Rocky V
Rocky v poster

Theatrical release poster for Rocky V

Directed By: John G. Avildsen
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Producer: Robert Chartoff
Irwin Winkler
Starring: Sylvester Stallone
Talia Shire
Burt Young
Sage Stallone
Tommy Morrison
Richard Gant
Delia Sheppard
Michael Williams
Burgess Meredith
Tony Burton
Theme music: Bill Conti
Alan Menken
Edited by: John G. Avildsen
Robert A. Ferretti
Michael N. Knue
Cinematographer: Steven B. Poster
Studio: United Artists
Distributed by: MGM/UA Communications Company
(USA & Canada)
United International Pictures
Release Date: November 16, 1990 (1990-11-16)
Running time: 99 minutes
Language: English
Budget: $42,000,000
Box office: $119,946,358
"Go for it!"
―Tagline for Rocky V

Rocky V is an American film released as the fifth film in the Rocky series in 1990. It stars Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Stallone's real life son Sage Stallone, and real life boxer Tommy Morrison as boxer Tommy Gunn, a talented yet raw boxer[1]. Sage played Robert Balboa, whose relationship with his famous father is explored.

After Stallone directed the second through fourth films in the series, Rocky V saw the return of director John G. Avildsen, whose direction of the first film won him an Academy Award for Best Director. Aside from Creed and Creed II, this is the only movie in the series to be rated PG-13 for it's mild language. All the other previous films are PG, as well as Rocky Balboa.


Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and his trainer Tony "Duke" Evers (Tony Burton) are in their dressing room after the Ivan Drago fight. Tony praises Rocky for his victory, but Rocky, seemingly in some form of severe physical discomfort, asks Tony to summon his wife Adrian (Talia Shire). His hands are shaking, and he cannot make them stop. In distress, he mistakenly calls out for "Mick", the name of his deceased former trainer, Mickey Goldmill.

Rocky returns to Philadelphia from the Soviet Union and is greeted by his son, Robert (Sage Stallone). At a press conference, a promoter named George Washington Duke (Richard Gant) tries to urge Rocky into fighting Union Cane, the new #1 contender to his world title in Tokyo, but with Adrian insisting on her husband's retirement, Rocky decides, at least for the time being, not to take the fight with Cane.

Rocky, Adrian and Paulie (Burt Young) return home to find that Paulie had Rocky unknowingly signed a 'power of attorney' over to Balboa's accountant, who had, in turn, squandered all of Rocky's money on bad business deals (it is also revealed the accountant had not paid Rocky's income taxes in 6 years) and Rocky decides to take the fight with Cane. However, Rocky has suffered significant brain damage during the Drago bout, and he can no longer fight without further risking his health. Rocky is forced to move back into his old working-class Philadelphia neighbourhood, where he and his family must try to start their lives all over again. The only thing Rocky doesn't lose is Mickey's gym, which Mickey had willed to him. Rocky then begins training boxers at Mickey's gym, Adrian gets her old job back at the pet store across the street and Paulie goes back to the meat packing plant. Cane then went on to

Things start to look up when Rocky meets a hungry young fighter from Oklahoma named Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison) and takes him under his wing. Training the young fighter gives Rocky a sense of purpose, and Tommy fights his way up the ladder to become a top contender. Rocky eventually becomes so distracted with Tommy's training that he winds up neglecting Robert who becomes withdrawn and angry, falling in with the wrong crowd at school and as a result, he begins acting out at home. Tommy's impressive rise through the ranks catches the eye of Duke, who uses the promise of a title shot against Cane to lure him away from Rocky. Duke pulls up outside the Balboa house with Tommy in tow, who has now been deceived into thinking that Rocky doesn't have his best interests in mind. When Rocky tries to convince him otherwise, Tommy drives off in a huff, leaving Rocky for good.

As Rocky watches Tommy speed off into the night, his head suddenly pounds with nightmarish flashbacks of his fight with Drago. When Adrian attempts to comfort him, Rocky's frustrations finally boil over. He confesses his life had meaning again when he was able to live vicariously through Tommy's success. She reasons with him, telling him Tommy never had his heart and spirit – something he could never learn. When this realisation hits him, Rocky embraces his wife and they begin to pick up the pieces. After finding Robert hanging out on a street corner, Rocky apologises to his son and they mend their broken relationship.

Tommy wins the heavyweight title by knocking out Union Cane in the first round, but is booed by spectators after the fight and hounded by reporters. They insist Cane was nothing but a "paper champion", because Cane didn't win the title from Balboa. Therefore, the public would never consider Tommy the real champion unless he fights a worthy opponent. With Tommy enraged by the press's reaction, Duke tells Tommy he needs to fight Rocky man to man. Duke and Tommy show up at a local bar to goad Rocky into accepting a fight. But after Tommy hits Paulie, Rocky challenges Tommy to a street fight on the spot. Despite Duke's warnings to keep the fight in the ring, Tommy accepts.

