In 1976, Rocky Balboa made his cinematic debut in the sporting drama, Rocky. The film – directed by John G. Avildsen – was written by Sylvester Stallone, and along with the character, John Rambo (of the Rambo series), would become his signature role.

Back in ’76, Stallone couldn’t have known just how popular the Rocky series would become, spawning sequel after sequel, until eventually launching its own spin-off series too. That spin-off series – Creed – may not have featured Rocky’s name in the title, but it certainly placed Rocky at the forefront of the action to ensure his legacy remained intact.

If you grew up watching the Rocky movies, then chances are you’ve followed the journey of Mr. Balboa, his friends and family. But, if you’re new to the franchise, or you’ve taken a break somewhere along the way, you may be less than familiar with how the series has developed.

Today I’m providing a rundown of the viewing order for the Rocky series as a whole, which takes into account all of the films in the main collection, as well as those in the spin-off. By the end of this post you will have the best viewing order for the Rocky movies.

*Ding ding*

Round 1…

The Rocky series

Image: ©MGM

As mentioned above, the Rocky movie series began in 1976 with Rocky. The movie – about a working class, Italian-American boxer – told a real rags-to-riches story, which resonated with audiences.

Over the course of its two hour running time, Rocky went from a nobody to a somebody, fought Heavy Weight World Boxing Champion, Apollo Creed, and demonstrated he was the epitome of the American dream. He also found love with his beloved girlfriend (who later became his wife), Adrian.

Rocky was a huge hit with audiences and critics alike, scoring ten Academy Award nominations and winning three, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing. With accolades such as this it was no surprise that a sequel followed in 1979, which saw a rematch between Rocky and Apollo.

In 1982, a third Rocky film hit cinema screens, followed by a fourth, which this time saw Rocky take to the ring against Ivan Drago – a Soviet boxer involved in a match to the death with Apollo Creed. A fifth film then followed, as did a sixth, before the Rocky film series came to an end.

During the course of the series, Rocky won matches, lost matches, gained family and lost family. The movie franchise became as much about boxing as it was about the life of its lead character.

Should you want to watch the Rocky series in order, then you need to work through the following:

  • Rocky (1976)
  • Rocky II (1979)
  • Rocky III (1982)
  • Rocky IV (1985)
  • Rocky V (1990)
  • Rocky Balboa (2006)

Following the conclusion of the sixth entry in the series, the Rocky films came to an end. But it wasn’t the last part of the story.

*Ding ding*

Round 2…

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The Creed series

Image: ©Warner Bros./MGM

Nine years after finishing up in the role of Rocky in Rocky Balboa, actor Sylvester Stallone returned to cinema screens for the Rocky spin-off series, Creed. This time around the protagonist was Adonis Johnson Creed – the son Rocky’s former rival turned friend, Apollo Creed.

Michael B. Jordan took on the title role for the Ryan Coogler directed movie, which saw Balboa drafted in to help train Creed. While Jordan was the lead of the film, Stallone was still given a meaty-role, which saw him battling his own mortality, that could have created an exit for the star.

However, this wasn’t the end for Balboa as Creed proved to be a huge success with critics and audiences, paving the way for a follow-up in 2018. Creed II continued the story but also chose to link back to the Rocky series, specifically Rocky IV, by reintroducing the character of Ivan Drago.

To date, there are two movies within the Creed movie series with Rocky involved in both. The Creed films should be watched as follows:

  • Creed (2015)
  • Creed II (2018)

OK, so now let’s put the two film series together to create the ultimate viewing order for the Rocky movies.

*Ding ding*

Round 3…

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The best order to watch the Rocky movies

Image: ©MGM

While the Rocky films are divided into two distinct series – Rocky and Creed – in essence they are all part of the same story. So, if you want to get the full journey of Rocky Balboa, from his first fight through to his relationship with Adonis Creed, you need to put both film series together.

The best viewing order for the Rocky films is:

  • Rocky (1976)
  • Rocky II (1979)
  • Rocky III (1982)
  • Rocky IV (1985)
  • Rocky V (1990)
  • Rocky Balboa (2006)
  • Creed (2015)
  • Creed II (2018)

Watching the movies in this order, will take you on an emotional journey, packed with highs and lows. Not every entry in the series is as strong as the next – Rocky V I’m looking at you – but each has its own charm and place within the saga.

The Rocky series (and by extension Creed) has proven to be an enduring franchise and one of the best-loved film series. It has made Rocky an icon of cinema and a hero for generations.

So, what is your favourite entry in the Rocky series? Is Rocky the No.1 film for you or do you favour Rocky IV? Let me know your thoughts and feelings about Rocky Balboa, Adonis Creed and all of the great characters and moments from the series.

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