Rocky V

Rocky V is a 1990 American sports drama film. It is the fifth film in the Rocky series, written by and starring Sylvester Stallone,[1] and co-starring Talia Shire, Stallone's real-life son Sage, and real-life boxer Tommy Morrison, with Morrison in the role of Tommy Gunn, a talented yet raw boxer.[2] Sage played Rocky Balboa, Jr, 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 John G. Avildsen, whose direction of Rocky won him an Academy Award for Best Director.

Rocky V
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn G. Avildsen
Produced by
Written bySylvester Stallone
Based onCharacters
by Sylvester Stallone
Music byBill Conti
CinematographySteven Poster
Edited by
  • John G. Avildsen
  • Michael N. Knue
  • Robert A. Ferretti
Distributed byMGM/UA Communications Company
Release date
  • November 16, 1990 (1990-11-16) (United States)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$42 million
Box office$119.9 million

Reception to the film was generally negative and it was (at the time) considered a disappointing conclusion when this was presumed to be the last movie in the series. Stallone himself has since admitted that he too was disappointed with how the film turned out. The box office gross was $180 million below that of Rocky IV. Rocky V marked the final appearances of Talia Shire and Burgess Meredith in the Rocky series. Due to the low box office result, Rocky V was the last Rocky film with which United Artists had any involvement. Though this was presumed to be the ending of the series, a sixth film, Rocky Balboa, was released in 2006 and garnered much more favorable reviews. Stallone has also brought the Rocky character back in the spin-offs Creed and Creed II.


A week after Rocky Balboa's victory over Ivan Drago in Moscow, he, his wife Adrian, his brother-in-law Paulie, and his trainer Tony "Duke" Evers, return to the United States, where they are greeted by Rocky's son, Robert. At a press conference, boxing promoter George Washington Duke attempts to goad Rocky into fighting his boxer, Union Cane, who is now the top-rated challenger. Rocky declines the offer but Duke decides to find another way.

After returning home, it is discovered that Paulie unknowingly had Rocky sign a "power of attorney" over to Rocky's accountant, who had squandered all of his money on real estate deals gone sour; in addition, the accountant had failed to pay Rocky's taxes over the previous six years, and his mansion had been mortgaged by $400,000. His lawyer confirms this, but tells Rocky that it is fixable with a few more fights. Rocky briefly considers accepting the fight with Cane, but having experienced complications in Russia following the Drago match, Adrian urges him to see a doctor, and he is diagnosed with cave of septum pellucidum. Reluctantly, Rocky retires from boxing.

Shortly thereafter, Rocky's home and belongings are sold to pay the debt and the Balboas move back to their old working-class neighborhood in Philadelphia. Rocky visits Mighty Mick's Gym (willed to his son by his old trainer Mickey Goldmill following his death) which has fallen into disrepair. Seeing a vision of himself and Mickey from years past, Rocky draws inspiration to become a trainer himself and reopens the gym.

Soon after, Rocky and Paulie meet a young fighter from Oklahoma named Tommy Gunn. Gunn impresses Rocky and Paulie in a sparring match, but ultimately proves to be too aggressive. Gunn then suggests that Rocky become his manager. Rocky declines at first, but eventually agrees to take the young man under his wing. Training him gives Rocky a sense of purpose, and Gunn rises to become a top contender. Rocky becomes so distracted with Gunn's training, that he ends up neglecting Robert, who is being bullied at school. After learning to defend himself, Robert falls in with the wrong crowd and becomes withdrawn toward his family.

Union Cane wins the vacant world heavyweight title. Still wanting to do business with Rocky, Washington sees Gunn's knockout streak and relationship with Rocky as a way of gaining control of him. Washington showers Gunn with luxuries and promises him that he is the only path to a shot against Union Cane for the title. On Christmas Eve, Washington visits the Balboa house with Gunn to explain the new scenario, which would financially benefit all of them. However, Rocky insists dealing with Washington will end badly and is dirty business. Gunn drives off in a huff, leaving Rocky for good. Adrian attempts to comfort Rocky, but his frustration boils over. He confesses his life had meaning again when he was able to live vicariously through Gunn's success. She reasons with him, telling him Tommy never had his heart and spirit—something Tommy could never learn. When this realization hits him, Rocky embraces his wife and they begin to pick up the pieces. After finding Robert hanging out on a street corner smoking a cigarette, Rocky apologizes to his son and they mend their broken relationship.

