The Italian Stallion is undeniably a cultural icon, but Rocky Balboa is also the best movie hero ever written. First appearing in 1976’s Rocky, the eponymous boxer went on to redefine the sports drama genre. Written by Stallone and based loosely on real-life boxers Joe Frazier, Chuck Wepner, and Rocky Marciano, Rocky achieved instant success.

The Rocky franchise continues to this day. Though Rocky himself was absent from Creed III, his legacy is very much intact. The character thoroughly shaped the franchise, cementing that both his films and the entire sport of boxing will be forever marked by his presence.

Out of the countless beloved protagonists introduced over cinema’s long history, Rocky Balboa is arguably its best. Though he lacks some of the traits that more typical heroes possess, he’s still one of the film industry’s greatest offspring. Over the years, the Rocky franchise has proven that Balboa deserves the legendary status bestowed upon him.

Rocky Balboa Is A Hero Despite Having No Tangible Skills

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV

What makes Rocky Balboa so great, then? Well, he’s the perfect cinematic paradox. He’s an everyman who is capable of achieving truly extraordinary things, and that’s where the franchise’s success began. As a down-on-his-luck and none-too-bright loan shark, Rocky is fallible. He’s a small-time crook with a heart of gold, and he’s chasing a dream. He’s nice, but he’s still made some poor decisions, and that makes him instantly relatable. Everyone can see something of themselves in Balboa, and that’s key.

Though we can all associate with Rocky Balboa as a character, that’s only half of his secret to success. The other half stems from his ability to overcome any obstacle through sheer force of will. He’s not a great boxer – hell, he’s hardly even a good boxer – but he’s a contender on heart alone. This is less relatable, but it’s something we can all aspire to. Now he’s both relatable and inspirational, making Rocky Balboa the ideal hero.

These ingredients spelled massive success for the Rocky movies. As the years went on, the sequels began to deal with Rocky aging and feeling his glory days slipping away, which again, only further speaks to both his relatability and his ability to inspire. In all of this and more, Rocky Balboa has been an eternally uplifting presence in modern cinema, and that’s what makes him the perfect hero.