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Film / Creed

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You've seen the Stallion. Now, we've got the Steed.
"One step at a time. One punch at a time. One round at a time."
Rocky Balboa

The one where Rocky passes the torch.

Creed is a Spin-Off of the Rocky franchise written and directed by Ryan Coogler. It follows Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the troubled illegitimate son of the late former world champ boxer Apollo Creed, who against the wishes of his family has begun forging a career of his own as a boxer. Intent on becoming champ, he eventually travels to Philadelphia to seek out his father's old rival/friend Rocky Balboa and convince him to become his trainer. Rocky eventually accepts, but it is soon discovered that he, too, is facing a difficult battle, one that even Rocky may fail to overcome.

The movie also stars Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Tony Bellew, and (of course) Sylvester Stallone.

Released 9 years after Rocky Balboa. A sequel, Creed II, was released on Thanksgiving 2018.

A VR game called Creed: Rise to Glory was released in September, 2018.

A third film, Creed III, directed by Jordan himself and co-starring Jonathan Majors, was released on March 3, 2023.

Boom! Studios published a Creed series set ten years after the third film that focuses on Amara Creed.

Not to be confused with the 90's rock band.

Creed contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: The real first name of "Little Duke", son of the "Duke" who trained Apollo and Rocky, is Tony... like Tony Burton, the actor who played the original Duke.
  • Affair? Blame the Bastard: Surprisingly Averted. When Apollo Creed's widow arrives to adopt Adonis and introduces herself to him, she doesn't bear any grudge or ill will towards Adonis despite him being her late husband's illegitimate love child. She takes him in and loves him as her own.
  • Appropriated Appellation: When the LA-born Adonis first arrives in Philly, he's derisively nicknamed "Hollywood" by the trainer at Mickey's. By the time of the Conlan match, it's become his official Nom de Guerre.
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • After the Conlan fight, Donnie gets asked a question that visibly stuns him. "Adonis, I know you never met your father, but if he was here tonight, what would you want to say to him?" Donnie is moved nearly to tears as he tries to answer, finally coming to terms with his true feelings towards his father.
    • Bianca also delivers a good one to Donnie when he initially doesn't want to use the Creed name. "What are you so afraid of?" Adonis is afraid of tarnishing the Creed name if he loses.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: Rocky changes Adonis's fighter-worship perception of his father with one line.
    Adonis: Maybe he wanted to go out like a fighter. Maybe, you did exactly what he wanted.
    Rocky: I think he’d rather be here, talking with you.
  • Bait-and-Switch Boss: Danny "Stuntman" Wheeler is initially presented as a rival figure for Adonis, easily defeating him in a sparring match at the start of the film and with a shot at the world title. He's disposed of without much dignity before long, his scheduled fight against Conlan being cancelled at the last second when Conlan breaks his jaw during the weigh-in, thus solidifying Conlan's status as Adonis's true opponent for the movie.
  • Berserk Button: For most of the story, Donny does not like being compared to his father. Hell, he knocked out one of Bianca's performer buddies over it. Though he also made the mistake of saying he'd send Donny to meet his father.
  • Big Entrance: Conlan's ring entrance includes a fire breather. Damn!
  • Blood Upgrade: Conlan doesn't take Adonis seriously at the start of the fight. Then, Adonis lands a hook that busts Conlan's cheek open. One Oh, Crap! expression later, Conlan's tune has changed.
  • Bonding Through Shared Earbuds: Adonis and Bianca share headphones to listen to a song she wrote for him.
  • Boss Subtitles: Occurs when Adonis analyzes his opponents.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Donny finds himself unhappy with being called 'Little Creed' or 'Baby Creed' by one of the musicians performing alongside Bianca, despite the fact no disrespect was intended. However that performer decided to not only take issue with his attitude, which was justified to an extent, but then threatened that boxer to his face he'd end up like his deceased father. Donny promptly knocks him out in one punch.
