Over the Top (1987) — Manly men holding manly hands

“The world meets nobody halfway.”

Al’s rating: 0-5: It’s Stallone in the eighties. What do you expect? 6+: It’s Stallone in the eighties! You know what to expect!

Al’s review: Amazingly, I found Over the Top a difficult movie to review. You wouldn’t think it. I mean, it’s Sly Stallone playing a down on his luck palooka, sorta like Rocky. Said palooka is not terribly deep but is kind and honest, and attempts to instill confidence in youngsters, sorta like Rocky. The film builds towards a big sporting event in which Sly is quite clearly the underdog, sorta like Rocky. A major theme in the movie is forging relationships and the importance of them in your life, sorta like Rocky. There are musical montages to underscore the increasing readiness for the competition and the deepening of emotional bonds between characters, sorta like Rocky. There’s a big rig hauling a giant trailer of Brut across the midwest, sorta like… uh… … Convoy.

Okay, so the comparison breaks down there a bit, but my point is that it seems like a review ought to be fairly straightforward. However, every time I sat down to make this work, it would quickly devolve into celebratory exaltations of Over the Top’s awesomeness and insane-sounding phrases that started off with things like, “What makes Over the Top such an excellent movie…” Something just felt wrong. I wasn’t so sure I could take myself even passingly seriously ever again if I let the review I was writing go to the presses (as you may or may not know, we call him Justin “The Presses” Olivetti around the office). I was paralyzed.

After much struggling between the angel on my left shoulder, sporting acid-wash jeans and a Great White halfshirt, and the devil on my right, who looks suspicously like my arch-nemesis A.O. Scott, I’ve come up with a compromise. Below is my own little quiz, comprised of 10 questions, to determine if Over the Top is the movie for you. Enjoy!



  1. Answer each ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ question appropriately.
  2. Give yourself 1 Point for each ‘Yes’ answer.
  3. Score yourself below!

[ ] I like a main character who never gives up on winning over his son’s feelings, no matter how much of a prat the kid is.
[ ] I like a main character who will force his child into competition against boys that are larger, stronger, and meaner than he is without any prior warning or say in the matter.

[ ] I like a main character not afraid to change his last name midway through the movie and hope no one notices.

[ ] I like Tom Hanks’ boss in Big much better as a villain who has a penchant for bursting out with melodramatic diatribes about the evils of truckers.

[ ] I like Tom Hanks’ boss in Big much better when he has tanned himself an inexplicable shade of orange.

[ ] I like Tom Hanks’ boss in Big much better when he is guarded by professional wrestlers.

[ ] I consider arm wrestling the great unsung sport of the American people.
Award 1 Bonus Point if you consider child custody an acceptable wager for an arm wrestling competition.

[ ] Nothing makes me happier than 90 minutes of Kenny Loggins, Eddie Money, Asia, Sammy Hagar, and Eddie Van Halen music.

[ ] I am willing to put up with Frank Stallone also being on the soundtrack, as long as he only has one song.

[ ] Large trucks are my preferred mode or transportation. The more wheels the better. Whether chasing would-be kidnappers, crashing through houses, or just working out on the built-in weight lifting machine, it’s the only way to travel!
Award 1 Bonus Point if you like your large trucks to smell like Brut cologne.


0-2: The Science of Sleep is over on the New Arrival wall of your video store. It’s all pretentious and artsy. I think you’ll dig it.
3-5: Approach with extreme caution. Or Extreme Nacho Cheese Doritos. Snack foods and other distractions may be necessary to make it to the end of this one.
6-8: Sounds like you’ve been bitten by the arm-wrestling bug! Stick this on top of your Netflix queue, stat!
9+: Y’know, Amazon.com has copies new and used available from $3.99. Just go whole hog and pick it up today. You can thank me later.

Didja notice?

  • Stallone discussing the symbolism of turning his hat backwards? Hee.
  • Terry Funk! The Funker looks almost healthy here; good for him!
  • The Alka Seltzer product placement? The Brut I can understand a little, but Alka-Seltzer is kind of an odd choice to jump on the Over the Top bandwagon.
  • Truckers have their own separate arm wrestling division?
  • They do a pretty thorough job of reminding and re-reminding us that the tournament is double elimination, but Bull Hurley only loses once.

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