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Promotional movie poster for F.I.S.T.
Directed by Norman Jewison
Produced by Gene Corman
Written by Joe Eszterhas (story)
Joe Eszterhas and Sylvester Stallone (screenplay)
Starring Sylvester Stallone
Rod Steiger
Peter Boyle
Melinda Dillon
David Huffman
Kevin Conway and
Tony Lo Bianco
Music by Bill Conti
Cinematography László Kovács
Editing by Graeme Clifford
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) 1978
Running time 145 min.
Language English
Budget $11,000,000

F.I.S.T. is a 1978 movie directed by Norman Jewison and starring Sylvester Stallone. In this film, Stallone plays a Cleveland warehouse worker named Johnny Kovak who becomes involved in the labor union leadership of the fictional "Federation of Inter State Truckers", and finds that he must sacrifice his principles as he moves up through the union and attempts to expand its influence. The movie is loosely based on the Teamsters union and their former President Jimmy Hoffa.

A number of other well known actors and actresses appeared in F.I.S.T. They included Kevin Conway, Brian Dennehy, Rod Steiger, Melinda Dillon, Richard Herd, Peter Boyle and Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis.



The film begins with a shot at a loading dock. The man in charge of watching over these men is Mr. Gant, who we see welcoming a new worker, Lincoln Dombrowsky. He tells him the job requirements along with how he will be paid. He tells him that he'll be paid for working 8 hours and if he works overtime, he still only gets paid for 8 hours. The man in charge also tells Dombrowsky if he drops any of the merchandise, it comes directly out of his pay. These are a couple of the many unfair working policies that these men have to go through. Later on Lincoln drops a few carts of tomatoes, which is taken out of his pay, and another fellow labor worker is fired for helping him pick it up. This sparks a little riot, led by Johnny Kovak, another mistreated labor worker. After the riot, many of the workers come into the office of their superior, Boss Andrews. Kovak believes he has negotiated himself a deal for himself and his fellow workers. The next day Kovak and his friend Abe are informed that none of their demands have been met and both of them have been fired. Kovak is depressed; now seemingly out of a job.

Johnny and Abe spend the next couple of days in bars, when they are approached by Mike Monahan, who witnessed Kovak lead their labor riot. Mike offers Kovak and Abe positions in the Federation of Interstate Truckers (F.I.S.T.). They will only be paid based on how many members they can get and they at the time, reluctantly join. Kovak was given a car straight up to help to convince him to join. Johnny drives around trying to get the attention of a woman he met at a party a while back, Anna Zarinkas. After a few attempts, Johnny finally gets a date with Anna and they start seeing each other. During this time, Johnny is also starting to get a few members and this comes to the attention of the leaders of the people running the labor businesses. They feel a bit threatened by Kovak and try to offer him a deal to join them and be a voice in helping bring more labor workers. Kovak immediately rejects the offer, which results into him being set up and beat up. Kovak remains strong and holds his ground, as they get more people to join. We are then introduced to another leader of F.I.S.T., Max Graham. He is known by many labor workers and is a bit of a hot head. He doesn't respect Kovak or believe he should really represent F.I.S.T. This sets up something later in the film because Kovak doesn't forget about the hostility Max showed in the beginning.

Soon Mike, Johnny, and Abe begin working to get the F.I.S.T. members working at Consolidated Trucking a labor agreement. Management refuses to deal with them, resulting in the F.I.S.T. workers striking. The F.I.S.T. members set up a camp outside of Consolidated Trucking's gates. This only works for while, until the members of F.I.S.T. are pushed off the ground by physical force. This disgusts Mike, who goes into a truck and with intention to ram their gates. Instead Mike is shot at and killed. At Mike's funeral Johnny decides to get some real muscle to get his point across and accepts help from local gangster Vince Doyle. At a union meeting, Johnny tells Graham to leave, that the F.I.S.T. local would take care of things themselves. Vince's men attack trucks that are trying to make deliveries. Local mobsters and the members of F.I.S.T. join forces to storm the gates of Consolidated Trucking. In the end the President of Consolidated Trucking is forced to sign a labor agreement.

