Rocky movies: Definitive rankings

A definitive take on the rankings of the greatest recurring Stallone character of all time (Lincoln Hawk and Cobra sadly only have one cinematic masterpiece appearance each). Trust me, I’ve spent my entire life watching Rocky movies religiously. Literally, I use to binge the original 5 every Christmas, therefore, that makes it religious. I’ve seen them all more times than I can count and made sure to be in the theater opening night for both Creeds. This is the definitive list of my opinion on the Rocky franchise.

Rocky 5

I don’t even want to include this one. There’s an extra on one of the DVD’s where Stallone “meets” Rocky in a museum or some weird shit. Its about as awful as it sounds. I’d still rather watch that on repeat over this travesty. The idea of the movie wasn’t bad, Rocky is getting too old to fight, has hand tremors/body is breaking down/whatever. So logically he helps train an up and coming fighter. Real life fighter and currently dead Tommy Morrison stepped in as Tommy Gunn, a pretty cool name in line with the other bad guys in the franchise.

Of course once he makes it big he moves on from Rock and the two battle it out in the end in an epic? street fight… also Rocks son aged like 15 years in between this and the end of Rocky 4 even though the movies take place within a year of each other, so there was a lot wrong with this one. I really only rewatch if Netflix isn’t working any I’ve already seen all the infomercials currently on at 3am because that’s about the only time they show this one.

Rocky 3

OK, there needs to be an asterisk or something here so people realize, even though its right after Rocky 5 on the list, that’s only because Rocky 5 had to be here. The difference in quality between the two is undeniable, and this movie isn’t in the same realm of bad as Rocky 5. Its really Rocky 5 and then about 100 spaces in between in terms of rankings. Rocky 3 was the beginning of when Rocky somehow spoke better English. Whether that’s because he’d been knocked in the head too many times in 1&2 and it somehow did a reverse brain damage type thing, I don’t know. Clubber Lang was an awesome bad guy though, even basically killing Mickey, and who could forget Thunderlips himself, Hulk Hogan, in what can only be described as “a performance on par with what you’d expect from Hulk Hogan.”

We got Eye of the Tiger and Rocky and Apollo dramatically hugging in a “will they or won’t they kiss” moment during an otherwise great training montage that sees Rocky somehow able to outrun a black man after training for a few days.

Creed 2

The first one was great, as you’ll soon see. This one was also great, though it was missing something from the first movie. This felt more like an actual Rocky sequel than a Creed sequel… even though this is the definitive and only example of a Creed sequel. Drago was back for revenge and there’s some great call backs to Rocky 4. In a perfect world, this would really be Rocky 5 taking place 30 years after 4. The villain was believable and they somehow humanized Drago, which for anyone who has seen 4, knows he’s a Russian cartoon character where the artist added a few extra abs and ribs to make him look like a Greek god, so that was well done.

Rocky 2

Here we go, the sequel that spawned a million more sequels. The ending of the original Rocky left a lot of people hoping they’d see the underdog hero come back again stronger and with a W. You saw the greatest love story of all time, Rocky and Adrian, continue to blossom with probably the greatest wedding proposal of all time, “I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind marrying me very much” as they walked through an empty snowy zoo. Pure gold. The crowd gets its happy ending and we get the iconic “Yo Adrian, I did it” that gives me goosebumps as I type this.


This movie managed to take a secondary character, who had been dead, and make us care about his son. It didn’t hurt that Rocky was there almost every step of the way, of course. The fight scenes were great, the story of Adonis Creed trying to make it without using his father’s name was great, and the Rocky story line made me legit fear I was going to have a Marley and Me moment where I couldn’t leave the theater because people would see me sobbing like a small child.

I’d say the same thing to Rocky if he were real

Seriously, Stallone was robbed of the Oscar that year, and I’ll fight anyone who thinks otherwise. This also has a classic training montage, with some more up to date music, but slowly fades into the classic Rocky Flying High Now and any doubts about the whether this movie belongs in the realm of Rocky were instantly squashed. I’ve also never related to an athlete in a movie more than I did when Adonis had to take a nervous shit before his first fight.

Rocky Balboa

People trashed this movie without even seeing it based on the bad taste Rocky 5 left in their mouth and the fact Stallone was like 70 and going to try to somehow make us believe he’d still be able to fight the heavyweight champion of the world. Well he made a believer out of me. The bad guy, Mason “The Line” Dixon was young and cocky enough to make you want to see him lose, catching up with Rockys son was good, and continued well into Creed 2, and the fight actually was somewhat believable. This movie ranks so high because of how well it was done. The training montage in the snow with him running up the steps again was classic, his speech to Paulie about the “stuff in the basement” that he needed to get out in one last fight gave me douche chills. And of course, his monologue to his son about life not being all sunshine and rainbows is on the same level as any other inspirational moment in the franchise. When he repeats it to himself during the fight? More douche chills.


The original, which some say the best and can’t be duplicated. I agree, the originals are usually the best, and this movie narrowly misses being number 1. My dad told me people were standing in the theater cheering for Rocky during the final fight, which shows how much of an impact it had at the time. It won Best Picture at the Oscars for a reason. The moment Rocky gets up and tells Apollo to come at him, with the amazing score playing in the background, probably my favorite moment in any Rocky movie. You actually wanted him to win, the ultimate story of an underdog. Obviously the dynamics between him and Mickey, when he chases him down the street after yelling at him in his apartment, and also between him and Adrian were great and hold up to this day. Plus, “Cut me, Mick” might be the greatest line ever said in any of the movies.

Rocky 4

This movie was the sole reason for the ending of the Cold War. I wasn’t alive but I’m pretty sure that’s the truth. This came out at the height of tensions between the US and Russia, so who better to have be the bad guy? A steroid fueled Russian monster who has no emotions, that’s who. He kills Rockys best friend Apollo in the ring, and then utters what might rival “Cut me, Mick” as best quote with “If he dies, he dies“.

Seriously, people still use that whenever anyone is in injured to a point you might think they’re actually dead. This movie also has not one but TWO amazing musical montages, which are the best parts of Rocky movies. The first one, set to No Easy Way Out gives us a look at the mindset of Rocky right after Apollos been buried. The actual training, Hearts on Fire, greatest song in the franchise history. I”ll take it over Eye of the Tiger any day. I don’t work out, but I suspect if I did, it’d be to these two songs on repeat. The movie also has robots, classic Paulie banter, a bearded Rocky, lots of American pride and James Brown singing Livin in America. It just edges out the original in the rankings, because it’s always worth a watch no matter how far into the movie it is before you see it’s on. Rocky telling the Russian crowd, if they can change, and he can change, then everybody can change basically set the wheels in motion to bringing down the Berlin Wall. A movie with that much impact on the world has to be number 1.

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