Gunn fights Cane for the heavyweight title as Rocky watches on television, still rooting for his protégé. Gunn wins the fight with a first round knockout but is jeered by spectators for leaving Rocky and hounded by reporters after the fight. Gunn gives all the praise and credit for his success to George Washington Duke, which only fans the flames of contempt for Gunn by the fans and media. They insist that Cane was nothing but a "paper champion", because Cane did not win the title from Balboa. They claim he will never be the real champion unless he fights a worthy opponent such as Rocky; they drive the point home when one reporter announces, "...A Rocky Balboa he'll never be!" With Gunn incensed by the press's reaction, Washington convinces him that he needs to secure a title fight with Rocky to refute the notion that he is not the real champion. Washington and Gunn show up at the local bar with a live television crew to goad Rocky into accepting a title fight. Rocky declines and tries to reason with him, but Gunn rebukes it and calls him weak, prompting Paulie to stand up for Rocky. When Gunn punches Paulie, Rocky challenges Gunn to a street fight, telling him, "My ring is outside."

Despite Washington's warnings to keep the fight in the ring, Gunn accepts. Rocky knocks him to the ground with a quick flurry of punches, but Tommy gets up and attacks Rocky from behind, seizing the upper hand. Rocky is seemingly beaten down before he hears the voice of Mickey urging him to get up and continue the fight, to go just "one more round." Rocky gets up and, with Robert, Paulie, and the neighborhood crowd cheering him on, he defeats his former protégé. While Gunn is escorted away by the police, Washington threatens to sue Rocky if he touches him. After a brief hesitation, Rocky knocks him onto the hood of a car and quips, "Sue me for what?"

The next morning, Rocky and Robert explore the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Rocky gives his son Rocky Marciano's cufflink, given to him years ago as a gift from Mickey. The film ends with a shot of Rocky's statue looking out over the Philadelphia skyline.


  • Sylvester Stallone as Robert "Rocky" Balboa Sr., "The Italian Stallion": Heavyweight Champion of the World, who suffers from brain damage caused by the head-trauma he received at the hands of Ivan Drago in the previous film. Because of his injuries, Rocky is forced to officially retire from boxing. After moving back to Philadelphia, Rocky agrees to train and manage underdog boxer Tommy Gunn and helps him to rise to fame.
  • Talia Shire as Adrian Balboa: Rocky's wife and support throughout his life and his boxing career.
  • Burt Young as Paulie Pennino: Rocky's friend, and brother-in-law.
  • Sage Stallone as Robert "Rocky" Balboa Jr.: Rocky and Adrian's only son, who gets involved with the wrong crowds during the absence of his father's presence, throughout the training and mentoring of Tommy Gunn.
  • Richard Gant as George Washington Duke: Loud and obnoxious boxing promoter, who repeatedly tries to convince Rocky to re-enter the ring. He becomes Tommy Gunn's manager during his shot at the Heavyweight Champion title.
  • Tommy Morrison as Tommy "The Machine" Gunn: Underdog boxer, who rises to fame under the training of beloved Heavyweight Champion of the World, Rocky Balboa. Throughout his career and rise to fame he is called Rocky's "shadow", and angrily seeks out another manager. After his achievements as Heavyweight Champion, and the public's continued dis-appreciation for him, he attempts to fight Rocky in an unofficial street fight, only to lose; proving he was something to be forgotten as the public had repeatedly stated throughout his career.
  • Burgess Meredith as Mickey Goldmill: Rocky's deceased friend, manager and trainer; a former bantamweight fighter from the 1920s and the owner of the local boxing gym. Burgess appears in new footage, filmed as a flashback to before Rocky's second fight with Apollo.
  • Tony Burton as Tony "Duke" Evers: Rocky's friend, and former trainer and manager of Apollo Creed.
  • Paul J. Micale as Father Carmine
  • Michael Williams as Union Cane: Reigning Heavyweight Champion of the World who wants to fight legendary Rocky, and eventually fights Tommy Gunn, only to lose.

The film has cameos by sportswriters and boxing analysts, including Al Bernstein, Stan Hochman and Al Meltzer, and sportscaster Stu Nahan, who was the ringside announcer in the original Rocky film and was the ring announcer in each Rocky movie, save the sixth and seventh movies. Both Dolph Lundgren and Carl Weathers appear as Ivan Drago and Apollo Creed in archive footage, uncredited.

