Reviewing the Best and Worst of a Movie Saga that Just Refuses to Die!

No, I’m not talking about Star Wars, although Hopefully that saga is in line for a healthy revitalization. So last week I wrote a fun post satirically commenting on how I loved the 80’s. As my example of just how ridiculously fantastic that decade was, I reviewed this absurdly entertaining Sylvester Stallone movie. Of course, little did I know Mr. Stallone had already started rumors that were much bigger and more depressing than my recent post! That’s right, Stallone is planning yet another Rocky sequel. sigh…. so many expletives…. so little time…

That’s right. Apparently Stallone thinks that he can still take this series higher, with the latest series, entitled “Creed.” I guess this new film will follow Rocky as he welcomes (with arms wide open, I might add) the grandson his old friend Apollo into the ring and trains him. this movie can be awesome in only one way: Apollo Creed’s grandson travels to Russia and beats Ivan Drago’s grandson to death. End movie. Best Rocky movie ever. done. any other plot line, and my sacrifice to see it won’t be worth it.

The series that keeps on giving... even though we never asked it to.

The series that keeps on giving… even though we never asked it to.

Of course, this news presents a fun opportunity to look back at the series, and what better way to do that than to give you a simple list, from worst to best, and why I feel they fall in that order. SPOILER ALERT! You’re probably going to disagree with my rankings! so here we go. The 5 (or 6) rocky movies from worst to best.

Honorable mention: Rocky Balboa (2006)

Okay, now I’m not saying this movie is the worst in the series… It’s a perfectly okay movie. it just doesn’t fit. It never fit. It never will fit. like the recently announced sequel, it just doesn’t feel like Rocky. Yes the actors are there. The cheesy dialogue is there. The boxing is there. But I don’t know. Maybe it’s because Peter Petrelli is Rocky’s son. Or because Rocky has this weird chemistry with that lady who was supposed to be the little girl from the first Rocky (wasn’t he like, 20 years older than her) either way it just doesn’t fit, which is why Rocky Balboa doesn’t make the list.

5: Rocky IV (1985)

There is and always will be a special place in my inner child’s heart for Rocky IV. the movie is ridiculous. From the explosion sounding punches, to the hard-core rock soundtrack highlighted by the music of “Survivor” the movie is as over the top as it gets in the 80’s. But that’s the problem. It plays out more like an awesome music video than an actual movie. The characters couldn’t be less compelling because the acting gives way to facial expressions cut into the next montage. Then there’s that whole thing with Paulie’s sex robot, and Rocky’s kid apparently doesn’t care that he never sees his dad ever.  On top of that, It abandons the theme music entirely! What was Stallone thinking with that!?!?!? and… well, I still enjoy watching it. But there is nothing legitimately compelling about Rocky IV. Rocky’s quest to avenge Apollo Creed’s death falls about as flat as anything could in the series And that is why number 4 falls at the bottom of the list

Rocky IV may not be great. But at least these two look great!

Rocky IV may not be great. But at least these two look great!

4: Rocky (1976)

The movie that started it all. Rocky, the original story. The one based on an actual real life person. A no name gets a legitimate shot at Boxing’s most prestigious crown. And all we can hope is that he can go the distance! Now, You’re probably wondering why this movie is so far down the list. I mean, most critics would probably still tell you that this is the best one. I get where they’re coming from. But honestly, if I had a choice of which Rocky movie to watch, I might put this one last, just because it moves soooooooooooo slowwwwwww. There’s just so much time setting up the characters. Paulie, the nice, overly sensitive best friend with the hot temper who drinks too much. Adrian, the shy love interest who mumbles her way through the movie (seriously. Can you understand anything she says) and of course the star, who digresses from the main story way too often to help stray kids and turtles across the street. and of course, Butkus. Rocky is solid entertainment, but for my money, it’s just not quite as good as the other movies in the set.

3: Rocky II (1979)

Rocky II is basically the same movie, and struggles with the same problems as it’s prequel does. Namely it just takes too long to get revved up (seriously, if we could’ve just skipped that whole Adrian coma business, it would’ve been so much better). Rocky II would go behind Rocky, but for one simple change: In Rocky II, Apollo Creed becomes a legitimate villain. And, for the first time, there is serious concern that Rocky could get hurt. Apollo doesn’t want to beat Rocky in this movie. He wants to humiliate him, then destroy him. Literally. The stakes are higher in Rocky II, and when Rocky pulls out the unlikely victory, the ending feels that much more satisfactory. And that’s why, Much like the final fight, Rocky II beats out the original by a hair. But it still isn’t better than:

2. Rocky III (1982)

I can already feel the skepticism rising among readers…

just look past the 80's haircuts and believe that this is quality "Rocky"

just look past the 80’s haircuts and believe that this is quality “Rocky”

Rocky III might be my favorite entry in the series. It features the best soundtrack, the most entertaining (if only a little silly) nemesis, and the best Adrian. (as Rocky asks, how did she get so tough?) Rocky III has it’s share of problems. Like Rocky IV, it has its share of 80’s-tastic moments. The fight with “THUNDERLIPS” is embarrassing, for example, but it’s also humorously entertaining, and at least serves the purpose of foreshadowing Rocky’s lowest point in the series to date. The Final fight is about as unrealistic as a boxing match can get (I think at one point Rocky lands 150 unanswered punches in less than a minute) Unlike Rocky IV however, the shortcomings and 80’s cheese don’t overtake the film, and the credibility of the characters aren’t undermined. Rocky loses his title, his manager, and his confidence all at once. The stakes feel like they’ve been elevated once again. This is also the first (and only) Rocky movie that doesn’t suffer from excruciatingly slow pacing at one point or another. and at least they kept the theme music! That’s why Rocky III comes in at number 2. Second only to:

1. Rocky V

WAIT! DON’T CLICK AWAY! JUST HEAR ME OUT! PLEASE! I have to admit. I didn’t always like Rocky V. I was on the bandwagon with those that thought it would be better off being burned. But the more I watch it. The more I like it. In Rocky V, the characters, who have spent the last 3 movies winning even bigger battles, finding even greater success, all come crashing down to earth in the worst way. Rocky loses everything and is forced to cope with being normal.

There is one reason I really enjoy this movie: In all of the other films in the series, it’s about boxing. everything else is in the background of the fight. number five, on the other hand, just isn’t. For the first time, Rocky’s decisions actually affect his family (wait, Rocky had a kid? oh yeah, the one he neglected completely for three and a half movies), and he must struggle with his need to care for his struggling family vs. his need to feel relevant – like he is winning again. This is the first Rocky movie where real normal life issues actually take the forefront, and his decisions actually have consequences.

For the first time he isn’t a superhero whose only real concern is what happens in the ring. And this is what, to me, makes Rocky V the most endearing movie in the entire series, and, although rife with the goofy lines, poor pacing and not always necessary montages that plague the entire series, Rocky’s return to his old home feels like the perfect homage to the original film. In the end, he has one last fight, but more importantly, he saved his family.You may disagree, but I say that this is the way the Rocky movies should’ve ended.

No one will agree with me. But Rocky V was the best, and the saga should've ended here

No one will agree with me. But Rocky V was the best, and the saga should’ve ended here

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