The Rocky franchise has, incredibly, spanned over four decades. From the 1976 original to the 2015 spin-off film, Creed, and beyond, the boxing flicks always entertain both in the ring and with high-intensity drama.
While the overall theme of the films—overcoming obstacles, both personal and societal, to achieve all that you’re capable of— is at the heart of their success, it’s how that feeds into the various boxing matches that has kept a couple of generations riveted.
Much of the credit for that goes to Rocky director John G. Avildsen, whose approach to the boxing match of the original carried over to the rest of the series.
Says Avildsen, “After seeing a number of boxing films, I realized that the boxing usually looked pretty bad. We wanted the final fight to look real, so I was able to get the producers to give us rehearsal time and put the boxing at the end of the schedule so we would have as much time as possible to get it right. On the first day they got into the ring, long before we started to shoot, Sylvester said, ‘I’ll do this’ and Carl Weathers [playing Apollo Creed] said, ‘I’ll do that.’ I said, ‘Why don’t you go home and write this thing out: left, right, up, down... whatever you want, and then we’ll learn that like a ballet.’ Sylvester liked that idea and he came back the next day with thirty-some pages of lefts and rights. I had my 8mm movie camera and started shooting them do it. I’d show them the footage every day and they’d see how terrible it looked, and came up with ways to make it better and better and we got it down. We knew the first quarter of the first round was here, and the second quarter of the first round was there, and we really got it down, so that by the time it came to shoot it, it looked great.”
And, thankfully, that vision came across in each film.
By our count, there have been 10 significant matches over the course of the Rocky films, and we’re ranking them all!
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Right up front, we need to say that this fight would move way up the list if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s a Rocky spin-off rather than a sequel—although it’s so F’n good! Somehow, nearly 40 years on from the original, director Ryan Coogler has kept the energy of the classic Stallone Rocky fights but infused it with some modern cinematic techniques. And despite the fact that there is a lot about this fight that is reminiscent of the Rocky/Creed fight of the first Rocky, it works, brought home by Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Apollo’s son, Adonis. And as Stallone did with Antonio Tarver in Rocky Balboa, Coogler has gone with real-life boxer Tony Beliew as Conlan, which brings some authenticity into the ring. Sure, it’s the tiniest bit of a bummer that Rocky's stuck at ringside as a trainer, but Stallone is so good and proves that he should have won the Academy Award for best supporting actor.
Image via YouTube