“Rocky IV” is often celebrated as the best film in the series and if I only had time to watch one Rocky film, it is probably the one that I would choose; however, just because a film is everybody’s favorite doesn’t mean that it is the best. “Rocky IV” has more action than its predecessors, higher stakes, and the best fight sequence of the entire series. It also has a far-fetched plot, Brigitte Nielsen’s overacting (this is why you shouldn’t cast your wife in your film), and feels like déjà vu when placed into the context of the series. As a standalone film, it seizes our emotions through a serious event and uses that momentum to keep us engaged until the conclusion. But it has less punch when viewed in context since his drive in “Rocky III” was fueled by a similar event (wasn’t sure if I could get through that without spoilers, that’s a relief). One of my biggest issues with the film is the robot. It seems very unnecessary and better suited for a sci-fi film. I guess that it creates some comedic moments but I don't really feel like those moments are needed. And what parent would fly to Russia and leave their kid at home alone with a robot as the babysitter? Haven't they ever seen "Terminator"?!? This film has its problems, so why do we still love it? First, we love watching Rocky tackle an insurmountable task and there are few villains more imposing than Ivan Drago. Second, it reminds us of why we love these characters. Adrian is strong-willed, Apollo is overconfident, and this is the film that makes me love Paulie. He has always bothered me throughout the first three films but his speech when he realizes his friend might not survive (and comedic one-liner shortly after) secured his place in my heart. Even though this story has all of the elements of the previous Rocky films, it is the culmination of his hard work and determined spirit. The montage that contrasts Drago’s steroid-induced, technological training with Rocky’s mountain climbing regiment has become iconic because it reminds us that anything is possible. But the thing that makes this film unique from the rest is its bold political relevance. Most of the Rocky films make a statement about a man's ability to persevere, but this one borders on allegory as it makes a Cold War statement about an entire nation. There is so much hatred and tension between the characters but Stallone’s script uses the Rocky equation to show how there can still be hope. “Rocky IV” is not the best film in the series but its powerful message resonates with audiences in a way that has preserved it as a favorite for many years.
[Pictured: The only way to top a sprint to the top of the Rocky stairs]