Three new posters and a release date for the upcoming Creed III were unveiled earlier this week and, like anything Rocky related, that got us at The Sportsman exceptionally giddy.
So, to celebrate Creed III’s release on March 3rd, 2023, we’ve decided to rank every single Rocky film from worst to best.
- Ten Things You Might Not Know About Rocky IV
- Rocky III: When Balboa Stopped ‘Clubber’ Lang
- 10 Facts You (Probably) Didn’t Know About The Rocky Series
After the bombastic on-screen outings of the Italian Stallion in Rocky III and IV, the fifth instalment in the franchise was supposed to be a return to the series’ grittier roots. However, even with original director John G. Avilsden back at the helm and future WBO heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison putting in an admirable turn as the film’s antagonist, it is unquestionably the worst of the bunch.
With dodgy performances, gaping plot holes and an underwhelming soundtrack, Rocky V was blasted by critics - even Stallone himself hates it and once claimed he’d score it 0 out of 10.
A real step up in quality from the entry above it - if anything Creed II’s lowly positioning on this list might be a tad harsh - but that just speaks to the quality of this franchise as a whole.
With a narrative intertwining with that of Rocky IV, Creed II is a nostalgic blast for veteran fans without ostracising any newcomers to the heavy-hitting series. Does the film do anything special? Perhaps not, but stand-out performances from Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson and Sylvester Stallone mean this sequel is worthy of any Rocky fan’s time.
The conclusion of the original Rocky Balboa saga did what its predecessor couldn’t and somewhat returned the tone of the films back to the original. The concept is quite frankly bats**t, with an ageing Balboa tempted into a ring return against much-maligned reigning world champion Mason Dixon (played magnificently by real-life heavyweight Antonio Tarver), whose advisors, for some reason, believe that fight fans won’t truly love him until he batters an OAP.
Shaky premise aside, Rocky Balboa is a tour de force. It packs heart and sentiment throughout, has top performances across the board (particularly from Burt Young in his final appearance as Paulie) and includes one of the best movie speeches of all time - it was a more than fitting farewell to Rocky’s time as a prizefighter.
Following in the footsteps of the Oscar-winning original was no easy feat, and while Rocky II is no The Godfather: Part Two in terms of superior sequels, it more than holds its own and remains a firm fans’ favourite.
It’s not as gritty as the first and you can start to see the slide into the more campy madness of the next two entries, but Stallone does a fine job as he steps into the director’s seat and Carl Weathers’ performance as an increasingly obsessed Apollo Creed is simply magnetic. The rematch between Balboa and Creed in the film’s finale also brings a level of excitement that the original never did.
Rocky III was a real watershed moment for the franchise. Gone was Balboa the working-class hero, arriving was Balboa the ultimate 80s icon.
In 100 minutes of runtime, the third instalment involves some of the most famous moments from the entire franchise: the introduction of Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, the loss of beloved trainer Mickey Goldmill, an iconic bromance born from sprints on the beach in brightly-coloured spandex, and those famous words from Apollo Creed, “Ding, ding.”
On top of that you have Mr T’s Clubber Lang as the film’s big bad, a moustache-twirling cartoon of a villain, but a refreshingly brilliant one all the same. There’s also a young Hulk Hogan stepping into the shoes of pro-wrestler Thunderlips. It’s all pure cheese, but so, so good.
Nearly a decade after hanging up his gloves in Rocky Balboa, Stallone gave way for Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed, son of Balboa’s best friend and greatest enemy Apollo, to lead the franchise going forward. And what an introduction he makes.
Creed retreads what made the original Rocky so special, bringing back its sentimentalism and emotion, but also feels entirely fresh at the same time. Jordan brings the titular hero to life with aplomb, while Stallone puts in arguably his best performance as Balboa across all eight films.
“If he dies, he dies…”
The best quotes? Check. The best villain? Check. The best soundtrack? Double check. To many, Rocky IV is merely an overblown training montage, guising as a Rocky film. But, to people who aren’t heathens, it’s one of the most fun films, not only in this series, but of all time.
Rocky III might have been pure cheese, but the fourth entry in the ballad of Balboa is pure, unadulterated madness. From talking robots to fighting the USSR with 15 rounds of fisticuffs, Rocky IV won’t be for everyone, but those who love it, really love it. Did we mention the soundtrack?
Almost half a century since its release, Rocky remains the pound-for-pound king in the world of boxing films. Some of its sequels may have had varied success in emulating the feel of the original Rocky’s realism, but none have truly come close to matching it.
Unlike the others that followed, Rocky isn’t really a film about boxing but instead a down-on-his-luck loan shark's lackey who just happens to inhabit the world of boxing. The city of Philadelphia is as much a key character in Rocky as the man himself, and director John G. Avilsden is masterful in bringing sheer hopelessness to our protagonist’s world.
Rocky was a true game-changer to underdog stories on the big screen, mirroring Sylvester Stallone’s own travails in Hollywood, and ultimately received 10 Academy Award nominations, winning three including Best Picture, grossed a whopping $225m (more than $1bn today) and is one of the most culturally significant films of all time. A masterpiece.