Staying Alive (1983 film)

Staying Alive is a 1983 American dance musical film starring John Travolta as dancer Tony Manero, with Cynthia Rhodes, Finola Hughes, Joyce Hyser, Julie Bovasso, and dancers Viktor Manoel and Kevyn Morrow. It is a sequel to Saturday Night Fever (1977). The film was directed by Sylvester Stallone, who also co-produced and co-wrote the film with the original Saturday Night Fever producer and writer, Robert Stigwood and Norman Wexler, respectively. Along with Homefront, this is one of only two films that Stallone wrote without being the star (although he does have a cameo appearance). The choreography was done by Dennon and Sayhber Rawles.

Staying Alive
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySylvester Stallone
Produced byRobert Stigwood
Sylvester Stallone
Screenplay bySylvester Stallone
Norman Wexler
Based onSaturday Night Fever
by Norman Wexler
Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night
by Nik Cohn
Music byBee Gees
CinematographyNick McLean
Edited byPeter E. Berger
Mark Warner
Don Zimmerman
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$22 million[3]
Box office$126 million

The title of the film comes from the Bee Gees song of the same name, which was used as the theme song to Saturday Night Fever and is also played during the final scene of Staying Alive. The title also reflects Tony's circumstances at the film's beginning, in which he is barely surviving as he pursues his dream of making his dancing career.

Unlike Saturday Night Fever, Staying Alive was panned by critics and holds a score of 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Nonetheless, it was a box office success, earning $126 million on a $22 million budget. It also featured Sylvester Stallone's younger brother Frank's song, "Far from Over", which peaked at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Cashbox charts.


Anthony "Tony" Manero, a former disco king, acts on his brother's advice and his own dreams of dancing professionally. He is now living in a Manhattan flophouse (dosshouse), working as a dance instructor and waiter at a dance club, searching for a big break in the modern dance productions on Broadway. The break from his Brooklyn life, family, and friends seem to have somewhat matured Tony and refined his personality, including his diminished Brooklyn accent, an avoidance of alcohol, and less use of profanity. Other attitudes remain unchanged, such as his disregard for his girlfriend, the forgiving Jackie, who is a dancer and rock singer. Still acting immature, Tony maintains some of his other macho and childish double standards, such as seeing other women but being offended if he sees Jackie with other men.

Tony watches a show, which features Jackie as a dancer in the chorus, but focuses on the lead, a seemingly wealthy English dancer, Laura. Tony pursues her with seduction in mind, and spends the night with her. He is annoyed when she dismisses him afterward, not understanding that she intended their encounter to be a one-night stand. Laura coldly justifies her treatment of him by saying that "Everybody uses everybody", and implies that Tony used her in order to get a dance role in her upcoming show.

Unable to trust Tony, Jackie breaks up with him. Jackie, Tony and Laura then all audition for the Broadway production Satan's Alley. Jackie and Tony land small roles, and Laura is cast as the lead female dancer.

Tony begins to realize how callous he has been to Jackie, and walks all the way from Manhattan to his old Bay Ridge neighborhood in Brooklyn in the middle of the night. It's only when Tony walks past the 2001 Odyssey, he sees that the discotheque, which was his hangout six years earlier, is now a gay nightclub, which makes him take stock of how much his life has changed since he left Brooklyn. When Tony goes to visit his mother, and apologizes for his selfishness and the troublemaking ways of his youth, she points out that his selfish behavior as a teen was what helped him escape a dead-end life in Bay Ridge. Tony feels better after this and heads back to Manhattan to repair his relationship with Jackie. His hostility and distance from the arrogant Laura increase as the production progresses.

Tony decides to take a shot at replacing the male lead of Satan's Alley, and requests Jackie to help him practice the number. Laura is disgusted when Tony succeeds and openly displays her resentment at having to partner him in the show. They cannot hide their chemistry on stage despite her animosity, which pleases the show's director.

Satan's Alley sells out, and the cast takes the stage to a standing-room-only crowd. The first act is a success despite Tony's brash disregard for the script when he kisses Laura at the end of their number. Laura furiously retaliates by clawing Tony's face. The director blasts Tony backstage, telling him to take his personal war away from the production. Laura seems to offer a truce when she asks to see him after the show to "clear things up". Now fully aware of her manipulative ways, Tony coldly tells her that he has other commitments, and Laura snidely responds that he lacks star quality.

