Over the Top (film)

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Over the Top
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Menahem Golan
Produced by Menahem Golan
Yoram Globus
Screenplay by Stirling Silliphant
Sylvester Stallone
Story by Gary Conway
David Engelbach
Music by Giorgio Moroder
Cinematography David Gurfinkel
Edited by James Symons
Don Zimmerman
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
(USA & Canada)
The Cannon Group, Inc.
Release dates
  • February 13, 1987 (1987-02-13)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $25 million
Box office $16,057,580[1]

Over the Top is a 1987 sport 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, played by Stallone, is a long-haul truck driver who tries to win back his alienated son while becoming a champion arm wrestler.


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 very ill, asks that Hawk pick up their 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). However, when they arrive at the hospital, Hawk is despondent to learn they have arrived too late; as Christina died in surgery earlier that day. 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.

After his release, Hawk leaves to compete in the World Armwrestling Championship in Las Vegas. His hope is to win the grand prize of $100,000 and an expensive new custom semi-truck and thus start his own trucking company. Hawk is a clear underdog, having a size disadvantage over 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 to win the contest. 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 a truck to go to Las Vegas to find Hawk.

Hawk advances to the final eight competitors in the double-elimination tournament before suffering his first loss, injuring his arm in the process. Afterwards, Cutler summons Hawk to his presidential suite and tells him that he's 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 contest's grand prize) on the condition that he turn over custody of Michael and stay out of their lives, but Hawk refuses. He returns to the tournament with a much tighter focus and powers his way through the rest of the field to advance to the final match against Bull Hurley, who has remained undefeated. Michael then finds Hawk and apologizes for misjudging him, which gives Hawk the emotional support he needs to compete. After a titanic struggle, Hawk is able to conquer his old rival. As father and son celebrate, Cutler (who had followed Michael to the competition) looks on in silence and with grudging respect 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.


The military academy scenes, portrayed as being in Colorado, were filmed at Pomona College in Claremont, California, during the early summer of 1986. 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.

Sylvester Stallone was reportedly paid $12 million to star in Over the Top.[2]


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, Cleve Dean and Andrew "Cobra" Rhodes (as the final match referee).[2] Professional arm wrestler John Brzenk also makes an appearance.


The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics. It currently holds a 36% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The World Journal Film Reviewer Frank Ochieng stated "Stallone, for whatever inexplicable reason, continues to pile on the dramatic dribble in yet another pointless movie mishap". Other critics such as Clint Morris were more favorable of the film, stating "Stallone gives an impressive performance" while critic Luke Y. Thompson stated "Not enough ass-kicking, but the world does need at least one film about professional arm-wrestling".

The film received three nominations at the 8th Golden Raspberry Awards in 1988, with David Mendenhall winning two for both Worst Supporting Actor and Worst New Star while Sylvester Stallone was nominated for Worst Actor, where 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. "[3]


A soundtrack album was released in 1987 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
  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 wasn't crazy 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.


Over the Top was released in 1,758 theaters and opened in 4th place for the weekend, earning $5,149,200 behind Mannequin, Outrageous Fortune and Platoon.[4]

In popular culture

The Cartoon Network series Regular Show used "Over the Top" as the title for an episode of its second season. Like the film, the episode prominently features arm wrestling.

The Simpsons episode, "Simpsons Bible Stories" features a montage of David (Bart Simpson) training with the sheep after Ralph is assumed dead and the song "Winner Takes It All" is also featured in the episode while David is arm-wrestling with the sheep.

American indie rock band Manchester Orchestra's music video for the single 'Shake it out' is based on Over the Top.

"Over the Top" is referenced in an episode of ABC's "The Goldbergs" in 2014, including a homage to Stallone's infamous flipping his baseball hat backward.

On Nickelodeon's iCarly episode "I Get a Hot Room" Carly mentions she wants a VHS copy of the movie for her birthday. Her friend Sam then yells "they took his son!"


  1. "Over the Top (1987) – Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-07-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Online World of Wrestling". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2010-09-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. [1]
  4. "Stallone Loses A Box-office Arm-wrestle". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links