  • Call-Back: Conlan doesn't take Adonis seriously until Adonis cuts him with a hook, much like Rocky's 1st fight with Apollo (Where Apollo toys with him until Rocky knocks him down with one punch).
  • The Cameo: Liev Schreiber, the narrator of HBO 24/7. Voice only.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • At one point Adonis quotes The Godfather, which featured Talia Shire, who played Rocky's wife Adrian, as Connie Corleone, and Joe Spinnell, who played Gazzo, the loan shark Rocky worked for in the first two movies, as Willi Cicci.
    • Rocky, Adonis and Bianca are seen watching Skyfall. The much earlier James Bond film A View to a Kill featured Ivan Drago himself, Dolph Lundgren, in his very first film appearance as a KGB bodyguard.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Stitch is introduced as a cutman for Adonis, but plays a much more important role in the final fight. He prompts Donnie on how many fingers the referee is holding up, which Donnie can't do because one of his eyes is swollen shut.
    • The motor bike riders are present early on when Donny meets Rocky. They later ride alongside Donny as he does the iconic “Gonna Fly Now” run across the Philadelphia neighborhood and join him in saluting Rocky.
  • Continuity Nod: Includes references to all the Rocky movies, but especially Rocky and Rocky IV
    • Rocky- may count as a Whole-Plot Reference
      • Lampshaded by Rocky. “This fight, I’ve seen it before. It gets really ugly from the beginning. And most of the time you don’t win.”
      • Arrogant, undefeated champion challenges unknown fighter
      • The champion is frustrated that he cannot knock out the upstart challenger
      • Challenger proves himself by going the distance
      • Apollo first wears the star-spangled shorts that Mary Anne passes on to Adonis
      • Adonis is resentful towards 'Little' Duke for refusing to train him and not being there for him while he bounced around group homes, in the same way Rocky was initially resentful towards Mickey.
      • Rocky teaches one of Mickey's lines: "Women weaken legs."
      • Adonis is wearing a shirt while training that says "Why do I wanna fight? Because I can’t sing and dance” which is what Rocky said to Adrian on the first date.
      • Rocky still has one of the turtles he bought from Adrian's pet shop. They had previously reappeared in Rocky Balboa.
    • Rocky II
      • Adonis watches footage from the final fight between Apollo and Rocky, and when he sees a picture of the fight in Rocky’s restaurant, he can name the exact round.
      • Adonis uses the same punching combination to knock out Leo that Apollo used to knock down Rocky in the first round of their rematch.
      • When visiting Adrian and Paulie's graves to talk about his week, one of the things Rocky mentions is that the bills are paid. A major subplot in Rocky II involved Rocky being irresponsible with his newfound riches and struggling to provide for Adrian as a result.
      • Rocky makes Adonis chase down a chicken in a back alley, like how Rocky did the same under Mickey's training.
      • Adonis trains while visiting Rocky in the hospital, as Rocky did while Adrian was in the hospital.
    • Rocky III
      • Adonis asks Rocky about his ‘third fight’ with Apollo, which happens in a private gym at the very end of the movie. The end of the fight is never shown, but Rocky confirms that Apollo won.
      • The end credits of Rocky III includes an impressionistic picture of the ‘third fight.’ The painting hangs in Adrian’s, as it was in Rocky Balboa.
      • Adonis visits the Rocky statue, which first appears in Rocky III.
      • Rocky references the motorcycle in Rocky III, but admits to have wrecked it and has hence decided to avoid the two-wheeled ego trips.
      • During Adonis' first professional fight (against Leo Sporino), Rocky tells Donnie "It's all about today! There is no tomorrow!" which is a callback to Apollo Creed training Rocky, where Apollo would constantly tell Rocky "There is no tomorrow!"
    • Rocky IV
      • Apollo’s death in the ring
      • Adonis mentions Rocky’s eulogy at Apollo's funeral, saying that Mary Anne liked it, even though they have not spoken to each other since.
      • The set-up of the Conlan-Creed fight is very similar to the Creed-Drago and Drago-Balboa fights: the outsider enters the ring first to very little acclaim and open hostility from the crowd, and then the hometown hero enters to huge acclaim and a major production number.
      • The final fight takes a major turning point when Creed finally makes Conlan bleed, just like in the Rocky/Drago fight.
