“I came here tonight… and I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve seen a lot of people hating me… and I didn’t know… what to feel about that, so… I guess I didn’t like you much either. During this fight… I seen a lot of changing: the way you felt about me… and the way I felt about you. In here… there were two guys… killing each other. But I guess that’s better than million. What I’m trying to say is… if I can change… and you can change… everybody can change! I just want to say one thing to my kid… who should be home sleeping. Merry Christmas, kid! I love you!” – Rocky Balboa – Rocky IV
The thought of any Rocky movie especially Rocky IV brings the immediate thought of one of the ultimate guy films. Great soundtrack, hard hitting, emotional story and a great us vs. them theme. Recently, I had an opportunity for about the fifteenth time to watch the film once again bringing back memories of watching the movie with my brother at the AMC Theaters and thinking wow, that was awesome. Twenty-six years later, it is still just awesome. But on this occasion, I really started to look deeper into the underlying theme of the film and the importance it had from a political and economic standpoint. With the Hollywood prestige Sylvester Stallone received with the writing and direction behind the original Rocky release, he was able to leverage that in a way to make bold statements while still entertaining fans around the world.
You do not have to be an analyst to see that in the midst of the Cold War, a film about a Russian boxer and American boxer was much deeper than a revenge bout in the middle of Moscow. This was a statement of peace. It may have come across as a little campy and maybe even a little over the top with a full Broadway production of “Living in America” by James Brown and a montage of Rocky’s past while he floors 100 plus miles per hour in his Ferrari, but the key theme remained intact.
Russia and the United States were the two most powerful nations in the world. With the fire power in nuclear armaments to destroy mankind, we stood on the brink for over a decade utilizing political and military strategy to avoid World War. To a lesser degree in an ABC Afterschool Special kind of way Amazing Grace and Chuck and The Day After both made very bold filming statement protesting nuclear armaments.
This was a time, before the age of instantaneous communications when statements were well structured and celebrities had tremendous influence in shaping sentiment. Stallone had already tackled the integration barrier by solidifying a life long friend cut short with Apollo Creed and now he had an opportunity to expand his influence on a global scale and did he succeed.
Making over $300 Million worldwide, it is ranked as the #1 Boxing film and #2 Sports drama film of all time according to box office figures (Box Office Actuals)
The fight could have been enough. The ultimate David vs. Goliath showdown in enemy territory surrounded by hostiles. In the end, not only did Rocky come out victorious by changed the enemy to a friend. With the Russian down, Rocky in the air and a crowd chanting his name in unison, it was the perfect ending but alas the speech. With just enough energy to muster a few last words, Rocky gave one of the greatest sports speeches short of Gary Coopers’s Lou Gehrig in Pride of the Yankees. We can all change and we can look within ourselves and find peace.
Today, Hollywood and television have taken more risks to exposure political, economic and military unrest and movements are now a part of our every day lives. Today in Moscow, hundreds of thousands are protesting in 10 degree weather to avoid the re-election of Vladamir Putin. Power in numbers is power indeed. Not to say that Rocky IV was a pioneer film that utilizes the popularity of Hollywood to bring awareness to a cause, but it was a defining piece of cinema for a generation.
If it has been a while since you have witnessed Rocky IV, take some time and watch it again with someone you love.
2 thoughts on “Rocky IV – A Defining film of the Cold War Era”
I’ve just re-watched this film. I went to see this when it came out in the cinema too. It is as ridiculous now as it was then! I’m from the UK, so not quite geo-politically neutral, the US being seen as our ally..
This film is a most up-front and unashamedly propaganda film, the 1980s was full of them. Yet the US nationalism of the Apollo fight is mirrored when Rocky fights in Moscow, I felt that I wasn’t supposed to notice this but perhaps be swept up in the US nationalism, which I wouldn’t be.
What is interesting is beneath that there is non-propaganda undertone, a warm heart as in the first three films. Rocky and his friends and family and seen as emotional, flawed but ultimately good people capable of change. Then the ordinary Russians when Rocky is training and those at the fight, also show heart and cheer for the class hero once he is seen to have a chance of winning, rather than the product of state nationalism.
This strikes me as odd, an undertone of people being more powerful than the elites of powerful nations runs against the propaganda message of the US system is better than the Soviet system. Rocky himself never makes cheap jibes about the Soviets, so I sensed that he wasn’t fighting the Soviet Union but rather the product of a privileged elite, as a true working class hero should.
This is at the end of the day a fantasy boxing film. Boxing is all about the opportunity for those with little social opportunity to achieve wealth and happiness. I suppose with Rocky having achieved that there are new enemies to fight against.