Franchise: Rocky

Rocky Balboa: There ain't nothin' over till it's over.
Mason Dixon: Where's that from, the '80s?
Rocky Balboa: That's probably the '70s.
Rocky Balboa

A series of six movies set around boxing's favorite underdog, "The Italian Stallion" Rocky Balboa.

The idea for the first film was inspired when Sylvester Stallone, then a down-on-his-luck-actor, went to see a Muhammad Ali bout against Chuck Wepner. Wepner was a tough fighter with a lot of heart but little skill and a bad record, and he was most famous for frequently bleeding profusely during his bouts. The bout was intended to be a breather — an exhibition for Ali after his unbelievable (and hardfought) victory over George Foreman less than six months earlier — but to the astonishment of all, Wepner managed to knock Ali down in the ninth round (video replays showed it was actually more of a trip; Wepner happened to be standing on Ali's foot when the blow landed, which caused Ali to lose his balance when he tried to move).

Although an incensed Ali made Wepner pay dearly for that — and eventually knocked Wepner down and out for the only time in his career — the roar of the crowd as an Everyman knocked down the greatest athlete in his sport inspired Stallone, who went home and spent the next few days writing furiously nearly around the clock. The end result? Rocky was born. (Though that's slightly mythologized too. When Stallone was asked how he managed to write the screenplay in three days, he replied "I didn't write the screenplay in three days, I wrote a screenplay in three days," the shooting script was heavily workshopped.)

The films in the series are:

There were also a handful of video games that were made based on the series. The most notable, and faithful is Rocky Legends on the PS2 and X-Box, and the last game so far is Rocky for the Playstation Portable.

The franchise has also led to an upcoming Spin-Off titled Creed. The film focuses on Apollo Creed's son, Adonis Johnson, who becomes a fighter against the wishes of his family, eventually seeking out Rocky to be his trainer. Sylvester Stallone will reprise the Rocky role. Ryan Coogler will write and direct the film, and his Fruitvale Station star Michael B. Jordan will play Adonis. The film will be released on November 25th, 2015.

