Film / Rocky IV

"I must break you."
Ivan Drago

The one where Rocky wins the Cold War.

Rocky IV is a 1985 American sports film written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, who also starred in the film. The film co-stars Dolph Lundgren and it's the fourth entry in the Rocky film series.

Rocky is pitted against Russian super-athlete Ivan Drago in a heavily Cold War themed film, which mostly revolves around the two fights with Drago. In the first, the once-again retired Rocky coaches Apollo for an exhibition match with Drago that leads to Drago killing Apollo in the ring. In the second, Rocky uses good ol' fashioned patriotism to beat down the cold-hearted Russian as an act of revenge.

The film's success led to a fifth entry, Rocky V, released on 1990.

This film has the examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Subverted. Ivan Drago blatantly pushed the referee away during the fight in which Apollo loses his life. He obviously should have been arrested and charged with murder. However, being from the Soviet Union, the United States chose to let him walk free, rather than risk World War III and/or a Class 2 Apocalypse How over a boxer.note 
  • Appeal to Nature: Rocky’s training is portrayed as more righteous because it’s outdoors in the brutal Russian winter, while Drago’s training is indoors, more technological, and includes steroid use—all of which emphasize Drago’s villain status.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Ivan Drago has a measured punching pressure of over 2000 psi. Considering the average size of someone's fist, this would equate to roughly 15000 pounds of force. To put this in perspective, a T-Rex's bite power was estimated at 7700 pounds of force...
  • Artistic License – Sports: In reality, Ivan and Apollo's fight would have been stopped very quickly. It doesn't matter if the towel was thrown in or not: the referee is obligated to end the match immediately if he fears for a boxer's well-being. By the conclusion of the first round, it was blindingly obvious Apollo was in danger of significant injury.
  • Badass Beard: Rocky grows one during his training time in Siberia.
  • Badass Boast: “You will lose.” — Drago
  • Blood Knight: Ivan is revealed to be one when he knocks his Soviet handler on his ass. As this is the first time Drago has shown something resembling respect for an opponent, this is something of a Pet the Dog moment.
    "I fight to win for me! For ME!!"
  • Bullying The Dragon: When Drago starts losing to Rocky, his livid handler lays into him, even shoving him in the face. He gets about two seconds to realise what a big mistake this was before getting thrown across the stadium by the neck.
  • Casualty in the Ring: Apollo, bringing Rocky back to the fold.
  • Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: Contrasting to Rocky's previous opponent, Clubber Lang, who uses trash-talk like punctuation, Drago is threateningly stoic and rarely speaks or emotes. He has approximately 5 lines of dialogue in the film.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Ivan Drago versus Apollo Creed. It's so lopsided that Creed dies.
  • David vs. Goliath: How everyone—including Adrian—views the matchup between Rocky and Drago.
    Adrian: Have you read the papers? Do you know what everybody says? It’s suicide! You’ve seen him, you’ve seen how strong he is. You can’t win!
  • Death Glare: Rocky gives one to Drago after Drago kills Apollo.
  • The Determinator: No matter how many times Drago knocks Rocky down, Rocky will not stay down, much to Drago’s frustration. Rocky’s determination even wins over the Russian crowd.
  • Double Standard: In-Universe. During the interview, Apollo and his friends make several jokes at Drago's expense. However, when Ludmilla simply says that her husband is going to win, Apollo immediately becomes hostile and he retorts agressively. Apparently, he's okay with joking at the expense of someone as long as it's not him.
  • Evil Is Petty: The KGB "assigns" two men to "guard" Rocky. Pretty much just for subtle intimidation... but Rocky pretty much ignores them.
  • Flanderization: In Rocky, Apollo Creed's patriotism is for show. He denies that his "underdog" idea is patriotic and insists that it is intelligent. In Rocky IV, he puts on a similar song-and-dance routine, but this time, it is a genuine expression of extreme patriotism, a quality not before seen in Apollo. It's possible that the increased Cold War tension of the 1980s (and/or fighting a Soviet as opposed to other Americans) brought it out in him.
  • Funny Background Event: At the end of the first round of the fight between Rocky and Drago, you can see Duke fighting Drago's trainer.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Ludmilla takes a drag of Koloff’s cigarette as Drago is pummeling Apollo, showing her indifference to Apollo’s imminent death. Later, as Apollo drops to the canvass, Ludmilla has a small smile on her face.
  • Graceful Loser: After Rocky's victory and final speech, the Russian crowd cheer for him and the Russian leaders applaud him.
  • Husky Russkie: Ivan Drago is gigantic compared to Rocky and is the Soviet villain to Rocky's all-American hero.
  • Improvised Training: The entire training sequence. Rocky has to train for his fight without the benefit of sparring, so instead, he hardens himself up in the Russian winter as best he can.
  • International Showdown by Proxy: American and Soviet boxers serve as a Cold War showdown. note 
  • Jerkass: Koloff, a loathsome Smug Snake who alternates between boasting about Drago's invincibility and mocking the Americans. Even Drago gets sick of him.
  • Just Toying with Them: In the bout with Apollo, Drago pointedly doesn't throw a single punch or guard at all for several moments. Until his corner coach yells let 'er rip (in Russian). Cue the horrific slaughter.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Ivan Drago's karma for killing Apollo is to... lose a boxing match.
    • Rocky's crooked accountant (unseen in the movie) who squandered all his fortune on bad business deals, disappeared, and left him broke in Rocky V.
  • Kick the Dog: Ivan Drago's indifferent reaction that he killed Apollo without any remorse.
  • Lady Macbeth: Ludmilla is a downplayed version. During Drago’s Training Montage, it seems like even she is taken aback by how monstrous he has become.
  • Made of Iron: Drago uses these exact words to describe Rocky.
