Back in 2017, when I first started doing The James Proclaims Advent Calendar Of Christmas(ish) Films I included Rocky IV in the line-up. Because it is a bit Christmassy, albeit one of the weaker entries in the Rocky franchise. It is something of an oversight then, that I managed not to include the original 1976 movie (which is a significantly better film) until now, even though it too has some quite compelling Christmas credentials (more of which later).
I enjoy all of the Rocky movies, even the bad ones, but I do have a special place in my heart for the original. If your first experience of the Rocky franchise is one of the later movies, then the tone and pace of the first entry may be surprising. It’s a pretty low-key affair for the most part, following the down-on-his-luck eponymous boxer as he trains for an improbable shot at the world heavy-weight title. The boxing when it happens is pretty spectacular, but most of the movie actually centres on the awkward but fairly charming romance between Rocky and Adrian and the dysfunctional dynamic between the pair and Adrian’s brother Paulie.
The plot is largely predictable, but it’s executed extremely well and Stallone, who not only stars but also wrote the screenplay, demonstrates an aptitude for performing and writing that is sadly so often lacking in much of his output (though I imagine his bank balance is none the worse for it all).
There are other worthy entries in the ensuing franchise, alongside the dross, but the first movie is quite special.
Score for Christmasishness
Rocky IV made it into the first ever list because the finale is set (rather inexplicably) on Christmas Day. However, I actually think that Rocky is the more Christmassy movie. The finale takes place on New Year’s Day, which would be enough to make the cut in and of itself, but the opening scenes take place around Thanksgiving, which means the timeline of the movie covers the entire Christmas period. There are Christmas decorations visible in a lot of background shots and there is quite a pivotal scene which takes place on Christmas Day. So I’m more than convinced that Rocky deserves to be considered as quite Christmas(ish).