There are six movies in the Rocky franchise in which Rocky Balboa plays the lead role. They run the gamut of quality from classic to abomination. The joy of being able to see the series from above is that you can pick and choose what you watch and then mix and match to make your own viewing order and your own movie experience, and with Rocky, you can split the movies into three distinct trilogies, as follows. 1.
The First Three
The first trilogy is made by simply watching the first three movies. Rocky, Rocky II, and Rocky III form a great story of Rocky Balboa trying to prove to the world he’s got what it takes against the champion, Apollo Creed. So in Rocky, we have him fight the champ in an exhibition fight and in Rocky II he fights him for real and defeats him to become champ himself. By Rocky III, Rocky has become the same as Apollo in Rocky. He is full of himself, narcissistic, and believes himself invincible. It is Apollo who takes him back to the start and rebuilds him into a champion, so by the end of Rocky III both Rocky and Apollo find redemption, completing the trilogy.
The Silly Trilogy
Rocky eventually became a complete self-parody. It dispensed with the rich ’70s drama of Rocky in favour of ’80s excess. From that period we get the second viewing choice of Rocky III, Rocky IV, and Rocky V. These are the movies when the series loses its way. It has all the ingredients of a crazy trip of movies: Mr. T, Hulk Hogan, sex robot, James Brown, MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, a Don King knock off, Rocky’s kid not being given a name until Rocky V, montages, montages, montages, and culminates in a movie in which the Rocky theme is not played and Rocky fights in the street instead of the ring. This is not a trilogy you watch for drama; you watch this for fun and wackiness.
Beginning, Middle, End
This trilogy is probably my favourite of the three. For this, you watch Rocky, Rocky III, and Rocky Balboa. With this trilogy you get Rocky’s humble beginnings and his shot at Apollo, he’s champ and on top of the world in Rocky III, and in Balboa, he’s a bum again. This is the most satisfying trilogy because you get to see Rocky at the height of his powers in Rocky III, and then you can completely understand why he would want to get into the ring with Mason Dixon twenty-odd years later, when he gets a sniff of past glories. There are some story gaps between the movies, but overall it makes for a very satisfying watch as we see Rocky, the old man, walk out of the stadium he dreamed of fighting in as the crowd stands as one and chants his name.
Featured Image: United Artists