The second act is a dazzling display of dance and special effects, and Tony suddenly abandons the script near the end of the show. He hurls Laura away and gives way to his frustration in a solo dance. He finishes and holds out his hand to Laura with a command to jump. She halts amid Jackie's and the director's commands, but finally leaps in his arms for a climactic finish to the show. The thrilled audience gives a standing ovation.

Tony celebrates with his jubilant castmates and reconciles with Jackie. He says that what he really must do is "strut" in celebration. He leaves the theater and struts through Times Square, beaming with his newfound success in a scene echoing the opening of Saturday Night Fever.


Some actors from the first movie were also included in the cast, but their performances were cut: Donna Pescow appeared in the audience at Tony's Broadway debut, and Val Bisoglio appeared as Tony's father in a small role.[citation needed] His scene was deleted, and the film instead vaguely implies that he has died.

This movie has a scene where Sylvester Stallone (cameo, a man on the street) and John Travolta (Tony Manero) bump into each other on the street.


Development and writingEdit

Kersti Adams-Ray interviews John Travolta in Sweden about Staying Alive, September 1983

Saturday Night Fever producer and writer Robert Stigwood and Norman Wexler started planning a sequel soon after the original film came out in 1977, due to the film's success. They came up with the title Staying Alive, and Wexler wrote a script. Travolta was open to the idea of a sequel, but did not like the pessimism of the script, thinking that his character, Tony Manero, needed to see more success as a dancer.[4] Stigwood and executives from Paramount Pictures spent the next several years trying to convince Travolta to film the script as written, but with no success.[4] The project was considered abandoned, but then in 1981 Stigwood met with Travolta to get Travolta's views on how a sequel should go. Travolta stated that he wanted Manero to attempt a dance career on Broadway and end up in a leading role due to his talent.[4] Wexler wrote another script based on Travolta's ideas, in which Manero becomes a Broadway dancer but remains in the chorus. Travolta agreed to participate in the film, though he preferred an ending more like the one he had envisioned: he agreed that Wexler's ending was a more realistic outcome, but felt that it would not be sufficiently exciting for audiences.[4]

It was then time to find a director for Staying Alive, and Travolta, who had just seen the film Rocky III (which Stallone wrote, directed and starred in), told his agent that he wanted a director who could bring the energy and pacing of that film to Staying Alive. To Travolta's surprise, Paramount, with the help of then-studio chief Michael Eisner, was able to bring in Stallone himself.[4] Travolta told Stallone about his idea for a happier ending, and Stallone rewrote the script to more closely match Travolta's vision. Stallone also made the Manero character more mature - given that the character was now six years older than in the original film - and made the film's language tamer than that of the first film, to ensure that it got a PG rating.[4]

Under Stallone's supervision, Travolta spent five months doing rigorous training to develop a dancer's physique for the film, losing 20 pounds in the process.[4]


Staying Alive: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Bee Gees and others
ReleasedJune 1983 (US)
July 1983 (UK)
RecordedFebruary–March 1983
Middle Ear, Miami Beach, Florida, United States
GenreRock, soft rock, funk, R&B, new wave, dance
LabelRSO Records
ProducerBee Gees, Albhy Galuten, Karl Richardson
Bee Gees chronology
Living Eyes
Staying Alive: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Singles from Staying Alive: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  1. "The Woman in You"
    Released: June 1983
  2. "Someone Belonging to Someone"
    Released: July 1983
  3. "Far from Over"
    Released: August 1983
  4. "I'm Never Gonna Give You Up"
    Released: September 1983

The soundtrack was released in 1983 and is mainly performed by the Bee Gees. Five new Bee Gees songs (all of which have lead vocals by Barry Gibb) took up the first side, with side two featuring various artists performing songs mostly written by Frank Stallone, brother of the film's director Sylvester Stallone. The soundtrack reached number 14 in the United Kingdom, number 6 in the United States, number 1 in Switzerland, and number 2 in Italy and Japan, and sold 5 million copies worldwide. The LP was the final soundtrack, and the final songs, by the Bee Gees released under RSO.

All tracks on Side A are written and performed by the Bee Gees.