      • Adonis wins over the hostile foreign crowd through his perseverance, just as Rocky did. In both cases, the movies end with the crowds chanting their names.
    • Rocky Vnote 
      • While also referencing his financial struggles in Rocky II, Rocky's line about making sure to pay his bills doubles as a reference to the fifth film's events, which involved a crooked accountant embezzling Rocky's entire fortune and forcing him and his family to move back to their old neighborhood, where he still lives now.
      • Rocky refuses at first to get treatment for his cancer because he has lost everyone he has every cared for and has no motive to want to live. This echoes back to Mickey's speech in the fifth film's flashback, where he told a younger Rocky that many people die when they keep losing everyone around them and don't want to live anymore.
      • When Adonis first asks Rocky to train him, Rocky dismisses the idea, claiming he doesn't do that anymore. The fifth film revolved around Rocky taking another young boxer, Tommy Gunn, under his wing, only for Tommy to betray and later fight him.
      • In the final scene, Rocky walks up the museum steps with Adonis by his side, as he did with both Tommy and Robert in the fifth film.
    • Rocky Balboa
      • Rocky Balboa revealed that Rocky now makes his living owning and running his own restaurant, "Adrian's," and is still doing so when Adonis tracks him down.
      • Rocky visits Adrian at the cemetery—though this time Paulie is dead too—and he still keeps a folded wooden chair in the nearby tree.
      • Adrian’s is arranged the exact same way, and Rocky is wearing the same burgundy host jacket.
      • When Rocky first comes to Mickey's gym, one of the workers half-jokingly asks him if he's coming out of retirement again.
  • Cool Old Guy: Rocky Balboa is still running a business in his retirement years and has tons of advice and heart to share with Donny.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Adonis's childhood was spent bouncing between foster care and juvenile hall before he was taken in by Mary Anne Creed.
  • Darker and Edgier: Or at least a little bit grittier than the usual Rocky films.
  • Deaf Composer: Bianca suffers from a degenerative disease which is slowly robbing her of her hearing. She's composing as much music as she can before she goes completely deaf.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: In a way. Conlan beats Adonis, but the latter providing a good fight earns him the respect of Conlan and his home crowd.
  • Disappeared Dad: Apollo died before Adonis was born.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first time we see Donny box he knocks out another fighter in the first round without taking a single hit. Even more tellingly, he actually starts taking off his gloves when the count is only at four.
  • Evil Brit:
    • Ricky Conlan, who basically takes it upon himself to belittle Adonis mostly due to him not living up to his dad's name.
    • Conlan's trainer/manager doesn't come off as much better, and even has an impressively sinister-looking mustache to boot.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Once Rocky learns he has non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, the same disease that killed Adrian, he's all prepared to let the disease kill him and not get it treated. Adonis isn't having any of it.
  • Family Theme Naming: The Creeds, Apollo and Adonis, are both named after figures from Classical Mythology.
  • Fight Clubbing: Adonis starts his career fighting under the radar in Mexico, so his family will not find out.
  • The Foreign Subtitle: In Brazil, the movie is known as "Creed - Nascido Para Lutar" (Born to Fight).
  • Foreshadowing: Apollo's widow telling Adonis about helping Apollo move around and taking care of him because of the toll of fighting, mirrors what Donnie eventually does with Rocky while he is fighting cancer. It's also to show how similar Donnie is to both his biological dad and his adoptive mother, as like Apollo in Rocky III he helps Rocky through tough times and like his mother, he helps a fighter who is going through the toll caused by a fight.
  • Generation Xerox: Adonis being Apollo Creed's son is one of the major driving points of the film. While the film is focused on Donnie trying to live up to the legacy of his late father, one can argue that Donnie also is a Generation Xerox of sorts to the Italian Stallion himself: He started his career in underground bouts, was trained by Rocky before debuting in a professionally-sanctioned fight (like Mickey took Rocky under his wing), and found his love interest, Bianca, in the neighborhood (like how Adrian and Rocky met).
