Analyzing The Forever Iconic Rocky Franchise

The Rocky franchise is one of the most beloved in Hollywood history. With six films, it's been on our screens for over 40 years, and it's not showing any signs of slowing down

Sylvester Stallone is known for his iconic role as Rocky Balboa, and the Rocky franchise may have been loosely based on a true story. (There is some debate over who the Rocky character is based on.)

*(This article may contain spoilers. If you haven't seen the film you're reading about, proceed with caution.)

We've put together a list of all the Rocky movies in the franchise, along with a brief summary for each film:

  1. Rocky (1976)
  2. Rocky II (1979)
  3. Rocky III (1982)
  4. Rocky IV (1985)
  5. Rocky V (1990)
  6. Rocky Balboa (2006)
  7. Creed (2015)
  8. Creed II (2018)
  9. Creed III (2023)

Rocky (1976)

Rocky Balboa, a name that has become synonymous with both determination and courage. He's an unrefined, uneducated boxer, making his living from the gritty and unforgiving world of underground boxing.

He's far from the prototypical, polished athlete; rather he's more of an underdog that reminds us all of our own struggles and dreams. The real turning point comes when he seizes an opportunity that most wouldn't dare to take.

A chance comes knocking at Rocky's door in the form of an invitation to fight against Apollo Creed, an established boxing champion. This fight is far from ordinary; it's a David versus Goliath battle, with the odds stacked against Rocky.

Despite the outcome against Apollo, Rocky wins something far greater. He wins the hearts of the crowd and the public at large. He showed that victory isn't only about outscoring your opponent, sometimes it's about outlasting them and showing more heart.

As we reminisce about Rocky's journey in the first movie, it's refreshing to see this young, fervent man, who was once only a trivial figure in the boxing world, become such a heroic and iconic figure.

Rocky II (1979)

The second Rocky picks up right where the original left off, with Rocky Balboa adjusting to newfound fame and dealing with the aftermath of his epic bout against Apollo Creed. Financial struggles and pressure from all sides force Rocky back into the ring for a rematch against Creed, who is determined to prove that their first fight was a fluke.

The film not only delivers intense training sequences but also dives into Rocky's personal life as he navigates marriage with Adrian and faces the challenges of fatherhood. Balancing the demands of the boxing world and domesticity, Rocky is once again the ultimate underdog, fighting not just for glory but for the well-being of his family.

The rematch against Creed is a high-stakes battle that goes the distance, with both fighters pushing themselves to the brink. Rocky II captures the essence of determination, resilience, and the indomitable spirit that defines the Rocky franchise.

The film's success lies not just in the boxing ring but in the heartfelt moments that make us root for the Italian Stallion as he fights for love, honor, and the chance to prove himself as a true champion.

Rocky III (1982)

Rocky III takes us on a rollercoaster ride as Rocky Balboa, now reigning as the heavyweight champion, faces a formidable new foe in Clubber Lang, played by the iconic Mr. T. Balboa's life seems like a cakewalk with championship belts and celebrity status, but things take a nosedive when he underestimates the hunger of the up-and-coming Clubber.

After a devastating loss to Clubber, Rocky finds himself at a crossroads. Enter Apollo Creed, his former rival turned mentor, who becomes his guide in a journey to reclaim the eye of the tiger, the fire that made Rocky the champ in the first place.

The film delivers not just in the ring but also emotionally, exploring the price of success and the resilience needed to bounce back. With epic training montages, a killer '80s soundtrack, and the unmistakable chemistry between Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers, "Rocky III" is a knockout installment in the franchise, showing us that even champions have to dig deep to stay at the top. Balboa's evolution from the top dog to an underdog with a renewed spirit is a testament to the enduring appeal of the Italian Stallion.

Fun fact: Sylvester Stallone not only starred in, but wrote and directed the Rocky franchise.

Rocky IV (1985)

In Rocky IV, our underdog champ, Rocky Balboa, faces the ultimate test—both in and out of the ring. When a tragedy falls at the hands of the formidable Russian boxer Ivan Drago, Rocky's world is shattered.

Fueled by grief and a thirst for revenge, Rocky accepts Drago's challenge for a high-stakes match in the heart of the Soviet Union. As Rocky heads to the icy landscapes of Russia, he becomes an unlikely symbol of the Cold War, stepping into the ring not just for himself, but for the pride of his country.

The intense training montages are nothing short of iconic, with Rocky lifting logs and running through snow to the beat of a killer '80s soundtrack. The climactic showdown is a battle of ideologies as much as fists, with Rocky embodying the indomitable spirit of the American dream, while Drago represents the cold, calculated prowess of the Soviet machine.

The fight itself is a brutal spectacle, pushing both fighters to their limits. Rocky IV isn't just a boxing tale; it's a Cold War rollercoaster packed with emotion, sweat, and the unbeatable Rocky spirit.

Super7 Rocky Balboa workout Reaction Figure
Super7 Rocky Balboa workout Reaction Figure
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Rocky IV Dolph Lundgren Autographed Topps 40th Anniversary Trading Card
Rocky IV Dolph Lundgren Signed Trading Card
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Rocky V (1990)

Rocky V takes us back to the gritty streets of Philadelphia after the glitz of the Soviet showdown. Rocky Balboa, having suffered brain damage from his last fight, is forced to retire and returns home with his family.

