Real-Life Example / Defictionalization: The city of Philadelphia has embraced the Rocky series so much, that the statue from Rocky III actually exists outside of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Adrian Balboa actually has a real grave in Philadelphia too, out of respect for the character. (Talia Shire is still alive and well as of this writing...)
Gazzo may be a tough as nails Loan Shark, but he does genuinely care for Rocky enough to give him some free money for a date with Adrian, and to help prepare for his match against Apollo.
Despite using Rocky for his own needs, and one emotional outburst later, Paulie visits Rocky and politely asks if he could use his name in advertising, and reaffirms that they are both good friends.
Shown later as Paulie attempts to enter the ring after the match, hearing Rocky cry.
"Hey, that's my friend in there!"
He slyly lifts a ring rope so he could sneak Adrian in.
How Rocky cares so much for Adrian through out the film.
Not to mention, Rocky not caring two bits about the judges' decision in the first and last films.
This. Just absolutely this. You've got Rocky who has just gone the distance with the Champ, surrounded by reporters asking him what he's going to do following the match, and all he cares about is her.
Mickey's (cranky) concern over Rocky's job as a leg-breaker in the first film - Rocky (sheepish): "It's a living." Mickie: "IT'S A WASTE OF LIFE"
And later when Mickey decided to give Rocky a fighting chance against Apollo by being his manager. He's genuinely concerned for Rocky's well being, and is hurt when he remembers that he did pretty much shun Rocky away when he needed help before.
Only for Rocky to finally accept his help as they become good friends since.
Paulie, who was previously using Rocky for his own desires, now is a really good friend of his, who is willing to give him a handout whenever Rocky needed it. He even goes as far as to berate his sister for being un-supportive of Rocky.
It's also noticeable that his relationship with Adrian has improved greatly. He's become a genuinely better person.
The way Mickey can be protective and concern of Rocky. When Rocky considered fighting again and tried to convince Mickey to train him, he slaps him on the right side of the face and got him to face the truth about his bad eye.
"...you didn't see that coming, did you? And that was from an old broken down bum like me. What do you think that champ will do to ya?"
Mickey does give Rocky a job at his gym, but he has too much respect for Rocky to let him be seen carrying out mundane tasks, and worries that the guys will not respect him as much. He finally gets fed up with the humiliation that Rocky is going through, part of it thanks to Apollo Creed, to the point where he goes full on Papa Wolf and decides to train Rocky again.
"I say we knock his block off, kid!"
Despite being disgruntled towards Rocky's poor performance in training, he decided to stay with him while he's going through his Heroic BSOD, even if it means failing the fight.
"Well if you're gonna blow it, I'll blow it with you."
Despite going through hard times, it's heart warming to know that Rocky is doing everything he can to NOT do anything illegal anymore, just for Adrian's sake.
Rocky and Mickey hugging in the ending, after all the hardship Rocky went through. Manly Tears were shedded.
A retroactive example: Rocky III confirms that Mickey is Jewish, and yet he visits Christian/Catholic settings, out of respect for Rocky.
Rocky has been participating in a lot of charity events and did a lot for Philadelphia to the point of getting a statue of him standing on top of the steps of the Philadelphia history museum.
Mickey revealing to Rocky that the ten title defenses were all set ups. Mickey DID pick good fighters, but only those who wouldn't be as bad as Apollo was, just to make sure Rocky wouldn't get seriously hurt and have his lively-hood threatened.
"They're good fighters, but they're not killers!"
While mostly a Tear Jerker, Rocky at Mickey's funeral reciting a Judaism prayer with the help of a Rabbi is pretty heartwarming. Rocky himself is a Devout Roman Catholic, and the fact that he respects his trainer/mentor/father figure so much that he prays in Mick's religion, just shows how much he loves Mick.
Apollo Creed steps in to help Rocky train, not only wanting to see Clubber Lang get humiliated, but wanting to see to it that Rocky legitimately wins a match.
Pretty much any scene involving Rocky and Apollo crosses into heart warming territory. It helps that they used to be rivals, and now they become just like brothers.
Especially the final bit of the training montage where they exchange hugs.
Cemented even further when Apollo pretty much gives Rocky his shorts.
"Make sure you wash it before you give it back, now."
After all that training Apollo and Duke gave Rocky, what does Apollo ask for return? A personal, friendly rematch with Rocky.
Once again, Rocky winning the big match. This time, he won it all on his own without relying on tricks and raw endurance, but with true skill. How happy he looked when that bell rang seals it in.
Rocky deciding to celebrate his anniversary with Adrian just a bit early with a cake.
Rocky has so much respect for Apollo at this point to where he is willing to put his life, and career on the line just to travel to Russia for an exhibition match against Ivan Drago, the man who accidentally, yet unregrettably killed him in the ring, to avenge his honor, with the same shorts, gloves, the fighting style and all.
