The eighth installment of the Rocky franchise, Creed II, comes out in theaters everywhere this week, continuing the story of heavyweight boxer Adonis Creed and his mentor Rocky Balboa. The 42-year old film series is the most popular sports film franchise of all time, with most of its installments written and directed by star Sylvester Stallone.
To commemorate the premiere of Creed II, we have ranked all eight films in the franchise averaging the critics' scores from review aggregate sites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Keep in mind that rankings are entirely based on scores by professional critics; audience scores for each film have also been included but are not considered in calculating the average. This comprehensive ranking contains everything from the original 1976 film to both Creed spinoffs.
8. Rocky IV - Average Score: 39
The lowest ranked film in the entire series, at least critically, is 1985's Rocky IV. Generally regarded as a fan-favorite and the most commercially successful sports movie of all time after adjusting for inflation, the fourth film has Rocky Balboa face Soviet boxer Ivan Drago to avenge the death of Apollo Creed, who dies in the ring fighting the super-athlete.
Critics lambasted the film for being overly dark in comparison to its predecessors, as well as unabashedly jingoistic in its depiction of the United States triumphing over the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. Sheila Benson of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "This is grim and witless storytelling, and what makes it so depressing is that it hasn't improved by so much as a chemical trace since the days of the first Rocky."
A slightly less critical review from Variety observed that, "Sylvester Stallone is really sloughing it off shamelessly in Rocky IV, but it's still impossible not to root for old Rocky Balboa to get up off the canvas and whup that bully one more time."
The film has a critics' score of 38 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 40. Rocky IV currently has an audience score of 79 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
7. Rocky V - Average Score: 41
Rocky V (1990) was intended to be a back-to-basics approach for the long-running franchise as original director John G. Avildsen returned to bring the titular boxer back to his hometown of Philadelphia. Suffering from brain damage after his climactic bout with Drago in the previous film, Rocky and his family return home to find themselves in financial ruin and forced to move back to South Philly. There, Rocky trains a new protege while neglecting his son, portrayed by Stallone's actual son, Sage.
Critics largely felt the magic had long since left the franchise by the fifth film, with the series' formula now feeling worn and tired while dismissing the new dramatic elements as laughable and pandering. "The dramatic moves are so obvious and shopworn that not even the star's mournful basset-hound expressions can redeem them," noted The Chicago Reader's Jonathan Rosenbaum. Desson Thomson of The Washington Post wrote, "Despite Stallone's bantamweight attempts to insert character into the fifth Rocky, it's the same old fight with the same old round of regulars."
The film has a critics' score of 27 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 55. Rocky V currently has an audience score of 31 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
6. Rocky III - Average Score: 61
While still earning middling reviews, 1982's Rocky III had critics still generally praising the sequel for finding additional room to explore its characters and the franchise's overall story. Now heavyweight champion of the world, Rocky Balboa finds that he has lost the drive to remain a top fighter as he faces a younger, more brutal opponent in Mr. T's Clubber Lang, leading him to turn to two-time rival Apollo Creed for help in rediscovering his love of the game.
Critics lauded Stallone for not only continuing to grow as an actor, but also as a writer and director for his handling of the third film in the franchise. "The real question with Rocky III was how Sylvester Stallone could twist the plot to make an interesting difference. He manages," praised Variety. Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called the film, "an engaging exercise in discreet, incisive and good-humored hokum."
The film has a critics' score of 65 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 57. Rocky III currently has an audience score of 73 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Next Page: The Top 5 Rocky Movies, According To Critics