Over the Top (1987 film)

Over the Top is a 1987 American sports drama film starring Sylvester Stallone. It was produced and directed by Menahem Golan, and its screenplay was written by Stirling Silliphant and Stallone. The original music score was composed by Giorgio Moroder. The main character, Lincoln Hawk, played by Stallone, is a long-haul truck driver who tries to win back his alienated son, Michael, while becoming a champion arm wrestler.

Over the Top
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMenahem Golan
Screenplay by
Story by
Produced by
CinematographyDavid Gurfinkel
Edited by
Music byGiorgio Moroder
Color processMetrocolor
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • February 12, 1987 (1987-02-12) (New York and Los Angeles)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$25 million[2]
Box office$16 million[3]


Lincoln Hawk is a struggling trucker who arm wrestles on the side to make extra cash while trying to rebuild his life. Hawk's estranged wife Christina, who is suffering from heart disease, asks that Hawk pick up their young son Michael from military school so that the two of them can get to know each other; Hawk had left them ten years earlier. Michael's controlling grandfather Jason Cutler, a wealthy man who hates Hawk and disapproved of his daughter's relationship with him, believes that Hawk has no right to be in his grandson's life. Michael is very distrusting and bitter towards Hawk initially and treats him with contempt at every turn.

Over the course of a trip from Colorado to California, Michael comes to trust Hawk, especially after Hawk rescues him from kidnappers (who were actually goons hired by Cutler to retrieve Mike). Hawk and Mike also bond when Hawk teaches him to arm wrestle and drive the truck. However, when they arrive at the hospital, Hawk is despondent to learn that Christina died from complications during surgery. Feeling he would have been there with her if not for Hawk, Michael leaves for his grandfather's estate. An attempt to retrieve Michael ends with Hawk being arrested for trespassing when he resorts to ramraiding after being turned away from Cutler's gated mansion. Michael visits his father in jail and forgives him, but tells Hawk that he feels more secure living with his grandfather. As a condition of his release and to avoid prosecution, Hawk is forced to sign over custody of Michael to Cutler and leave the state for good.

Hawk leaves to compete in the World Armwrestling Championship in Las Vegas. His hope is to win the grand prize of $100,000 and a brand new, larger $250,000 semi-truck and thus start his own trucking company. Hawk is a clear underdog, having a size disadvantage versus just about every other participant, including his old rival Bull Hurley, who is the odds-on favorite out of the other 500 competitors. When he arrives, he sells his truck for $7,000 and uses the money to place a bet on himself (as a 20–1 long shot) to win the tournament. Meanwhile, Michael finds all the letters that Hawk had sent over the years and realizes that his grandfather has been hiding the truth about his father from him. Cutler did everything possible to drive his parents apart and had been intercepting and hiding the regular letters Hawk had written to him. Stunned by his grandfather's deceptions, Michael steals one of his grandfather's many vehicles (a pickup truck) to go to Las Vegas and find Hawk.

Hawk advances to the final eight competitors in the double-elimination tournament before suffering his first loss against John Grizzly, injuring his arm in the process. Afterwards, Cutler summons Hawk to his presidential suite and tells him that he has always been a loser, but offers Hawk a way out and a chance for a fresh start: $500,000 and a top of the line semi (even better than the tournament's grand prize) on the condition that he stay out of their lives for good, but Hawk refuses, vowing to retrieve Michael after the tournament. He returns to the tournament with a much tighter focus and advances to the final match against Bull Hurley, who has remained the undefeated world champion for five years. Michael then finds Hawk and apologizes for misjudging him, which gives Hawk the emotional support he needs to compete. After a titanic struggle, Hawk manages to conquer his old rival, earn his respect, and win the tournament. As Hawk and Michael celebrate, Cutler (who had followed Michael to the competition) looks on in silence and admiration for all that Hawk sacrificed to get Michael back. A triumphant Hawk and Michael take their new truck and winnings and drive off to start a new life together.


Multi-time world arm wrestling champion and future professional wrestler Scott Norton also makes an appearance along with other professional arm wrestlers such as Allen Fisher, John Vreeland, Cleve Dean and Andrew "Cobra" Rhodes (as the final match referee).[4] Professional arm wrestler John Brzenk also makes an appearance.


Development and writingEdit

In May 1984, it was reported Stallone would appear in the film for a fee of $12 million.[5][6] Cannon Films presold the movie over the next few years during which time Stallone appeared in Rhinestone, Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV.

Cannon hired Stirling Silliphant to write the script. "It's an action love story with the emphasis on action," Silliphant says. "It's the story of a man trying to win back the love of his son and win the world arm-wrestling championship in Las Vegas." Although Stallone was a writer and had final cut on the film, Sillphant said " "I don't anticipate any problem whatsoever. I'm a very difficult person to abuse...He doesn't have to do anything at this point. He has been very smart about what he can do. He has to protect that."[7]


The film was shot for about 9 weeks from June 9 to August 15, 1986.[8][9] The military academy scenes, portrayed as being in Colorado, were filmed at Pomona College in Claremont, California in 1986.[10] The Kirkeby mansion at 750 Bel Air Road, Los Angeles (also the home of the Clampett family on the CBS comedy The Beverly Hillbillies) was used to portray the Cutler estate.[11] Parts of the film were also shot in Monument Valley, Utah.[12] Olive View–UCLA Medical Center was also used as the hospital.


