The Rocky franchise is punching above its weight on Showmax
Showmax has Sylvester Stallone and his champion boxer character Rocky Balboa in their corner – binge these seven Rocky movies now!
Rocky I (1976)
Any heavyweight bout is a drawcard but reigning champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) is let down by his opponent who gets injured. Instead of getting a contender stand-in to fill the card, Apollo decides to let a local boxer in Philadelphia step into the ring with him. And he knows exactly who he wants – journeyman Rocky Balboa, an Italian American southpaw whose leftie stance should give Apollo an advantage. And since Rocky has been content to fight in small bouts in gyms rather than under the spotlight of professional boxing, Apollo thinks that he’s got nothing to worry about. Except he doesn’t count on the fact that Rocky has been doing everything to get a good fight and go pro – and with Apollo offering him $150 000 for the fight, Rocky can’t say no. While Apollo is following his strict routine, Rocky is out on the streets honing his skills with some terribly unorthodox training sessions (like boxing giant beef carcasses at an abattoir instead of a punching bag) and giving cinema one of its most iconic montages: Rocky running up the stairs at the Philadelphia Art Museum’s stairs to the sound of Gonna Fly Now.
Did you know? The stairs at the Art Museum have been nicknamed Rocky’s Stairs, the theme song Gonna Fly Now is played at all pro sporting events in Philadelphia as a sort-of anthem, and Sly followed Rocky’s training routine in real life, including drinking raw egg yolks.
Rocky II (1979)
Rocky and Apollo are taken to the same hospital after their fight in Rocky I and while they both publicly say “no rematch”, Apollo realises that Rocky got the better of him and his ego can’t let that go. While Rocky has retired (yes, from one big fight), is engaged and has a baby on the way, Apollo is stewing in his anger and continues to demand a rematch from Rocky. He even goes so far as to mock and taunt Rocky publicly and claim that Rocky almost beating him was a fluke.
Thing is, Apollo thinks that he’s going to get away with the taunts and that he’s going to keep his legacy intact – he did beat Rocky, after all. Besides being a shy introvert and not really liking his sudden newfound fame, Rocky has a legit medical concern for not returning to the ring: he has a detached retina that needs to be surgically repaired. And even then, a significant blow during a fight could cause him to go blind. His wife Adrian (Talia Shire) also doesn’t want him to fight again because she can’t stand seeing him hurt. But this is underdog Rocky we’re talking about. What good would a sequel movie be if he didn’t come out of retirement, get back into fighting shape and take on the champ to silence Apollo once and for all, proving that he – Rocky Balboa – is good enough?
Did you know? Rocky’s sparring partner is real-life champion boxer Robert Duran, who was a fan of the first movie and personally asked Sly for a small role in the sequel.
Rocky III (1982)
It’s Rocky Balboa, reigning and undefeated heavyweight champion of the world now! He’s beaten Apollo, fought off pretenders to his throne and is a ready to retire again. But there’s a problem: an arrogant new boxer named Clubber Lang (Mr T from The A-Team) is the number-one contender and isn’t going to let Rocky bow out until he’s proved that he’s better than Philadelphia’s Italian Stallion. Sounds a lot like Apollo Creed in Rocky II, right? Rocky has a problem: he doesn’t like being told that he’s not good enough. Even though he’s got the millions, the mansion, the family and the fame, he can’t accept that someone like Clubber Lang can show up and call him a fraud and get away with that.
So guess what Rocky does? He starts training again, using everything he knows from his previous fights to go up against a challenger – Clubber – who is younger, faster, stronger and more vicious than anyone he’s faced before. But that’s how Rocky is and no challenge will go unanswered, even if his marriage is on the line when Adrian threatens to divorce him if he goes ahead with the fight.
Did you know? Mr T’s mother stormed out of the movie’s premiere because his character Clubber Lang spoke to Adrian disrespectfully.
