A collage of stills from the 'Rocky' and 'Creed' movies, featuring Sylvester Stallone, Michael B. Jordan, Carl Weathers, and Mr. T
(MGM)

The ‘Rocky’ Movies Ranked, From Palooka to Knock-Out

Ranking the Rocky movies isn’t easy—everyone has a specific take. We all have our favorite boxing matches or that one Rocky Balboa storyline we really love, and the Creed movies have just complicated things a little more.

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Sylvester Stallone plays Rocky Balboa with ease, bringing the boxer to life with a soft edge that vanishes as soon as he’s up against the ropes. He loved his wife Adrian (Talia Shire) so much and built a friendship with his rival, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), out of their mutual respect for each other. That friendship resulted in Rocky helping Apollo’s son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) in his boxing endeavors.

The franchise is just a good watch all around, but some movies are better than others, so let’s rank the Rocky and the Creed movies from worst to best.

9. Rocky V

rocky trying to help robert box
(MGM)

Look, if every Rocky fan could omit Rocky V from the list, we would. It’s just … not good. Rocky is forced to retire because of his injuries and begins training Tommy (Tommy Morrison) to box and take the title. Much of the sequel is also about Rocky’s relationship with his son, Robert (Sage Stallone). It’s the one movie on this list that you could definitely skip if you needed to.

8. Rocky III

rocky balboa and apollo creed running on the beach together
(MGM)

Now, I like Rocky III, but out of all of the movies, it’s just a little less good than the others. Rocky is at the height of his career after beating Apollo Creed, but that isn’t enough. Right when he finds success, a young buck comes to town to try and take it from him. Clubber Lang (Mr. T) wants to take Rocky down, which lets us see Rocky and Apollo as friends (and Apollo as Rocky’s trainer). It’s a good time, but just not the best of the films.

7. Creed II

adonis creed and viktor drago facing off like apollo and ivan in creed ii
(MGM)

The Creed movies are all good but out of the three, the one that is the most “mid” is Creed II—and even then, it is really good. Adonis Creed is taking on Ivan Drago’s son, Viktor (Florian Munteanu). Rocky is still training him but is obviously worried about a Creed taking on a Drago, especially when Adonis is about to have a baby. It’s a more modernized version of Rocky IV and really works to further the Creed/Rocky/Drago storyline.

6. Rocky II

rocky balboa with long hair leaning on the ropes
(MGM)

Remember how the first Rocky movie doesn’t end with Rocky winning, but he still wins the hearts of the audience? Well, Rocky II is his comeback story. And we get to see Rocky trying to capitalize on his success by appearing in a commercial, and that’s pretty fun. Preparing to fight Apollo Creed again, the second film is more about Rocky’s determination this time, without the second-guessing—because he knows that if given the chance, he can win against Creed.

5. Creed

sylvester stallone and michael b jordan training in creed
(MGM)

Adonis Creed didn’t know his father, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t his father’s son. Taking on the mantle of “Creed” in the boxing world is daunting, and it is nice to see Rocky Balboa at Adonis’ side, being his trainer and breathing new life into the franchise. It has a lot of the same beats we love from Rocky, but is also completely Adonis’ movie. It really shines when Jordan tackles the boxing franchise on his own.

4. Rocky IV

rocky getting punched by drago in rocky iv
(MGM)

God, do I love this movie. It makes me cry, cheer, and root for Rocky so loudly. Rocky IV starts with Apollo Creed facing off against Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) and realizing very quickly that he has met his match. Creed ends up receiving a fatal blow and Drago kills him in the ring. Rocky, determined to avenge his friend, trains hard to take on Drago—and the rest is cinematic history.

3. Rocky Balboa

rocky fighting the line in the ring
(MGM)

The disappointment of Rocky V was quickly forgotten thanks to Rocky Balboa. This sequel is about an aging Rocky who gets challenged by a young fighter named Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon (Antonio Tarver), basically ignoring all of Rocky’s health issues that were established before. There’s also a tense relationship between Rocky and his son (played by Milo Ventimiglia) that makes this sequel more compelling. It is inspirational in that way that only the Rocky movies are, and shows that even when Stallone was almost 60, he could still take on anyone in the ring.

2. Creed III

Adonis Creed sitting against the ropes in Creed III
(MGM)

Michael B. Jordan’s direction in Creed III is stunning and he really makes masterful work of a storyline that feels so quintessentially Rocky that it is perfect. Adonis has to get into the ring with Damian (Jonathan Majors), a man he used to know when he was a kid, and Damian isn’t exactly a fair fighter. It shows Adonis’ ability as a boxer but also who he is as a man, taking on Damian and leaving their past behind.

1. Rocky

rocky running up the stars in philly
(MGM)

In what world was Rocky not going to be at the top of this list? A love story that also has some boxing in it, the first Rocky movie is all about Rocky and Adrian falling in love and Rocky trying to find success in boxing to win her over. It is beautiful, captivating, and the reason that so many of us love these movies in the first place!


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.