The history of the Rocky franchise has been a long and winding road, marked by huge tonal and stylistic changes that have yielded mixed results. The first installment was an intimate drama about the American Dream with boxing used as just one of many subplots to tell the story of journeyman boxer Rocky Balboa, receiving widespread critical acclaim and going on to win three Academy Awards from ten nominations, including Best Picture.
From there, the series succumbed to 1980s excess as the following sequels got consistently bigger in scale and further from reality, but with the notable exception of the fifth entry, all of them were hugely entertaining in their own way before Stallone once again reinvented the character by returning to his dramatic roots with first Rocky Balboa and then the two Creed spinoffs, all of which were big box office hits.
However, Rocky IV remains arguably the most popular among the fanbase, as well as the highest-grossing movie in the franchise. From Dolph Lundgren’s hulking Ivan Drago to James Brown’s memorable cameo via the classic montages, the Italian Stallion’s battle against his deadly Russian rival is a maelstrom of deliriously entertaining cheese.
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Stallone and Lundgren recently gave an interview to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the movie, and the big Swede admitted that he punched his co-star and director so hard in the name of realism that he ended up in intensive care, but he was quick to point out that he was just following orders.
“All I did was obey orders,” said Lundgren. “He was the boss. I did what he told me. We came back to L.A. and the producer was like, ‘Hey Dolph, you’ve got two weeks off, Sly’s in the hospital’.”
Stallone has been working on a Director’s Cut of Rocky IV during his downtime throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, and while it won’t feature Paulie’s cult favorite robot butler SICO, a new and improved version of the undisputed cult classic will still be more than welcomed by fans.