"When East Meets West, the Champion remains standing."

Rocky IV
Rocky IV

Theatrical release poster

Directed By: Sylvester Stallone
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Producer: Robert Chartoff
Irwin Winkler
Starring: Sylvester Stallone
Dolph Lundgren
Burt Young
Talia Shire
Carl Weathers
Tony Burton
Brigitte Nielsen
Michael Pataki
Theme music: Vince DiCola
Themes by
Bill Conti
Edited by: John W. Wheeler
Don Zimmerman
Cinematographer: Bill Butler
Studio: United Artists
Distributed by: MGM/UA Entertainment Company
Release Date: November 27, 1985 (1985-11-27)
Running time: 90 min.
Language: English

budget = $28 million[1]

Box office: $300,473,716

Rocky IV is a 1985 American film written by, directed by, and starring Sylvester Stallone. It is the fourth and most financially successful entry in the Rocky franchise.[2] In the film, Rocky Balboa planned to retire from boxing after regaining his title from Clubber Lang in Rocky III but an emerging amateur boxer from the Soviet Union, Ivan Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren), makes a bold bid to enter professional boxing, in doing so, also poses a challenge to Balboa, for at least one more fight.


In 1985, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) is a highly intimidating 6-foot 5 inch and 261-pound Soviet boxer who arrives in America with Ludmilla Drago (Ivan's wife), and a team of trainers from the USSR and Cuba. Nicolai Koloff (Ivan's manager) takes every opportunity to promote Ivan's athleticism as a hallmark of Soviet superiority. Motivated by patriotism and an innate desire to prove himself, Apollo Creed challenges Ivan to an exhibition bout and Rocky has reservations, but he agrees to train Apollo, who enters the ring in an over-the-top patriotic entrance with James Brown performing Living in America. Though, It soon turns serious as Ivan beats Apollo mercilessly and Apollo is in dire straits and taking the worst beating of his life as the first round ends. Tony "Duke" Evers (Rocky and Apollo's trainer) plead with him to give up, but Apollo refuses to do so as he tells Rocky not to stop the fight. The second round doesn't go any better, and despite Duke begging Rocky to throw in the towel, he honours Apollo's wish, which turns out to have fatal consequences as Ivan beats Apollo so badly that he dies from his injuries. In the immediate aftermath, Ivan displays no sense of remorse commenting to the assembled media: "If he dies... he dies."

Incensed by Ivan's cold indifference and feeling a deep sense of guilt, Rocky decides to avenge Apollo's death by agreeing to relinquish his title and fight Ivan in Russia on Christmas Day in an unsanctioned 15-round bout. He flies to the USSR without Adrian, setting up his training base in Krasnoyarsk with only Duke and Paulie Pennino (Rocky's brother-in-law) to accompany him. To prepare for the fight, Ivan uses very high-tech equipment with (implied) use of anabolic steroids and a team of trainers and doctors monitoring him. On the other hand, Rocky throws heavy logs, chops down trees, pulls an overloaded snow sleigh, jogs in heavy snow and treacherous icy conditions and climbs a mountain. Adrian Balboa (Rocky's wife) shows up unexpectedly to give Rocky her support after initially refusing to travel to Russia because of her doubts on his fighting chances, resulting in Rocky's training having an added focus.

Ivan is introduced with an elaborate, patriotic ceremony that puts the Russian crowd squarely on Ivan's side as Rocky is booed by all in attendance. In contrast to his fight with Apollo, Ivan immediately goes on the offensive and Rocky takes a fierce pounding where Rocky comes back toward the end of the second and silences the Russian crowd by landing a strong right hook that cuts Ivan just below his left eye. While Ivan is visibly shaken, Rocky is fired up and assaults Ivan, which continues even after the bell rings. While Duke and Paulie cheer Rocky for his heroism, they remind him that Ivan is not a machine, but a man. Ironically, Ivan comments that Rocky "is not human, he is like a piece of iron" with his own corner reprimanding him for being "weak" in comparison to the "small American."

The two boxers continue to hit each other over the next dozen rounds with Rocky holding his ground, despite Ivan's powerful punches. His resilience rallies the previously hostile Soviet crowd to his side, which unsettles Ivan to the point that he shoves Koloff off the ring for berating his performance. Rocky finally takes out Ivan in the 15th and last round to the shock of the Soviet Politburo watching the fight as a bloody and battered Rocky gives a victory speech, acknowledging the initial and mutual disdain between himself and the once hostile crowd as much as the disdain between Russians and Americans generally, and how they've come to respect and admire each other during the course of the fight which he also says is better than war between their two countries. He finishes by saying that everybody can "change", which causes the Soviet General Secretary to stand and passionately applaud for Rocky and his aides follow suit. Rocky ends his speech by wishing his son a Merry Christmas and throws his arms into the air in victory as the crowd applauds.



