The Rocky Balboa Series Ranked
7. Rocky V
Rocky V is a travesty. It’s so bad that even Sylvester Stallone doesn’t acknowledge it and it has been written out of continuity. Taking place days after the uplifting Cold War ending of Rocky IV, Paulie became a dumbass and managed to make the entire Balboa family broke and Rocky suffered from permanent brain damage done by Ivan Drago and has to retire. It’s a halfassed attempt to build a story for a sequel and goes against what the entire series stood for. The movie then becomes about Rocky trying to find himself. Then the movie suffers from so many stupid plots points like Rocky’s son becomes a jealous delinquent, Tommy Gunn is a piece of crap and Don King wannabe George Washington Duke. It all cumulates with a street fight showdown which is ridiculous as it sounds but it’s one of the better parts of the movie and I love the “Sue me for What” line. What Rocky V really suffers from is that it was made at a terrible transitional period from the 80s to 90s. A lot of 80s franchises especially the horror ones suffered from trying to be modern & dark but still have that 80s feel and Rocky is another victim of that. Rocky V’s biggest problem is that it’s an insult to the legacy of Rocky and it’s best if it’s ignored.
6. Rocky III
Rocky III is a very inconsistent film. Being the follow up to 2 drama based films, it’s quite a disappointment. The first 30 minutes of the film are beyond silly and stupid. It’s pure 80s cheese (Hulk Hogan!? Mr. T!?) though in Mr. T’s defense, his villain Clubber Lang is a very good bad guy. Stallone admitted that he did run out of ideas and it shows. The plot is very mediocre. But there’s some good to Rocky III. Mr. T is fun to watch, Apollo Creed finally gets some character development, the training montage is fun as well as the end fight. Also it’s the only Rocky movie that features Eye of the Tiger. At the end of the day, Rocky III is a silly 80s movie and the Rocky franchise has so many better movies of quality that Rocky III ends near the bottom of the list but it’s nowhere as atrocious as Rocky V.
5. Rocky II
Hailed by many as the second best Rocky, I would disagree. My problem with Rocky II, is that it tries too hard to repeat the success of the first movie. Somehow Rocky got even dumber and is back to being broke and doesn’t know what to do with his life. I like the fact that it doesn’t delve into the 80s cheese of the time but it just keeps repeating the beats of the original movie. I like that we get more scenes with Apollo but the opportunity to explore his arc is kind of ignored for most of the movie and it isn’t till the second half where the movie starts to feel different. What makes Rocky II special is the Adrian & Rocky dynamic. The best moments come from Rocky & Adrian and that makes the end even more exciting. Though the ending is fan service, it’s done in a respectable manner. Film making wise Rocky does suffer from some bad dialogue and poor editing that holds it down compared to the other movies but even with Rocky II’s flaws, it’s still a good movie and worthy sequel.
4. Rocky Balboa
Rocky Balboa was created to right the wrong that was Rocky V and it’s actually a lot better than most expected it to be. What makes Rocky Balboa work is that it goes back to the formula of the original film. And it parallels heavily with Stallone’s career who became a fading superstar by the time of Rocky Balboa’s release. Rocky Balboa gets emotional at times, it rights Paulie as a good guy for once and keeps things fresh. As Rocky dealt with the theme of not accomplishing anything in life, Rocky Balboa deals with growing old & alone. There’s not much to complain about Rocky Balboa. It’s pretty good, the monologues do tend to get repetitive, the training scene and the end fight are lackluster but overall it wraps Rocky’s arc perfectly.
I considered Rocky Balboa to be the perfect conclusion to Rocky’s arc but Creed is a good expansion on the the franchise and it’s the best directed movie as well. Though most of the plot isn’t anything new, the father & son dynamic of Creed is what makes it spectacular. While Rocky Balboa is the story of an aging boxer, Creed is a father/son story that Rocky V tried to have. It’s an emotional movie and very respectable towards the legacy of Rocky & Adonis is a good addition to the series but I wish it had opted for a more definitive ending.
2. Rocky IV
Rocky IV is probably the most unrealistic film of the series but I think it perfectly blends in with Stallone’s action career. Even though I criticized Rocky III for having 80s cheese, the 80s was a fun time period for movies. It was the peak of action movies and the peak of Stallone’s career. Rocky IV utilizes the best moments of that time period & Stallone’s action career. There’s a strong villain, it’s a strong story and the second half of the movie is all training montages and a great fight. It does help that it contains the best training montages of the series and the best fight. There is some stupid cheese in the beginning but like I said the film gets really entertaining half an hour in. Even though Rocky IV might not be the best written movie of the series, it actually deals with some deep issues regarding the Cold War. If anything, it’s stance on the Cold War is apparent in Rocky’s final speech and is considered to be the movie that ended the Cold War. And let’s forget, It’s also the movie that introduced us to Dolph Lundgren who’s awesome. A true American movie.
Rocky is the ultimate sports drama movie. The problem sports movies tend to have is that they’re too focused on the sport aspect and are way too predictable. We know how it’ll go from beginning to end. It’s a simple formula but Rocky used the concept of boxing as a backdrop. It’s about a man who’s been burdened by bad luck his whole life and made mistakes. What connected with me was the theme of how Rocky was nearing 30 and hadn’t accomplished anything in his life. All people did was put him down and not support him. What makes it powerful is that Rocky believed in himself and that’s why the ending of the movie is so powerful The writing is at its best in Rocky and it has influenced many films to this very day and that is why Rocky is the best movie of the series. It’s timeless.