  • Genius Bruiser: Adonis, when first shown as an adult, has just been promoted at a business suit job, has taught himself enough boxing skills and tactics to trounce legitimate professionals as well as amateurs, and has a "stat vision" of all his opponents, listing all their size and previous records.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper:
    • Conlan. Notable, because it has seriously affected his career. The fight against Adonis occurs because he broke the jaw of the number two fighter at the weigh-in, leaving him with no one to fight in his last match before going to prison.
    • Adonis has one as well, which lands him in jail at least twice that we see onscreen.
  • Happy Ending Override: Last time we saw Rocky, he had finally made peace with both losing Adrian and not being able to box anymore, having one last fight that he manages to go the distance for which earns him both the respect of the crowd and his opponent, and he's also got his son, Paulie, and Marie as part of his life. By the time this film rolls around, Paulie has died, his son has moved to Vancouver, Marie's been Put on a Bus, and he's dying of Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Conlan goes from a huge ass to admitting that Adonis is a Worthy Opponent.
  • Heroic Bastard: Adonis is the illegitimate son of Apollo, born shortly after the latter was killed by Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, and was later adopted by Apollo's legitimate widow Mary Ann, who is kind enough to treat him as her own son.
  • How Many Fingers?: The ref tests Adonis like this after his left eye is swollen completely shut. One of his cornermen, having a hand on the back of his neck out of sight of the ref, prompts Adonis to answer.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Adonis and Rocky.
  • It Runs in the Family: Adonis claims his interest in boxing has nothing to do with his father, and Rocky makes it clear Adonis will have to prove his own greatness as a fighter, but it eventually becomes clear that Adonis will eventually take up Apollo's mantle.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Tommy Holiday berates Ricky Conlan for putting himself in the position where he has to fight Creed's son, a match both believe is little more than PR stunt, due to Conlan's very poor decisions. Holiday's words are harsh but ultimately fair. Conlan was running around with a gun like a common thug, broke the number one contenders jaw and spared little thought for his family or any real consequences. Holiday also points out that Ricky's legacy doesn't matter, keeping a roof over his family's head does.
  • The Last Dance: How Conlan views the fight with Adonis. He's managed to put off his jail sentence for as long as he can, but now it's time to face the music. Considering that his charges carry a mandatory seven year prison sentence, his manager is quite skeptical that Conlan will ever fight again.
  • Legacy Character: Deconstructed. Adonis initially resents his father and the legacy he left, presumably due to his treatment of both his real mother and Mary Anne. At the same time, he feels drawn to the ring as his father once was, though he wishes to build his own career outside of his father’s shadow to avoid tarnishing Apollo’s reputation, hence his insistence on fighting under his mother’s name, Johnson. Mary Anne, Little Duke and even Rocky also try to discourage him from fighting at all in order to spare him the fate his father suffered. He is hesitant to take on his father’s mantle after his relation to Apollo is made public, though his only chance at fighting Conlan is to use the Creed name. His grudge against the Creed name becomes a minor Berserk Button at one point when he attacks one of Bianca’s friends for calling him “Little Creed”. Mary Anne gives Adonis his father’s iconic trunks to fight with the name “Johnson-Creed”, both respecting his father’s legacy while building his own. Adonis then serves as the legacy character for Rocky as well by losing the final match while gaining the public’s respect.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Adonis Johnson, and most of the other champion level fighters. Best illustrated in the opening fight in Mexico, where Donny dodges his opponent's punches by moving his neck, before finishing the fight in a single blow.