Wyoming doubled for the frozen expanse of the Soviet Union. The small farm where Rocky lived and trained was in Jackson Hole, and the Grand Teton National Park was used for filming many of the outdoor sequences in Russia. The PNE Agrodome at Hastings Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, served as the location of Rocky's Soviet bout.

Sylvester Stallone has stated that the original punching scenes filmed between him and Dolph Lundgren in the first portion of the fight are completely authentic. Stallone wanted to capture a realistic scene and Lundgren agreed that they would engage in legitimate sparring. One particularly forceful Lundgren punch to Stallone's chest slammed his heart against his breastbone, causing the heart to swell and his breathing to become labored. Stallone, suffering from labored breathing and a blood pressure over 200, was flown from the set in Canada to St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica and was forced into intensive care for eight days. Stallone later commented that he believed Lundgren had the athletic ability and talent to fight in the professional heavyweight division of boxing.[3]

Additionally, Stallone claimed that Lundgren nearly forced Carl Weathers to quit in the middle of filming the Apollo versus Drago exhibition fight. In one take for the Creed-Drago fight scene, Lundgren tossed Weathers into the corner of the boxing ring. Weathers shouted profanities at Lundgren while leaving the ring and announcing that he was quitting the movie and calling his agent. Only after Stallone forced the two actors to reconcile did the movie continue. This event caused a four day work stoppage while Weathers was talked back into the part and Lundgren had to be forced into toning down his aggressiveness.[3]


Sportscaster Stu Nahan makes his fourth appearance in the series as commentator for the Apollo/Drago fight. Warner Wolf replaces Bill Baldwin, who died following filming for Rocky III, as co-commentator. For the fight between Rocky and Drago, commentators Barry Tompkins and Al Bandiero portray themselves as USA Network broadcasters.

Apollo Creed's wife Mary Anne (Sylvia Meals) made her third and final appearance in the series, the first being Rocky II, although the character was mainly featured in "Rocky II". Stallone's then-wife, Brigitte Nielsen, appeared as Drago's wife, Ludmilla.

The Soviet premier in the sky box during the Rocky-Drago match strongly resembles contemporary Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Actor David Lloyd Austin later played Gorbachev in The Naked Gun and played Russian characters in other films.

Other media


A novelisation was published by Ballantine Books in 1985. Sylvester Stallone was credited as the author[4]s


The soundtrack for the movie included "Living in America" by James Brown; the film's music was composed by Vince DiCola (who also composed the soundtrack for The Transformers: The Movie that same year), and also included songs by John Cafferty ("Hearts on Fire", featuring Vince DiCola), Survivor, Kenny Loggins, and Robert Tepper. Go West wrote "One Way Street" for the movie by request of Sylvester Stallone. Europe's hit "The Final Countdown", written earlier in the decade by lead singer Joey Tempest, is often incorrectly stated as being featured in the film - no doubt due to its similarity to DiCola's "Training Montage." However, Europe's track was not released as a single until late 1986.

DiCola replaced Bill Conti as the film's composer. Conti, who was too busy with the first two Karate Kid films at the time, would return for Rocky V and Rocky Balboa. Rocky IV is the only film in the series not to feature original music by Conti. However, it does features arrangements of themes composed by Conti from the previous film in the series such as "The Final Bell".

Conti's famous piece of music from the Rocky series, "Gonna Fly Now", does not appear at all in Rocky IV (the first time in the series this happened), though a few bars of it are incorporated into DiCola's training montage instrumental.

According to singer Peter Cetera, he originally wrote his best-selling solo single "Glory of Love" as the end title for this film, but was passed over by United Artists, and instead used as the theme for The Karate Kid Part II.


Box office performance

Rocky IV made $127.8 million in United States and Canada and $300 million worldwide, the most of any Rocky film. It was the highest-grossing sports film of all time until 2009's The Blind Side which grossed $309 million (albeit unadjusted for inflation).

