The one where Rocky and Apollo get a rematch.
The story picks up directly after the ending of Rocky, in which local underdog Rocky Balboa was able to do what no other boxer could and pushed World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed to a full fifteen-round match. Although Apollo was awarded the victory on points, his wounded pride (and a heap of hate mail accusing him of losing) pushes him to demand a rematch from Rocky so he can decisively beat him once and for all.
Rocky initially turns down the challenge, as he was able to accomplish his personal goal of "going the distance" in the first bout, and retires due to an eye injury sustained during the fight. However, circumstances conspire to force the two men back into the ring: Apollo is driven towards increasingly desperate actions to eliminate what he sees as an existential threat to his career and legacy, and Rocky proves unable to manage his newfound fame and loses most of his money. Eventually the build-up of personal and practical reasons culminates in a rematch being scheduled, set amidst the backdrop of Rocky marrying Adrian and the birth of their son.
The film is followed by Rocky III, released in 1982.
This film has the examples of:
- Actor Allusion: During the ambulance drive to the hospital during the opening credits, the movie poster from Paradise Alley, also written, directed by and starring Sylvester Stallone can be seen on the back of a bus.
- In the scene where Rocky is filming a commercial for Beast cologne, one of the chairs in the background reads Joe Spinell. 'Joe Spinell' (qv) is the actor who plays loan shark Tony Gazzo in the first two films.
- Armor-Piercing Slap: Mickey slaps Rocky in the face to prove that he can't defend himself from that side due to his bad eye. Then he says if a "broken-down bum" like him could do that, what does Rocky think Apollo's gonna do?
- Artistic License: The final punch that Rocky throws in the climactic fight sends both Apollo and himself tumbling to the canvas, and the referee begins the 10-count for both men. The commentators mention how if both men are counted out, Apollo retains the title by default. According to boxing's actual rules, however, Rocky would not be in danger of being counted out: Apollo did not hit him, Rocky's fall was due to his own momentum from throwing that punch as well as being off balance. The referee would have ruled it a slip, and the 10-count would be solely for Apollo.
- Break Up to Make Up: Rocky is strongly discouraged from fighting again by Adrian, especially once she becomes pregnant. One coma later, and Adrian is now his biggest supporter. What did they put in those meds?
- Career-Ending Injury: Discussed and subverted. Rocky having his eye cut in the previous film has caused problems for his vision in his right eye, which Mickey points makes him unable to defend from that side. Despite this, he still manages to work around it in training and give Apollo a run for his money.
- Comically Missing the Point: Rocky and Tony Gazzo (his old loan shark employer) are in a church and Gazzo is advising him to invest in condominiums. Rocky thinks he's talking about condoms and is mortified that his old boss's having this conversation with him in church.
- Combat Pragmatist: Subverted: Despite having only three minutes to go and Apollo about to retain his title, Rocky refuses to switch up his moves. "No tricks." Rocky then ignores his own rule when he finishes the fight with a string of huge lefts to knock out Apollo.
- A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: As stated in Reality Ensues. Having no experience handling large amounts of money, Rocky soon loses the money he won from the fight from buying a house and a new car amongst other things. His lack of other marketable skills results in him and Adrian going into the red soon.
- Gone Horribly Right: Apollo's plan to play the Heel in public to anger Rocky into a rematch.
- Gratuitous Italian: Rocky and Adrian's wedding is celebrated in (bad) Italian, and later the same priest blesses Rocky in (equally bad) Italian.
- Heel: Invoked and Discussed by Apollo. He tells Duke that he's fine with playing the bad guy in public if it will goad Rocky out of retirement.
- Heroic BSoD: Adrian working herself into a literal coma sends Rocky into depression so severe that he can't even train.
- I Am Not Left-Handed: Played straight and subverted. Rocky is right-handed, but he fights left-handed by preference. The 'secret weapon' he spends a lot of time practising is learning to fight right-handed until the last round, when he switches back and upsets Apollo's rhythm enough to win the fight.
- Insistent Terminology: Apollo won the fight by getting the decision, but he didn't beat Rocky. And that's what's eating at him.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Originally, Adrian was supposed to be at the big fight. However, because Talia Shire was working on another movie at the time, the storyline was changed to having her stay home and watch the fight on TV. The scenes of her watching the boxing match on TV were shot and then edited into the movie several months after filming on the fight scenes had finished.
- Reality Ensues: After the beating they gave each other in the first film, Rocky and Apollo need to be hospitalized fast, and Rocky still gets a Career-Ending Injury. Also, Rocky has no experience being famous and can't effectively manage his newfound fame, nor his finances. Like many other boxers from low-class backgrounds without much in the way of experience or education, he quickly squanders his money, and finds that he has no real qualifications to work outside of boxing.
- Revenge Before Reason: What ultimately costs Apollo the rematch. He was clearly the better boxer, but his insistence on knocking out Rocky to prove that the first fight was a fluke meant that he stood toe-to-toe for 15 rounds with a determined puncher, even when he was well ahead on the scorecards. If Apollo had focused on just defeating Rocky, he easily could have out-boxed him and then waited out the final rounds for a unanimous decision. Repeatedly lampshaded by a panicked Duke in the 15th round.
- The Runner-Up Takes It All: Apollo is suffering from something like this; he won the fight, but everyone is either so impressed that Rocky went the distance against him or is convinced that Apollo fixed it that the victory means nothing. Rocky, conversely, is elevated by the events of the first movie (at least until he squanders his winnings).
- Throwing the Fight: A lot of the hate mail Apollo gets believes the fight was fixed to ensure Apollo would get the decision no matter what, or that it was staged for drama and Apollo could have KO'd Rocky at any time.
- Unbroken Vigil: When Adrian lapses into a coma after giving birth to their son, Rocky sits by her side during all visiting hours and only leaves to visit the Hospital chapel.