  • Like Father, Like Son: The over-arching theme of the movie. Adonis is similar to both his biological father and his father-figure, Rocky. His speed and his dancing around the ring is reminiscent of Apollo, but his ridiculous resiliency and story is very much like Rocky.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted; Donny has to go take a dump before a match out of nervousness.
    Donny: Cut my gloves off! I gotta take a shit!
  • Nom de Guerre: Most of the fighters have some nickname that they use alongside their real ones
    • Adonis "Hollywood" Johnson/Creed
    • "Pretty" Ricky Conlan
    • Danny "Stuntman" Wheeler
    • Leo "The Lion" Sporino
    • Tony "Little Duke" Burton
    • And of course, Rocky "The Italian Stallion" Balboa
  • The Oner: Adonis's match against Leo "The Lion" Spornio is filmed in a single, uninterrupted take.
  • Only in It for the Money: Played for Drama with Ricky and Tommy. Due to Conlan awaiting a prison sentence for his past reckless behaviour, Tommy insists that he take the fight with Apollo Creed's son after Wheeler is injured. While Holiday agrees with Conlan's complaint that it seems to just be a PR stunt, he argues that the large payout from the fight and its promotion would be able to provide for Conlan's family while he's incarcerated.
  • Only Sane Man: Tommy Holiday seems to be this to Ricky Conlan. Between delivering a lot of harsh but fair criticism on his poor life choices (see Jerkass Has a Point) and advising Conlan to be more careful in his fight with Creed (which Conlan ignores, leading to him being knocked down for the first time in his career) Holiday seems to be the only voice of reason in Conlan's life.
  • Passing the Torch: Years after he took the championship title from Apollo Creed, Rocky gets to help his rival turned friend's son have his own shot at the title.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Holiday is shown to be a harsh manager and has no qualms setting his fighter up with what he believes is a "sure thing." However, even as he chews out Conlan, he mentions that his only concern as this point is making sure his family is looked after once Ricky is sent off to serve his sentence.
      Holiday: I don't care how you're remembered. I care about your kids having a roof over their heads when you're done.
    • Ricky Conlan is initially dismissive of Rocky in a private conversation with his manager but he does acknowledge that Rocky has a having a great legacy at the press conference. While he mainly says it to point out that Adonis isn't in the same league, it's clearly a sincere show of respect nonetheless.
      Conlan: Legacy?! We at some sort of comedy club? The guy next to him. [Rocky] Now that's what were talking about, legacy and I'm cut from that cloth.
  • Pursuing Parental Perils: Adonis quits his job to pursue boxing full-time, even though his father, who died before he was born, was killed in the ring.
  • Put on a Bus: None of Rocky’s family from Rocky Balboa appear in this movie. Paulie died between movies, and his son, Robert, moved to Vancouver to get out from his father’s shadow. Neither Marie nor her son Steps are mentioned at all.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Ricky Conlan's manager Tommy Holiday delivers a pretty harsh one to Conlan about his general idiocy, which has landed him with serious jail time and a possible multi-million lawsuit to deal with. He'll fight Creed's son because he's left himself no other choice.
    Tommy: Listen to me, this is not a negotiation. Alright? Now you're the idiot that ran around Toxteth with a gun, do you remember that? And you're the clown who couldn't control himself at a weigh-in and lost us millions in the process.
  • Second Place Is for Winners: Like Rocky in the final movie of his career, Adonis narrowly loses in a split decision, but his valiant effort won him the respect of both Conlan and his native Liverpool crowd.
  • Spin-Off: Of the Rocky movies.
  • Sports Story: Being a Rocky spin-off, this film centers around Adonis' boxing aspirations.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: While this is technically a spinoff instead of a sequel, Paulie is revealed to have died between the events of this film and Rocky Balboa.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • When Rocky arrives to pick up Donny from Bianca's apartment, Donny tries to pass off the old man with him as his uncle rather than explain who he really is. Even though Bianca has no interest in boxing and sports, of course she's still going to recognize one of her hometown's most famous heroes.
    Bianca: So when were you gonna tell me your uncle is Rocky Balboa?
