Ranking the Rocky Movies
As a child, I watched Rocky with my dad as often as it was on television. We even had them on VHS, and if we missed a marathon, we would take out a day and pop those in. Recently, my son and I carried on the tradition by watching all of them in a row. (Took a few days, but was well worth it.) So here we go, going from worst to first:
The Trailer is pretty much all you need to watch.
*7. Rocky V
Please, please read the reviews after this one. They will be more positive, I promise.
OK, where to start. First of all, I was just getting into high school when this movie came out. I was at that age where I wanted to be inspired. I was excited about the movie coming out, and that made the disappointment even greater.
The story is based around the relationship between Rocky Balboa, his son Robert (played by real life son Sage Stallone RIP), and an up-and-coming boxer named Tommy Gunn (RIP).
The faults I have with the film are endless. First of all, Rocky's acting as a fighter with brain damage made it hard to understand him. No disrespect intended to anyone with head trauma, but it makes it hard to follow the dialogue. I actually turned on the closed-captioning during one of my earlier views just to find out what he said!
Adrian, Rocky's faithful wife, was definitely an after-thought in the story. She always will be seen as the wife who wanted her husband to quit his passion. But the opposite is so much more true. She wanted her husband to live, and live happily, both physically and mentally.
And while I understand the "Riches to Rags" story, I cannot believe that Rocky would lose everything he has shortly after returning from his fight in Rocky IV. His star power would still be at its peak. He just unified two nations for crying out loud!
George Washington Duke, played by Richard Gant, was probably the best performance. Although very over-the-top, the likeness of another very brash promoter, Don King, does come to mind while watching. And it "tongue-in-cheek" gives a nod to all the fighters who have been screwed over by the business.
Tommy Gunn is uninspired as a character. His wins don't matter, and he never made you like him. Rocky was a shell of himself, not even acknowledging his wife and son. Paulie was Paulie. The music was uninspiring. And originally, Rocky was going to die in this film! That would have been the only way to make it any worse.
Basically if my son comes in and says a Rocky movie is on, and I go in and see Rocky V, he gets put on restriction for lying!
*I have no idea how good Creed will be, but this movie will still be the below it in the rankings.
Great Rocky II Training Montage
5. Rocky II
Although the passion of the first film still existed, Rocky II was a slow moving drama without much action. The scene was familiar to the first one and so was the vibe. But the story of a fighter doesn't really lead to much, unless they can fight.
The story of the fighter reaching the pinnacle, as happened in Rocky, is glorious. An unknown who makes it, great! But then he finds out he has a detached retina and will risk his sight if he fights again. His trainer Mickey "Mick" Goldmill, wonderfully played by Burgess Meredith, advised him against fighting.
The scenes of Rocky trying to do commercials are degrading and hurtful. I hated seeing them make fun and belittle him.
Once Rocky has come to the conclusion that he is going to fight, the now-pregnant Adrian does not approve. Her disapproval leads to anger from Paulie, who confronts her in the pet store. During the confrontation she faints and goes into labor. There is never any accountability for Paulie about this.
Adrian, after giving birth and being in a coma, finally tells Rocky to "win" in his match with Creed. And Rocky, after a lackluster start to his training, finally focuses on the task at hand.
Apollo Creed is a great antagonist. He has swagger and moxie. His testosterone levels were just there with the reasons for him "having" to fight Rocky as opposed to wanting to. His ego wouldn't let him move on. Carl Weathers played a great part, and made the entire rivalry believable.
The fight scenes during their epic fight were fantastic. Even if a boxer wouldn't stand right in front of jab after jab, the action was important for the build up. The fact that Rocky couldn't stand on his own after the bell rang made me exhausted.
Not that this was not a great movie. I enjoy this move more than a lot outside of the Rocky franchise. But the other movies are just higher on my list. Another great score by Bill Conti.
The Great Rocky Balboa Speech
4. Rocky Balboa
This movie really surprised me. I almost had to move it up one spot, but at last minute changed my mind.
After Rocky V, Sylvester Stallone knew that he had to end the franchise on a better note. I mean, this didn't start with a small film and then grow. It started with a huge film and then blossomed. But Rocky V proved that many of those branches had wilted. If Rocky was 1A and Rocky II was 1B, then Rocky Balboa was 1Z.
This movie relied on the viewer to have some knowledge and nostalgia from the previous movies, but it did make good use of modern technology to bring it current. Simulated boxing matches are used to face off two opponents. Because the current champion feels disrespected at the notion that he would lose to Rocky, his management sets up an exhibition with Rocky.
Let me give you the quick details. Rocky owns an Italian Restaraunt, Adrian had passed away four years prior, and Rocky still doesn't talk to his son. But it isn't neglect now, it's anger and jealousy on his son's end.
The penultimate moment in the movie is when Rocky speaks to his son from the heart. His speech is so well written and performed so well by Stallone, that it makes the dialogue scenes from Rocky V seem more unbelievable.
Mason Dixon (played by Antonio Tarver) was believable. His character didn't have too many faults, except to feel respected. Rocky's son Robert (now played by Milo Ventimiglia) was decent. Not too likeable, even at the end, but I've never been the son of a famous person, maybe they can't grasp humility completely. Paulie again was as cratchety as ever.
