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Ranking all 6 Rocky movies from worst to best

With Creed set to be released in Irish cinemas, we look back on past installments in the franchise.

6. Rocky V

Source: Bart Simpson/YouTube

EDGES IV AS the worst movie in the series. At 104 minutes, it’s not the longest Rocky film, though it certainly feels like it. It also contains what is surely the worst/most offensive line in the series, when at one point, Rocky says to Adrian: “Maybe I’ll take you upstairs and violate you like a parking meter.”

5. Rocky IV

Source: macgyverthalijepp/YouTube

Despite the low placing on this list, IV is not all bad. In addition to being one of the most overtly political movies in the series (the film takes place amid a Cold War backdrop), it features a superb montage (see above) and has arguably the scariest and most formidable villain in the entire series (Ivan Drago). However, for the most part, it felt like a Rocky film on autopilot, with an abundance of tired clichés as well as an unnecessary sub-plot involving Paulie and a robot. That said, Stallone and co must have done something right, as it grossed $300 million worldwide, more than any other Rocky film, and was the highest-grossing sports film of all time until 2009 movie The Blind Side took its place at the top. The movie also subsequently spawned a novelisation (yes, really).

4. Rocky III

Source: CaptainCarlossi/YouTube

III is perhaps the most divisive film in the series. At 100 minutes, it was considerably shorter than the first two movies and while they ramped up the melodrama (most notably with Mickey’s tragic death), this instalment was the first sign that the formula was wearing thin. Nonetheless, by threequel standards, it remains highly enjoyable. Appearances by a then largely unknown Mr T (the film was the first instance of the now ubiquitous catchphrase “I pity the fool”) and Hulk Hogan ramp up the novelty value, while it also contains arguably the best musical moment of the series (‘Eye of the Tiger’) and quite possibly the most homoerotic montage ever committed to film.

3. Rocky II

Source: RockyBalboaOfficial/YouTube

If the first Rocky film was full of gritty realism, then this sequel represented the moment when the more fantastical and cartoon-ish elements started to creep into the series. Not content with the bittersweet yet apt ending of the first film, where Rocky’s big match ends in a heroic stalemate, this time it really does seem to matter whether he wins or loses and consequently, Rocky ultimately secures the world title after another grueling bout with arch nemesis Apollo Creed. A stirring soundtrack and approximately 800 schoolchildren as extras add to the thrilling sense of pizzazz that the movies increasingly utilised as the series developed.

2. Rocky Balboa

Source: Karateka73/YouTube

When a sixth Rocky film was announced almost three decades on from the poorly received fifth movie, the general reaction was quite dismissive. However, Stallone and co ultimately make the movie better than it had any right to be, telling the story of what became of so many beloved characters with no shortage of class and heartfelt charm. While perhaps not quite as spectacular as in previous films, the fight scenes are far more credible than many expected them to be. And plus, there’s THAT speech (see above).

1. Rocky

Source: jedacasteddu96/YouTube

It’s easy to forget, given the series’ reputation, just how little boxing there is in the first film. A genuinely accomplished, touching drama and also, comfortably the best film in the series, it even won Best Picture and Best Director at the 1977 Academy Awards, overcoming strong competition from films such as All the President’s Men and Taxi Driver. It’s also arguably still Stallone’s best performance and saw him compared to a “young Marlon Brando” at the time of the film’s release.

A version of this piece was originally published on 1 July, 2015.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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