Rocky IV (1985)
Probably the best-known Rocky movie sees the ageing – and re-retired – Rocky back in the ring for one last fight. Sure, we’ve heard that all before and he’s got back into his trunks once again to slug it out. This time he might’ve met his match: ice-cold Russian boxer Ivan Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren). Rocky has two reasons to face Ivan in the ring. One: Drago has claimed that Russians are genetically superior to Americans and that he can beat anyone in the ring. Two: Ivan doesn’t just follow through on his claims of beating any challenger, he actually kills Rocky’s one-time rival and now-friend Apollo Creed in their exhibition match.
But because it’s personal, Rocky refuses to put his championship belt on the line. Instead, he demands a 15-round unsanctioned fight in Russia, where Rocky is an outcast and unprotected from the harsh Russian public.
Did you know? Sly and Dolph agreed to physically hit each other for their fight scenes rather than choreograph the fight. Dolph, who was a martial artist at the time, hit Sly so hard that his ribs cracked and he suffered breathing problems, having to spend four days in hospital.
Rocky V (1990)
Fighting Ivan Drago is going to come back to haunt Rocky – he has suffered career-ending brain damage and has to re-retire. There’s no coming back this time. So when Rocky returns to the US after his Ivan fight, the last thing he’s expecting is to be goaded into another bout. Fortunately, Rocky’s son Robert (Sly’s real-life son Sage) talks him out of it. But Rocky is a fighter and fighters never quit.
Instead, Rocky agrees to help train rising star Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison) to take on vicious heavyweight champion Union Cane (Michael Williams) and continue his legacy as an underdog champion no matter the odds stacked against him. While boxing is at the core of the movie, the real story is about Rocky and his family – for the first time, he’s forced to put his champion spirit on the back burner and take care of the people he loves most.
Did you know? Tommy Morrison and Michael Williams were real-life professional boxers and they had an exhibition fight planned for a month before the movie’s premiere. Tommy got injured and had to pull out.
Rocky Balboa (2006)
Sly Stallone hated Rocky V and said he wanted to give franchise fans “a proper sign-off”. So he’s brought his Rocky Balboa character out of retirement at the age of 50-something. This time, Rocky steps into the ring with Mason Dixon (Antonio Tarver), a heavyweight who is called a fake and fraud and paper champion because he’s never fought someone with the punching power of Rocky. And it’s made worse when a computer simulation shows Rocky beating Mason in a pound-for-pound fight. Riled up, Mason challenges Rocky publicly to a fight despite the fact that he is more than 20 years younger than Rocky, and the former champ is medically unfit to fight.
But you know what’s going to happen: Rocky can’t leave a challenge unanswered and despite everyone – including his son Robert (now played by Milo Ventimiglia) – begging him not to, Rocky laces up his gloves and agrees to get back into the ring to prove that his boxing legacy and championships were legitimate.
Did you know? Rocky and Mason’s fight scenes were filmed first so that Sly could focus on directing the rest of the movie. And all of Rocky’s scenes training in the boxing gym were filmed in a single day – the shoot lasted 17 hours in total.
Sly said that Rocky Balboa would be his last outing, but just like his character, he can’t ignore a challenge. This time though, the focus shifts and instead of Rocky being the central figure, it’s another character from the franchise in a way: Apollo Creed. While Apollo died many many movies ago, his illegitimate son Adonis (Michael B Jordan) wants to live up to his father’s legacy. And the best way to do that is to get Apollo’s friend Rocky to train him and help him become a professional boxer that his father could be proud of.
It won’t be easy, because Rocky has suffered brain damage and doesn’t want to get back into the sport in any way. However, the chance to help his late friend proves too much for Rocky to ignore and he helps Adonis train the only way he knows how: to go into the fight as the underdog and not expect to win.
Did you know? This is the first movie in the franchise not written by Sly Stallone, and the USA flag boxing trunks that Adonis wears are the originals from the Rocky I movie.