  • Montage: It’s a Rocky movie, so there are several:
    • Loved Ones Montage: Rocky imagines one while driving, after he and Adrian fought over Rocky’s decision to fight Drago in Moscow.
    • Training Montage: Rocky and Drago have parallel training montages as Rocky works out in the brutal Russian winter and Drago works out inside a state-of-the-art gymnasium while receiving steroids. Nevertheless, Rocky’s success in climbing a mountain while Drago quits on a heavily inclined treadmill shows that Rocky ultimately has greater heart.
    • Time-Compression Montage: Much of the boxing match between Rocky and Drago, except the first two rounds and the final round.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong: Literal example with a variation where most of Rocky's training is done against the harsh Russian rural winter while Ivan Drago uses a modern, confortable gymnasium.
  • Neck Lift: Drago does this to his promoter when he comes up to him during the match with Rocky and begins berating Drago for how poorly the match is going.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Apollo's showboating and attempted intimidation of Drago by exposing him to a ridiculously overblown introduction — complete with James Brown — arguably results in the Russians intimidating Rocky during the match in Russia, with the incredibly dramatic Soviet anthem and portrait of Drago being unveiled.
    • The atmosphere is positive in the beginning. Apollo and Drago will just have a demonstration match, trying to improve the relation between the US and the USSR. Ludmilla even complements Apollo and makes an outreach to his wife. However, Apollo is constantly mocking the abilities of Drago, while he has limited knowledge about Drago at that point. This annoys and ultimately enrages Drago and his party, resulting in a hostile atmosphere. Subsequently, Drago does not hold anything back in their fight.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • A subtle one right before Apollo fights Drago, where he tries to intimidate him by slamming down on his fists from above and Drago's hands don't move a millimetre.
      • Apollo's reaction shows that he is suddenly aware that he's in some trouble.
    • The same thing happens after a Drago knockdown, when Rocky sulks into the corner, gets to his knees, puts his mouthpiece back in, and stands up. Drago's face says, "What else do I have to do for him to stay down?!"
    • When Drago's promoter tears into him mid-match, Drago towers over him lividly, giving him just enough time to realise he's made a big mistake before getting grappled by the throat.
  • Patrick Stewart Speech: Rocky’s speech after defeating Drago, in which he expresses his belief, after seeing the crowds’ change towards him and his own change of heart, that “Everyone can change!”
    Phillip Wismer, political historian: "And who could have predicted that this relatively inarticulate rambling at the end of a boxing match would go down as one of the most important speeches of the 20th century?"
  • Product Placement: Everyone (including the Soviets!) wears Adidas sportswear.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: In the first round of their fight, Rocky can't seem to even faze Drago, who actually smiles at Rocky after letting Rocky pound away at his midsection to no apparent effect.
  • Re-Cut: Sylvester Stallone's original cut of the movie was about one hour longer. Ironically, it wound up being the shortest in the series. One can only imagine what was cut from the film.
  • Retirony: Apollo inverts this by getting killed in his very first match after coming out of retirement.
  • Robot Buddy: Paulie gets one for a birthday present "because he doesn't have any friends" (ouch). He later teaches it to sound and act like a devoted Robot Girl (ew). Pretty much a rolling Big-Lipped Alligator Moment throughout the whole movie. Roger Ebert has some fun making light of the fact Rocky is somehow in possession of some advanced artificial intelligence.
  • Rousing Speech: Duke!
    Duke (before third round): Now he’s worried. You cut him! You hurt him! You see—you see?! He’s not a machine! He’s a man! You want it more than he does! No pain! No pain!”
    Duke (before final round): There’s no stopping us now, this is our round. You start, you don’t stop! All your strength! All your power! All your love! Everything you’ve got! To win you’ve gotta knock him out. You gotta punch and punch until you can’t punch no more! This is your whole life here! You do it now, now!
  • Silent Antagonist: Drago is a man of very, very few words.
  • Special Guest: James Brown singing "Living in America" before the bout between Apollo and Drago in Las Vegas.
  • Theme Music Abandonment: Rocky’s classic theme, “Gonna Fly Now,” is absent from this movie.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Apollo’s death is given away in the trailer.
  • Villain Has a Point:
    • As the Soviets themselves mention, Apollo isn't in proper condition to beat someone of Drago's physique and single-minded determination, and that he could learn a painful lesson attempting to fight Drago. Apollo's stubborn refusal to give up or let Rock throw in the towel gets him killed in the ring.
      • During the same interview, Apollo and his friends make several jokes at Drago's expense. When Drago's wife says that Drago didn't come here to lose, the lighthearted atmosphere immediately becomes more tensed and Ludmilla accuses Apollo of being hostile and agressive. The problem is that she's right. The moment she says that Drago will win, Apollo immediately becomes more hostile, which in turn causes the Russians to become more hostile.
    • Regarding the Apollo-Drago bout, Ludmilla shames the Americans for trying to turn the match into a personal/political matter, which is accurate — when Drago, the neutral (if self-assured) party, is raised into the ring, he gets mercilessly booed as if he's a Foreign Wrestling Heel, whereas Apollo enters on a giant bull sculpture to deafening cheers and James Brown himself singing "Living in America". After the Apollo's death, she hints that they've been receiving hate mail and death threats, undoubtedly stoked by the way the American media covered the story and Apollo and company hyped it.
  • Wet Blanket Wife: Adrian strongly opposes Rocky’s decision to fight Drago, though she later changes her mind and comes to Russia to support him.
  • Worthy Opponent: Drago ultimately views Rocky as this.