After the strike, Johnny and Abe travel throughout the Midwest, recruiting more workers to join F.I.S.T. as the union becomes stronger. Kovak becomes wealthier and marries Anna. Then a new crime figure Babe Milano comes on the scene - wanting in on what Johnny and Abe are doing. Kovac meets Milano with Doyle and although reluctant to involve him in his business, he decides it will be best for now.

The film then goes to 20 years after all the other events have taken place. F.I.S.T. is now a large and important union with about two million members and a very fancy headquarters. Johnny is visiting Max at the HQ building and he is not pleased to see how luxurious the building and Max's offices are. Abe is now located on the west coast and is still very important member of the Union. Over a drink Abe tells Johnny that he has discovered that Max has unethically made money off the Union. Johnny promises to investigate and finds out that Max has made himself rich by using his influence to steer union businesses and funds to shell companies owned by him or his wife. The external corruption of F.I.S.T. is also portrayed. In one sequence Kovac seeks the assistance of a trucking company owner in bringing the union into his shop. The owner, an honest and generous man who loves his workers, politely declines. He explains that his men have no interest in F.I.S.T. because he pays better wages and benefits than union members get. Soon after the owner's wife is assaulted but let go with the warning "next time we won't stop."

Movie then takes us to F.I.S.T. convention where new union president is supposed to be elected with Max being a heavy favorite. At the private meeting Johnny informs Abe of Max's criminal deeds, to which Abe insists that he be turned in to authorities. Johnny disagrees and tells him that union could not handle a scandal like that and that the issue will be handled internally. Johnny goes and has a meeting with Max where he confronts him with the truth, and offers him only one way out - quit his run for union president and support Kovac instead. He also tells him that he should have never treated him the way he did. Johnny is now the president of F.I.S.T., but now he has Senator Madison after him as he suspects Kovak of having ties to the mafia. Later on Abe comes and visits Johnny and their relationship as friends have seemingly deteriorated as the years have gone by. Abe asks Johnny to cut off Milano and make the union clean again. Kovak ignores his request. Then Vince tells Johnny that Abe will testify against him and Milano and everybody else. Johnny says that he doesn't want Abe to be touched. Johnny is then called in to testify in front of the Senator, where he informs him that Abe has been killed and he believes that Kovak is responsible for it (although it was really Milano's men who did it). This shocks Johnny and as the Senator continues to accuse him of other crimes, Johnny erupts into an emotional outburst and storms out of the hearing. At night Johnny returns home and finds out that Anna and his children are missing. He runs throughout the house looking for them and gets his gun, but as he goes towards the staircase, is shot and killed by Milano's men. They feared that Kovak would cut Milano's mob off and testify against Milano. The movie ends with a bumper sticker on a truck saying, "Where's Johnny?"


Most of the filming was done in Dubuque, Iowa. Dubuque was chosen firstly because the older sections of the town looked more like Cleveland of the 1930s than Cleveland did, and secondly because of the absence of roof-mounted television antennas due to most of the homes having cable television. Because of the large bluffs, over-the-air television signals had problems reaching homes in the low-lying areas, so a cable system was developed in the mid-1950s, which was considerably earlier than many other municipalities.

Some locations used in filming included St. Raphael's Cathedral, Sacred Heart Church, the Fourth Street Elevator, E.J. Voggenthaler Co. and Dubuque Star Brewery. Filming was also done at the former Caradco manufacturing company in Dubuque. Portions of the Caradco building were fitted with new windows which were then purposely smashed for filming. The windows were replaced by the end of filming. Other Dubuque locations that were also visible in the finished film were the Dubuque County Courthouse and Saint Mary's Catholic Church.

Some filming was also done in the English city of Sheffield.


Despite the popular cast and strong reviews, F.I.S.T. was not a strong box office success. The minimal marketing and advertising the film received ultimately caused it to suffer financially.[citation needed]

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