This film series contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Rocky Legends on X-Box and PS2 makes light on the smaller details for Apollo, Lang, and Drago. Apollo fought Duke right before he decided to retire and train him. Lang was in prison when they held a boxing match prison event, before Lang would be released to pursue his own boxing career. Drago was a USSR soldier before being hand picked to become a fighter.
    • Also, depending on which version of the game you get, the PS2 version has Paulie as a playable character, and the X-Box version gives us Ludmilla Drago as a playable character as well.
  • Alternate Continuity: In Rocky Legends, it is possible to play through Ivan Drago's campaign and defeat Rocky in the exhibition match.
    • Apollo Creed's campaign ends with him confident of his victory over Rocky and indifferent to the idea of a rematch, negating the premise of Rocky II and the subsequent sequels. It's entirely possible for Apollo to win this fight with an early knockout, denying Rocky the chance to "go the distance".
    • Averted with the other two campaigns. Rocky's matches with Apollo Creed and Clubber Lang go straight to the rematch, and the final fight with Tommy Gunn takes place on the streets, like the fifth movie. Respectively, Apollo and Clubber's campaigns end with their first match against Rocky.
  • Always Someone Better: Rocky is this for Apollo.
  • Artistic License Sports: In both rules (fighting after the bell) and tactics.
    • Rocky and his opponents usually have massively swollen eyes or are badly cut and pouring buckets of blood by the end of a fight. In real-life boxing, if swelling or a cut interferes with a boxer's sight and isn't able to be controlled by the boxer's cornermen, then, depending on the severity, it may well result in a technical knockout. That said, the decision to stop the fight is often made by the referee and/or ring doctor, and some will let the action go for longer than others.
    • Then there's the actual boxing, which is less of a boxing match (they might want to try keeping the gloves up, for a change) and more of a take-turns-getting-clean-roundhouses-to-the-face matches. (Aside from the final film, which does strive for realism.)
    • The fighting after the bell type mayhem which may even involve the cornermen of both fighters does happen on occasion when things get too heated or a referee loses control of the fight. See the mid-fight skirmish during the Floyd Mayweather/Zab Judah fight for an example. That said, you're generally less likely to see it in a high profile real life bout than what one would assume from watching Rocky fights, and in real life it will generally result in the boxers being penalized and losing points. Losing said points can cost a fighter a match that goes the distance, or result in a disqualification.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Rocky's boxing style.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: "Going the Distance" from the first film, "Eye of the Tiger" from Rocky III, and "War" from Rocky IV all count. "Going the Distance" mixes in Orchestral Bombing, while "War" plays this trope bombastically straight.
  • Awesome McCool Name: Apollo Creed.
    • Gotta give props to Adonis Creed as a badass name too.
  • Book Ends: The series begins and ends with Rocky technically losing, but still winning a moral victory.
    • Now, Rocky is going to help a Creed, the son of his original rival turned friend, to have his own shot at boxing greatness.
  • Broad Strokes: Rocky V is the only film not referred to in Rocky Balboa, but some light elements such as concern over Rocky's health and his return to poverty remained.
    • Except for the brief, almost too fast to see flash on "Get up, you son of a bitch, 'cause Mickey loves ya!"
    • And there's the reference to Rocky and his son being the "home team", which is the only explicit Call Back to Rocky V.
    • Both Rocky V and Rocky Balboa have a joke where Rocky and Robert play fight, only for Rocky to make a joke about being brittle.
    • Paulie is missing a tooth in Rocky Balboa, likely because it was knocked out when Tommy Gunn decked him in Rocky V.
  • The Cameo: There are a truly astounding number of cameos from boxers or people involved in boxing. Just a few examples include Joe Frazier being introduced before the fight in Rocky (and he and Apollo trade insults and threats just as Frazier and Ali did), the legendary Roberto Duran having a brief appearance as a sparring partner in Rocky II (where he seems to thoroughly enjoy pushing around and bullying Stallone), sports announcer Brent Mussberger in Rocky II, artists known for painting boxing pictures have appearances as ring announcers, boxing commentators play well, boxing commentators, and nearly all of Stallone's family have had at least cameos, and sometimes actual roles. Mike Tyson even got a cameo before the climactic fight in Rocky Balboa!
  • Captain Ersatz/No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Rocky Balboa = Rocky Marciano mixed with Joe Frazier and inspired by Chuck Wepner.
    • Apollo Creed = Muhammad Ali. The real Ali even appeared on stage with Stallone at the Oscars, and once said he wished he had thought of Creed's nickname, "The Master of Disaster".
    • Clubber Lang = The young George Foreman. He is sometimes viewed as a Mike Tyson analogue by contemporary audiences, given the similar personalities, but the third movie hit theaters several years before Tyson first turned pro.
    • Mason Dixon = Has elements of Floyd Mayweather Jr., Mike Tyson, and Middleweight/Light Heavyweight/Heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr. Stallone tried to convince Jones himself to play Dixon, but negotiations with Jones fell through. Eventually Stallone enlisted Antonio Tarver, another boxer and a Light Heavyweight champion. Funnily enough, Tarver also defeated Jones in real life when Jones returned to fighting as a Light Heavyweight after capturing the Heavyweight title.
    • George Washington Duke = Don King.
    • Tommy Gunn = Mike Tyson. Both were young and talented fighters who came from rough upbringings and abandoned the men who made them successes in favor of greedy businessmen. Although in Tyson's case, Cus D'Amato died instead of being abandoned.
