting a retrospective examination of the life journey of a man who achieved on-screen success while grappling with a complex relationship, with a prominent figure in his life.

It’s the kind of documentary I’d recommend to a young, middle-class father seeking to strike a balance between their professional responsibilities and family life.

X: @stanslausmanthi

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