After the death of his wife, I don't think that Rocky will ever be able to see another woman as equal. That's why in this movie, they made Rocky more of a mentor to a single mother and her son. although the relationship seemed somewhat odd, it allows Rocky to at least feel like he can positively change someone else's life. Rocky was a man on a mission to clean things up not only for that movie, but the entire franchise.
I know it was the first one. I am a purist too, but it just didn't grab me as the other two did. Believe me, I understand that without this movie, the others don't come. But trust me here, I have a good reason or two.
First of all, it was a love story. Seriously, go back and watch it. The lowly boxer chases the girl (who you knew looked hot under those glasses). After gaining her acceptance, he devotes his life to making her happy. And he feels insecure without her near him. The reason this is a slight negative for me, is that when I watched this movie as a youngster, I didn't understand it. I understand now, but the nostalgia is tainted forever.
Second, the story starts with Rocky as a collector for a loan shark. While this part of the story somehow gets glossed over, Rocky was basically a mercenary in his early days. Breaking skulls for a cut of the return. Well, when I was younger, watching Rocky smoke cigarettes and associate with thugs was not admirable. I know it's part of the story, but it made it hard to like him at that time.
Overall, the story was compelling and the ending unique. Rocky lost! What? Rocky lost in the main fight of Rocky? This was the part that made a difference to me. Rocky left that arena, putting everything on the line, only wanting to be comforted by Adrian. Knowing that she, and Mick, are the only others who believed in him. (Paulie cared, but only because it benefitted him.) The fight scenes were very well done. Rocky did a great job of creating suspense. And once again, unbelievable score from Bill Conti.
Favorite Rocky Movie:
The Great Rocky IV Training Montage
2. Rocky IV
For many years, Rocky III stood as my favorite in the series. After my recent viewing, I tried real hard to "allow" Rocky IV to take over the spot. It is close to the top, but not quite.
I Tried watching it on a global scale. I mean, it was filmed during a contentious time between our nation and the USSR. It was no small feat to touch on the subject in a major motion picture. Although there was some propaganda mixed in, the overall theme of togetherness was important.
Now for the meat and potatoes.
The soundtrack was excellent. Bill Conti, absent while working on The Karate Kid movies, was replaced by Vince DiCola. The actual music was excellent, but that training montage is one of the best montages in the history of montages. Makes me want to go out and climb a mountain right now!
The storyline was very fresh and modern. Having now watched a few movies with Apollo in them, and feeling a connection with his character, it was one of my first memories of death. I was hurt when he died. Mick was old, and was supposed to die. Apollo Creed doesn't die! I thank the Rocky franchise for showing that you can pick up the pieces after a sudden death.
Rocky defeats the Russian boxer, the in-ring killer of Apollo in an exhibition match. After Rocky agrees to a match in Russia for no money, Adrian is appalled. She thinks it's suicide. Rocky wanted her permission to fight, and she couldn't provide it. But Rocky decided to do what he felt was right. Midway through his training in a remote area of Russia, Adrian arrives to give her support.
Rocky is a great character in this one. He is inspirational and rarely is aloof like he is in other pictures. Paulie is actually passable in this one. He provides some comic relief in some tense moments. Adrian, although initially against him fighting, provides the needed boost that Rocky needed. Apollo was stoic and his former trainer Tony "Duke" Evers (played by Tony Burton) was great as Rocky's trainer in Russia.
The main antagonist Ivan Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren) was portrayed well as a governmental pawn. He was pumped with steroids (my first exposure to them), then put condemned when he was losing in the final fight. Finally, he shows respect for Rocky and somewhat redeems himself even after showing no emotion after Apollo's death.
I still watch this movie with excitement, and it would be number one, if not for..........
Eye of the Tiger
1. Rocky III
Mr. T, Hulk Hogan, Apollo Creed, and Rocky Balboa all in the same movie?
At that time, wrestling was just starting to be cool to me. Hulk Hogan (playing a character by the name of Thunderlips) is great in a role that he played in his day job. This time he was the heel, but still was able to show solidarity with Rocky without breaking character too much.
Mr. T was the ultimate bad ass. He was unstoppable, and knew it. He trained hard, and was hyper-focused on being the best. He had similar traits to an early Rocky, except that his humility was not present. He also had a "win-at-all-costs" attitude, which was anti-heroic. His ferocity was what made his loss to Rocky the best of them all.
The boxing sequences are great, and once again, the soundtrack is amazing. This is the movie where "Eye of the Tiger" was introduced.
It is also one that shows how much distractions can hurt an athlete as Rocky is not as hungry when he trains for his first fight with Clubber Lang.(Mr T.) After losing to Lang, and losing Mick in the process (he passes away), a distraught Rocky loses interest in fighting. It is only after some coaxing by Creed and a heart to heart talk with Adrian, Rocky finally find the "eye of the tiger" and trains like he wants to win.
The final fight is excellent, the moments when Mick gets annoyed, and the relationship between Apollo and Rocky are genuine. Paulie again is unruly, and Adrian again provides that boost that Rocky needs to move forward.
Rocky III is the first time that Rocky's character starts to feel comfortable communicating, He is confident, although somewhat overconfident at times. But the main theme to me was to clear out all of those doubts in your head, and keep pushing forward.