John G. Avildsen, Oscar-winning Rocky director, dies at 81

Rocky’ and ‘Karate Kid’ director John G. Avildsen dead at age 81

Avildsen had been battling pancreatic cancer, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Avildsen won an Academy Award for directing "Rocky" and directed the first three original "Karate Kid" movies. Sylvester Stallone famously wrote and starred in the greatest underdog movie ever told, but it was the humanist director of Joe and Save the Tiger who brought the film to vivid life on camera, and imbued what could have been a simple melodrama with powerful realism.

The Director's Guild released a statement honouring Avildsen's impact on the industry.

Rocky (1976), starring Sylvester Stallone, won three Academy Awards: best picture, best director and best film editing.

In the 1980s, Avildsen helmed another popular franchise in The Karate Kid, directing the original 1981 film and its two subsequent sequels in 1986 and 1989, to the tune of almost a quarter-billion dollars grossed overall.

Rocky was made for a modest $1 million United States and generated $225 million in ticket sales to became a cultural phenomenon, with a series of unforgettable characters and scenes and a blend of romance with pugilistic action. Avildsen directed one of the best films ever made, and helped shape the genre of sports movies as we have come to know them.

Avildsen returned to the Rocky franchise to direct the critically panned Rocky V (1990) about a protege who turns on Rocky.


John Avildsen is survived by sons Anthony, Jonathan and Ashley; and daughter, Bridget.

Among other Oscar nominations for "Rocky" were two for Stallone, best actor and best screenplay; plus best actress, Talia Shire; best supporting actor, Burgess Meredith and Burt Young; and best song, "Gonna Fly Now".

John Guilbert Avildsen was born in Oak Park, Illinois.

It's almost impossible to describe just how important John G. Avildsen has been to the world of cinema.

Among John G. Avildsen's other notable credits include 1980's The Formula (starring Marlon Brando and George C. Scott), the 1981 comedy Neighbors (which marked the final performance from the late John Belushi) and the 1989 drama Lean on Me, starring Morgan Freeman.

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