Rocky is beaten down by Tommy and is seemingly out for the count, his head once again pounding with hellish visions of the fight with Drago and Mickey’s funeral. He then hears the voice of his old mentor urging him to get up and get back in the fight, to go just "one more round". Rocky gets back up, and utilizing his vast street fighting knowledge, defeats Tommy by knocking him into the grill of a bus with his final blow. Afterwards, Tommy gets arrested, and Duke commends Rocky, trying to appeal to him. Duke threatens to sue if Rocky touches him, but after a brief hesitation, Rocky punches Duke in the gut anyway, knocking him onto the hood of a car. The crowd cheers as the bankrupt Rocky shrugs and quips "Sue me for what?"

The next day, Rocky and Robert take a trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Rocky gives his son Rocky Marciano's cuff-link, given to him years ago as a gift from Mickey. The film ends with a shot of Rocky's statue looking out over Philadelphia.


The film contains cameos by several sportswriters and boxing analysts, most notably Al Bernstein, Stan Hochman and Al Meltzer. Sportscaster Stu Nahan makes his fifth and final appearance in the Rocky series, this time as a sports journalist.

Rocky's priest friend Father Carmine (Paul Micale) makes his second of two appearances in the Rocky series, the first being in Rocky II.

The character "Tommy Gunn" was played by Tommy Morrison. Morrison's nickname in boxing was "The Duke" similar to George Washington Duke, who becomes his manager in the movie. Morrison has claimed to be the grandnephew of John "The Duke" Wayne.

Michael Williams , who plays Union Cane, was also a real-life boxer. He and Morrison were to have an actual match about a month after Rocky V was released, but had to be canceled when Williams was hurt. The match was being hyped as "The Real Cane vs. Gunn Match".

George Washington Duke (Richard Gant) is the main antagonist of the film, and based on Don King.

Jodi Letizia, who played street kid Marie in the original Rocky (1976), was supposed to reprise her role here. Her character was shown to have ended up as Rocky predicted she would, but the scene ended up on the cutting room floor. Although she can briefly be seen during the street fight at the end, the character would eventually reappear in Rocky Balboa (2006), as a bartender and confidante to the aging Rocky. Actress Geraldine Hughes took over the role.

Kevin Connolly, who gained success as Eric Murphy on HBO's Entourage, was in his first acting role as neighbourhood bully Chickie.

Production notes

Some of the fight sequences were filmed at The Blue Horizon in Philadelphia, a venue which was a mecca for boxing in the city during the 1970s.

Scenes with Mickey, played by Burgess Meredith, were trimmed in the final film when Rocky fights Tommy. Mickey appeared in ghost form on top of the railway bridge, giving words of encouragement. In the final film, this was made into flashbacks. The speech Mickey gives to Rocky in the flashback sequence is based on an interview with Cus D'Amato given in 1985, shortly after Mike Tyson's first professional bout.

The image of Gunn's first professional fight, the pullback from the mural of Jesus over the boxing ring, mirrors the opening shot of the first Rocky movie.

The golden glove necklace featured so prominently in this film was first seen in Rocky II (worn by Apollo Creed), then again throughout Rocky III and IV. As a promotional gimmick, replicas of the necklace were distributed to moviegoers at the Hollywood premiere of Rocky V at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

The famous red, white and blue boxing trunks first worn by Apollo Creed in his fight with Rocky in the first film make their fifth and final appearance in this film. Rocky's leather coat introduced in Rocky IV makes its second and final appearance in the franchise at the start of the movie.

The Ring Magazine belt in Rocky's basement and the identical belt Morrison wins in the ring have changed slightly from the previous movies; they are missing the four side panels showing famous champions George Foreman, James J. Corbett, James J. Braddock, and Floyd Patterson.

According to Stallone, pro wrestling legend Terry Funk helped choreograph much of the street fight between Rocky and Tommy Gunn.

Original Ending

In the original script, Rocky is killed during the final fight with Tommy, dying in Adrian's arms in the street.[4] Through most of the filming and production, this was to be the outcome; it wasn't until the film was nearing completion that Stallone decided against Rocky's death and went with the current ending. According to him, the director, and the studio had second thoughts. Eventually, Stallone rewrote the ending, saying that he decided to change it because Rocky was supposed to be about perseverance and redemption, and having him die in a street brawl would be against the roots of the series.


