The Rocky series has been arguably the top sports movie series of all-time. The seven movies have spanned over the past forty years. There was movie that won best picture and there was also a dud. In between, there were a lot of movies that were pretty similar in terms of quality. We’ll break these movies down in today’s post! There are several factors that go into ranking these movies and for the sake of this post, it’s not just going to be the quality of the acting. It’s going to be centered around the story, the characters, and the overall drama and action on each movie. We’ll also provide a grade for each movie.
Here’s First Score Boston’s ranking of the Rocky movies!
#7. Rocky V (1990) – GRADE C – : If this movie never happened, it wouldn’t have even mattered. There’s really no link to Rocky V and Rocky Balboa. If it just went from Rocky IV to Rocky Balboa, the series probably would have been better off. On a positive note, the story of Rocky losing everything and going back to his old neighborhood is interesting and was needed after the fame and fortune in the previous two movies, but the movie really is hindered by the Tommy Gunn character. Comparing Gunn to Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, and Ivan Drago is like comparing Henry Owens to Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello. Just brutal. Rocky managing Gunn certainly gives it a different twist, but it left Rocky die hard fans wanting more than that. In addition, it’s the only Rocky movie where there’s not a fight in the ring. The street fight was certainly entertaining, but it failed miserably in comparison to the other Rocky movies. When the Rocky marathons are shown on television, this is where Rocky fans take a nap.
#6. Creed (2015) – GRADE C + : Surprised? It’s well documented that this movie got much higher praise by movie critics than any other Rocky movie than the original. Don’t care! It’s debatable that this movie even be included on this list considering that Rocky isn’t the main focus of the movie. This movie was decent and that’s being positive. Adonis Creed is a solid character and the Rocky manager/mentor story in this movie is definitely worthwhile. However, the movie tried way too hard to be like the original and Adonis Creed is no Rocky Balboa. Solid movie. Glad it happened. It’s an overrated movie though.
#5. Rocky III (1982) – GRADE B : After going from bum to champion in Rocky II, we see a more glamorous Rocky in Rocky III. He’s living the high life which, for most Rocky fans, isn’t the Rocky that we really enjoy watching. With that said, there’s certainly a lot of action in this one. Rocky faces off with Thunderlips in a boxing/wrestling match which creates a new and interesting twist. We see Rocky get completely dominated for the only fight in the entire Rocky series in his first battle with Clubber Lang. This coupled with Mickey’s death gives viewers many different storylines and angles early and often. Rocky teaming up with Apollo Creed with the game plan of wearing out Lang in the rematch really worked here. It certainly was not the best Rocky fight at the end, but it gave viewers the action they crave in this series.
#4. Rocky Balboa (2006) – GRADE B : What a nice surprise! When news came out about another Rocky movie, most critics ridiculed the thought after the disaster of Rocky V. A sixty year-old boxing? That’s a tough story to promote, but this one was done right. The story of the movie is strong with Rocky struggling to deal with the loss of Adrian and also not connecting with his son. There are some nice moments with sentimental speeches between Rocky and Paulie and also with his son. The great thing about this movie is that it defines the true character of Rocky – a genuinely nice guy who made the best out of his abilities. The training and fight scenes are somewhat painful, again, considering his age, but it worked for some reason. Mason Dixon, like Tommy Gunn, was not a great opponent character, but the story really worked here.
#3. Rocky II (1979) – GRADE B + : Let’s start with this. The storyline in this one isn’t elite. The movie drags at the beginning as Rocky recovers from the first fight with Apollo, gets married, and then retires. He hits rock bottom when he is let go from working from a meat factory. He gets mocked and ridiculed by the locals. The first hour of this movie not great. Then the movie takes a strong turn when Rocky decides to fight again. Mickey gets on him about his training as Mickey typically would do. The fight itself is the best of all of the Rocky movies. An angry Apollo who is keen on completely embarrassing Rocky dominates “Superfight II” at times, but Rocky hangs in there. No Rocky fight tops Apollo and Rocky standing toe to toe in the center of the ring exchanging blows in Round 15. It became a battle of will. The fight itself makes up for the first hour of the movie.
#2. Rocky IV (1982) – GRADE A – : This one had it all! Drama, action, story line…you name it. There was no dragging in this movie. Ivan Drago proved to be the best opponent character in all of the Rocky movies besides Creed. And what do you know, the two best opponents faced each other with Drago killing Creed in the ring. Yes, a bit extreme, but it set up for a side of Rocky that we hadn’t seen before. He went into complete isolation with one goal – beating Drago. The training scenes in the snow in Russia are outstanding. The sharp differences in the training methods between Rocky and Drago stand out with the all natural training vs. the new era of technology. The fight seen is also outstanding with Rocky taking the biggest beating he took in any of the movies, but ending up on top in class Rocky fashion. 32 years later, this movie still stands out.
#1. Rocky (1976) – GRADE A + : Not debatable! There are many Rocky fans who put Rocky IV on top. It’s not close. This is the best sports movie of all time. It won Best Picture in 1976. The original movie of the series is usually the best and it’s no different here. This is the original once in a lifetime chance sports movie and it had a very interesting twist. Being a winner while still losing. The entire plot leading up to Rocky not even caring if he won or lost the fight with Creed was brilliant. In what other sports movie, does winning or losing not matter at all? The cast of characters in this movie is excellent. Mickey, Paulie, Adrian, and even Gazzo all are perfect fits. The movie that started it all remains on top!
There’s our list! Surely, there will be varying opinions as we await the next Rocky marathon!