Pop-Ed: The Rocky Movie Countdown

daniel cohen has the eye of the tiger…

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From First Blood to Cliffhanger to The Expendables, Sylvester Stallone is without question one of the most iconic action stars of any generation. But the movie that started it all was a small budget script written by the actor himself after a Muhammad Ali/Chuck Wepner fight that is far greater than any action film…Rocky. I’ve always argued that Rocky is the most likable character to ever appear on screen, and with Stallone back with another action flick released last weekend (Bullet to the Head), I’d thought we’d take a look back at the series that jump started his whole career…because as we all know, there isn’t just one Rocky film, but six! So cue ‘Gonna Fly Now,’ because we’re going to rank this series worst to first in the ‘Yo Adrian!! I DID IT!!!!!’ Rocky movie countdown!

*Rocky Spoilers Galore*

6. Rocky V:
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Yeah, big shocker here. I actually don’t hate this film, and even think there are some promising ideas. I like the theme of Rocky training someone who turns out to be a complete tool bag. How does Rocky not see this coming? He’s even got a Rocky villain name…Tommy Gunn!? Come on! And then there’s the controversial street fight at the end. I’ve spent many sleepless nights thinking about whether I like the street fight, or absolutely hate it. At the end of the day, this was the only thing they could do after Rocky beats Ivan Drago in the previous film. There is no tougher opponent imaginable, so to create more drama they have to force Rocky to fight out of shape and without any training, and even then Tommy is only able to make it a fight because he catches Rocky off guard. The problem with Rocky V is all the little sub-plots: Sage Stallone as Rocky’s kid having problems at school, Paulie causing Rocky to lose all his money because of lame tax shenanigans, and really, really forced Mickey flashbacks with Burgess Meredith. Rocky V…it’s not terrible, but it’s not good either.

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5. Rocky III:

Mr. T is a cool Rocky villain, but this one is just missing something. It lacks a certain degree of power. This is the only Rocky movie where the fight doesn’t last every single round…eh. Mickey dying, yeah, that was pretty depressing, but other than that, Rocky III feels sort of lifeless. The only interesting element to Rocky III is the recent observation that it shares similar story structures to The Dark Knight Rises. And if you watch them closely together, it’s kind of eerie. [Editor’s Note: No love for Hulk Hogan as Thunder Lips?]

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4. Rocky II:

While the payoff to Rocky II is incredible, this is a slow, slow, slow, slow, slow movie. It’s absolutely excruciating to sit through. We deal with Rocky buying a bunch of crap, Adrian being upset he’s fighting again, therefore Rocky can’t train right, and then Adrian goes into a coma, yadda, yadda, yadda. Finally, Adrian wakes up, shouts ‘win!’ and the movie finally starts. It’s a long road to get there, but the last twenty minutes are pretty amazing. And even though this movie gives us, ‘YO ADRIAN!! I DIIIIIIIIIIID IT,’ that’s actually not the best line in the film.

Mickey: You’re gonna eat lightnin.’ You’re gonna crap thunder.

Wow.

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3. Rocky Balboa:
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Talk about writing from personal experience. When you watch Rocky Balboa, you can tell this is something Stallone cared deeply about. This entire movie is Stallone shouting to the audience, ‘I can do this!’ When the news of Rocky VI (as it was known back then) started coming out, people just assumed it wouldn’t be about Rocky actually boxing. There were even dumb rumors about how it was going to be Rocky’s son fighting Ivan Drago. But when people realized it was going to be a near sixty year old Stallone fighting as Rocky, it became the most poked fun at movie on the internet. To be honest, as people were making fun of it, and exclaiming it was going to be a disaster, I had a good feeling about it. But then when I actually saw the film, I was completely shocked at how good it actually was. This is a spectacular movie. Every scene is just infused with great acting and great dialogue. People can laugh at Stallone all they want, but he is phenomenal in this film. But the smartest thing Stallone does with this script is make the entire movie about Rocky being too old. That’s the focus. If for some reason you missed this one because you laughed it off like everybody else, please give it a chance. It is the most emotionally driven Rocky film since the original.

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2. Rocky IV:

Rocky IV is one of those movies where people can talk at me all day about the flaws, the cliches, the predictability, the weird robot, but I just don’t care. Rocky IV is a quick 90 minutes of pure adrenaline. The fight between Rocky and Drago at the end is the closest live action depiction we’ll ever get of Superman Vs. Doomsday in the Death of Superman comic book. These guys just pound the absolute shit out of each other. At the end of the fight, Rocky looks more battered then in all the other Rocky movies and Rambo films combined. The training is awesome. The music is outstanding. And you could make the argument that Rocky IV, from a pure entertainment standpoint, cannot be beat.

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1. Rocky:

Was it really going to be anything else? What is there to say about Rocky at this point? Every element to this movie is iconic. Everything Stallone has done since this masterpiece, whether it was good, great, or bad will never reach the heights that this film did, and that’s okay. In making a sports comparison, if this was the only thing he did in his career, it’s enough for the Hall of Fame. Rocky is the true underdog story that cannot be beat.

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The Rocky movies are available online for purchase and instant viewing here.

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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