The “Rocky” films were among the first of the modern kind of franchises. Historically movie series were mostly comprised of individual, largely self-contained installments, like the Mickey Rooney-led Andy Hardy films of the ’30s and ’40s or the 50-year-plus Bond cycle. But the “Rocky”s were among the first brands that kept a story going for years, following the same character as he ages and changes. “Rocky II” even came a year before “Star Wars” wrought “Empire Strikes Back.” With “Creed,” its new semi-spin-off now out, we offer our purely objective ranking of the films title-by-title.
1. ‘Rocky’ (1976)
Along with “Jaws” the year prior and “Star Wars” the year after, the first “Rocky” is often credited with helping break the gritty, downer streak that had come to somewhat (if by no means entirely) dominate Hollywood in the ’70s. But it’s still pretty downer and gritty, and it doesn’t end with our palooka pugilist even winning. What its many, many knockoffs get wrong is that it’s not just about the melodrama and a cheer-able close. Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky really has his hills and valleys before he hits the mountaintop. Also often neglected: Stallone’s performance, which is so lived-in, so lively, so genuinely lovable that it’s easy to take for granted.