I am and always will be a huge fan of the “Rocky” movies. Ever since I was a kid, these movies have given me more “goosebump moments” than any other films I have loved. When I had kids, I made it a point to introduce them to these movies as early as possible, not only because they are great – but because I also love the underdog/never quit message behind them too. These films are more than just the story of Rocky Balboa – they are about Adrianne, Paulie, Apollo, Duke, Mick, Adonis and so many other great characters and their journeys and story arcs. That’s what makes these movies so much more than just an “underdog” formula – these are characters you actually know and care about. I recently took the family to “Creed 2” and left just as pumped and jacked as I always do after watching these movies. The fact that this one had IVAN DRAGO only made it so much cooler for me. Anyhow, I also came away inspired to rank these movies. I know for sure a lot of readers will disagree with some of my choices, but that’s what makes this movie franchise so great. Each movie means something different to each person for different reasons. Maybe it’s the montages, the music, the villains, the quotes – each movie (even Rocky V) has it’s great qualities. Without further blabbering – here are my rankings (worst to first – although worst is better than most other movies in my opinion as a huge fan):
Rocky V – To most ardent and even casual fans of the series, this is consensus the worst movie of the batch. Tommy Gunn is the weakest Rocky nemesis by far – both from a character and acting perspective. Also, we see Rocky at his absolute lowest point in ANY of these movies and it is hard to watch our hero in this state. On top of that, the plot is a bit meandering, and the only other villain is a bad Don King impersonator. HOWEVER – this movie’s final fight scene (a street fight!) is pretty cool, and the Mick “flashback” is goosebumps city. Even though this is my least favorite of the franchise, if it is on TV you bet your ass I am watching it. Video evidence of chills city:
Rocky Balboa – OK, with Rocky V out of the way I can honestly say picking the rest got A LOT harder. But – if I am being honest I think this is where “Rocky Balboa” or, unofficially “Rocky 6” should be. This movie had no right being this good, because the premise is almost laughable. Mid 50’s (?) Rocky being called out of retirement by a ESPN simulation of him beating the current champ? C’mon now. YET – this movie is both really well acted and the fight scene surprisingly great. No – he doesn’t win in the end but he goes the distance – and to ANY Rocky fan you know that means an epic ton. The father – son dynamic here also gave me all the feels. While the villain, Mason “The Line” Dixon” is not even in the conversation of the great Rocky nemesis in the series, he is both capable and not positioned as a complete a-hole – which is a good thing. I am not ashamed to say I really liked this movie. As Paulie says “Rocco! This is the last round of your life!” And my man Rocky fights like it too.
Creed II – Maybe it’s too fresh in my mind, and this option could change after some more reflection. I really loved this movie, but to me (at this point) the others ahead of it are just a bit better. STILL – this movie was fantastic. Adonis Creed (son of Apollo) is now the champ with Rocky as his “Mick”, he is married and about to be a dad. Things going great, right? Welllll, Ivan Drago and his son now appear and challenge him (and his father’s) legacy. The fight scenes were AWESOME, the acting unbelievably good and the story well paced and meaningful. Michael B. Jordan is fantastic as Creed, but what makes this movie special for me is the humanization of the Drago boys. We actually sympathize with them and understand why they are what they are – which is really unique in any movie for the villain, let alone a Rocky flick. Training montages were on point too. A really good movie.
Creed – If I am being honest, when I heard about this movie being made I was skeptical (to say the least). I am very happy to say I was very wrong. This movie is a true “Rocky” movie and touches all the bases (and then some). Underdog? Yep. Great fight scenes? Damn straight. Awesome characters? Hell yes. The story is amazing, the acting really good and the whole “next generation” motif pulled off flawlessly. Just like the original film, our hero doesn’t win at the end but that is not the point. A really great story that stands on its own as much as it does as part of the franchise. The only negative is the villain is kind of weak – “Pretty” Ricky Conlan is probably the worst antagonist in the whole series. Still – this movie has many chills moments – like this one:
Rocky III – OK – here’s where it gets really tough. We are in Rocky 1 – 4 territory now. Still – this movie (in my opinion – leave the “you are out of your mind” comments below – I am ready) is slightly below the ones I will list ahead of it. Yes – you have the amazing Mr. T as “Clubber Lang” – an all time Rocky foe. Yes, you have one of the real tear-jerker moments with Mick’s death. And a big YES – you also have one of the all time great training montages in film history with an all time movie song behind it (“Eye of the Tiger”) but even with all of these great assets I still think there are better movies in this series. I loved this movie – so very very much so it hurts me to have it this low – believe me. Apollo, for my money, steals this movie. Just a fantastic flick all the way around. For your viewing pleasure – here is the montage I mentioned:
Rocky II – This ranking will probably get the most venom from all of you reading this, but it is just my opinion. This movie obviously GREAT, but compared to the two ahead of it just (for me) a slight but less. Here Rocky finally becomes champion, in one of the all time great fight scenes. Mick was at his absolute APEX in this film of “being Mick” and Paulie is the much needed comic relief (and some good drama from him too). Apollo is the “villain” but much like in “Creed 2” with Drago, we get to know him more and he becomes much more human and relatable as a result. Adrianne is also amazing in this movie, as we see her continue to become less than incredibly shy woman we first met and more and more the strength behind Rocky. The final scene where both Rocky and Apollo struggle to beat the 10 count is legendary, but THE scene of this movie can be summed up by Adrianne in one word – “Win”. one of the ALL TIME goosebump scenes :
Rocky IV – This is probably the most “controversial” ranking to most who will read this, but I absolutely stand by it. This movie is AMAZING and touches all the beats you want (and NEED) from a Rocky movie. Awesome villain (Ivan Drago), incredible fight scenes, Emotions (Apollo’s death), Goosebumps (“The Russian is CUT!), EPIC training montages (Russian wilderness vs Technology of Drago) and and amazing soundtrack. This movie is probably the most quoted (seriously, it’s true) of all the Rocky movies and rightly so. “Whatever he hits, he destroys!”, “If he dies, he dies” and “You can’t win!” are some of the real gems in this movie. When I introduced my kids to the franchise, this is the movie I started them with – because it is without a doubt the most entertaining of them all. Once they saw this one they were hooked. So many great scenes, but this one is my favorite – when Drago realizes in the final fight that the dude he is fighting is made of …..something else…..
Rocky – The one that started it all, won “Best Picture” at the Academy awards and launched one of the greatest movie franchises ever. This movie is nearly perfect – seriously – and the acting is so impressive. From Rocky to Paulie to Mickey to Apollo we KNOW these people, and feel all of their motivations. Rocky, plucked from obscurity by the Heavyweight champion to boost ticket sales is the ultimate underdog, and while he doesn’t “win” in the end it sure as hell feels like he does to all of us watching. The relationships and characters are so well done that you forget these are actors, and this movie literally started the “underdog” movie genre for years to come. An absolute classic. My favorite scene? Here you go:
Damn – just going back through these it brought back all sorts of emotions I have for each movie. I absolutely love this franchise. Let me have it in the comments – do you agree? If not – why?