    • Ivan Drago = Max Schmeling. Schmeling was a German boxer who fought Joe Louis in two fights that were seen as conflicts between the United States and Nazi Germany, the same way Drago's fights with Apollo and Rocky were Cold War conflicts. And like Schmeling, Drago dramatically won the first fight and received a vicious beating in the second, the major difference being Joe Louis was avenging his previous loss instead of the death of a friend. Max Baer, another fighter from the same era as Louis and Schmeling, may have been another influence, as Baer killed a man in the ring in a rather similar manner to how Drago killed Apollo.
    • Union Cane (the guy Tommy beat for the title in Rocky V) may be one for Michael Spinks. Spinks was a light heavyweight champion who in 1985 became the first light heavyweight champion to win the heavyweight championship since Tommy Burns did it in 1908. Afterwards, Spinks rarely fought and went into semi-retirement, abandoning the title. During that period of semi-retirement Tyson destroyed all other competition until Spinks was the only conceivable obstacle left, much as Tommy cut a swath through the heavyweight ranks until Cane seemed the only obstacle left. Both Tommy Gun and Mike Tyson eliminated any doubts about who was the champion by easily knocking out their respective opponent in the first round.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Rocky's eye injury in Rocky II and his brain damage in Rocky V. Both injuries were supposed to retire him, but were ignored by subsequent movies.
    • It's implied that with a 10-15 year gap between V and Rocky Balboa, Rocky's concussion syndrome either recovered during his retirement, or that new modern medical technology was able to provide a more accurate diagnosis.
  • The Cast Showoff: Burt Young is a successful painter in his spare time, which is why Paulie is shown painting while on break in the meat-packing plant.
  • Champions on the Inside: Despite his losses, Rocky is still shown to be a moral champion, which earns him respect from his opponents and allies alike.
  • Contrived Coincidence: How Apollo decided to give Rocky a shot instead of any other fighter in the world: when reading a list of local fighters, he decided that he liked Rocky's ring nickname.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Apollo Creed after the end of Rocky II.
    • Also in Rocky V, the bullies that Robert eventually stood up to.
  • Determinator:
    • The essence of Rocky's fighting style.
    • Apollo and Clubber are this in II and III, respectively, as both are obsessed with beating Rocky.
  • Fighting Series: A series of boxing flicks.
  • Genius Bruiser:
    • Rocky himself, though not particularly well-educated, is extremely streetwise (he wouldn't have lasted long as Gazzo's collector otherwise) and has a natural talent for assessing a boxer's strengths and weaknesses during a bout. He's able to successfully throw off Apollo's rhythm to win the title in II by switching from right to left-handed punches; and in III he notes that Clubber, while more physically powerful than Rocky, tires quickly and can't go more than a few rounds. These achievements are even more remarkable considering that Rocky is usually getting the crap knocked out of him when he's making these assessments.
    • Mickey also qualifies. Although we never see Mickey actually fight, he is a good judge of boxing talent and has enough business savvy to recognize when Rocky is getting played (or when he's been able to seize the main chance).
    • Apollo Creed can sniff out a chance to sell an event like a shark can smell blood. He's more than savvy enough to grab every chance to make himself a dollar and can play a crowd like a fiddle. While not the strongest fighter, he was also clearly the most skilled.
  • Heroic Resolve: Rocky fights for his honor and to put food on his family's table.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Rocky and Paulie's relationship grows into this over the course of the series. By the final movie, each one is really the only person left whom the other can truly open up to.
  • Hollywood Healing: One moment there's blood on the boxer's face, the next it's completely gone.
  • Hot-Blooded: Apollo, Duke, and Clubber.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Apollo Creed. Though cocky and arrogant, he's also an awesome badass and gradually becomes more likable and protagonistic throughout the series without losing his edge, culminating in a sympathetic tragic death.
  • Kingpin in His Gym: Rocky's major opponents got their own Training Montages, which often told viewers something about their character: Clubber Lang's dungeon-like basement emphasized his monstrosity while Ivan Drago's almost clinical routines (and his steroid use) showed his lack of "heart."
  • Lightning Bruiser: Most of the boxers are this from a realistic standard, but Apollo Creed really stands out, as prior to his first bout with Rocky he had knocked out every man he'd faced and has the best hand and foot speed in the series. What's more, when Rocky trains under Apollo in Rocky III, he goes from an Unskilled, but Strong hard puncher to a fast Lightning Bruiser himself, and he shows the result of his training by dancing circles around Clubber Lang, despite being a smaller man with a shorter reach than Lang.
  • Loan Shark: Gazzo, who Rocky works for as an enforcer in the first movie and Paulie works for in the second.
  • Made of Iron: Rocky himself can take loads of punishment, and still dish a lot in return.
    • Surprisingly, even Paulie himself can take a few good hits.
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: Mickey Goldmill > Rocky Balboa > Tommy Gunn (who later turns on Rocky in one of the classic plotlines associated with this trope).
    • Ignoring Rocky V, we've now got Mickey Goldmill > Rocky Balboa > Adonis Creed.
  • Meganekko: Adrian, Rocky's love interest. Even after she loses the glasses and starts doing her hair, she retains the sweet shyness inherent in the character type.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago.
  • Old Master: Mickey is the boxing equivalent of the classic martial arts film sensei to Rocky.
    • Once Mickey dies, Apollo steps in as the Big Brother Mentor version for Rocky III and IV. Apollo may or may not be older than Rocky (Carl Weathers is actually about a year and a half younger than Sylvester Stallone), but he is certainly more experienced as a professional-level boxer, so the trope holds.
