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Rocky Balboa Is My Favorite Movie Character Ever

MJ Kim. Getty Images.

I've been watching Rocky for so long, I feel like I know him. A lot of that comes with Sylvester Stallone's warm and realistic performance. Just as much comes from this character being in my life since before I was born and watching this character age. Most movie characters are frozen in time but seeing Rocky age some 40 years makes him seem so much more real. 

The Rocky series being so great obviously helps. The first two movies are legitimately great dramas that creates a world and some amazing characters. Stallone does not get nearly enough credit for writing each of the six Rocky movies (he also co-wrote Creed 2). It's one thing to write a hit movie that also wins Best Picture. It's another to create a film universe that is still relevant almost fifty years later.

One of the great strengths of the Rocky series is how the tone of the films can be so flexible. The first two are more serious in tone. The next two are more focused on sheer entertainment. Both are indicative of their times as the quiet dramas of the 70's gave way to the blockbusters of the 80's. Rocky V is an absolute disaster (more on that later) but Rocky Balboa felt like modern storytelling when it came out in 2006. 

Giphy Images.

What makes you care about Rocky so much is that you believe him. I don't question for a second that he's this lonely guy who can't catch a break and talks to his turtles in the first movie. I also buy him as the heavyweight champion of the world and telling Russia that we all can change. It's all ridiculous and should never work but it absolutely does. Well, until you get to Rocky V.

This is the one part of the entire series that isn't good. But that's being kind. It's a terrible movie that bizarrely doesn't seem to understand the characters that Stallone himself created. It was directed by John G. Avildsen, who also directed Rocky I. You can tell it had a theme (Rocky is broke and goes back to the Philly slums) and cared more about that than any realistic plot or character scenario. Why is Adrian sitting at a press conference? Rocky can't do endorsements any longer? He wouldn't take a fight to take his family out of poverty? The movie's failures sting more because by this point we really care about these characters.

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I love the Mick/Rocky dynamic and it's never better than in this scene. The desperation in Mick's voice and even his eyes is so sad. He knows this is his last shot at being part of something bigger than himself and he has regret for how he treated Rocky. Then you have Rocky is so hurt by Mick. Rocky wasn't going to yell at Mick to his face. He's just not confrontational in that way but he made sure Mick was in earshot when he was screaming. But he also has the decency and understanding to embrace Mick by the end of the scene.

The first two Creed movies left Rocky in a good place but I still haven't seen the third. I'm sure it's a great movie and I'll get to it soon but I don't have as much interest in a Rocky universe movie without Rocky. I'll likely never care about another movie character as much. It's a testament to how great Rocky can be that I can watch and enjoy him as a little kid in Rocky IV, discover the other Rocky movies when I was in Jr. High and haven't had a moment since then where I haven't appreciated this goofy guy who was also so kind and wouldn't quit. Rocky Balboa will always be the greatest.

In this episode of DOUBLE PLAY, Brandon Walker and I do talk even more Rocky as well as the terrible Rocky V. You can watch the whole episode below or click HERE to listen: