In a 2016 oral history for Philadelphia Magazine, director John G. Avildsen talked about how the ending to “Rocky” initially saw Apollo Creed, Rocky, and Adrian swept away by the crowd. The crew, however, couldn’t logistically make it happen. Avildsen also had another idea in mind involving Rocky and Adrian walking away while holding hands, but as he describes it, it didn’t fit the mood. “It felt like we had this couple going to a funeral,” said Avildsen. But once he heard Bill Conti’s “The Final Bell” kick in, Avildsen knew this was going to be the lynchpin that solidifies the film’s legacy:
“Bill Conti comes in with the last music cue that saved it. And so we have Adrian fighting her way through the crowd, we see Rocky like a wounded elephant with that great music, and without that ending, I don’t think we’d be talking about ‘Rocky’ today.”
It’s the kind of ending that inspires you to go out and secure your own win in the face of overwhelming odds. We’ve seen Rocky win a number of times, but there’s something so special about how “The Final Bell” accentuates what the 1976 film is really about. Everyone else in the arena is enveloped by the results of the match, while Rocky and Adrian are more concerned with having that embrace in the ring. Conti’s music signals the triumph of a warrior who didn’t win the match, but the heart of the person who came to love him, and that hug is just as beautiful now as it ever was.
“Rocky” is currently streaming on Paramount+ and Netflix.