When the original Rocky was first released, it won the hearts of audiences all over the world. It catapulted the then-unknown Sylvester Stallone into stardom and opened the gates for an entire franchise. However, not every film has received the success of the original. In fact, some have reached the exact opposite end of the spectrum becoming some of the biggest busts among blockbuster films. To know which Rocky movie is the best and which ones were a bust, we created a list of the best Rocky movies ranked worst to best.

Best Rocky movies ranked

8. Rocky V (1990)

Adrian breaks down

Rocky V is the notorious bust of the entire Rocky film series, being the only entry to actually lose money at the box office. The film follows the melodrama of Rocky as he copes with brain damage from his boxing career and the pitfalls of fame. Stallone even went on to say he himself made Rocky V out of greed and that he would rate it a zero out of ten.

List of Rocky movies from worst to best

Conclusion

While the story respectably reached for certain narrative risks, it failed to provide any meaningful payoff for all of the melodramatic scenes in the film.

Best Rocky movies ranked

7. Rocky III (1982)

Clubber Heckles Rocky

In true Rocky fashion, Rocky III has a behind the scenes underdog story that reflects the common themes of the series. Mr. T, who plays the antagonist Clubber Lang, had no film acting experience prior to this movie. Stallone took a risk and cast him as Rocky’s main opponent and thank goodness he did. Mr. T carries Rocky III as one of the series' most compelling villains.

All Rocky movies ranked

Conclusion

Mr. T brings something new to the Rocky film series in what would have been a rather redundant narrative. Mr. T is one of the most memorable antagonists of the series and makes Rocky III a solid watch.

Best Rocky movies ranked

6. Rocky II (1979)

Heated Press Conference

Far too many films fall victim to the sequel complex and Rocky II is not spared. While the film itself is good, it does not reach the greatness of its predecessor. It does capitalize on the development of Apollo Creed’s character. This sets the stage for the friendship between Apollo Creed and that carries over into the Creed films.

Rocky film series movies

Conclusion

The first sequel could not outshine the original but it sets up a larger narrative that informs the rest of the Rocky film series.

Best Rocky movies ranked

5. Creed II (2018)

CREED II  •  Official Trailer 2

When creating this list of the best Rocky movies ranked, we were not surprised that the first sequels landed back-to-back. Both Creed II and Rocky II do exactly what their predecessors did best but lost some luster by being a bit redundant. Creed II operates more as a vengeance film as Adonis Creed, played by Michael B. Jordan trains to fight Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago who killed Adonis’ father, Apollo.

List of Rocky movies ranked

Conclusion

Creed II capitalizes on the nostalgia of older Rocky films and characters, which works to its advantage. However, it executes the narrative with movie cliches and genre tropes that make the film good, but not great.

Best Rocky movies ranked

4. Rocky IV (1985)

I Must Break You  •  Rocky IV

Contrast is the name of the game in Rocky IVThe film uses juxtaposition to pose the American rural work ethic against Soviet technological training. By screen time, over a quarter of the film consists of training montages. And while that might sound repetitive, it actually works in the film’s favor, setting the stakes fore the big fight in the finale.

Best Rocky movies in order

Conclusion

Rocky IV does what the entire Rocky series does best, but does more of it. The underdog, training montages, a disdainful antagonist, and great setup and pay off. It’s everything classic about the Rocky movie series.

Best Rocky movies ranked

3. Rocky Balboa (2006)

Rocky Balboa  •  Inspirational Speech

Sixteen years after the notorious bust of Rocky V, Stallone returns to the ring in Rocky Balboa. Audiences didn't know what to expect from a 60-year-old Rocky and many were surprised with how well the film delivered. While the movie has some solid fight scenes and decent training montages, it's really Rocky’s words that hit harder than his punches in this one. Stallone delivers a more mature, wiser performance in some of the most memorable scenes in the entire series.

All Rocky movies ranked

Conclusion

Many watch Rocky films for the fights, action, and training, but Rocky Balboa delivers on an emotional level many fans didn't even know they wanted. Rocky Balboa served as a great capstone to the original Rocky movie series. 

Best Rocky movies ranked

2. Creed (2015)

Long Take Fight Scene  •  Creed

Just when fans thought they saw the last of Rocky, he makes an epic comeback in a different form. This list of the best Rocky movies ranked would not be complete without the Creed films for good reason. They show Rocky in a new light.

It follows Adonis Creed seeking Rocky's help at the beginning of his boxing career. The film perfectly balances the nostalgia of older Rocky films while still establishing a new protagonist with depth and care. Creed satisfies Rocky fans in a new and refreshing way that bridges the old with the new.

List of Rocky movies ranked

Conclusion

Creed executes a passing of the torch in the Rocky film series perfectly with a new and memorable protagonist and an older, wiser Rocky Balboa.

Best Rocky movies ranked

1. Rocky (1976)

Rocky  •  Training Montage

It is quite difficult to imagine Rocky as anything but the incredible blockbuster it’s been known as for the last 40 years. However, the roots of the film are more similar to a modern day, low-budget indie film. It had a completely unknown actor as its lead who was also the film's screenwriter, a budget of only $1 million, and was labeled as an incredible risk for producers.

Yet it went on to become 1976’s highest grossing film and win multiple Oscars including Best Picture. Rocky is one of the few films whose production was a Rocky story of its own. It is the quintessential feel-good, underdog film that deserves its place as one of the best sports movies of all time.

Top of the best Rocky movies ranked list

Conclusion

Which Rocky movie is the best? The answer should be obvious. Rocky remains one of the most iconic, influential, and parodied sports dramas in all of cinema and for good reason. It’s damn near the perfect popcorn film that stands the test of time.

UP NEXT

All-time greatest sports movies

Rocky movies are some of the best boxing movies, of course, but they also qualify for some of the greatest sports movies of all-time. Find out where the Rocky movies rank in our list that covers boxing, basketball, football, baseball, and even competitive car racing. 

Up Next: Best sports movies ever →
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  • Kyle DeGuzman graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Television, Film, & New Media. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado spending his time writing, filmmaking, and traveling.

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