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How to Watch the Rocky Franchise in Chronological Order and by Release Date

Created by Sylvester Stallone, Rocky is regarded as the most decorated heavyweight champion boxing franchise in cinematic history. Loosely based on the career of professional pugilist Chuck Wepner, the franchise follows the life and career of Rocky Balboa (Stallone), an Italian-American loanshark and aspiring boxer from Philadelphia who gets a shot at glory by fighting Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in a championship bout.

Upon winning the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1977, Rocky spawned a mega-successful movie franchise that continues today with the Creed series. To date, there have been nine total movies in the extended Rocky franchise, with Creed IV expected to extend the legacy when Michael B. Jordan returns to the ring and director’s chair for the upcoming sequel. Although Stallone recently shared the sad news that Rocky 7 has been canceled (via Screen Rant), there’s no better way to honor the recent passing of Carl Weathers than to retrace Rocky‘s entire chronology.

Rocky (1976)

A Rousing Underdog Tale for the Ages


Release Date
November 21, 1976

Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone, Rocky established the gritty underdog spirit that embodies the beloved boxer. The story follows the rise of Rocky Balboa, a small-time fighter, promoter, and loanshark who gets a heavyweight title shot when the reigning champion, Apollo Creed, chooses him as a last-minute replacement challenger. Rocky accepts the challenge but soon learns that the battles outside the ring are just as brutal as the ones inside of it.

Winner of three Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director for John G. Avildsen (who later directed The Karate Kid), and Best Film Editing, Rocky became a landmark cultural phenomenon and instantly spawned a cinematic franchise that endures today. The original Rocky movie currently ranks #215 on IMDb’s Top 250, indicating its long-term durability. In 2006, the U.S. Library of Congress chose Rocky for preservation in the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” For those interested in watching the entire franchise in chronological order, it’s only right to begin at the beginning of Rocky’s quest. Stream on Max.

Rocky II (1979)

An All-Time Great Ending Adds Fuel to the Balboa-Creed Rivalry

Rocky II

Rocky II

Release Date
June 15, 1979

Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone , Talia Shire , Burt Young , Carl Weathers , Burgess Meredith

Written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, the next movie in the Rocky franchise revolves around the intense rematch between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed. The action picks up immediately after the first film ends and should be watched as such. While the two ultimately become best friends as the franchise progresses, Rocky II dangles viewers on a suspenseful cliffhanger when the two evenly matched boxers appear to simultaneously knock each other out in a truly dramatic climax.

Although Stallone takes more of an authorial role in his first time as director in the Rocky franchise, Carl Weathers’ performance as Creed in Rocky II ranks among the movie’s towering strengths. While Rocky II didn’t receive as many accolades as the original, it was financially successful enough to warrant another sequel. According to Box Office Mojo, Rocky II grossed an impressive $85 million against a $7 million budget. Stream on Max.

Rocky III (1982)

Hulk Hogan and Mr. T Bring the Pain

Written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, Rocky III finds the Italian Stallion taking on a terrifying new challenger as Apollo Creed becomes his friend and allied trainer. This time out, Rocky faces Clubber Lang (Mr. T), a bruising boxer with a big mouth and outsized personality. The movie is also notable for featuring a clash between Rocky and Hulk Hogan, the current world wrestling champion known as Thunderlips.

Apart from the entertaining performances by Hogan and Mr T., Rocky III drew mixed reviews for its predictable formula and sense of diminishing returns. Even so, those looking to watch the entire franchise will find many unforgettable moments in Rocky III, including the departure of Rocky’s longtime trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith) and Apollo’s turn from a villainous foe to a heroic ally. Stream on Max.


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Rocky IV (1985)

Ivan Drago Remains Rocky’s Most Infamous Enemy

Rocky 4

Rocky 4

Release Date
November 21, 1985

Set during the height of Cold War tensions between the U.S. and Russia, Rocky IV introduced the world to Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the punishingly powerful pugilist with such iconic quotes as “I must break you” and “If he dies, he dies.” Arguably the best movie since the original, Rocky ventures to Russia to avenge the death of Apollo Creed by fighting Drago in enemy territory. Chronologically, the events of the movie take place after those depicted in Rocky III.

Written and directed by Stallone once again, Rocky IV continues to stand out thanks in part to its iconic rock soundtrack, memorable training montage, and the exhilarating final bout between Balboa and Drago. Lundgren gives a great movie performance and Drago gives Rocky the biggest challenge inside the ring yet, forcing Balboa to call on his intimate bond with Creed to muster the courage and strength to defeat a much bigger and heavier opponent. Stream on Max.