The character "Tommy Gunn" was played by Tommy Morrison. Morrison's nickname prior to his retirement from boxing was "The Duke" similar to George Washington Duke, who becomes his manager in the movie. Morrison 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."

Jodi Letizia, who played street kid Marie in the original Rocky (1976), was supposed to reprise her role. Her character was shown to have ended up as Rocky predicted she would: a prostitute, 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 neighborhood bully Chickie.


Development and writing

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. Adrian goes back to working at the pet shop she first worked at in the original Rocky.

The golden glove necklace featured so prominently in the film was first seen in Rocky II, where it was 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 makes its third 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 (from left to right) Floyd Patterson, James J. Corbett, George Foreman, and James J. Braddock.

Pro wrestling legend Terry Funk helped choreograph much of the street fight between Rocky and Tommy Gunn. Funk's name appears in the end credits of the film.

In the original script, Rocky is killed during the final fight with Tommy, dying in Adrian's arms in the street.[3] Through most of the filming and production, this was to be the outcome; it was not until the film was nearing completion that Stallone decided against Rocky's death, and switched to the film's eventual 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.[4] 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.[5]

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" (possibly to avoid confusion with the George Washington Duke character). Rocky V is the third time in the series to do so, with the first being Rocky II as Apollo asked "What are you afraid of, Tony?", and the second time during Rocky IV after receiving a pep talk in the former Soviet Union, "Thanks Tony.".[6] Rocky Balboa names Burton's character, "Duke Evers". Most fans take this to imply that his name is Tony "Duke" Evers.

Sage Stallone, Sylvester's real-life son, portrays his character's son in the film. However, in Rocky IV, he was portrayed as a nine-year-old child whereas Sage was 14 at the time of filming, making him a teenager in this film despite Rocky V taking place just days after the events of Rocky IV.



The soundtrack album is not the 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 album contains rap music, rather than the Bill Conti score. Also, two of the scores from Rocky IV were featured in this film's trailer, but were not present in the actual film or soundtrack. "Measure of a Man" was written by Alan Menken, Elton John, Tim Rice and performed by John.

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 movie after Rocky defeats Tommy, another instrumental version is heard. In addition, a solo piano version is heard during several scenes including where Balboa speaks with his son upon his return from Russia, and during the scenes where his property is being auctioned.


Box office

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 US$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.

Critical reception

Rocky V has a 29% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 35 reviews, with the site's consensus states, "Rocky V's attempts to recapture the original's working-class grit are as transparently phony as each of the thuddingly obvious plot developments in a misguided installment that sent the franchise flailing into longterm limbo."[8] It also has a score of 55 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 16 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". 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. Furthermore, when TV and cable networks played a film marathon of the Rocky series, they frequently left this installment off. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[9]

In 1999, Time placed the film on a list of the 100 worst ideas of the 20th century.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]


It was nominated for seven Golden Raspberry Awards in 1990 including Worst Picture, Worst Actor and Worst Screenplay for Stallone, Worst Actress for Shire, Worst Supporting Actor for Young, Worst Director for Avildsen and Worst Original Song for "The Measure of a Man".

Other media


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), sixteen years later, Stallone wrote, directed and starred in the film Rocky Balboa, the sixth 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.[5]

Video games

In 2002 was released Rocky, based on the first five Rocky films.


  1. "Rocky V". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  2. Berger, Phil (November 15, 1989). "Film Flam for 'Rocky'". The New York Times. Retrieved August 12, 2010.
  3. Hasted, Nick (December 5, 1997). "He could have been a contender". Independent. London. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
  4. "Round One With Sylvester Stallone Q&A!!". Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  5. Moriaty (December 1, 2006). "Round One With Sylvester Stallone Q&A!!". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved June 15, 2009.
  6. Rocky IV
  7. Broeske, Pat H. (November 20, 1990). "'Home' KOs 'Rocky V' at Box Office". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
  8. "Rocky V". Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  9. "CinemaScore".
  10. August, Melissa; Barovick, Harriet; Derrow, Michelle; Gray, Tam; Levy, Daniel S.; Lofaro, Lina; Spitz, David; Stein, Joel; Taylor, Chris (June 14, 1999). "The 100 Worst Ideas Of The Century". Time. Retrieved April 8, 2018.(subscription required)
  11. Rollings, Grant. "Sylvester Stallone gives his most candid interview ever". The Sun. London. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
  12. Wilmington, Michael (November 16, 1990). "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". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
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