Every Rocky movie, ranked

Published 1:07 pm Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Every Rocky movie, ranked

Since 1976, the story of Philadelphia underdog boxer Rocky Balboa’s (Sylvester Stallone) unlikely road to the world heavyweight championship has led to a sprawling boxing franchise spanning eight films. The first “Rocky” film got off to a particularly strong start, becoming the highest-grossing film of the year and taking home three Oscars.

From there, five Rocky-centric sequels followed and were met with varying degrees of acclaim—looking at you, “Rocky V.” However, the franchise got a shakeup with the advent of the “Creed” films. Michael B. Jordan stars as the son of Rocky’s late rival, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), and the new protagonist turns to the original star for mentorship in the ring. The films have effectively revitalized the “Rocky” series, but how do all eight films compare to each other?

To find out, Stacker ranked every “Rocky” movie according to a Stacker score, which is weighted evenly between IMDb user rating (which measures popular reception) and Metascore (which measures critical reception). Any ties were broken by IMDb votes.

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So sit back, queue up “Gonna Fly Now” or “Eye of the Tiger,” and check out which entries in this beloved boxing franchise should jump to the top of your watchlist.

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Sylvester Stallone and Tommy Morrison talking in the boxing ring during a fight.

United Artists

#8. Rocky V (1990)

– Director: John G. Avildsen
– Stacker score: 68.4
– IMDb user rating: 5.3
– Metascore: 55
– Runtime: 104 minutes

When “Rocky V” opens, Rocky is now retired due to brain injuries and faces unexpected financial hardship. In hopes of turning things around, he takes charge of his late mentor Mickey Goldmill’s (Burgess Meredith) gym and begins training young boxing protegé Tommy “The Machine” Gunn (Tommy Morrison). “Rocky V” is the lowest-rated “Rocky” film critically, with a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In 1999, Time magazine even included the movie on a list of the worst ideas of the 20th century.

Sylvester Stallone faces off with Dolph Lundgren in the boxing ring.

United Artists

#7. Rocky IV (1985)

– Director: Sylvester Stallone
– Stacker score: 68.4
– IMDb user rating: 6.8
– Metascore: 40
– Runtime: 91 minutes

In “Rocky IV,” Rocky’s plans to retire from boxing are put on hold after his friend, Apollo, is beaten to death during a match against Russian newcomer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). Reeling from the news, Rocky heads to Russia to fight Drago and seeks vengeance. Stallone was rushed to the ICU during filming after a particularly strong punch from Lundgren pushed his heart against his breastbone, causing it to swell. “Rocky IV” has also faced controversy, with some arguing its negative portrayals of Russia fall under Cold War propaganda.

Sylvester Stallone and Mr. T boxing.

Chartoff-Winkler Productions

#6. Rocky III (1982)

– Director: Sylvester Stallone
– Stacker score: 79.1
– IMDb user rating: 6.8
– Metascore: 57
– Runtime: 99 minutes

“Rocky III” finds Rocky facing off against a formidable new opponent named Clubber Lang (Mr. T). Aware he faces an uphill battle, the titular boxer turns to his former rival, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), for training. Apart from marking Mr. T’s breakthrough role, “Rocky III” is perhaps best remembered for its theme song, “Eye of the Tiger” by the rock band Survivor. The iconic track went on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.

Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers boxing.

Chartoff-Winkler Productions

#5. Rocky II (1979)

– Director: Sylvester Stallone
– Stacker score: 84.8
– IMDb user rating: 7.3
– Metascore: 61
– Runtime: 119 minutes

“Rocky II” picks up shortly after the original film, as Rocky enjoys his newfound celebrity, despite narrowly losing to prolific boxer Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) at the world heavyweight championship. Meanwhile, Creed is embarrassed at nearly getting beaten by an underdog, and soon challenges his new rival to another match. Stallone began campaigning to direct “Rocky II” after original “Rocky” director John G. Avildsen passed on the sequel, and he ultimately scored the gig.

Sylvester Stallone smiles with his character's family after a boxing match.


#4. Rocky Balboa (2006)

– Director: Sylvester Stallone
– Stacker score: 84.8
– IMDb user rating: 7.1
– Metascore: 63
– Runtime: 102 minutes

Following the poor reception of “Rocky V,” Stallone set out to rehabilitate the franchise’s legacy with “Rocky Balboa.” In the film, an aging Rocky is called out of retirement to compete in an exhibition fight against desperado boxer Mason “The Line” Dixon (Antonio Tarver). The film received largely positive critical reviews, with Rotten Tomatoes’ consensus noting that it “finds the champ in fighting form for the first time in years.” Stallone also retconned Rocky’s previous brain injuries, noting, “By today’s standards, Rocky Balboa would be given a clean bill of health for fighters.”

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Michael B. Jordan hits a boxing bag, held by Sylvester Stallone.


#3. Creed II (2018)

– Director: Steven Caple Jr.
– Stacker score: 86.7
– IMDb user rating: 7.1
– Metascore: 66
– Runtime: 130 minutes

In “Creed II,” Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) becomes determined to compete in a highly personal match against Russian boxer Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). As “Rocky IV” viewers will remember, Viktor’s father, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), killed Adonis’ father, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), years earlier. Despite Rocky’s protests, Adonis soon becomes obsessed with achieving victory, as both men confront their families’ complicated legacies. RogerEbert.com’s Odie Henderson gave “Creed II” three out of four stars, writing that while the film “falls victim to the sins of sequelitis,” it “manages to right itself by not losing focus on the humanity of its central characters.”

Sylvester Stallone punches a boxing speed bag.

Chartoff-Winkler Productions

#2. Rocky (1976)

– Director: John G. Avildsen
– Stacker score: 95.6
– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– Metascore: 70
– Runtime: 120 minutes

The original “Rocky” serves as an origin story for Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), a working-class, little-known boxer from Philadelphia. When he’s unexpectedly chosen to compete against world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), Rocky trains with former boxing champ Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith) in hopes of achieving an underdog victory. The film was written by Stallone himself, who refused to sell his screenplay unless he was cast in the titular role. A runaway success, “Rocky” went on to win three Oscars, including Best Picture.

Sylvester Stallone reads the newspaper and watches Michael B. Jordan jump rope.


#1. Creed (2015)

– Director: Ryan Coogler
– Stacker score: 100.
– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Metascore: 82
– Runtime: 133 minutes

Michael B. Jordan stars in “Creed,” playing Adonis Johnson, the son of legendary “Rocky” boxer Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Determined to live up to his late father’s legacy, Adonis seeks out Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) for training and fights for his chance to secure a title. “Creed” received widespread critical acclaim, and Stallone received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. IndieWire ranked the film’s screenplay 22nd in its list of best 21st-century American screenplays, with Zach Sharf writing, “Not only does the script manage to tell an authentic origin story of the young and determined Adonis Creed, but it also finds an authentic way to revive Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky and make him the emotional lynchpin of Adonis’ rise to champion boxer.”

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