Film: Rocky III

Five years after the fight at the end of the previous film, Rocky has become the heavyweight champion and a major celebrity. Another young up-and-comer, Clubber Lang (played by the inimitable Mr. T) wants a shot at him, though, and the film contrasts Rocky's newfound cockiness with Clubber's intensity (a reversal of Rocky and Apollo's roles in the first film). Rocky loses his fight against the better-trained Lang just as his beloved mentor, Mickey, passes away — which leads to Apollo Creed offering to become Rocky's trainer. Apollo initially makes the offer just to get back at Lang, but over the course of their training, he and Rocky bond and become close friends. Rocky wins against Clubber in a rematch, and the film ends with a final match between Apollo and Rocky, though now only as a friendly spar. This film also spawned the legendary song "Eye of the Tiger", performed by Survivor.


This film has the examples of:

  • Color Motif: The film puts a twist on Rocky's signature colors. In the previous movie, he wore black trunks with gold stripes. After he becomes champion, finds success, and loses his edge, he switches to flashy gold trunks with black stripes, as well as gold gloves and yellow shoes.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: For Mr T. While his persona and well known "Pity the fool" catchphrase were first popularized in Rocky III, the movie as Mr T hitting on Rocky's wife to antagonize. Far removed from the Mr T who would become well known for telling kids to stay in school and don't do drugs.
  • Funny Background Event: During the pre-fight interview, Paulie is peeking out over Rocky's shoulder and waving at the camera.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Rocky had Paulie cut his gloves off during the Boxer vs Wrestler match so he can use his barefists against the clearly more powerful, Thunderlips.
  • He's Back: Pretty much, all of the movie.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When they go to Apollo's old gym in L.A., full of African-American boxers:
    Paulie: [referring to African-Americans ] I don't like these people.
    Rocky: You don't like em'? Well maybe they don't like you either Paulie.
    Paulie:(taken aback) What'd I do to them?
  • Impending Clash Shot: The film ends with Rocky and Apollo about to punch each other in an unofficial match either to see who'd win or just for the sport.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Rocky, just after Mick dies.
  • Our Founder: Philadelphia unveiled a Rocky statue on the museum steps, which was seen in III. Paulie later comments on the statue being taken down, which also happened in real life (it was moved to the base of the steps).
  • Pretty in Mink: Adrian gets a couple furs. Even spoofed in a short review of the films.
    "Rocky gets his own pinball games. Pet Store Lady starts wearing fur coats."
  • Product Placement: Nike. You see the swoosh everywhere in the movie.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: Rocky is on the receiving end in the climax of his rematch with Clubber Lang as he no sells the increasingly panicking and frustrated Lang's devastating blows. Unlike many other examples of this trope, though, it's not a result of Rocky being tough enough to No Sell Lang's punches, which are clearly shown to be devastating; Rocky is using defense and movement to take the effect out of Lang's blows until Lang simply became too tired to swing with full force.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • Rocky III opens with Rocky becoming a rich and famous celebrity, appearing on magazine covers, doing commercials, meeting presidents, and going on The Muppet Show(!), just like Stallone in real life. In fact, the Muppet Show clip shown was actual footage from Stallone's own guest appearance on that series. Jim Henson redubbed Kermit's voice to say Rocky's name instead of Stallone's.
    • Much of the merchandise shown in the opening montage was in fact available in real life, most notably the pinball machine bearing Rocky's name.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • Real life: Joe Frazier, a tough boxer from Philadelphia famous for his left hook, who did his roadwork in the city (including the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art) and used meat carcasses as makeshift punchbags, reached the pinnacle of his career with victory over the quick, brash and charismatic Muhammad Ali. After a few defenses against less than stellar opposition that was clearly outclassed by him, Frazier then faced the hard-hitting (but relatively unheralded) George Foreman, and was knocked out in two rounds. A year later Foreman faced Ali, and in that bout Ali made a tactical decision mid-fight to stop using his famous Hit-and-Run Tactics, and instead adopted the rope-a-dope strategy of lying on the ropes, blocking, parrying, and in some cases absorbing all the punishment Foreman could dish out and more, taunting Foreman all the while. Foreman exhausts himself trying to KO Ali, and Ali then knocks him out. (Link)
    • Rocky III: Rocky Balboa, a tough boxer from Philadelphia famous for his left hook, does his roadwork in the city (including the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art) and uses meat carcasses as makeshift punchbags, reaches the pinnacle of his career with victory over the quick, brash and charismatic Apollo Creed. After a number of defenses which his manager eventually admits were handpicked and posed no threat to Rocky, he then decides to defend his title against hard hitting slugger Clubber Lang, and is knocked out in two rounds. Afterward, Apollo Creed, (who is the analogue for Muhammad Ali) trains Rocky to fight in a different way, mirroring Apollo's own style. Rocky begins well with boxing, Hit-and-Run Tactics, but when Lang finds a way to start getting to him, Rocky makes a mid-fight switch, starts using Stone Wall defense to defend against the worst of Lang's punches while taunting Lang for his inability to knock Rocky out. Lang exhausts himself trying to KO Rocky, and Rocky knocks him out. (Link)
  • Rule of Pool: Balboa pulls a full clothed Paulie into the pool during the training montage.
  • Scary Black Man: Mr. T's character Clubber Lang in the third movie.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: A high school marching band plays "Gonna Fly Now" at Rocky's statue unveiling ceremony in Rocky III. Later on a lounge band performing at Rocky's public training plays the theme. An annoyed Mickey yells "Shut up back there! Change your tune."
  • Throw It In: An in-universe example. When Rocky is training to fight Clubber Lang, he gets a kiss on the cheek by one of his fans while Mickey is trying to motivate him. After Mickey shoves said fan away he improvises his speech a little without skipping a beat.
    Mickey: Get outta here! Will ya? This is like fighting in a zoo. This is a zoo, you know? Is that the way you train for Clubber? He ain't gonna kiss ya! He gonna kill ya! Ya know that?
  • Unfortunate Names: No, honestly, Thunderlips? Face Palm.
  • Villain Has a Point: Clubber Lang is outraged that Rocky won't allow him a shot at the heavyweight championship title and publicly accuses him of only ever taking easy matches. He's actually right: it turns out Mickey has quietly been refusing all challenges to the title except those he knows Rocky can beat.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Adrian's speech to Rocky.