In the five decades since the original Rocky premiered in theaters, the film franchise has gone down in history as one of the greatest of all time. The six Sylvester Stallone-led films have inspired generations of movie fans to take up an interest in boxing and paved the way for the ongoing Creed film series, which is still shocking audiences today. The illustrious films have birthed incredible characters such as Rocky Balboa, Ivan Drago, and Clubber Lang, as well as Carl Weathers' most iconic character, Apollo Creed. Despite the franchise's hit-or-miss track record, each Rocky film has something to offer audiences. Here's a definitive ranking of all six movies in the Rocky catalog.
6. Rocky V (1990)
Rocky V is universally viewed as the weakest outing in the franchise. With a paltry Rotten Tomatoes score of only 31 percent, fans and critics alike have surely shared their grievances with the 1990 film. The movie suffers from the effects of dragging a franchise far beyond its conclusion, with shoehorned issues such as a bankruptcy plot-line, which serve as weak excuses to pull the retired Rocky back into the game. Stallone himself has admitted to making several mistakes in this film, despite the expected magic of placing his material in the hands of original Rocky director John G. Avildsen. It could have been worse, however, as the original script for Rocky V saw the titular boxer dying in the ring, which would have nullified Stallone's brilliant performance in 2015's Creed.
5. Rocky IV (1985)
Though Rocky IV offers a handful of gems, the film ultimately devolves into a parody of the original franchise. Ivan Drago taking the ring as a thinly veiled allegory for the Soviet Union and murdering the ultra-patriotic Apollo Creed in combat may have been cinematic in the throes of the Cold War, but it rings out as a hollow war-mongering metaphor in today's political landscape. The film recycles a number of tropes that previous outings handled better and offers very little to compensate for its shortcomings.
4. Rocky Balboa (2006)
Now that Creed has completely reinvigorated the classic 80s franchise, many fans seem to forget that 2006's Rocky Balboa even happened. The film serves as a perfectly passable legacy sequel, made 16 years after the credits had rolled on the previous outing, though it ultimately brings very few new and fresh ideas to the table. Though Balboa returns to train other fighters in the Creed films, Rocky Balboa treats audiences to the final boxing match the beloved fictional character would ever compete in, over 20 years after his retirement. The film exceeds the lowest points of the franchise but generally fades into obscurity, and rightfully so.
3. Rocky II (1979)
Rocky II is a fantastic boxing film that showcases the incredible heart-thumping chemistry of the eponymous Italian Stallion in the ring with Apollo Creed. The only reason this Rocky movie isn't ranked higher is that all this was done before, and better, in the original 1976 film. While the first sequel in the ever-expanding Rocky cinematic universe offered more depth to the first film's antagonist, it ultimately provided very little new information to justify its existence. Still, this outing offered Stallone an opportunity to direct, which shines in the expertly crafted fight scenes and sees Rocky taking home the title as World Heavyweight Champion.
2. Rocky III (1982)
Rocky III stuns as one of the greatest outings in the franchise, expanding upon the universe of the Rocky films in a way that far surpasses Rocky II. The film brings with it the greatest antagonist of any Rocky outing in Mr. T's Clubber Lang while also flipping the script on the beloved Apollo Creed, who comes to respect Rocky and take him under his wing. Balboa's status as the World Heavyweight Champion could only be challenged by the ruthless force that is Clubber Lang, once again making Rocky the underdog despite his incredible successes in the ring. The film's final moments also solidify Rocky and Creed as friends and equals, fading into one of the greatest cinematic shots in film history.
1. Rocky (1976)
It should come as no surprise that the original Rocky movie tops this ranking, as Rocky has widely been considered one of the greatest films of the 20th century. The film took home three Oscar awards, including one for Best Picture, and currently touts the highest Rotten Tomatoes score of any film in the franchise with a staggering 92 percent certified fresh. Young audiences today may shake their heads at the cliches and tropes presented in the 1976 film, unaware that the first Rocky was so influential that it actually inspired the cliches used in hundreds of blockbusters produced afterward. However, subsequent Rocky films may have cheapened and diluted the franchise; the original stands tall as the greatest outing in the entire catalog.
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