Freelance: Revisiting the "Rocky" Franchise

I like a good fight film as much as anyone else that likes the odd rush that comes with the sight of blood and a good story be it real-life or fiction. With that said, I much prefer boxing movies to the single discipline itself. But, while MMA still lacks a truly great film (2011’s “Warrior” with Tom Hardy in a lead role being my pick thus far) was the “Rocky” franchise as great as many think it is?


While I’m unsure how many boxing movies existed before the release of the franchise’s titular film in 1976, there were obviously fewer combat movies in general (including Kung Fu films) than in 2016 that have now caused me to view the “down-on-his-luck working class everyman” angle as overplayed.

The thing about the original movie that really made me connect with it was that Rocky knew his place in boxing and in the world at that time and he stuck with what made him himself when the big-time bout against the Heavyweight champion Apollo Creed came his way. He didn’t really care about the title or picture himself as the next champ, he just wanted to go the distance with Creed (at that time in boxing it was 15 rounds as opposed to the present 12) to see if he could.

SPOILER (because there are sequels): He does.

Rocky II

The sequel is even more interesting because of two parallel mindsets: The challenger in Rocky Balboa is really starting to believe in himself despite a loss to Creed while Creed feels that he must face Balboa again to prove that he deserves to still be the champion and that he didn’t just win on the judges’ scorecards.

Cue another upset victory, ra-ra-ra…

Rocky III

Before the development of other films, this was originally where I though the story should have ended: A champion that has gotten comfortable with the lifestyle that wearing the belt and having a padded win-loss record affords him loses in devastating fashion to the person right behind him, gunning for his spot, Clubber Lang–while at the same time dealing with the passing of his head trainer.

Balboa turns to Creed and his trainers to perform in a way he hasn’t in some time. Again, cue title-winning victory and the ride off into the sunset. Great trilogy, end of story.


Rocky IV

Rocky IV–the original cash-grab of the series. Plot (as read by a cave-dwelling neanderthal who for some reason has a grasp of basic English:) Man from another land bad! Kill friend! I smash! ‘Merica good! Roll credits.

My view of this installment has changed somewhat (not in regard to the story) with the release of the “Creed” spinoff in 2015. I love Rocky I-III and “Creed” and now see Rocky IV as a necessary bridge to the spinoff that obviously wouldn’t otherwise happen without it.

Rocky V/ Rocky Balboa

Kill it! Kill it with fire! Rocky is now transitioning into his role as a trainer and takes in a young gun named…Tommy “The Machine” Gunn. (Yes, really.) The disciple turns on Balboa in favor of the Don King-type George Washington Duke. Blah, blah rising action…street fight to prove Rocky can still go…redemption…finish.

Other than just my constant feeling of, “Yep, this is Rocky five.” When Rocky Balboa came out, I couldn’t help but think that Rocky V was a lesser version of the sixth installment (with him giving it one more go in a street fight rather than again Mason Dixon.) The biggest plus for me when I was walking out of the theater was the subtle way Rocky’s career ended: Losing, but going the distance and earning respect along the way.


While it is not directly listed, this wrap-up will include last year’s “Creed”. As mentioned above, the meat of the story was in installments I-III, but if there had to be that aforementioned cash-grab my order would have been I-IV, Balboa, and the Creed spinoff to end things on a positive transition to trainer unlike V and it obviously served its purpose in showing audiences the fallout from the events of IV and passing the torch.

Overall my opinion of the franchise remains that it will remain probably the most well-rounded boxing story in cinema. My biggest issue is that much like Rocky, Creed is now set to have its sequel according to Like I said above, if there absolutely had to be sequels to tell the most complete story, fine. But now I just don’t know where the story can or needs to go from here.

Undoubtedly though, it will sell.