The “Rocky” Movies, Ranked (And Where We Think “Creed” Is Going to Land)

Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone in Creed

Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone in Creed

Although it’s still months away from release (November 25th), the new Rocky spinoff Creed has a lot of people talking. The film stars Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, Friday Night Lights, The Wire) as the troubled boxer-son of the long-deceased Apollo Creed, is directed by Fruitvale‘s Ryan Coogler, and, from what we hear, hasn’t had much involvement from Sylvester Stallone, which probably bodes well for its Academy Awards, Golden Globes, etc. potential.

With the second trailer for Creed making the rounds (see below), we thought we’d take a moment to pick the worst and best of the Rocky films. As for Creed, our gut tells us that the Coogler-Jordan team won’t land anything better than the original Rocky (how could they?) but could challenge the sixth movie in the franchise (Rocky Balboa) for second place.

#6: Rocky V

A lot of bad things happened in 1990, most notably the start of the first Gulf War and the release of this tragic waste of celluloid that could just as easily have been a bad Saturday Night Live spoof of itself. Like the current version of Van Halen, it’s also a good reminder of why working with your kids can be a bad thing: Stallone put his since-passed son Sage in the movie. Hardly the worst thing about Rocky V (and, really, who can say what is?), but it certainly didn’t help.

#5: Rocky III

In which Mickey has a heart attack, Mr. T and Hulk Hogan get some big-screen time, and the city is given a crappy statue. One good thing to come out of it all: Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”.

#4: Rocky IV

The Rocky movie that played on our hatred of the Russians gave the world a memorable villain line, when Ivan Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren in his second movie role ever) obliterates Apollo Creed in the ring and tells the assembled media, “If he dies… he dies.” (He dies.) Also memorable is Brigitte Nielsen as Mrs. Drago, just as sexy as Claire Underwood and with a Russian accent to boot.

#3: Rocky II

The training run is epic, as dutifully chronicled by Philly Mag’s Dan McQuade, and the movie was made before Stallone lost his drive to do good work and thankfully lacks the gimmickry of IV and III. But it’s no Godfather II. When you’re an underdog like Rocky — and, more importantly, like Stallone was when he made the original movie — and you come out on top, people expect you to keep winning… not just have one lucky fight.

#2: Rocky Balboa

The movie that everyone assumed would suck — after all, it followed V — was actually pretty darn good, with even the New York Times critic admitting, “Surprisingly ‘Rocky Balboa,’ is no embarrassment.”

“Most of the Rocky films are simply paint-by-numbers sports movies,” says McQuade, who, it should be noted, disagrees that Balboa is better than II. “Rocky Balboa is a ridiculous film — the opponent is even named Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon. But I find it so much less stupid than III and IV (and, obviously V).”

Stallone went smaller with this entry, which was the right way to go. Fortunately, it also seems to be the direction in which Coogler has taken Creed.

#1: Rocky

Not just the best movie in the series but one of the best sports movies of all time, and a beautifully-filmed time capsule of 1970s Philadelphia.