In the ensuing years following the film's release, Stallone acknowledged that the injury Rocky suffers subsequently forcing him to retire, referenced in the film as a potentially lethal form of 'Brain Damage' was inaccurate. [5] Stallone stated that having discussed the story with many boxing medical professionals, the injury Rocky suffered was a milder form of brain damage, similar to that of a long term concussion that many boxers suffer from and by modern day standards are still able to gain licenses to box and would not have prevented Rocky from gaining a license to box nor killed him. [6]

Tony Burton briefly reprises his role as Duke at the beginning of the film. However, during his scenes, Rocky refers to him as "Tony". In the credits, Burton is credited as playing "Tony," as opposed to "Duke" (perhaps to avoid confusion with the George Washington Duke character) Rocky V is the second time in the series to do so, with the first being Rocky II as Apollo asked "What are you afraid of, Tony?" Rocky Balboa names Burton's character, "Duke Evers". Most fans take this to imply that his name is Tony 'Duke' Evers.


Anticipated to be one of the big hits of the 1990 holiday season, Rocky V finished second in its opening weekend to Home Alone and never recovered.[7] The film earned $14 million on its opening weekend and $40 million in total US box-office sales, about one-third of its predecessor's take. Rocky V however made almost twice as much overseas and thereby a total of $119.9 million worldwide.

In addition to its disappointing numbers at the box office, Rotten Tomatoes reports that Rocky V has a 27% "rotten" rating on its site. The film departed from the standard Rocky formula on display in the previous four films, which made it extremely unpopular with the audiences that had been drawn to the previous sequels. Stallone himself has gone on record in agreeing that he wasn't satisfied with the finished product, saying "I wanted to finish the series on a high and emotional note, and Rocky V didn't do that." He also faced critique over the decision to bring John G. Avilsden back to direct the film having done the first, as oppose to directing the film himself as he had done with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th instalments. Stallone claimed that he wanted to work an easier schedule than what he had done previously, and therefore had less input on the film's production as well as post-production. Criticism was also drawn from the film's ending, claiming following Stallone's last minute decision not to kill Rocky, the film's build-up and narrative was lost.

On July 8, 2010, in an interview with The Sun, Stallone was interviewed about the Rocky films. When he came to Rocky V, Stallone replied he made it out of greed, and reiterated that this was part of his motivation in making Rocky Balboa, a 6th instalment to the series.[8]

Nonetheless, Stallone was still praised for his performance and the film received some positive feedback from some fans, with the Los Angeles Times regarding it as the best of the Rocky sequels.[9]

Sequel: Rocky Balboa

As a result of, and in response to, Rocky V's poor box office performance (and the general dissatisfaction with the end of the franchise), 16 years later Stallone wrote, directed and starred in Rocky Balboa, the sixth and final chapter to the saga. The sixth film was an attempt to redeem the character for a final chance to come back as a hero again, and do the story justice by bringing it full circle; as for Rocky's ability to fight again, Stallone suggested that advances in medical science during the period between the films had shown that the injuries mentioned in Rocky V were less debilitating than once thought, and that he would receive a "clean bill of health" today.It succeeded by grossing over $70 million at the US box office as well, and $85 million abroad, and getting largely positive reviews from both fans and critics. [6]


The soundtrack is not an original motion picture score, but rather has music from and inspired by the film. This soundtrack features Joey B. Ellis, MC Hammer, 7A3, MC Tab, Rob Base, and Bill Conti. Most of the soundtrack is rap music, rather than Bill Conti tunes. Also, two of the scores from Rocky IV were featured in this film's trailer, but were not present in the actual film. "Measure of a Man" was written by Alan Menken and performed by Elton John. The Bill Conti's music score for Rocky V did not appear officially on any albums, but was later released on an unofficial album (bootleg).[1]

Like Rocky IV, a full version of "Gonna Fly Now" with lyrics is not heard in the film. However an instrumental horn version is played during the early scene where Rocky gets off the airplane, and at the end of the move after Rocky defeats Tommy, the first few seconds of the original version can be heard – though it never makes it to the lyrics.


  1. Berger, Phil (November 15, 1989). "Film Flam for 'Rocky'". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
  2. King, Susan (1990-11-24). "Stallone Jr. Hopes Playing Rocky Jr. Won't Cramp His Lifestyle". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  3. Klein, Gary (1990-11-16). "Rocky V' Has Drama Coaches in Its Corner : Film: Acting teachers are traditionally barred from movie sets. But for Stallone's latest boxing epic, a Studio City couple was allowed to show newcomer Tommy Morrison the ropes, scene by scene and blow by blow.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  4. Hasted, Nick (1997-12-05). "He could have been a contender". London: Independent. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Moriaty (December 1, 2006). "Round One With Sylvester Stallone Q&A!!". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved June 15, 2009.
  7. Broeske, Pat H. (1990-11-20). "'Home' KOs 'Rocky V' at Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  8. Rollings, Grant. "Sylvester Stallone gives his most candid interview ever". The Sun (London). Retrieved 2010-10-29.
  9. Wilmington, Michael (1990-11-16). "MOVIE REVIEW : A Kinder, Gentler Rocky Balboa : Of Sylvester Stallone's 'Rocky' sequels, No. 5 comes closest to some of the endearing qualities associated with the first.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-29.

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