Rocky IV is a 1985 American film written by, directed by, and starring Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Burt Young, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Tony Burton, Brigitte Nielsen, and Michael Pataki. It is the fourth installment and most financially successful entry in the Rocky franchise.
In the film, Rocky Balboa has retired after regaining his title from Clubber Lang and is living a more quiet life with his family. However the Soviet Union and their top boxer make an entrance into professional boxing with their best athlete Ivan Drago with the challenge to fight Balboa. His best friend Apollo Creed decides to fight him instead, but is killed in the ring. Enraged by this, Rocky decides to fight Drago in Russia to avenge his friend and defend the honor of his country.
Critical reception was mixed, but the film earned $300 million at the box office, making it the most successful entry in the Rocky series. This film marked Carl Weathers' final appearance in the series. The film's success led to a fourth sequel in 1990.
In 1985, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), a highly intimidating 6-foot 5, 261-pound Soviet boxer, arrives in the United States with his wife Ludmilla (Brigitte Nielsen), and a team of trainers from the USSR and Cuba. His manager, Nicolai Koloff (Michael Pataki), takes every opportunity to promote Drago's athleticism as a hallmark of Soviet superiority. Motivated by patriotism and an innate desire to prove himself, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) challenges Drago to an exhibition bout. Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) has reservations, but agrees to train Apollo.
The exhibition takes place at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Apollo enters the ring, wearing his old Uncle Sam outfit, in an over-the-top patriotic entrance with James Brown performing "Living in America". The bout starts tamely with Apollo landing several punches that have no effect on the Russian. It soon turns serious though, as Drago beats Apollo mercilessly. Apollo is in dire straits and taking the worst beating of his life as the first round ends. Rocky and Apollo's trainer Duke (Tony Burton) plead with him to give up, but Apollo refuses to do so, and tells Rocky not to stop the fight. The second round doesn't go any better, and despite Duke begging Rocky to throw in the towel, he honors Apollo's wish. This turns out to have fatal consequences as Drago beats Apollo so badly that he drops dead in the ring. In the immediate aftermath, Drago displays no sense of remorse commenting to the assembled media: "If he dies... he dies."
Incensed by Drago's cold indifference and feeling a deep sense of guilt, Rocky decides to avenge Apollo's death by agreeing to relinquish his title and fight Drago in Russia on Christmas Day in an unsanctioned 15-round bout. He flies to the USSR without Adrian, setting up his training base in Krasnogourbinsk with only Duke and brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young) to accompany him. To prepare for the fight, Drago uses very high-tech equipment with use of PEDs and a team of trainers and doctors monitoring his every fiber. Rocky, on the other hand, throws heavy logs, chops down trees, pulls an overloaded snow sleigh, jogs in heavy snow and treacherous icy conditions and climbs a mountain. Adrian (Talia Shire) shows up unexpectedly to give Rocky her support after initially refusing to travel to Russia because of her doubts on his fighting chances, resulting in Rocky's training having an added focus.
Drago is introduced with an elaborate, patriotic ceremony that puts the Russian crowd squarely on Drago's side, as Rocky is booed by all in attendance. In contrast to his fight with Apollo, Drago immediately goes on the offensive and Rocky takes a fierce pounding. Rocky comes back toward the end of the second and silences the Russian crowd by landing a strong right hook that cuts Drago just below his left eye. While Drago is visibly shaken, Rocky is fired up and assaults Drago, which continues even after the bell rings. While Duke and Paulie cheer Rocky for his heroism, they remind him that Drago is not a machine, but a man. Ironically, Drago comments that Rocky "is not human, he is like a piece of iron" with his own corner reprimanding him for being "weak" in comparison to the "small American."
The two boxers continue to hit each other over the next dozen rounds, with Rocky holding his ground despite Drago's powerful punches. His resilience rallies the previously hostile Soviet crowd to his side, which unsettles Drago to the point that he shoves Koloff off the ring for berating his performance. Rocky finally takes out Drago in the 15th and last round, winning by knockout to the shock of the Soviet Politburo members watching the fight. A bloody and battered Rocky gives a victory speech, acknowledging the mutual disdain at first between himself and the crowd. He says it is like the wider disdain between Russians and Americans, but that he and the crowd have come to respect and admire each other during the course of the fight. Rocky adds that the crowd has seen "two guys killin' each other, but I guess that's better than 20 million" who might die if the Cold War turned hot. Rocky finally declares, "If I can change, and you can change, then everybody can change!" The Soviet General Secretary stands and passionately applauds Rocky, and his aides follow suit. Rocky ends his speech by wishing his son a Merry Christmas, and throws his arms into the air in victory as the crowd applauds.
- Sylvester Stallone - Rocky Balboa
- Dolph Lundgren - Captain Ivan Drago
- Burt Young - Paulie Pennino
- Talia Shire - Adrian Balboa
- Carl Weathers - Apollo Creed
- Brigitte Nielsen - Ludmilla Vobet Drago
- Tony Burton - Tony "Duke" Evers
- Michael Pataki - Nicoli Koloff
- George Rogan - Sergei Igor Rimsky
- James "Canonball" Green - Manuel Vega
- Stu Nahan - Commentator #1 (Creed-Drago)
- Warner Wolf - Commentator #2 (Creed-Drago)
- R.J. Adams - Sports Announcer
- Barry Tompkins - American Commentator #1 (Rocky-Drago)
- Al Bandiero - American Commentator #2 (Rocky-Drago)
- James Brown - Himself
- Burgess Meredith - Mickey Goldmill (Archive Footage, uncredited)