Financially strapped, he finds himself back in the old neighborhood, facing the harsh realities of life outside the ring. Rocky becomes a mentor to a talented but troubled young boxer named Tommy Gunn, played by real-life fighter Tommy Morrison.

As he guides Tommy to success, the storyline explores Rocky's relationship with his son, Robert. However, Tommy's hunger for fame and fortune creates a rift between him and Rocky. Without giving too much away, Rocky V is a return to the franchise's roots, delivering a powerful story of redemption, resilience, and the enduring spirit of the Italian Stallion.

Rocky Balboa (2006)

In the 2006 installment, Rocky Balboa, we see our favorite underdog boxer coming out of retirement, itching to prove he's still got some fight left in him. Settled into a quiet life, widowed and running an Italian restaurant named after his late wife, Adrian, Rocky is haunted by the echoes of his past glories.

The current heavyweight champion, Mason "The Line" Dixon, played by Antonio Tarver, faces criticism for not having any real competition. In a surprising twist, Rocky secures a license to box again and steps into the ring with Dixon for an exhibition match.

The bout isn't just about punches and jabs; it's a battle against time, doubt, and the inevitability of aging. Rocky's journey resonates as he grapples with the loss of loved ones, seeks closure, and strives to prove that the fire within him still burns bright. Rocky Balboa is a poignant and triumphant return to the ring, reminding us that the heart of a champion knows no age.

The Creed Spin-Off is Technically Part of the Rocky Franchise

The character of Adonis Creed was introduced in 2015's Creed as the son of Apollo Creed, who was played by Carl Weathers in Rocky IV *hyperlink up to Rocky IV. While originally intended as a standalone movie, it became clear that there was more story to tell about Adonis' journey.

Fast forward three years later and Creed II was released in the Fall. Now, it’s rumored that the third film in the Creed spin-off will be released in March 2023.

If you love the Rocky movies as much as I do (or even if you're new to them), then you'll want to check out the next installment in this epic saga (if you haven’t already).

Creed (2015)

In 2015, Creed punched its way into the "Rocky" universe, shifting the spotlight to Adonis "Donnie" Johnson, Apollo Creed's son. Tired of the corporate grind, Donnie seeks his own path in the boxing ring, but not without acknowledging his father's legacy.

Heading to Philadelphia, Donnie tracks down the one and only Rocky Balboa, now retired and owning an Italian restaurant. Convincing Rocky to train him, the film unfolds as a fresh take on the classic underdog story, with Michael B. Jordan embodying the tenacity and charisma of a new generation.

As Donnie rises through the ranks, he faces not only physical challenges but also internal struggles with his identity and the weight of his father's name. The film beautifully weaves in elements of mentorship, legacy, and the indomitable spirit synonymous with the Rocky franchise.

Creed packs an emotional punch with its dynamic performances, especially Sylvester Stallone's reprisal of the iconic Rocky. Ryan Coogler's direction injects new life into the series, making Creed a knockout film that pays homage to its roots while carving out a fresh narrative for the next round of the Balboa legacy.

Creed II (2018)

The sequel, Creed II, features a hungry Adonis Creed, as he grapples with both personal and professional challenges. Now the heavyweight champion, Adonis faces a new adversary with a familiar name – Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago, the Russian boxer who took Adonis's father, Apollo Creed, in a tragic match years ago.

Haunted by the echoes of his father's legacy, Adonis confronts Rocky Balboa's concerns but ultimately decides to take on Viktor in a highly anticipated bout. The film delves deep into the psychological and emotional aspects of the sport, exploring themes of revenge, redemption, and the intergenerational weight of history.

As the Creed-Drago rivalry unfolds, the film masterfully intertwines the personal struggles of both fighters, humanizing the antagonists and blurring the lines between hero and villain. With a stellar cast including Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, and Dolph Lundgren reprising his role as Ivan Drago, Creed II is a powerful continuation of the Rocky saga, delivering knockout performances, intense training montages, and a satisfying exploration of legacy and forgiveness in and out of the ring.

Creed III (2023)

Creed III delivers a cinematic punch that goes beyond the ropes, as Adonis Creed finds himself faced with a new set of challenges. Now a seasoned champion, Adonis faces the repercussions of fame and success, navigating the thin line between legacy and personal fulfillment.

The plot takes an unexpected turn when a formidable opponent from Adonis's past resurfaces. With Rocky Balboa in his corner, Adonis confronts not only the physical demands of the ring but also the emotional scars that linger from his own history.

The film weaves a compelling narrative, balancing intense training sequences with moments of introspection, family dynamics, and the enduring spirit of the Creed legacy. As Adonis faces this pivotal chapter in his career, Creed III explores the complexity of choices, the sacrifices of greatness, and the indomitable will to rise again after being knocked down.

With a powerful cast of characters and a storyline that packs an emotional wallop, Creed III is another knockout experience for fans, offering a fresh perspective on what it truly means to fight for one's legacy.

Which Rocky Movie is Your Favorite?

So there you have it—now you know the order of the Rocky movies. Hope you enjoyed this list! Rocky is a franchise that's been around for decades, and it's still going strong. 

If you haven't seen any of these films yet, then you're missing out! They're full of heart, humor, and drama. Clear some time in your schedule and start watching from the beginning!