Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago, 'Rocky IV' (1985)
Meet Soviet boxer Ivan Drago — a 6'5" tall, impenetrable 261 pounds of mirthless, steroidal, state-manufactured muscle. Put him toe-to-toe with respectablly 5'10" Rocky Balboa, and the American champ looks like the Russkie's pesky kid brother. With its Best Picture Oscar tucked away on some distant mantelpiece, the Rocky series had, by this point, reached new heights of absurdity — so writer-director-star Stallone just takes it all the way by having the Italian Stallion fight the Cold War and win. (Amazingly, Balboa's can-do spirit proves so infectious that even the Soviet crowd turns in his favor.) Our hero absorbs headshot after headshot until he finally, decisively breaks through Drago's defenses and exposes him for the weak, mouth-bleeding Communist he is. The Berlin Wall would fall a few years later. Not a coincidence.
Pretend boxing skills: Stallone doesn't stray from the boxing technique that got him through the series: Gloves down, body open, leaning into punches. By contrast, Swedish actor/martial artist/future Expendable Dolph Lundgren was in his physical prime, every bit the specimen of human perfection that the Drago role required. The disparity is comical. 8
Style: The movie montages its way through the bout, with the Eighties guitar cheese of Vince DiCola's original score replacing the comparatively austere horns of Bill Conti's famous Rocky theme. What makes the fight so effective is that Drago knocks Rocky around like a ragdoll and the American keeps coming back for more. U-S-A! U-S-A! 6
Stakes: "Two worlds collide, rival nations/ It's a primitive clash, venting years of frustrations/ Bravely we hope against all hope/ There is so much at stake/ Seems our freedom's up against the ropes." You said it, Survivor. 9
Overall rating: 7