The Most Iconic 'Rocky' Movie Moments

The Most Iconic 'Rocky' Movie Moments

Nov 24, 2015

Creed is the Rocky sequel you've always wanted. This spin-off, which finds the aging champ (Sylvester Stallone) training the son of Apollo Creed (Michael B. Jordan), has all of the humanity, grace, and tough beauty that makes the original film a masterpiece that endures to this day. It's easy to imagine many of the scenes in the film touching all the right nerves, becoming images we never forget.

Not that the Rocky series is lacking in iconic moments. Tasked to select only 10 of them to celebrate the release of Creed, we had to do some pretty serious self-editing. This could have been a top 25.


10. Heavyweight Champion of the World (Rocky II)

Rocky Balboa loses at the end of Rocky and it's rightfully one of the most famous conclusions in movie history (see below). However, the Italian Stallion finds victory at the end of his first sequel, when he is knocked down at the same time as his opponent, Apollo Creed. Drama mounts as both men struggle to find their feet, but it is our hero, the sweet, long-suffering lug whose greatest skill is being able to absorb a beating, who rises first.

9. Wasted Talent (Rocky)

It's impossible to imagine the Rocky series without Mickey Goldmill, Burgess Meredith's grizzled old boxing trainer who reluctantly begins training Rocky Balboa and ultimately forms a beautiful fatherly bond with his protege. However, he never stops being a dramatic grump and his first big scene with Sylvester Stallone in the first film is everything we like about this character: he's big, loud, and brutally honest, telling Rocky everything he needs to hear even if doesn't want to hear it.

8. Rocky and Adrian Go Ice Skating (Rocky)

Eventually, the Rocky series would descend into self-parody and Rocky himself would become just another stone-faced action hero, just one who wields boxing gloves instead of a machine gun. That's why the courtship between Rocky and Adrian (Talia Shire) is so astonishing. The relationship between this impossibly shy young woman and this big lug is as real as it gets. Their first big date to the ice skating rink, where Rocky chooses to walk on the ice instead of skate, is as touching as any scene in the most romantic movies ever made. These are two flawed, beautifully drawn people who feel like they stepped out of reality and onto the screen.

7. It Ain't About How Hard You Hit (Rocky Balboa)

Rocky Balboa wisely goes back to the basics, stripping away all of the bombast of the later sequels and embracing the realistic tone of the first film. The most memorable scene in the film, the one that provided every single trailer with a powerful, tearjerking backbone, finds Rocky having a heart-to-heart with his son. Try to avoid the dust flying into your eyes: "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!"

6. I Must Break You (Rocky IV)

Rocky IV is one of the most preposterous movies of the '80s and the point where these movies officially became the Saturday morning cartoon version of the original movie, but it has its fair share of moments that have deservedly reached iconic status. While some people love Rocky's big, Communism-defeating speech or Paulie's inexplicable robot, the best element of the film by far is Dolph Lundgren's Ivan Drago. He speaks little, but when he does open his mouth, memorable words tend to fumble out. Think of the number of times you have muttered "I must break you," at people, pets, and inanimate objects alike.

5. Behind Closed Doors (Rocky III)

Creed answers the great unanswered question of the Rocky saga: who wins that final, behind-closed-doors rematch between Rocky and Apollo? You'll have to see the movie to find out. The question is unanswered in Rocky III, which literally ends with these two great frenemies getting into the ring one more time, their rivalry officially transformed into a friendship. Long before the phrase "bromance" entered the English language, these two embodied it.

4. Cut Me, Mick (Rocky)

Rocky doesn't give up...even when the only way to continue fighting means having a razor blade slice your eyelids, reducing the swelling that is literally keeping him from seeing straight. It's a terrifying and brutal moment and the perfect symbol of Rocky's perseverance. "Cut me, Mick" has also become the kind of thing people just say now, which surely nobody saw coming when that line was written.

3. The Eye of the Tiger (Rocky III)

The Rocky series has gifted us with two of the great gym songs of all time. "The Eye of the Tiger" is the cheesier of the two -- you can taste the '80s oozing off of every lyric -- but it is undeniably effective. Of course this is the song that plays as Rocky Balboa forms a friendship with Apollo Creed. Of course this song is the soundtrack to Rocky staging a huge comeback. Of course this song plays beautifully over a montage of weightlifting and beach-running and sweat and gritted teeth. Few songs define a movie quite like how this one defines Rocky III.

2. Going the Distance (Rocky)

Rocky doesn't care about the final decision. He doesn't care that Apollo Creed is still the heavyweight champion of the world. All he cares about is that he went the distance. He survived 15 round with the champ and that's all that matters. There won't be a rematch. He doesn't care. He does care that Adrian is there to share this moment with him. We care that this lovable doofus and his shy girlfriend have found each other and that Rocky has a real shot at making something of his life. The sequels undo too much of this, but taken by itself, the ending of Rocky is perfect. Perfect.

1. Gonna Fly Now (Rocky)

Bill Conti's "Gonna Fly Now" is probably the greatest theme song in cinematic history. Recognizable to people who have never seen a Rocky movie and omnipresent at gyms and sporting events all over the world, it is an impossibly catchy piece of pop music, an inspiring anthem, and a tune that tends to get grown men crying without much effort. Placing this music over images of Rocky training, running through the streets of Philadelphia before dashing up the 72 steps to the Museum of Art, is just unfair. This scene is great on its own, but to understand its true power, you must look to the countless visitors who climb those steps every day, just to feel like the champ for a single, glorious moment.


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