Ranking the Rocky Films

Rocky Balboa is easily the greatest film hero of all time. No matter who or what he faces he always comes out on top. Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, Age, Hopelessness and Cancer are just a few of life obstacles that the Italian Stallion has faced over many great years of films. Today, I’d like to playfully rank these movies. This is by no means a serious thing that anyone needs to get bent out of shape about. Everyone does it their own way. If you have your own ranking, please share! Get a conversation going and try to learn something new. Now, enough dawdling. ON TO THE RANKING!

7. Rocky V

This shouldn’t be a surprise to Rocky fans but I’ll quickly dive into this for those who haven’t seen this movie. To put it simply, everything in this movie feels forced. Losing his money, son’s love, career and so on doesn’t come naturally. You can just tell that the filmmakers were desperate to recapture the magic of the original Rocky but didn’t know exactly how to do this right. It also didn’t help that there was a ton of studio interference that messed up the final product. Despite being my least liked of the series, there is still fun to be had.  My favorite moment is when things go full crazy and Rocky gets into a street fight with Tommy Gun as the citizens of Philadelphia cheer on. Definitely don’t be afraid to watch this movie during your rewatches of the series, just don’t let it influence your opinion on any of the other films.

6. Rocky II

This may be a controversial opinion, but I’m not as big of a fan of the second Rocky movie as other fans. Just like the fifth entry, the rematch between Apollo and the Italian Stallion is sort of forced. Creed made it clear that there was no need for a rematch but then suddenly changed his mind within the first few minutes of the movie. What makes me like this entry better is that the lead up to the new match up feels much more natural. It makes sense that a guy like Rocky doesn’t know how to save up properly after making a ton of molla. His desperation to find meaning again after his first match also brings a nice dash of realism to a typical fairy tale ending. Writing like that is always appreciated, especially when it brings out a great continuation to a seemingly done in one film.

5. Rocky IV

Rocky vs Communist Russia. What’s not to love? Everything in the movie is so perfectly melodramatic and epic that my words will fail to perfectly explain why you should see it now. The best thing is that even though things have gotten crazier, the heart of the character still remains. Just look at the death of Apollo Creed. Yes, he dies wearing American Flag shorts as James Brown belts “Living In America”. But the tragedy is not lost on the characters or audience. Rocky is legitimately hurt and puts everything into his training to avenge his fallen friend. Corny? Yes. Awesome? Hell yes.

4. Rocky III

This movie is a bit of a departure from the first two. Instead of being a poor bum, this Rocky is a rich and well spoken individual who has been on the top of his game for awhile. His wife and son are happy and it seems that he is ready to finally retire for good. But then the incorrigible Clubber Lang, played by the legendary Mr.T, steps up for a shot at the title. What I like best about this entry is how the roles are reversed. You see Rocky fall for the same traps that Apollo Creed fell into years earlier. This makes our hero much more human and puts his mindset in the past movies into an interesting new light. Speaking of Creed, I loved his budding friendship with Rocky. Just goes to show that good things can come in cool and muscular packages.

3. Rocky Balboa

Something that’s really interesting about the Rocky series is how it lines up with Sylvester Stallone’s real life struggles during each period in his life. The first four films line up perfectly with his rise into popularity as the fifth Rocky move shows how his popularity declined in the 90’s. Years later, when his career was in a standstill, Stallone decided to revisit the series and make one more movie in the series that began his career. Rocky Balboa is a beautiful film that pits the Italian Stallion against his greatest threat of all time: time. Just like Rocky II, this movie shows the harsh realities of life pushing down on even the strongest people. Rocky has lost his wealth, wife and possibly his own son to the ravages of time. But just like all the rest of the entries in this series, Rocky never gives up. He forges his own path and gives a great speech that perfectly illustrates the themes of the movie: aging and pain may be inevitable but that doesn’t mean you have to go down without a fight.

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2. Creed

After Rocky Balboa, no one thought that there would ever be another Rocky movie with Stallone. Then when it was announced that there would be a spin-off movie following the son of Apollo Creed, fans began to worry. Was this just going to be a cash grab that would ruin the legacy of the character? Hell no. In fact, this movie is the farthest thing away from bad. It’s damn near perfect. We follow Adonis Creed as he tries to forge his own path in life after years of dealing with the death of his father, Apollo. He travels to Philadelphia to get his dad’s old friend, Rocky Balboa, to train him to become the next champion. Despite some retreads from previous films, Creed is very much its own beast that works perfectly for this generation coming into the legend of Rocky Balboa. Instead of dealing with concepts of fame or time, we get a lesson on the importance of family. Creed argues that you may be able to go far in life, but those surrounding you will help pick you up when you need help moving forward. Beautiful stuff.

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1. Rocky

Rocky is a film classic that follows the journey of an underdog named Rocky who takes up a challenge against the world champion, Apollo Creed, when his opponent has to duck out of a bout. Rocky Balboa trains hard for this fight despite most people thinking that it will be pretty lopsided against him. Balboa continues to diligently prepare not for the fame or the glory but just to prove to himself that he has what it takes to put the world champ up against the ropes. Without going into too much detail, all I will say is that there is a reason that Rocky won an Oscar for Best Film the year it came out. The movie goes to show you that success doesn’t always lay inside the ring rather it comes from finding happiness with those you love. Corny as it may be the lesson still stands true to this day. If you ever feel down or just want to watch one of the great movies ever made, Rocky is definitely for you.


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