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Ranking All Rocky Franchise Movies

Photo by Johann Walter Bantz on Unsplash

Few could imagine that when Sylvester Stallone entered the squared circle as Rocky Balboa in 1976, the movie would not only be a box office success, but also spawn an additional eight movies. With over $1.7 billion in earnings (minus Creed III totals), the Rocky franchise is one of the most lucrative and popular movie franchises of all time.

Following an additional five sequels, many fans thought that the iconic boxing story would come to an end, but in 2015, a whole new generation of boxing fans would be introduced to Rocky Balboa’s world thanks to the spinoff series, Creed, starring Michael B. Jordan.

With the recent release of the third chapter of Adonis Creed’s journey and speculation that the franchise will continue, we take a look at where the Rocky and Creed films rank.

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Rocky V

Universally considered the worst movie of the franchise, even Stallone himself has gone on record to state how much he regretted how the movie played out. Following his victory against Ivan Drago, Rocky would have to deal with health complications. Becoming a trainer, Rocky takes a young fighter by the name of Tommy Gunn under his wing, treating him like the son he may have wished he had, before Gunn eventually turns on him.

After what seems like a lot of trash talk and goading, Gunn and Balboa predictably square off. However, their underwhelming fight would take place on the street, not in the ring, where the older, brain-damaged Balboa somehow overcame the odds to defeat the younger, stronger, and healthier Gunn.

Rocky II

Following up on the success of the original movie would be an uphill battle and while the sequel was still great, there seems to be a little something missing.

For whatever reason, Apollo Creed felt necessary to challenge Balboa to a rematch to prove his place atop the boxing world. Add in the continued romance between Rocky and Adrian, including their marriage and introduction of their child, and the movie focuses as much on Balboa’s battle inside the ring as it does on the outside of it. Ultimately, with the championship belt in his grasp and a near primal scream of “Adrian, I did it!”, Rocky II serves as a reminder to everyone that dedication and hard work pays off in the end.

Rocky Balboa

Sixteen years after dominating Tommy Gunn, Rocky fans were given a much better (presumed) ending to the tale of the Italian Stallion. Dealing with his now grown-up son and the death of his wife, Rocky, who is now pushing sixty years old, is convinced by ESPN analytics that the prime variation of himself could defeat the current champion, Mason Dixon.

Played by professional boxing champion Antonio Tarver, the battle between the past and the present felt more real on screen thanks to the fact that Stallone and Tarver were throwing real punches. While there was no championship belt on the line, the exhibition match between the two proved to be one of the best in the series, as was the classic line: “It ain’t about how hard you get hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

Rocky IV

There are so many goods and bads about the fourth installment of Rocky it’s hard to evaluate it properly. While the training montage provides one of the most intense, hard-pounding moments in sports movie history, the David vs. Goliath story and authentic fight scenes aren’t enough to carry this film past much of the overdone campiness.

If you strip away the American hero seeking revenge against the evil Russian monster who killed his friend in a predictable final fight, you are still left with several cheesy moments like a robot maid and an entire country turning on their countryman. And let’s not look past the fact that Rocky was the actual reason why Apollo died, not Ivan Drago.

Creed II

Taking inspiration and continuing the storyline from Rocky IV, newly crowned heavyweight champion Adonis Creed is challenged by Russian fighting machine Viktor Drago. Stop if you have heard this before. Seeking redemption for his deceased father, who was killed in the ring by Ivan Drago, Creed would be humiliated by the younger Drago in their first meeting.

Intertwining dramatic heartfelt moments like Rocky’s battle with cancer and Creed’s journey to avenge his father, the path to the rematch in Russia had both Balboa and the elder Drago heavily involved in the final fight. While the rematch was filled with intensity and realistic boxing violence, the one knock against it was that it seemed to be more about the characters outside the ring than inside of it.

Creed III

The latest addition to the Rocky franchise would be the first film that would not feature an appearance by Stallone. In fact, the only role that Stallone had in the film was as a producer. While Stallone/Rocky’s absence could be felt, the introduction of new characters and the return of some familiar faces made up for it.

Jonathan Majors’ role as Creed’s former friend turned adversary flows seamlessly throughout the film and leaves options open for future opportunities. Jordan’s creative decision to remove the crowd and background from the final fight emphasizes the importance of the bout, but it might not appeal to everyone. Similar to playing in online casinos where there are no bells, whistles, and distractions often found in real-life casinos, the fight between Creed and Dame stripped away everything that fans expect from a traditional boxing match as the two fighters seemingly stepped into an alternate universe.

Rocky III

“Eye Of The Tiger”, “I Pity The Fool,” Hulk Hogan, and Mr. T. There was a lot to love about the third Rocky movie. With great names like Thunderlips and Clubber Lang, along with Balboa and Creed jumping around the beach like school kids, there were a lot of over-the-top moments that made fans furrow their brows, but that was the 80s.

After defeating Apollo for the title five years earlier, Balboa amazingly still held the World Heavyweight championship. Upon losing the belt to Lang in their first meeting after having his manhood challenged, Rocky would seek redemption. Following the sad passing of Balboa’s longtime trainer Mickey Goldmill, a former foe turned friend, Apollo would step in to prepare Rocky for the rematch.


Adopted by his widow, Apollo Creed never had the chance to meet his teenage son Adonis. However, with a library of videos, the younger Creed carved a modified relationship with the former World Champion. Seeking the guidance of his father’s former foe turned best friend, Adonis would soon find himself having to live up to his surname.

Not only would Creed be a sequel, but it was also a reboot of sorts that breathed a new life into the franchise for a new generation. As with the original Rocky, Creed falls short in his final fight, but despite doing so, he not only makes himself worthy of his father’s name, but, equally as important, carries on the franchise.


As one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories in history, Rocky is so much more than just a sports movie. Filled with inspiration, drama, emotion, relationships, opportunity, and of course boxing, the iconic 1976 film is considered by many to be one of the greatest movies of all time.

Sure, there isn’t as much fighting in this movie as in all future films and yes, Rocky gets the tar beat out of him for the majority of the fifteen-round fight with World Champion Apollo Creed, but it would be the final few rounds that gave underdogs everywhere a glimmer of hope. Winner of three Academy Awards and a Golden Globe, Rocky is the movie that made Stallone a household name.


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