The ‘Rocky’ Series: From Worst to First

Written by on November 4, 2016

Scribed by: Reid Smith

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“You’re gonna eat lightnin’ and you’re gonna crap thunder!” – Mick Goldmill

In case you’re not hip on who Rocky Balboa is or why there are six films about him, let me show you the light. The Rocky series tells the story of a middle-aged boxer who spends his entire career as an underdog. In every film, Rocky stands toe to toe with the best boxers in the world and comes out on the other side through grit and determination. Unfortunately, not all Rocky movies are created equal. Some deliver breathtaking exhilaration and excitement while others fall flat for one reason or another. This list gives a quick overview of each film and ranks them  from the bottom of the barrel to the cream of the crop and If you have any problems with it, you can feel free to meet me in the ring, ya bum.

6. Rocky V

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Let me start off by saying that Rocky V isn’t a bad movie. But it is a bad “Rocky” movie. The film begins right where Rocky IV left off. At a press conference, right after getting off the plane from his last big fight, Rocky announces that he’s done boxing. (Roll credits.) He wants to spend more time with his family but ends up taking on a mentor role for an up and coming boxer named Tommy Gunn. Tommy quickly shoots up the ranks as a number one contender for the Heavyweight championship but soon gets seduced by the fame and fortune of stardom and leaves his coach, Rocky in the dust. All the while, Rocky’s son Robert is upset that Tommy is getting all his father’s attention and rebels by hanging out with the bad kids who, get this, smoke cigarettes (BUM BUM BAAAAAA.) The climactic end of the film pits Rocky and his former protégée Tommy in a street fight outside of a bar. Rocky knocks Tommy out with the help of an inspirational speech from the ghost of his old trainer, Mick. Rocky and his son patch things up soon after and everyone lives happily ever after. Now, you’re probably wondering why I went through the entire goddamn plot of this movie in detail. It’s because if you were paying attention, you’d notice that he doesn’t box. NOT EVEN ONCE. The fact that Rocky V is about a boxer who doesn’t box instead of a boxer who, you know, boxes, keeps the underwhelming Rocky V in the basement. Like I said before, Rocky V isn’t a bad movie, it’s just a bad “Rocky” movie.

5. Rocky IV

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You were expecting this to be number one, weren’t you? Well sorry to disappoint but Rocky IV isn’t that good. 75% of the movie is pure 80’s cheese that’s almost hard to watch. It’s like they took everything minorly unbelievable about the first three Rocky movies and cranked it up to 11. (Who the hell runs up a mountain to train for a boxing match?) Not to mention the fact that there’s a talking robot that I’m convinced Rocky’s brother in law, Paulie is using for sexual pleasure. Even the bad guy is unbelievable. A 6’5 Russian superman with anvils for fists, Ivan Drago is meant to symbolize the U.S.S.R during the latter part of the Cold War. The only redeeming quality of this movie is the fact that the ten-minute boxing scene is nothing short of incredible. It may just be because I’m a citizen of the United States, but nothing fills me with more nationalistic pride than watching the Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa go 15 grueling rounds with the Russia’s greatest fighter and come out the victor. After one of the biggest wins of his life, Rocky gets an American flag draped around him and proceeds to give a heartfelt speech about the two Cold War superpowers coming together and god damn it, if that doesn’t make you want to hug the nearest World War II veteran, nothing will.

4. Rocky III

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Rocky III is known for many things. The badass training scene set to “Eye of the Tiger”, the death of Mickey and the bro hug of the century that Rocky and Apollo share on the beach. It’s also known as the part in the series where things start getting outlandish and cheesy. The wrestling match with “Thunderlips” aka Hulk Hogan where Rocky gets thrown into the stands being a prime example. The plot is somewhat predictable for the sequel of a sequel. After a string of successful title defenses against easy challengers, Rocky loses in a bout with the hungry and ferocious Clubber Lang, played by the one and only, Mr. T. Realizing he’s lost his edge and needs to get back to his roots to train for the rematch, he enlists the help of former foe, Apollo Creed to help him prepare for the big fight. In their second meeting, Rocky is able to take down Lang in three rounds thanks to his newfound quickness from training with Apollo. Unfortunately, Rocky III is the installment in the series where the character of Rocky Balboa totally devolves. The endearing underdog that we knew from the first two films gets replaced by your average tough guy character.  Rocky III is still a solid movie and fun to watch but it’s definitely a turning point for the worse in the series.

3. Rocky Balboa

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Rocky Balboa is the sixth and final (not counting spinoffs) installment in the Rocky series. It takes place about 15 years after the events of Rocky V. Rocky is an old man now and lives a quiet life as a proprietor of a restaurant in his hometown of Philadelphia when he gets approached about fighting an exhibition match against the current heavyweight champion, Mason “The Line” Dixon. (get it?) Rocky obliges and starts training for his last match. Nobody expects the washed up Rocky to last even two rounds against the much quicker and younger heavyweight champ but in classic Rocky fashion, he goes the distance with the current champ and the fight ends in a draw. To no one’s surprise, Rocky Balboa didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. It instead stuck to the tried and true formula of “underdog beating the odds.” The comparison could be made that what Rocky Balboa is to the Rocky franchise is what The Force Awakens is to the Star Wars franchise, which is a solid remake of the original. You’re not left dissatisfied after watching it by any means, but the film relies too heavily on sentimentality and fails to capture the uplifting magic of the original. Though It is nice to see that our hero has just one more fight left in him.

2. Rocky

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The movie that spawned five sequels and one spinoff, Rocky is one of the most uplifting and inspiring stories ever told. A virtually illiterate boxer who’s way out of his prime, Rocky Balboa is the ultimate underdog.. After getting the opportunity of a lifetime to face the current heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed in a gimmick title match, Rocky realizes that this might be his only shot to make something of himself and doesn’t take it lightly, training religiously day after day to try and go the distance with the champ. In a performance that shocks the world, Rocky lasts all 15 rounds through sheer will and determination. Only in a split decision comes does he come up the loser. Unfazed by the result and just happy he went the distance like he set out to do, Rocky embraces his girlfriend Adrian, one of the only people who believed he could do it, in one of the most heartwarming moments in any movie. You know, the part where he screams “ADRIAN” over and over again? The story of Rocky Balboa and the genuine way that Stallone portrays the character is so touchingly human that how could anybody not root for him? No wonder it won Best Picture at the 1977 Oscars.

1. Rocky II

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Rocky II flawlessly continues the story of Rocky Balboa, the ultimate underdog, without following the same pattern of its predecessor. Not content with just going the distance this time, Rocky is back and training harder than ever for his rematch with Apollo Creed. Realizing that most people think of him as a side show and his performance in the title match as a fluke, Rocky needs to prove not only to everybody else but to himself that he’s the real deal. Having to train right handed when you’ve been a left-handed boxer your whole life must be bad enough but coupled with personal challenges like dealing with his illiteracy problems, Adrian’s failing health and looking after his premature born son makes the win for our hero that much sweeter. After 15 punishing rounds of back and forth action, the bell is rung and Rocky Balboa, the embodiment of the American dream has his hand raised in victory. But this time, he’s a champion.

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