In 2006, Rocky creator Sylvester Stallone recounted the genesis of the iconic scene. The film crew, bound to a tight budget, first identified the steps one night while looking for shooting locations around the city. Stallone first thought Rocky should carry his dog Butkus up the steps, but the dog proved too heavy for the scene to work. Still, the view from the top of the stairs convinced him to reshoot the scene without the dog. In Rocky Balboa, Rocky lifts his dog Punchy when he reaches the top of the steps.
The scene has become a cultural icon. E! Channel ranked it No. 13 in its 101 Most Awesome Moments in Entertainment. During the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay, Philadelphia native Dawn Staley was chosen to run up the museum steps. The scene is also frequently parodied by the media; in the Simpsons episode "I'm Spelling as Fast as I Can," Lisa Simpson runs a up a flight of stairs wearing a tracksuit like Rocky's, while in the film In Her Shoes, Toni Collette's character, Rose Feller, runs up the steps with four dogs. On an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air the character Will, while back in Philly, trains for a big fight against a former childhood bully. The training ends with Will running up the stairs to "Gonna Fly Now", and celebrating and passing out, where a passer by steals his wallet and hat.
Bam Margera and Brandon Dicamillo parodied the scene to a cover of the song "Eye of the Tiger".
In 2004, Presidential candidate John Kerry ended his pre-convention campaign at the foot of the steps before going to Boston to accept his party's nomination for President.
The steps are the backdrop for the annual Independence Day celebration, and are often featured in mass concerts such as Live 8.
Two journalists from the Philadelphia Inquirer spent a year interviewing people who ran the steps, and published a book called Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope, and Happiness at America's Most Famous Steps in 1996.
After filming was complete, a debate erupted in Philadelphia between the Art Museum and the City's Art Commission over the meaning of "art." City officials, who argued that the statue was not "art" but a "movie prop," eventually moved it to the front of the Wachovia Spectrum in South Philadelphia.
It was later returned to the Art Museum for the filming of Rocky V, Mannequin and Philadelphia, then brought back to the Spectrum. The statue was replaced with a simple set of Converse sneaker footprints with words reading "Rocky" above them.
On September 8, 2006, the Rocky statue was returned again to the Art Museum and placed on a pedestal in a grassy area near the foot of the steps to the right of the Museum. The unveiling ceremony included live music, the debut of the first full trailer for Rocky Balboa, and a free showing of the first Rocky movie. At the ceremony, Mayor John Street said that the steps were one of Philly's biggest tourist attractions, and that Stallone, a native New Yorker, had been gladly adopted by Philadelphia.