    • Conlan's overall character shows the real consequences of his actions, his gun possession alone already cost him his boxing career and his temper ruined guaranteed millions for not only him, but his family as well. Had Adonis' family history not been revealed, it's most likely Conlan would not have many, if any, options left and probably would have left his family in a struggle.
    • Donny manages to get up "like a man possessed" after being knocked on his face by Conlan, but he's so dazed that all he can do for the last few seconds of the round is tank a few more punches, the last one knocking him into the ropes.
  • Technology Porn: A minor example, but Adonis is a certified technophile, making use of an app-enabled projection television screen in the opening minutes, along with a top-of-the-line smartphone and a tablet the size of a dinner tray being the only luxury items he brings with him to Philly.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: The film uses some subtle remixes of classic Rocky themes throughout, but saves the kicker for the 12th round of the main fight. After recovering from the heaviest blow Conlan gives him in the fight and getting some help from Rocky to pass a quick sight test, Adonis gets a last pep talk from Rocky. As he stands, a remix of "Gonna Fly Now" accompanies him, followed by a remix of "Going the Distance".
  • Third-Act Misunderstanding: Though it occurs closer to the midpoint, a conflict ariseswhen Adonis learns that Rocky has cancer and has decided not to take treatment. Adonis objects and they get into an argument that seems to put Rocky's motives for training Adonis into question and Adonis leaves upset. Adonis later gets into a fight at his girlfriend's concert and is arrested. Eventually, after some reconsideration and regret, Adonis decides to politely confront Rocky about the issue again and says that he would only fight his upcoming bout if his trainer starts taking treatment. Rocky agrees and the pair resume their training with some of it in Rocky's hospital room while he is taking chemotherapy.
  • The Topic of Cancer: Halfway through the film, Rocky discovers he has lymphatic cancer. Although he initially refuses treatment, recalling what chemo did to his wife, Donny convinces him to fight once more.
    Adonis Johnson: I don't fight if you don't fight.
  • Trade Your Passion for Glory: Happens not to any pre-existing character, but the managers/head trainers of Apollo and Rocky's former gyms; the former ignoring Adonis in favor of their middling contenders while the head of the latter is an opportunistic bastard who first wants to make the most of Adonis's legacy, and then breaks his promise to Rocky by revealing to the world his parentage. Instead, Rocky has Adonis train in a very down-to-Earth street gym.
  • Training Montage: Several, as befits the genre. Rocky seems to be getting a kick out of putting Adonis through several of the same unconventional exercises Mickey gave to him in previous movies.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: Mary Anne is afraid that Adonis will suffer this fate. Of course, she has very good reason to feel that way.
  • Warm-Up Boss: Leo "The Lion" Sporino serves as this for Adonis, being the first fighter he faces professionally. He puts up a good fight, but isn't fast enough to counter Adonis's hook.
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Adonis eventually dons the American flag shorts made famous by his father.
  • Wham Line: A minor one. Adonis asks Rocky who won the match between him and Apollo at the end of Rocky III, which fans have debated on for four decades. Rocky answers that Apollo won.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The Creeds were shown to have an unnamed son and daughter back in Rocky II, and Apollo mentioned them in Rocky III, but no other children are mentioned here.
  • Worthy Opponent: Conlan has nothing but contempt for such a newcomer to professional boxing as Adonis (though he makes an off hand comment hinting at respect for Rocky). His tone changes after the second round, becoming more competitive when Adonis first gets some serious licks in, and by the time the fight is finished, outright declares Adonis the new face of the weight class and thanks him for the fight.
  • Written-In Absence: Rocky's son Robert (one of the few surviving major characters from the original films) does not appear, as he has moved to Vancouver with his girlfriend.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Conlan thinks he knocked out Creed in the 11th round. He was climbing the corner to celebrate... only to be told that Creed is getting back up "like a man possessed."

"When you get to the top, you think you can fly."