In late 1986, producer / director of the film Menahem Golan chose prestigious Italian composer and record producer Giorgio Moroder as music supervisor of the soundtrack. Moroder was in charge of creating a concept album with a compilation of new songs in different genres and diverse artists, writing most tracks on the album himself in collaboration with Tom Whitlock.[13]

The soundtrack album was released on February 13, 1987 under CBS to coincide with the release of the movie. It contains music from Frank Stallone, Kenny Loggins (who performs the film's central theme, "Meet Me Half Way"), Eddie Money, and Sammy Hagar. John Wetton, lead singer of the rock group Asia, sang "Winner Takes It All" for the movie, but after performing the song, it was felt that his voice wasn't "mean" enough, so the song was offered to Hagar, whose version, featuring a bass guitar solo from Hagar's then-bandmate Edward Van Halen, ended up being the one on the soundtrack. Asia is credited for the track "Gypsy Soul", but Wetton is the only Asia member who actually contributed to the song.

The track listing is:

  1. "Winner Takes It All" – Sammy Hagar
  2. "In This Country" – Robin Zander (International versions of the film had Eddie Money singing instead)
  3. "Take It Higher" – Larry Greene
  4. "All I Need Is You" – Big Trouble
  5. "Bad Nite" – Frank Stallone
  6. "Meet Me Half Way" – Kenny Loggins
  7. "Gypsy Soul" – Asia
  8. "The Fight (Instrumental)" – Giorgio Moroder
  9. "Mind Over Matter" – Larry Greene
  10. "I Will Be Strong" – Eddie Money

Stallone appears in the video for "Winner Takes It All," wrestling Hagar at the end of the video. Hagar says in his video commentary on the DVD The Long Road to Cabo that he was unenthusiastic about the song. Hagar says that Stallone gave him his black cap at the end of the shoot, both signed it, and the cap went to charity, fetching around $10,000.


Box officeEdit

Theatrical international release poster by Renato Casaro

Over the Top was released by Warner Bros. on Thursday, February 12, 1987 in New York and Los Angeles before expanding to 1,758 theaters on the Friday, grossing $5.1 million over the President's Day weekend, finishing in fourth place.[1] In total, the film earned $11.5 million in the US and Canada.[14]

Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 32% based on 31 reviews, with an average rating of 4.8/10.[15] On Metacritic it has a score of 40% based on reviews from 12 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[16] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[17]

Variety called it "routinely made in every respect".[18] Janet Maslin of The New York Times called it "muddled" and criticized the number of product placements.[19] Rita Kempley of The Washington Post wrote that the film does not live up to Stallone's Rocky films and is "virtually a feature-length video" because of all the rock songs.[20]

Movie historian Leonard Maltin seemed to agree: "Title merely begins to describe this heavy-handed variation on The Champ...In trying to underplay, Stallone speaks so quietly that you often can't make out what he's saying."[21]

The film received three nominations at the 8th Golden Raspberry Awards in 1988. David Mendenhall won two for both Worst Supporting Actor and Worst New Star, and Sylvester Stallone was nominated for Worst Actor, which he lost to Bill Cosby for Leonard Part 6.

Stallone later said of the film, "I would have made it less glossy and set it more in an urban environment, for one. Next, I would've not used a never-ending stream of rock songs, but scored music instead, and most likely would've made the event in Vegas more ominous – not so carnival-like."[22]


  1. ^ a b "'Platoon' Pumps Up February B.O.; Brisk Biz At Top". Variety. February 18, 1987. p. 3.
  2. ^ Kremer, Daniel (2015). Sidney J. Furie: Life and Films. University Press of Kentucky. p. 288. ISBN 978-0-8131-6597-4.
  3. ^ "Over the Top (1987)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  4. ^ "Online World of Wrestling". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved September 29, 2010.
  5. ^ HOT GOSSIP Stewart, Susan. Philadelphia Daily News; Philadelphia, Pa. [Philadelphia, Pa]17 May 1984: 36.
  6. ^ Natale, Richard (August 8, 2014). "Menahem Golan, Who Headed Cannon Films, Dies at 85". Variety. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  7. ^ DR PEPPER BUBBLES UP TO GODZILLA: [Home Edition] Mathews, Jack. Los Angeles Times2 Aug 1985: 1.
  8. ^ Weekly Variety Magazine; May 28, 1986; Page 93
  9. ^ Daily Variety Magazine; August 19, 1986; Page 3
  10. ^ "Pomonona College Timeline, 1980–1989". Pomona College. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  11. ^ Ryon, Ruth (August 10, 1986). "Mayor of Nice to Build in Canyon Area". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  12. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 978-1-4236-0587-4.
  13. ^ Allmusic review
  14. ^ "Stallone Loses A Box-office Arm-wrestle". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
  15. ^ "Over the Top (1987)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  16. ^ "Over the Top". Metacritic. Retrieved August 8, 2020.
  17. ^ "CinemaScore". Archived from the original on February 6, 2018.
  18. ^ "Review: 'Over the Top'". Variety. 1987. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  19. ^ Maslin, Janet (February 12, 1987). "Over the Top (1986)". The New York Times. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  20. ^ Kempley, Rita (February 20, 1987). "'Over the Top' (PG)". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  21. ^ Maltin's Movie & Video Guide
  22. ^ "Stallone answers December 9th & 10th Questions in a double round - plus Harry's Seen ROCKY BALBOA at BNAT!!!". Ain't It Cool News. December 16, 2006. Retrieved July 18, 2015.

External linksEdit