film, 1980's, Sylvester Stallone, arm wrestling, Rick Zumwalt, David Mendenhall

80's Nostalgia - Over the Top

Nostalgia has the clever ability to take something we know is really not that great, and elevate it to a much higher level. Back to that happy place of childhood memories, humming along to the theme song and challenging our siblings to arm wrestles that you just know will end in tears.

Produced and directed by Menahem Golan, Over the Top is a 1987 American sport drama film starring Sylvester Stallone.


The acting is mediocre, the story line weak and Stallone's performance is somewhat rigid, lacking facial expressions, and instead relying on his physical presence to help set the tone as the hustling, arm wrestling truck driver Lincoln Hawk. A well meaning rogue, he is despised by his father in law Jason Cutler (Robert Loggia) who has not forgiven him for abandoning his daughter and grandson some years earlier. David Mendenhall plays his son Michael Cutler very pretentiously. Recking of middle class privilege and military school training, he's a spoilt brat.

With such memorable characters as Smasher (Magic Schwarz) and Bob 'Bull' Hurley (Rick Zumwalt - real life multiple world champion arm wrestler) let's just say it's easy to tell they were cast for their athletic ability rather than their acting skills. However they clearly made an impression on many a young boy, who loyally still pledge their love for this movie well into adulthood. ( insert Uoka Sagapolutele)

It was the age of innocence when none of us battered an eyelid when lines like "Deliveries in the rear" (lol) appear in the opening scenes. A time when it was perfectly acceptable to believe that the return of the absent father ("Do you really think you can make up for 10 years in 2 to 3 days") could be compensated for by encouraging his son to wrestle random teens and letting a 12 year old drive a rig truck.


By far one of the most redeeming qualities of this movie was it's soundtrack. Serving up some great 80's pop hits, the original music score was composed by Giorgio Moroder Kenny Logans (better known for his massive 80's hit "Footloose") he also lends his vocals to the theme song, "Meet me Half way*.

With a budget of $25 million, and a box office return of $16 million, it was clear that Over the Top was no great success. With 3 nominations to the Golden Raspberry Awards, it became memorable for all the wrong reasons. Yet all that aside, it was a right of passage for many a young boy during that time. Ranking up there with The Karate Kid, Stand by Me and Back to the Future it became firmly imprinted in the movie memory bank of a generation of adolescents. This was an audience who back in the days, decided a great movie was not determined by the strength of the story line or caliber of the acting. It won over it's fans with such cringe worthy scenes as the grand finale arm wrestling tournament, where an opponent's arm pops out, in all it's dislocated glory.

Much like my husband's old Manurewa High rugby jersey, I can't quite figure out what makes it so appealing. It's old and worn and has definitely seen better day's. But at the same time, there's something warm and comforting in the memories it evokes.

2.5 out of 5 stars

Ange S