John G. Avildsen, the Oscar-winning director of the original Rocky with Sylvester Stallone, passed away Friday in Los Angeles after battling pancreatic cancer (per Variety). He was 81.

With his work on the surprise smash hit Rocky, Avildsen established a reputation as a crafter of audience-pleasing underdog stories, a reputation he would expand upon with his rousing Rocky-like 1984 film The Karate Kid. Avildsen would direct both sequels to The Karate Kid, and in 1990 he would return to direct Rocky V (after famously passing on the opportunity to direct Rocky II, a decision he would later admit was a mistake).

Even before Rocky, Avildsen showed an affinity for ...

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