I am one of those weird people who has never been greatly invested in the Rocky series. That has led to my current situation which is that it has actually been the Creed movies have made me more emotionally invested and interested in the original Rocky characters.
More than that though, the Creed series is an oddly reassuring series of films. They prove that when care and skill are emphasized, the Hollywood machine is actually capable of producing quality art that has mass appeal. It was not in our imagination. It once was happening far more often.
While you’re here, check out the following articles/podcasts:
Jerome’s 100 Favorite Movies Ever: Creed
There Will Be Movies – Episode 37: Creed
Jerome’s 100 Favorite Movies Ever: Rocky
Pantheon Plus – Underrated Sequels: Rocky Balboa
3. Creed II 
While Creed II felt far less essential than the first Creed film, the second entry absolutely felt like a worth sequel in essentially every way. The highlight this time was the return of Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago. While obviously Adonis Creed is the center of the story, the care given to Ivan and Viktor’s story is what gives this movie its heart.
It may not be a genuinely profound, but sometimes it is hard to remember that the people that we come across over the course of our lives have their own stories to tell. Creed II gives us just enough of a taste of what Ivan and Viktor have been dealing with that you can imagine an alternate movie that is just as emotionally effective centered on them during the events of the film.
2. Creed III 
After re-watching the first two films in the weeks leading up to the release of Creed III, I could not help but doubt the ability of this third film to work well without Stallone. He was the MVP of those films and is the reason this new franchise has carried so much (oh no oh no) punch.
Thankfully, Michael B. Jordan rather chaotically moved the franchise forward by treating his directorial debut as if it was going to be his only chance to ever make a movie. It’s visually all over the place. Many arcs are half baked. Manipulative emotional shortcuts are taken liberally. And most importantly, Jonathan Majors delivers a modern bozo performance for the ages.
Majors is genuinely insane in this movie in just about every way. From the facial expressions, to how he physically composes himself, to his bizarre attempt to make his boxing style look unique, and the way he delivers just about every line. It is absolutely spellbinding, and it helped to make Creed III one of the most compelling mainstream Hollywood releases in a few years. You will take that over fully polished almost every time.
1. Creed 
Given my previous disinterest in all things Rocky Balboa, I was so pleasantly surprised to see what a good movie this turned out to be. Even more surprising though for me was that the highlight of this film is the seamless integration of Stallone into a new story. Stallone gives a sincerely brilliant performance here and was deserving of all the praise and accolades he received.
Rocky at this point in time is in an all-too-common emotional place. He is simultaneously at complete peace and content while at the same time he is full of regrets and unfinished business. It may seem contradictory but really it is how so many people finish out their lives. Rocky has another chance to do something and to feel like he has made an impact and find some comfort. It was quite stunning, and in my ignorance, I did not previously realize Stallone was capable of such work. Shame on me.