After assisting on numerous films, including Otto Preminger's Hurry Sudown, Avildsen began directing and shooting low-budget sexploitation films. He gained industry recognition in 1970 with Joe, his rough satire of a gun-wielding reactionary. With Save the Tiger, he proved he could helm a serious film with major stars. Avildsen had his biggest success with actor/writer Sylvester Stallone's Rocky. His subsequent career has been professional but undistinguished, and includes such popular films as The Karate Kid series.