• Both the Rocky and Rambo franchises suffered from the same problem – they became more artificial and focused on flashy violence rather than character development.
  • The original Rocky movie showcased a working-class underdog, but the sequels prioritized Rocky’s rivalries with A-list opponents over his own internal struggles.
  • Only the Rocky franchise managed to recover, with the first legacy sequel and the Creed movies returning to the grounded, character-driven roots, while Rambo remained a blood-soaked action franchise without significant character development.

The two biggest movie franchises of Sylvester Stallone’s career, Rocky and Rambo, were both ruined by the exact same problem. Stallone kickstarted his own movie star career with his Oscar-nominated script for Rocky, the story of underdog boxer Rocky Balboa rising up to take on the champ. After Rocky launched a blockbuster franchise, Stallone was dissatisfied with starring in just one and created a whole new franchise surrounding his First Blood character, grizzled Vietnam War veteran John Rambo. Both franchises have lasted for decades, and they were both ruined by the same problem.

The original Rocky movie captures the working-class grit of its title character as he scrapes by as a loan shark enforcer and trains by punching meat in a meat locker. But as Rocky became more famous, the movies became flashier and more artificial. The Rambo series similarly started off with an intimate character study – First Blood touched on the unfair treatment of veterans who returned from Vietnam – but its sequels glorified the violence that their predecessor deconstructed. Both franchises essentially suffer from the same problem.

RELATED: Every Sylvester Stallone Movie Franchise Ranked From Worst to Best

Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky & Rambo Franchises Were Ruined By The Same Problem

Rambo using a machine gun in Rambo 2008

Both Rocky and Rambo started out as character-based stories that were more about a man’s struggle than action, but they both became more cartoonish and overblown in their sequels, relying more on cheaper thrills than character work. The timeless original Rocky movie is all about Rocky’s Herculean effort to hold his own in the ring against the heavyweight champion. But the sequels brought in a procession of A-list opponents, from Mr. T to Dolph Lundgren, and cared more about Rocky’s rivalry with the villain than his own internal battles. Rocky was turned into the kind of squeaky-clean Hollywood hero he initially subverted.

The same thing happened with Rambo throughout his adventures. Rambo started off as a traumatized war veteran who didn’t want to take any more lives. In First Blood, one person dies, and they’re not killed by Rambo; they’re killed by their own recklessness as they attempt to kill him. But in the fourth film, simply titled Rambo, Rambo kills so many people that it set a new record for a movie’s body count. The final installment, Rambo: Last Blood, purported to bring the character back to his roots, but it was just another blood-soaked actioner.

Only 1 Sylvester Stallone Movie Franchise Has Been Fixed

Rocky in the ring in Rocky Balboa

Out of the Rocky and Rambo franchises, only one of them managed to recover from the slump they found themselves in. Sylvester Stallone salvaged the Rocky series with its first legacy sequel, Rocky Balboa, which took the character back to his grounded, gritty roots. Rocky Balboa is more interested in the emotions of an aging champion taking on a young buck than the flash and flair of the boxing matches themselves. The Rocky franchise was further saved by the beautifully crafted Creed movies. The Rambo franchise never recovered and remained a high-octane action franchise where character is secondary to bloodshed.

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