Sylvester Stallone practically invented the now-clichéd boxing underdog story that has been copied over and over with his Oscar-nominated screenplay for the first Rocky movie back in 1976. Although the studio didn’t expect it to do well, it came out of the gate and became a tremendous box office success. Boxing isn’t universally relatable, but going after your goals against all odds definitely is.
The boxing is all just an elaborate metaphor built around that theme. It’s also a love story, which is another thing everybody can relate to. That's why certain lines from the movies have become iconic.
The wording might be a little clunky – especially when he mentions “the history of my life” – but that’s just what makes it unique. In Rocky II, Rocky is given the chance to fight Apollo Creed again, and this time, he’s determined to win.
When he actually does win, he utters his final line in the movie to a crowd full of fans: “Except for my kid being born, this is the greatest night in the history of my life. I just wanna say one thing to my wife who’s home. Yo, Adrian, I did it!” That guy deserved a win.
During the climactic fight in Rocky III, as Rocky is taking repeated beatings in the ring from Clubber Lang (played by Mr. T in his big-screen debut), Apollo Creed watches on in horror and says, “He’s getting killed out there!” But Paulie is getting excited and he’s watching Rocky’s face more closely. He counters, “Oh, no, no. He’s not getting killed, he’s getting mad!”
Of course, in the end, Rocky manages to take advantage of Lang’s weaknesses and knock him out with a quick succession of punches, winning the fight and reclaiming his title as heavyweight champion. Cue “Eye of the Tiger.”
In every movie, Rocky gives a post-fight speech. This one from Rocky IV has shades of the then-ongoing Cold War, just like the movie as a whole. An American boxer triumphs over Russian boxer, despite the Russian boxer having better technology – it’s like a political cartoon.
“I came here tonight, I didn’t know what to expect. I seen a lot of people hate me and I didn’t know what to feel about that, so I guess they didn’t like much nothin’ either. During this fight, I’ve seen a lot of changing: the way you felt about me, and in the way I felt about you. In here, there were two guys killing each other, but I guess that’s better than twenty million. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!”
Creed follows the same sort of formula as Rocky, but with two key differences. One is that the young underdog has a wise mentor (it’s actually Rocky himself), and the other is that he has something to prove. Rocky was a relatively unknown amateur boxer who was challenged by the heavyweight champion.
Donnie was the son of that very champion. Every move he made in the ring was compared with his estranged father. He didn’t want to be thought of as “a mistake” or a “false Creed.” He wanted respect as a boxer in his own right, and he earned it.
The tragedy of Rocky IV is that the way Apollo Creed saw it, he didn’t have a choice over whether or not he’d fight Ivan Drago. To him, that’s just the life he chose: “You and me, we don’t even have a choice. See, we’re born with this killer instinct that you can’t just turn off and on like some radio. We have to be in the middle of the action, ‘cause we’re the warriors. And without some challenge, without some damn war to fight, then the warrior might as well be dead, Stallion! Now, I’m asking you – as a friend – stand by my side this one last time.”
The tragic foreshadowing was that it would ultimately be the last time.
The Rocky movies are famously uplifting and inspirational. In the first one, Rocky didn’t win the fight, but he got the girl – and he was respected merely for the fact that he’d taken on the champion with as little experience as he had.
In later movies, we saw him take the championship – but it didn’t come easy. This quote rings particularly true, because Rocky himself was once a contender who refused to give up, and we saw him keep getting up and trying again until he eventually became a winner. He’s a character that we can all look up to.
Dolph Lundgren’s Russian Rocky IV villain Ivan Drago is one of the most memorable and formidable foes in film history – not just the Rocky franchise. Right off the bat, he’s the guy we love to hate, because he killed Apollo Creed in the ring. The way he coldly said, “I must break you,” instantly became an iconic Rocky moment.
The Drago story was brought full circle nicely in Creed II as Apollo’s son took on Drago’s son. Rocky taking on Drago to avenge his fallen mentor was one thing, but his own son taking on Drago’s son had even more dramatic oomph to it.
Just the “Yo, Adrian!” part of this quote was included on the AFI’s list of the greatest movie quotes of all time. It has become iconic, entirely down to the way Sylvester Stallone says it and the conviction he says it with. Rocky is about a boxer preparing for the most important fight of his career, but it’s not really about boxing, because he also falls in love during that time.
He loses the fight, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because he tried his best, and although he failed, Adrian is there to make everything okay. That’s why he’s always so happy when he says, “Yo, Adrian!”
In an early scene in Rocky III, an interviewer asks Clubber Lang, “Do you hate Rocky?” Clubber replies, “No, I don’t hate Balboa. I pity the fool, and I will destroy any man who tries to take what I got!” It’s an interesting window into Clubber’s mindset. He’s not driven by hatred; he’s driven by an absolute belief in his own abilities.
The line “I pity the fool!” became so popular and memorable that it’s one of a couple of lines – along with “I ain’t getting on no plane!” – that Mr. T is best remembered for. When Mr. T passes away (God forbid), those two lines will be etched on his gravestone.
This whole monologue from Rocky Balboa has become a mantra for pretty much everyone, not just boxers.
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows... I don’t care how tough you are – it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”