Critical reception

The film received a "rotten" 44% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes, indicating mixed reviews.[5] Dolph Lundgren received acclaim for his performance as Ivan Drago. He won the Marshall Trophy for Best Actor at the Napierville Cinema Festival.[6] Rocky IV also won Germany's Golden Screen Award.


The film has generated scholarly analysis and speculation.

Paulie's Robot, an item that through the years has enjoyed a cult following of its own, was created by the International Robotics Inc. in New York City. The robot's voice was the company's CEO Robert Doornick. The robot is identified by robotic engineers as "SICO" and is/was a member of the Screen Actors Guild and toured with James Brown in the 1980s.[7] The robot was written into the film to help treat Stallone's son, Seargeoh, for autismRocky IV has been interpreted as a commentary on the power struggle between technology and humans, illustrated by both Paulie's Robot and the technology utilized by Drago.[8] The infamous robot has also been characterized as a "pleasure-bot" to service the needs of Paulie was also performing the duty of watching Balboa's son while he and Adrian are in Moscow.[9]

The film is recognized as being ahead of its time in its demonstration of groundbreaking high-tech sporting equipment, some of which was experimental and twenty years from public use.[10][11]

Rocky IV has been noted as a prime example of propaganda through film, with both the stark culture contrast of Apollo's patriotic showing in Las Vegas and Drago's cold, subdued performance in the USSR and the ubiquitous yet ineffective KGB officers stationed around Balboa's cabin outside Krasnoyarsk.[12]

Rocky IV is one of the few sport movies that applies genuine sound effects from actual hits, bonafide training methods created by consultants and a bevy of special effects that in turn creates a film that has grown in popularity.[13] One prominent film critic has noted not only the increase in popularity of the film over the years, but that Stallone felt (much to his chagrin) his creative powers peaked at this chapter of the saga.[14] Stallone has also been quoted as saying the enormous financial success and fan following of Rocky IV once had him envisioning another Rocky movie devoted to Drago and his post-boxing life (although Stallone acknowledged he was in better shape, he was excommunicated from his country), with Balboa's storyline parallel. However, he noted the damage both boxers sustained in the fight made them "incapable of reason" and thus planned Rocky V as a showcase of the results, though the film failed to resolve the saga.[15]

Scholars have examined Rocky IV and note the film's strong, yet formulaic structure that emphasises the power of the individual, particularly an idealistic American.[16] One author has noted the totalitarian regime Ivan Drago represents, his power demonstrated when he topples an arrogant opponent, and his subsequent defeat by the inventive, determined foe.[17]

At Comic-Con 2010, Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren accepted the Guinness World Record for the ‘Most Successful Sports Movie Franchise’ for Rocky.


  1. Harmetz, Aljean (November 29, 1985). "At the Movies". The New York Times. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
  2. {{cite web|title = Rocky Movies |accessdate = 2007-09-17 |work = Box Office Mojo |publisher = Box Office Mojo, LLC. |url = |archiveurl = |archivedate = 2007-06-07 |quote =
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Stallone Interview With Ain't It Cool News". AICN. Retrieved 2007-01-25.
  6. "Rocky IV: Award Wins and Nominations". Retrieved September 3, 2010.
  7. [1]
  8. The Frankenstein myth in contemporary cinema. JH Rushing, TS Frentz - Critical Studies in Media, 1989
  9. Can 'The Fighter' beat communism? PopWatch Rewind looks back at Rocky IV. Entertainment Weekly Darren Franich. Keith Staskiewicz.[2]
  10. Von Hoff D: Rocky IV-Fight Medicine, Medical Grand Rounds presented at University of Texas Health Science Centre
  11. Boxing and medicine R.C. Cantur - 1995 - Human Kinetics Publishers
  12. Politics and Film: Propaganda and Its Influence During the Cold War. H Bullis -
  13. 'It's in the game': sport fans, film and digital gaming. G Crawford - Sport in Society, 2008
  14. “I could've been a contender”;: The boxing movie's generic instability. T Williams - Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 2001
  15. Acting His Age? The Resurrection of the 80s Action Heroes and their Aging Stars. P Gates. Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 2010. Routledge.
  16. Rocky IV, Rambo II, and the Place of the Individual in Modern American Society. SC LeSueur, D Rehberger.Journal of American Culture Volume 11, Issue 2, pages 25–33, Summer 1988.
  17. Rocky IV Meets La Grande Illusion: Pedagogy and Theory in Popular Culture Study.The Americanization of the global village: essays in comparative popular culture. Roger B. Rollin.Popular Press, 1989.

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