The Rocky Movies Ranked

2015 looks set to be a land-mark year for the Rocky movie franchise with Sylvester Stallone set to return to the Rocky character for the upcoming Ryan Coogler movie Creed, where Rocky will be acting trainer to the son of Apollo Creed – Adonis Creed – played by Michael B. Jordan (here it is on imdb). While little is known of the actual plot of the movie, this news has obviously created a lot of buzz surrounding fans of arguably the best sports-movie franchise in the history of cinema, and has brought about this very piece: “The Rocky Movies Ranked” – A piece in which I have undergone many an existential crisis in my ranking of Rocky 1-6, from 6-1 in terms of greatness. If you end up disagreeing with it, leave a comment, tweet TFM on Twitter, or tweet me, and I’ll be sure to take your comments on board and offer explanations where necessary. If you can’t already tell, I’m a huge fan. Now, without further ado, number 6 in the countdown…

6. Rocky V (1990)


What happens: Rocky is declared bankrupt and returns to where it all began, soon finding himself in a new role as coach for a protege who turns on him, forcing Rocky back into fighting, this time on the streets.

A Rocky movie without the most beloved boxing character of all time actually boxing a match was a bad idea, and the movie bombed with critics and audiences, making a relatively small $119million worldwide in comparison to the $300million Rocky IV made. In fact, the fifth instalment in the Rocky franchise was so far removed from what had brought the series to the dance, that even Sylvester Stallone has apologised for it. In an interview with the UK Sun newspaper, Stallone said “I’m greedy – what can I tell you? It was a mistake because the audience didn’t want to see the downside of the character. They wanted him to remain on top. I should have known that. I fell into a sense of self-parody.” You have to at least appreciate his honesty, even if this is by far the worst picture of the bunch.

5. Rocky Balboa (2006)


What Happens: Rocky comes out of retirement for an exhibition fight with the current heavyweight champion after the champ’s ego is knocked courtesy of a sport show’s proclamation that he’d never beat Rocky if the two were in their prime.

This movie is probably certifiably the second worst Rocky movie in the franchise, and it’s still pretty good! Sylvester Stallone told regarding his choice to direct the picture, that “if I’m going to go down in flames I might as well be the one in the cockpit”. It was a fair point for an actor-writer-director whose career was waning in the build-up to this picture being produced and whose own comeback story was evident alongside Rocky’s for this picture. The set up of the story may have been a little unrealistic and the movie may not have reached the levels of the four better films in the franchise, but it was still a very solid standalone and a welcomed addition to the story of one of our most beloved characters. After all, “the world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place. And, I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody, is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you worth, go out and get what you worth, but you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying: You ain’t what you wanna be because of him or her or anybody.” – Rocky.

4. Rocky II (1979)

rocky 3

This is where the list became really tough to order…

What happens: Happy to stay at home and work out the issues surrounding his private family life, Rocky is goaded back into the spotlight by embarrassed champion Apollo Creed who demands a rematch he inevitably gets. Rocky then goes one step further than he did in Rocky (1977), becoming the champion for the first time.

After two entire films dedicated to his underdog story of the everyday underclass man turned very best at what he does through hard work and determination, there was something so massively rewarding about finally seeing Rocky Balboa reach the top of the mountain and staying there. Enough said.

3. Rocky III (1982)

What happens: Rocky unites with his biggest foe Apollo Creed in an attempt to overthrow the challenge of Clubber Lang, played by Mr. T. Though there is a Hulk Hogan appearance to note, it is the death of trainer Mickey that this film will forever be remembered for.

Rocky’s old and beloved manager Mickey not only passed away in the movie as a part of one of the most emotional scenes in any Rocky film ever, but the actor who played him – Burgess Meredith – also passed away during production for Rocky III, in 1981. Though Mr. T and Hulk Hogan will be forever remembered as iconic Rocky foes, it is Burgess Meredith’s on-screen goodbye that will remembered by Rocky fans until the day each of us follows him into the great unknown, and it is this that leaves a lasting impression on everyone who has ever seen this series of films.

I love you kid. I love you.”

2. Rocky IV (1985)

rocky IV

What happens: A steroid using giant contender for Rocky’s championship – Ivan Drago – emerges from the Soviet Union and kills Rocky’s friend Apollo Creed in an exhibition match. This causes Rocky to retaliate in the shape of a title bout in the home nation of his new foe; a fight that will have unexpected consequences for the Soviets.

America was in the midst of the cold war, so who better to solve it than the most beloved underdog of the time… Rocky Balboa. Sure, this film is about as “America fuck yeah” as the Team America song is, but damn it’s good! Apollo Creed gets an incredible introduction from an at-the-time imprisoned (in real life) James Brown, then goes out in one of the most shocking Rocky moments throughout any of the films, then Rocky goes to the Soviet Union and overthrows their steroid injected giant machine to not only retain his championship but to also win the hearts of the Soviet people. If you’re not cheering by the end of Rocky IV, leave. In fact, you probably can’t because your body is frozen, like your heart.

1. Rocky (1976)


What happens: Rocky is an amateur fighter with a less than respectable win-loss record when he’s picked at random by current world champion Apollo Creed as his next challenger. Balboa then scratches, claws, and runs his way to peak physical fitness and takes the champ 12 rounds.

John G. Avildsen’s imagining of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky script was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won 3: Best Director; Best Editing; Best Picture. This is important to note for it cements the movie in the realm of the spectacular when it comes to its technical achievements, yet it was the reception from the public that truly defined this movie as the single greatest Rocky film of all time, if not the single greatest sports film of all time. 1976’s Rocky has the greatest montages, the greatest action, and the most heart. In fact, it was so heartfelt and inspirational that it doesn’t even matter that Rocky doesn’t win the championship in the end because it’s his incredible determination to take the best in the world to the final bell that truly defines his journey as a man. There’s a reason why Philadelphia has a statue of Rocky Balboa and that’s because he was, for millions, the definition of the everyday man turned good. In Rocky, Balboa burst through class-bound societal norms to make something of himself and ultimately created a legacy that transcended the Silver screen and made this picture the very best in the franchise.