In 1976, two things made a massive statement in Hollywood. Rocky Balboa and the one playing him, Sylvester Stallone. The legend of Rocky grew over a period of five films ranging from ’76 to ’90 as Stallone turned into one of the leading action heroes of the American movie industry. In Rocky V, the boxer had already retired from the ring, and it seemed the final chapter had been told. But Stallone surprised pretty much everyone by bringing out another edition in the series in 2006 titled Rocky Balboa, which was as much about the character of Rocky wanting one last chance in the ring as it was about the actor Stallone wanting another shot at playing one of his most iconic roles. Rocky Balboa, again to the surprise of many, was absolutely brilliant and a commercial success. Now nine years later, Stallone is putting on those gloves once more, though now he’s too old to enter the ring and so the job is being passed on. To none other than the son of Apollo Creed who will be played by Michael B. Jordan in the upcoming movie titled Creed.
I became a massive fan of the Rocky franchise when I saw the first five movies on the television sometime in 2001, and it was such a joy to get the opportunity to see Stallone as Rocky again in 2006. The excitement remains the same as Creed is set for a release, and to get in the right mood, I have listed down five of the greatest Rocky moments from the franchise. Each fight and each training session is as memorable as the next one, so I have tried to be more diverse in this list.
#5 Final scene with Mickey, Rocky III
There are some powerful and memorable scenes between Rocky and Mickey (played by Burgess Meredith) in the franchise such as the time when Rocky lets out an angry tirade when Mickey offers his services to train him in Rocky, or the way Mickey sticks around with Rocky when Rocky’s wife is in a coma in Rocky II. But the sheer emotional aspect of the final scene between the two in Rocky III makes it unforgettable. Rocky has just lost his title to Clubber, the kind of boxer from whom Mickey was trying to protect Rocky. Mickey who had suffered a heart attack earlier is in the dressing room. A heavily emotional Rocky makes it appear as if he won the fight, and Mickey dies not knowing the truth. This scene is the turning point of the movie. It hammers not only Rocky but also the audience into a sense of hard reality of life. With Mickey’s death, Rocky ventures back to his roots, and follows once more the path of hard work to regain his title and pride, a path he then never stopped following.
#4 Speech to the audience, Rocky IV
Rocky IV is maybe the most straight forward of all the Rocky movies, with the whole idea of a US boxer fighting a Russian one quite understandable in the context of the Cold War prevailing then. Apollo Creed’s death in the early parts of the movie in an exhibition match is otherwise the only truly shocking moment. The fight between Rocky and the Russian boxer in the final scenes has its magical moments but is predictable in the direction it is going. What was not predictable though was Rocky’s speech at the end of the fight. At the beginning of the fight, which was held in Russia, Rocky is being booed by the crowd but as the fight goes on, the crowd starts to admire Rocky’s courage and resilience so much that by the end, they are cheering his name. As an acknowledgment to their cheers, Rocky gives a heartfelt speech, the most famous lines being… ” I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!”
#3 Speech to his son, Rocky Balboa
Rocky Balboa not only made the original Rocky grow old with grace, but also brought him back to the ring with grace. Just as the idea of an older Sylvester Stallone putting on boxing gloves does not seem right, so did the idea of Rocky Balboa looking for a fight again did not feel correct to his son in the movie. He makes it clear to his father how difficult it has been to live under the shadow of Rocky Balboa his whole life, and wants him to drop his fighting ambitions. And that is when Rocky Balboa delivers the now immortal speech for any Rocky fan. Thinking of the dialogues itself gives me the goosebumps, such was the power behind those lines, and such were the emotions with which Stallone delivers them. In a sense, it reveals the ideologies on which Rocky Balboa has lived, as a man, and as a boxer. If you want to watch that scene again, check it out on Youtube.
The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!
#2 Running up the steps, Rocky
There are no dearth of amazing moments from 1976’s Rocky. Right from Rocky’s courtship of Adrian (played by Talia Shire) and the ice-skating moment they shared, to Rocky’s worries on how he would fare against the champion Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers), they all weaved a fascinating portrayal of this man who would then become part of pop culture. Right there with the very best of scenes ever shot in Hollywood cinema is Rocky’s training montage for the big fight. It’s got the famous song “Gonna Fly Now” by Bill Conti that featured in almost every Rocky movie subsequently, and it has Stallone doing some serious workout routines that would inspire many to head to the gyms. The entire training culminates in a final run across the streets, over benches, gaining pace, pushing and pushing, finally reaching the steps of a long staircase, and then pumping yourself to head up, up, up, right till the very top, with your arms held high, jumping with joy, and looking at the world, ready to conquer anything that comes your way! Ain’t that how it feels like to watch Rocky climb those stairs, what are in fact 72 stone steps before the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which are now called “Rocky Steps”. It’s a moment of bliss, a moment of magic, and definitely one of the greatest scenes of the franchise.
#1 “Win”, Rocky II
Rocky II is my favourite movie of the franchise. It brings back the spirit of sporting endurance that Rocky displayed in the first movie and merges the complications of a family dispute in it as Adrian and Rocky do not see eye-to-eye on Rocky’s possible return to the ring. Rocky is being goaded by Apollo Creed for a re-match until he finally agrees and teams up once more with Mickey to start training. A distraught and pregnant Adrian suddenly slips into a coma after delivering Rocky’s child. Suddenly Rocky’s priorities have changed as he spends his time beside her and at the church, giving no thought to training. The day Adrian regains full consciousness, Rocky is jubilant and they both look at their child for the first time. In that sweet moment, when this young family is all huddled up, as Mickey watches from a distance, Adrian asks Rocky to do one thing for her. And then she whispers, “Win!” Rocky is bemused for a second but when Adrian’s words become clearer, bells ring in the background as Mickey screams “What are we waiting for!” and then begins the famous “Gonna Fly Now” song as Rocky begins his training for the match that would eventually make him the new world champion. Adrian’s words are what makes it all go right for Rocky; her acceptance was what stood between him and the belt. And that word, that one word, “Win!” has inspired not only Rocky but also fans across the world to strive for what they believe in!