Rocky III (1982): 60% Rotten Tomatoes (74% fan rating): Rocky 3 takes place in 1982 and features who I like to call the “Silver Age Rocky Balboa”. This version is the iconic superhero most kids from Generation X were brought up with and expected to see- an invincible boxer capable of overcoming any odds and absorbing any amount of damage. The Golden Age Rocky Balboa’s past was kinda glossed over: the loan shark Tony is gone, the male singers in Rocky’s neighborhood are no longer there, Adrian’s pet store is no longer necessary, Rocky is a dad, he dresses better and cleaned up his face, and Rocky’s speech patterns greatly improved. Finally, if Rocky 1 and Rocky 2 had any shred of realism or allowed you to suspend your disbelief, Rocky 3 and the next two sequels have 0% realism.
In other words, Rocky is a class A superstar celebrity in the movie (and in real life). It’s the same vibe I felt years later watching Spider-Man 3 (the kids in SM3 loved him and bought his merchandise within the actual movie, which reflected real life). Rocky is filthy rich and worshiped in Rocky 3, so it makes sense that he “forgets” his roots and poverty.
Once again Adrian coaxes Rocky into retiring, but new up-and-coming challenger Clubber Lang (Mr. T) viciously goads Rocky into fighting him. Mickey is sick now, and reveals that he had hand-picked Rocky’s previous (around 10) opponents for Rocky to defend his belt against to protect him because Rocky is not a good fighter. Rocky flips out, and decides to fight Clubber Lang for his “last match”.
Clubber is the best villain so far in the Rocky Saga- aggressive, hungry, angry, persecuted, loner, underdog, super-powerful, and very, very mean and bad. He pushes Mickey before the fight in the back, which resulted in Rocky going to the ring alone and Mickey having a heart attack in the back, while Adrian is with him.
Clubber Lang destroys Rocky in 2 rounds for a clean victory to become the NEW WORLD CHAMPION.
Rocky rushes to the back and lies to Micky about winning the fight (to make him feeling happy) before Mickey dies.
Rocky’s life has fallen apart.
Apollo Creed and Duke convince Rocky to get revenge and they train him. (Clubber Lang had insulted “the old man” Creed in the ring when Apollo went to shake his hand to wish him luck to beat Rocky.) Apollo managed to retrain Rocky and help him find his Eye of the Tiger. Apollo and Rocky become close friends and brothers (Apollo gives Rocky his classic red, white, and blue shorts, which also establishes Rocky as an America action hero, not just a Philadelphia favorite). Rocky does the impossible and beats Clubber Lang in dramatic fashion via KO to regain the World Championship.
Featuring the new theme song of “Eye of the Tiger”, and the national debuts of Mr. T and Hulk Hogan*, with some comedy injected into the mix- but with the first death of the series, Rocky 3 is a fan favorite movie, kids loved it, and was a huge financial success.
* Hogan’s fight scene with Rocky is truly spectacular, and it’s no wonder Hogan became WWF Champ shortly after this.