  • Opposing Sports Team: All of Rocky's opponents except Apollo Creed and Mason Dixon fall into this — and even Creed seems to show some of the traits in Rocky II and Rocky IV (towards Drago).
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Rocky regularly gets pitted against opponents who tower over him.
  • Power of Love: "Adrian!"
  • Protagonist Title
  • Punny Name: Tommy Gunn, Mason "The Line" Dixon.
  • Rated M for Manly
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Stallone has generally said that every film was written to parallel some period of his life, just with acting switched out for boxing.
  • Re Cut: There exist a director's cut of Rocky V online, with some key differences.
    • A few key things in the final scene
      • Rocky was more reluctant to fight Tommy, despite instigating the fight, only because he still cares for the guy.
      • After Rocky gives Tommy quite a beat down, he offers him his hand, where Tommy practically accepted his defeat and ended the fight on good terms with Rocky. He even starts getting the respect he always wanted.
      • Rocky doesn't punch Duke in the face. However, he still denied him the satisfaction of profiting off a fight with him when taking Tommy on. It's also safe to say that Tommy knew better by this point.
  • Redemption Quest: The premise of both Rocky and Apollo in numerous films. Apollo's own quest ends with his death after his match with Drago.
    • In a sense, the first three films are Mickey's quest as well: he was a good fighter, but not good enough to win a title in his own right. He sees Rocky's natural boxing talent and feels Rocky is throwing away a gift Mickey never had by not pushing hard enough. Rocky doesn't take too well to Mickey's criticism but ultimately comes around and fulfills his mentor and father figure's quest:
    Rocky (to Mickey): "At least you had a prime! I never had no prime!"
  • Retired Badass:
    • Mickey at first, Rocky in later pictures.
    • Apollo becomes one after losing the title; his trainer, Duke, is also a retired boxer.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The franchise has never been shy about borrowing from real life boxing and translating it to the screen. Almost every film has some aspect to its plot that is heavily inspired by events that took place in real life boxing. See each individual film for further details.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Adrian in the sequels, who goes from Meganekko to a more traditional beauty as the Balboas live the good life.
  • Shout-Out: Numerous ones to real boxing, including various boxers (including Roberto Duran) being part of various training sessions or having cameos.
  • The Smurfette Principle: In the X-Box version of Rocky Legends, Ludmilla Drago is a playable character, making her the only boxer in the Rocky universe (at least in this game) where there is female boxer present.
  • Tantrum Throwing: In a fit of anger, Rocky throws a helmet at his statue. Paulie impotently throws a liquor bottle at a "ROCKY" pinball machine during an drunken fit of resentment, feeling like Rocky has left him out in the midst of his success.
  • Theme Music Power-Up
  • Time-Compression Montage: The birth of the famous training montage that stretched over the course of a week.
  • Trade Your Passion for Glory: The Trope Namer.
  • Training from Hell: The films are some of the most famous users of the training montage of all time, so it's natural there'd be elements of this. Most notable are Rocky IV, where Rocky toughens up doing heavy work in a rural Russian winter, and Rocky III, where Lang is shown to do his training alone in a dim, slightly-hellish basement, using his own rage to increase his drive.
  • Training Montage: Former Trope Namer when under the name "Gonna Fly Now Montage".
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Averted in the first and last movies where a moral victory is deemed to be more significant (in the first, Rocky going the distance with Apollo, in the last, Rocky ridding himself of his demons), but aside from that, if you're an in-story underdog, it's physically impossible for you to lose in the Rocky universe. Even the antagonist benefits from this in Rocky III.
    • No such luck for the challengers Rocky knocks out before meeting Lang; they also avert the trope.
    • Apollo vs. Drago arguably plays it straight and subverts it at the same time. Drago had imposing height & reach and was clearly in better shape than the long-retired Apollo, so any objective viewer would back him to win the match. Most Americans, though, (including Apollo himself) would instead peg the beloved ex-champion for an easy win against the amateur foreigner.
    • Whenever someone tells Rocky in a movie "You can't win!", he's going to win. Sometimes not the first fight (as the case in III), but he will.
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Apollo's trademark ring getup, and the one he's wearing when slain by the Russkie from Hell, Drago. Rocky wears his friend's boxing shorts to symbolically avenge him — and the U.S.A.
    Rocky (upon seeing Apollo's outfit for the first time): "He looks like a flag!"
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Robert feels that Rocky sees him this way and resents his father; in reality (ultimately acknowledged by both men), it's a consequence of Rocky's difficulties in communicating with his son (possibly as a consequence of Rocky's less-than-desirable upbringing, hinted at in the first movie).
  • Whatever Happened To The Mouse: Tony Gazzo, the Loan Shark from Rocky I and II, is never seen again after the second film. Though in Rocky III, Paulie is unemployed, and Gazzo is briefly mentioned in Rocky V, and in a deleted scene of Rocky Balboa.
    • For that matter, what about Apollo Creed's family? Despite Apollo dying in Rocky IV, they never had any more significant screen time past Rocky II.
      • Although the spin off film in the works may finally give them the spotlight.
    • In Rocky, Rocky befriends a dog named Butkus in the pet store and actually adopts Butkus in Rocky II. Butkus is never seen or mentioned again for the rest of the movie, or the rest of the series.
      • If the films occur in real-time, and given that the average age of a bull mastiff is 8-9 years, it's pretty clear why we don't see him in Part III or beyond.
  • Whoopi Epiphany Speech