Duke confides in Rocky, letting him know that Apollo was like a son to him, and that Rocky is all he has left now.
The relationship between Rocky and Duke may not have garnered as much screen time as Mickey gained, but Duke and Rocky respect each other very highly, like brothers. To see Duke as Rocky's corner man and coach, and how he interacts with him during the match definitely shows a lot of heart warming moments.
Paulie as well. He wasn't a very effective motivator for Rocky back at Rocky III, but he was able to offer a lot more helpful advice in Rocky IV.
Rocky: I see three of them.
Paulie: Hit the one in the middle.
Duke: ...That's right. THE MIDDLE!
Despite Adrian not approving of Rocky taking the match to Russia, she ended up traveling there anyway while Rocky is training, just to be by his side again.
Adrian: I missed you.
Rocky: I missed you too.
The moment before Rocky's fight in IV when Paulie finally goes from being a Jerkass to being a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Words on a site don't do it justice but it'll have to do:
Paulie: "I know sometimes I act stupid and I say stupid things, but you kept me around and other people would have said "drop that bum". You give me respect. You know it's kinda hard for me to say these kinda things, cuz it ain't my way, but if I could just unzip myself and step out and be someone else, I'd wanna be you. You're all heart, Rock."
"If you can change. If I can change. We all can change!"
Tommy Gunn is just a bum who is young and talented, meekly seeking a chance to fight with Rocky's help. It's heart warming to see Tommy and Rocky connect through out the movie.
Despite being bullied and finally standing up to the bullies and knocking one out, Robert decided to ask them if they could be friends and not have any further problems. Next time we see them, they're laughing with each other.
After nearly losing Robert, Rocky has a heart to heart with him and apologizes greatly, and swears that he'll never neglect him ever again.
Robert: ...home team?
Rocky: Home team. *fist bump*
The ending seemed such a perfect end, where Rocky takes Robert to the museum as he reminisce about the past with him. This is followed by the credits sequence which includes image flash backs to the previous films.
One of the first things we see Mason do? Return to the manager, Marvin, who got him up there to begin with, as the both reminisce about their times together.
He flat out returns to him when his current managers haven't given him much respect.
"I don't need this. I'm going back to Marvin.]]
Mason himself is a pretty nice guy who doesn't get enough respect (which could be due to how his managers run the show). He shows his respect to Rocky the day before the match, and gave him a warning that amounts to if he's fighting for real, he'll fight for real.
In a deleted scene, Rocky sees a photo of his match against what looked like Apollo Creed, only with Paulie's face over it. Anyone who remembers what Paulie said to Rocky in Rocky IV (see above) will know the true meaning behind this.
Rocky being committed to Adrian, even when she is no longer alive.
Marie remembers this, and brings Rocky a photo of Adrian, to remind him that she'll be looking over him.
Rocky is still his humble self even after all these years. He bumps into Marie, gives her son, Steps, a job as his personal assistant, and eventually gets her work at his restaurant.
He also adopts an aging dog. believing that he still has some fight left in him. He takes him out when he walks and runs.
Despite Robert resenting Rocky for how Robert has never been able to make a name for himself, Rocky puts him through a heart-felt argument about life and how he shouldn't let things push him down, which put them on bad terms, and yet Rocky reaffirms his love to his son.
Then Robert comes back to Rocky sometime later, deciding to support him for the match, and being by his father's side as he goes through one last fight.
Rocky: What are you going to do now?
Robert: At this moment? I'd rather be with you right now.
Then later, the two re-bonded, including comments about being the home-team (a call back to Rocky V) and play fighting.
Paulie gave a brief but heartfelt piece of words to Rocky before kissing him on the cheek. D'awww.
Just the fact that all of Rocky's supporters are in one building.. Paulie (his brother in law), Robert (his son), Marie (the girl that Rocky helped out), Steps (Marie's son and Rocky's personal assistant), Spider Rico (the man Rocky fought in the first movie), and Duke (the man who helped Rocky back at Rocky III and onward). At the restaurant (excluding Duke). At Duke's gym. And at the stadium.
They all exchange hugs after the big fight.
The end of the match. Despite Rocky and Mason exchanging a good amount of blows, going hard against each other, and giving each other the fight of their lives, they hug it out and smile off the moment the last round concludes.
Rocky: You're a real champ! You're all heart!
Not to mention how the crowd is now cheering for Mason Dixon, just as much as they cheered for Rocky Balboa.
The end credits of Rocky Balboa, in which we see actual videos of fans running up the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and dancing triumphantly as the theme song plays. Manly Tears were shed.
In a deleted scene where it's an alternate ending in which Rocky wins the match, Mason gives his words to Rocky, expressing just how much he respects him and how it was such an honor to have a match against him. Outside of the deleted scene, he still shows his respect to Rocky with a smile.