The Rocky franchise has entertained and inspired fans since the original film premiered in 1976. There, audiences everywhere were introduced to Rocky Balboa. He is an aspiring professional boxer with a heart of gold played to perfection by then breakout star Sylvester Stallone.
With the first film’s massive success, the seeds of a blossoming franchise were sowed. The film would spawn four direct sequels, a soft reboot, and most recently, a passing-of-torch style continuation with the acclaimed Creed films.
People wanting to watch the Rocky movies for the first time might need clarification regarding the correct watch order.
There are two ways to watch the entire Rocky franchise and the Creed movies:
- Release Order
- Chronological Order.
Let’s get into more details.
The Rocky movies can be watched sequentially as per the release dates in the following manner:
- Rocky – December 3, 1976
- Rocky II – June 15, 1979
- Rocky III – May 28, 1982
- Rocky IV – November 27, 1985
- Rocky V – November 16, 1990
- Rocky Balboa – December 20, 2006
- Creed – November 25, 2015
- Creed II – November 21, 2018
- Creed III – March 3, 2023
I. Rocky (1976)
The film that started it all went on to win three Oscars and raked in over a hundred million dollars in profit at the box office. Rocky is an excellent example of a simple premise with flawless execution.
Sylvester Stallone not only stars as the iconic boxing protagonist, but he also wrote the screenplay. Here we are introduced to working-class Philadelphia citizen Rocky Balboa, the debt collector for a Mafia loan shark who moonlights as a small-time boxer.
But, when the world’s heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed, offers him an unlikely shot at the world title, Rocky’s infamous journey to the top of the sports begins in a bruising and thrilling fashion.
II. Rocky II
In something of a retread of its predecessor, Rocky II pits the titular boxer against Apollo Creed once more. This time, though, Rocky is forced to contend with becoming an overnight sensation.
He might have narrowly lost to Creed in 1976’s Rocky but earned the respect of his peer and gained his mass fan following.
III. Rocky III
Rocky III marked the first time the legendary fighter came up against someone other than Apollo Creed in a significant bout. Mr. T’s Clubber Lang proved a formidable adversary for Balboa, losing their encounter before the duo engaged in a rematch for ages.
IV. Rocky IV
The US and Russia were locked in a bitter Cold War in the real world. Rocky IV effectively used the “West versus East” narrative to pit Balboa against his most intimidating enemy: Russian fighter Ivan Drago.
People need to watch the movie to know the reason behind Rocky’s fight with Drago since it is a significant story spoiler. The match has enormous ramifications for the Rocky and Creed series.
V. Rocky V
After four films spread across nine years, the arrival of the 1990s almost proved to be the death knell for the Rocky movie series. Rocky V is easily the worst flick of the bunch, though it pits a financially struggling Rocky against his protégé Tommy Gunn.
The storyline laid the foundation for Rocky’s transition from a fighter to a boxing coach in Creed.
VI. Rocky Balboa
Rocky Balboa arrived 16 years after its predecessor. An emotionally charged movie, the film sees an aging Rocky come out of retirement for an exhibition match against the hot-headed Mason Dixon.
This was the first Rocky movie without Talia Shire in it. The reason for her absence becomes apparent when you watch the movie. It only adds to the nostalgia, poignancy, and guilt felt by Rocky and company and the eventual personal triumph that follows.
2015’s Creed revived the Rocky movie series spectacularly. Amateur boxer Adonis Creed (Michael B Jordan), the son of Apollo, seeks out Rocky Balboa to train and mentor him. The movie traces his journey as he follows his father’s footsteps to become the world’s undisputed champion.
A fantastic start to the Creed film series that honors the legacy of what came before.
VIII. Creed II
Like Rocky II, Creed II retreads old ground narratively and thematically. This time around, Adonis faces a championship fight with Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan from Rocky IV.
Apart from the revenge theme and the pressure to live up to your father’s legacy, the more personal and intimately dramatic moments make Creed II a spectacle.
The movie also marks the final appearance of Stallone in the franchise he created. He refused to return for Creed III due to his ongoing feud with the Winkler family over who owns the rights to Rocky films.
IX. Creed III
For several reasons, things have finally come full circle in the Rocky saga with Creed III, a historical entry. The first film in the franchise without Stallone, it sees the franchise star Michael B. Jordan make his directional debut.
This next fight for Adonis to defend his title may prove his most personal yet. Adonis, who is at the top of the boxing world and a loving father to a young daughter, is reunited with his childhood friend Damian Anderson.
Damian, now his last opponent, threatens to send Adonis’s perfect world crumbling down. Creed III is out and is receiving a very positive reception from both the audience and critics.
Rocky Movies Ranked in Order
This is an unfavorable criterion to determine the watch order for a franchise like Rocky. However, some people are obsessed with ratings and wish to watch a movie as in the reviews.
So here are the Rocky movies ranked from best to worst:
- Creed – 95%
- Creed III– 88%
- Rocky II – 82%
- Creed II – 80%
- Rocky IV – 79%
- Rocky Balboa – 76%
- Rocky III – 74%
- Rocky – 69%
- Rocky V – 31%
Which is the correct watch order?
Usually, determining the watch order is a matter of personal preference. However, regarding Rocky, the chronological order and the Release Order are the same. The viewers can choose to watch it in either of the ways, and it won’t make any difference.
Understanding the timeline of the Rocky movies is essential and enhances the viewing experience.
About Rocky (Film Series)
Rocky is an American sports drama multimedia franchise created by Sylvester Stallone, which began with the eponymous 1976 film and has since become a cultural phenomenon, centered on the boxing career of Rocky Balboa. The franchise has been expanded into various films, and with a total worldwide gross of $1.7 billion, it is currently one of the highest-grossing media franchises.
The original film (Rocky) was written by Stallone and directed by John G. Avildsen, and was followed by the sequels Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), Rocky V (1990), and Rocky Balboa (2006), all of which were written and directed by Stallone and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. After the sixth film, which was envisioned as the conclusion of the franchise, the spin-off and sequel films Creed (2015) and Creed II (2018), starring Michael B. Jordan as boxer Adonis Creed, were released; they were directed by Ryan Coogler and Steven Caple Jr. and also starred Stallone.