Rocky V (1990)

The Biggest Black Eye in the Rocky Franchise to Date

Rocky V

Rocky V

Release Date
November 16, 1990

Main Genre

Often considered the black sheep of the litter, Rocky V is less of a boxing outing and more of a lawless street brawl. The events of the film take place following Rocky IV and should be viewed directly afterward. This time out, Rocky reluctantly trains a brash street fighter named Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison), whose egomaniacal rise leads to him turning on Rocky and challenging him to a duel in the streets.

Original Rocky director John G. Avildsen returns to guide a script written by Stallone, but the results pale in comparison to all four predecessors. Although the movie made $119 million internationally, it lost money at the domestic box office by grossing $40 million against a $42 million budget (via Box Office Mojo). Between the mixed critical reviews and lack of financial success, Rocky V hit the mat for 16 years until the franchise was revived in 2006. Stream on Max.

Rocky Balboa (2006)

The Resurrection of Rocky Leads to a New Franchise Direction

Following a 16-year absence resulting from the lackluster Rocky V, Stallone resurrected the fictional boxer’s career in Rocky Balboa. A far more intimate and grounded depiction of an aging fighter grappling with existential angst, Rocky comes out of retirement to fight the menacing Mason “The Line” Dixon (real-life boxer Antonio Tarver) while attempting to reconcile his relationship with his son, Robert (Milo Ventimiglia).

Whether it was a sense of nostalgia or absence making the heart grow fonder, Rocky Balboa almost instantly erased the bad taste that Rocky V left in the mouths of fans everywhere. The film drew praise for its heightened sense of realism and cutting-edge photographic techniques, which deliberately mimicked the broadcast of a real pay-per-view event. Stallone’s performance as a noticeably aging boxer facing exhaustion was also hailed as one of his best in the entire franchise. Stream on Max.


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Creed (2015)

Rocky Passes the Baton to Apollo Creed’s Son



Release Date
November 25, 2015

Following another decade-long hiatus, the Rocky franchise showed its fighting spirit once again with the introduction of Creed, a spin-off that takes the iconic boxing franchise in a new direction. Directed by Ryan Coogler, the movie concerns the triumphant rise of Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of Apollo Creed, who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps to become the heavyweight champion of the world.

As Rocky Balboa looks after Donnie Creed and agrees to train him as a professional boxer, Creed marks the franchise hand-off from one main character to another. The film drew near-universal acclaim for its visceral fighting sequences, the intimate rapport formed between Rocky and Donnie, and the performances by Stallone and Jordan. Apart from the breathtaking bouts, Coogler understands that Rocky movies are at their best when focusing on the family drama first and fighting second. Stream on FuboTV & Peacock Premium.

Creed II (2018)

Marks Stallone’s Final Appearance as Rocky Balboa to Date

Creed 2

Creed II

Release Date
November 21, 2018

Main Genre

The next movie to watch in the Rocky franchise is Creed II, directed by Steven Caple Jr. The plot concerns Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) taking on Ivan Drago’s son, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). As Rocky trains Adonis to avenge his father Apollo’s legacy, he becomes haunted by his past fight in Russia. The movie marks the final appearance of Stallone as Rocky in the extended franchise to date.

While predictable and formulaic, Creed II garnered positive reviews for the committed performances by Stallone and Jordan. The action-packed fight scenes were also lauded for their hyperrealism. Alas, despite the compelling storyline of pitting the sons of Apollo Creed and Ivan Drago against each other, the departure of director Ryan Coogler hindered the movie from reaching its full potential. As a result, Jordan took over the director’s chair for the next movie. Stream on TNT, TBS & TruTV.

Creed III (2023)

The Most Recent Entry Reinvigorates the Boxing Intensity

The ninth and most recent movie in the Rocky franchise is Creed III,directed by and starring Michael B. Jordan. The story finds Adonis Creed goaded out of retirement by his old friend Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors), a devious individual intent on taking Adonis’ championship belt. As a result, Creed must face his past, reconcile old demons, and do his best for his family as the pressure to succeed mounts.

Thanks to Jordan’s anime-inspired fight sequences that add new energy and perspective to the tried-and-true Rocky formula, Creed III was received more favorably by critics than Creed II. The movie was able to overcome the absence of Rocky Balboa for the first time in franchise history thanks to the emphasis placed on Donnie’s domestic life, including his mother’s bout with illness and his daughter’s desire to become a fighter despite her impaired hearing. Stream on Prime Video, Fubo & MGM+.

How to Watch the Rocky Franchise in Release Order

Fortunately, the Rocky franchise isn’t too complicated. Each movie follows on from the last, meaning that the release order and chronological order are the same. To keep it simple, here is every movie in the series in order.

Rocky Movie

Release Year



Rocky II


Rocky III


Rocky IV


Rocky V


Rocky Balboa




Creed II


Creed III



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