Ranking the 6 Rocky movies from worst to best

It has been almost 39 years since the release of the first Rocky film, and with the upcoming spin-off sequel Creed due out later this month, we deemed it was only appropriate to rank the iconic franchise from worst to best.

But before we get started, note that this is merely an opinion; many of you may not agree. With that said, let’s go the distance and rank all the “Yo, Adrians.”

6. Rocky V (1990)

On so many levels this movie could have been exceptional. On paper it sounded good. It had a dramatic storyline between Rocky and Adrian. It had a flashback scene where Mick reappeared again to tell Rocky to “get up, you son of a bitch!” It even told a tale about how Rocky had to retire due to his repeated trauma to his brain. But something was missing in this film; it lacked heart. The dramatic storyline had no payoff in the end because Rocky didn’t even get in the ring. Even though it was a creative idea not to have Rocky bout it out in the ring, it took away from the tradition and what made the franchise so loved.

5. Rocky III (1988)

Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, and of course Philadelphia’s own son, Rocky headlines this anticipated sequel. However, even these 3 juggernauts including Rocky himself couldn’t save this film. Reminiscent to how Rocky V lacked heart, Rocky III had too much heart, if there was such a thing. The film tried too hard on a couple of different levels. The killing of Mick was very hard to watch. Mick was such a beloved character in the series. He added something different to Rocky’s perspective in the ring and in life. Killing him at least in this film was a poor decision. It was such a poor decision it almost made us forget that Rocky had two heavyweight bouts in the same film! And why were there two championship fights in the same film? I rather have one good match than two bad ones. While the soundtrack and training montage made most of this film most memorable, overall it could have used the less is more approach.

4. Rocky Balboa (2006)

Going back on this script, Sylvester Stallone probably would have turned Rocky V into this film. It was the sequel that we deserved. By this time, killing off characters of the film was expected and even Adrian was no exception. The story engaged us all by letting us know that Adrian has already passed. It was a tearjerker. Much like in the first film, Rocky had no one to fight for but himself. But now he was old, gritty, and hungry for more. It had the heart of a champion. And with the killing of Adrian, it made Rocky Balboa more authentic and very reminiscent to the first film. It was something we almost forgot about after Rocky V (even though the alternate ending was probably better than the original).

3. Rocky (1976)

Low budget, down and out, and 1 in a million. Those were the odds pitted against producing this film and ironically, these same rule applied in the storyline between Rocky and Apollo Creed. It was a story about an underdog that had no shot to even be in the same conversation as the world heavyweight champion himself, Apollo Creed. And just like the barriers that went along to produce this film, Rocky was a surprising success. His story was nothing ever seen before at that time. He was an underdog that just wanted to prove to everyone that he could fight, even at times if he had self-doubt. From start to finish, his storyline engaged everyone and it lead to the best part in the film which was the 15 rounds of pure blood, sweat, and tears. “Yo, Adrian,” this was an instant classic.

2. Rocky II (1979)

Some may say the sequel is never better than the original, but I beg to differ. The story takes place right after the end of Rocky and it only engaged us to not only tell a story we already loved, but excelled it in every single way. Rocky’s marriage with Adrian was heartwarming. You finally start to see Adrian coming out of her owns shell. Mick was becoming more of a father figure. And well, Paulie was still just being Pauile. One of the most memorable parts of this film, however, was when Rocky sprinted up the steps along with a sea of people running alongside him; it arguably was the best training montage in the franchise. After the montage, the film concluded with Rocky’s first win as heavyweight champion of the world. By this time, he stole our hearts and it kept us begging for more.

1. Rocky IV (1985)

How can this not be the best Rocky film in the franchise? Rocky had to avenge Apollo’s death after Ivan Drago killed him during an exhibition match. No other motivation since the first film compelled Philadelphia’s son to fight more than ever before. With a slow beginning to Rocky IV, it dramatically picks up the pace when Apollo challenges Drago to an exhibition match. This might have well made the most sense to kill off a character in the franchise with the death of Creed. It set up a war vs. war match between the “Italian Stallion” and the “Russian,” and every single round felt like a war between Rocky  and the whole Soviet Union. What really made this film the best in its franchise was his speech at the end. You could really feel the struggle of what he had to go through with all these obstacles to avenge his best friend and to win over a hostile crowd.

What’s your favorite Rocky movie? What’s your least favorite? Let’s discuss in the comments below.


Source: Total Rocky, IMDb

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Sen Chao
Sen Chao 67 posts

In the depths of South Sacramento, Sen was born to write and speak to all things nerd-related. He hopes to motivate others to play Tetris while eating fried chicken wings.