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40 Years of Boxing: The 'Rocky' Franchise

Courtesy of MGM

With Creed III coming out soon, now’s the perfect time to look back at the Rocky and Creed franchise. While Creed III will be the first film in the franchise to not feature Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, this franchise would not go the distance it has without him. Back in 1975, Stallone wrote the screenplay for the 1976 film Rocky in three days. Stallone made sure he would play Rocky, or else the film would not be made. Despite the low budget, the fear of casting Stallone as the lead character, and some characters taking a while to get actors to play, Rocky was a huge success. The film made around $225 million worldwide and got praise from critics and audiences. The film was nominated for several awards and won some of them, including Best Picture.

Since 1976, there have been five more Rocky films and two spinoff films based on Adonis Creed, the son of Rocky’s rival and friend Apollo Creed. Most of these films were well received, with the only film getting a mostly negative reception being Rocky V. What makes these films entertaining and good is the main character, Rocky Balboa, the Italian Stallion. Sylvester Stallone gives great performances in each of these films. Rocky goes through one of the best arcs of any film character. When we are first introduced to Rocky, he starts as a poor boxer that works for a loan shark named Tony Gazzo. Picked to box Apollo Creed, Rocky does what no other boxer did and went the distance against Creed despite losing.

After losing to Creed, Rocky fights him again and becomes champion. Before that, he marries the woman he loves, Adrian Pennino, and has a son with her named Robert. We see Rocky on top of the world in Rocky III and Rocky IV, becoming rich and having a bigger house. During these films, we also see Rocky lose his mentor Mickey and Creed who became his new mentor and friend after Mickey’s death. Rocky faces Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago in these films. Rocky goes back to being broke in Rocky V and almost pushed his family away, mainly his son to train a young boxer named Tommy Gunn, but comes back from it. We see Rocky in Rocky Balboa step into the ring one last time without Adrian, as Adrian passed away before the events of the film.

The other characters in the Rocky franchise also make this series special. Adrian, played by Talia Shire, also progresses in these films. At first, Adrian is shy and uncertain about Rocky, but then fell in love with him. While she fears for Rocky’s life when he fights, she also brings him back to reality when he doubts himself. Her brother Paulie, played by Burt Young, is Rocky’s best friend, who is known for getting angry easily, but is loyal to Rocky. Rocky’s trainer Mickey Goldmill, played by Burgess Meredith, cares for Rocky, but is not afraid to criticize him, give him the brutal truth, and delivered iconic phrases in the franchise. Apollo Creed, played by Carl Weathers, goes through his arc from cocky champion and rival to Rocky to a mentor and close friend before he dies.

Nine years after the last Rocky film Rocky Balboa came out, Creed came out to focus on the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, Adonis Creed. Michael B. Jordan portrays Adonis Creed, who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. Unlike Rocky, Adonis lived a life of luxury after being adopted by Mary Anne Creed and had a successful job before he decided to pursue a boxing career. Stallone returns as Rocky, who mentors Adonis, but is also fighting cancer later in the film. Three years later, Creed II would come out and Adonis would face Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan Drago. Similar to Rocky, Adonis would fall in love during his boxing journey with a woman name Bianca Taylor, played by Tessa Thompson

The thing that makes these films special is that they aren’t just about boxing or even winning. In the first film, Rocky cared about going the distance in his match against Apollo. It’s about overcoming the odds. Rocky deals with other things in these films, such as becoming a father. Rocky Balboa was about pursuing something that makes you happy and coming back despite all the hits life throws at you. Creed was about making a name for yourself while at the same time honoring the legacy of your father.

The music of these films is also great. The most iconic song in the Rocky franchise is Gonna Fly Now, which usually plays when Rocky trains for the big fight at the end. The score of the first Rocky film is one of the most iconic film scores. Rocky IV delivered some great songs as well, including No Easy Way Out and Hearts on Fire for when Rocky is training in Russia. Creed’s film score did a combination of doing something new and honoring the original Rocky score.

Overall, the Rocky and Creed films tell stories about boxers who go the distance and overcome bad odds. These films have great characters, great actors that portray these characters well, good stories, and catchy soundtracks. It’s unknown what will happen with the franchise after Creed III. More Creed films will happen. Stallone was open to doing another Rocky film in 2019. The premise would be about Rocky mentoring a young boxer who lived in the United States illegally. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to happen. Recently, Stallone has been at odds with Irvin Winkler, the main producer of the franchise, over the rights to Rocky. Still, if another Rocky film never comes out or Rocky no longer appears in the Creed franchise, the character’s arc ended on a high note in Creed II.

What are your thoughts on the Rocky and Creed franchise? What is your favorite film in this series? Let us know in the comments down below.

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