Side A
1."The Woman in You"4:04
2."I Love You Too Much"4:27
4."Someone Belonging to Someone"4:26
5."Life Goes On"4:26
6."Stayin' Alive (edited version)"1:33
Side B
7."Far from Over"Frank Stallone, Vince DiColaFrank Stallone3:56
8."Look Out for Number One"Bruce Stephen Foster, Tom MaroldaTommy Faragher3:20
9."Finding Out the Hard Way"Frank Stallone, Roy FreelandCynthia Rhodes3:33
10."Moody Girl"Frank Stallone, Vince DiCola, Joe EspositoFrank Stallone4:08
11."(We Dance) So Close to the Fire"Randy Bishop, Tommy FaragherTommy Faragher3:45
12."I'm Never Gonna Give You Up"Frank Stallone, Vince DiCola, Joe EspositoFrank Stallone and Cynthia Rhodes3:30
13."River of Souls"Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice GibbBee Gees6:57


Chart (1983) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[5] 28

Chart singlesEdit

Year Title Artist US US
1983 "The Woman in You" Bee Gees 24 - 77 - 81
"Someone Belonging to Someone" 49 - - - 49
"Far from Over" Frank Stallone 10 - - 43 68
"I'm Never Gonna Give You Up" Frank Stallone and Cynthia Rhodes - 16 - - -


Box officeEdit

Despite being a critical failure, Staying Alive was a commercial success. The film opened with the biggest weekend for a musical film ever (at the time) with a gross of $12,146,143 from 1,660 screens.[6][7] Overall, the film grossed nearly $65 million in the US box office against its $22 million budget. Worldwide it grossed $127 million. Though the US box office intake was significantly less than the $139.5 million[8] earned by Saturday Night Fever, the film nevertheless ranked in the top ten most financially successful films of 1983.

Critical responseEdit

Staying Alive was universally panned by film critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rare approval rating of 0% based on 25 reviews, with an average rating of 2.68/10. The site's consensus reads: "This sequel to Saturday Night Fever is shockingly embarrassing and unnecessary, trading the original's dramatic depth for a series of uninspired dance sequences."[9]

Roger Ebert called the dance productions "laughably gauche", especially the final number, which he mocked for including "fire, ice, smoke, flashing lights and laser beams". Ebert added that what the film most lacked was "the sense of reality in Saturday Night Fever... There's no old neighborhood, no vulgar showdowns with his family (he apologizes to his mother for his "attitude"!) and no Brooklyn eccentricity."[10] In 2006, Entertainment Weekly dubbed Staying Alive the "Worst Sequel Ever."[11] Many critics were unanimous in agreeing that the film did not contain the grittiness and realism that Saturday Night Fever possessed.


The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.[12]

Nominated: Original Song ("Far from Over")
Nominated: Worst Actor (John Travolta)
Nominated: Worst New Star (Finola Hughes)
Nominated: Worst Supporting Actress (Finola Hughes)
Nominated: Best Album of Original Score Written for A Motion Picture or a Television Special


  1. ^ "Staying Alive". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2018-06-11. ... the 22 Jun 1983 Var announced premiere events in Los Angeles at the Chinese Theatre on 11 Jul 1983, and in New York City at the Ziegfeld Theater on 13 Jul 1983 ...
  2. ^ Galella, Ron (1983-07-11). Smeal, Jim (ed.). John Travolta and Sylvester Stallone during 'Stayin' Alive' Premiere (photography). Seattle: Getty Images. 115412569.
  3. ^ "PowerGrid Project: Staying Alive". The Wrap. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Farber, Stephan (July 10, 1983). "'Staying Alive' Revives Travolta". The New York Times.
  5. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 283. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  6. ^ Murphy, Arthur D. (October 31, 1989). "Leading North American Film Boxoffice Weekends in History". Daily Variety. p. 53.
  7. ^ Staying Alive at Box Office Mojo
  8. ^ "Staying Alive". The Numbers.
  9. ^ "Staying Alive (1983)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 15, 1983). "Staying Alive movie review & film summary (1983)". Retrieved August 20, 2020.
  11. ^ "The Worst Sequels Ever — Staying Alive Entertainment Weekly issue #867. March 10, 2006.
  12. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0.

External linksEdit