Sylvester Stallone Reveals Rocky Was Going To Die In One Of The Earliest Movies

Sylvester Stallone wanted Rocky Balboa to die at the end of Rocky III after defeating Mr. T's Clubber Lang.

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

sylvester stallone rocky

For better or for worse, the successful Sylvester Stallone movie Rocky has become a successful franchise that continues to this day with the successful Creed series of films. However, that franchise very nearly died decades ago along with Stallone’s character. According to Slash Film, the Tulsa King actor (who is now executive producing a new boxing movie, Giant) revealed that he wanted the third film to “end with more than a fight” and considered having Rocky keel over and die in a cab ride home after his success in the ring.

Why, though, would Sylvester Stallone ever want to kill off a character as famous and successful as Rocky Balboa? The short answer is that Stallone originally thought that fans of the character and franchise wouldn’t want to see the boxer growing older and getting well past his prime. Ironically, though, that became a fan-favorite feature of the punch-heavy pugilist: the fact he is willing to take on the odds and prove himself against tougher and tougher foes well past the point that he should have retired.

When Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky finally did hang up his gloves, he took the story full circle by becoming a trainer and mentor to young boxer Adonis Creed. Rocky took on Apollo Creed in the first two movies, and the iconic foe made returns to the franchise in the next two films. Now that Apollo’s son is an ambitious and talented boxer of his own, it’s fun to see Rocky effectively complete his journey by helping the next generation make their mark.

sylvester stallone rocky
Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa battling Mr. T’s Clubber Lang in Rocky III (1982)

On paper, we can understand the basic concept of Sylvester Stallone wanting to kill Rocky off in his prime. It offers a way for the character to go out on top and (for better or for worse) ensure that the actor won’t be tethered to the character for countless future films. Harrison Ford wanted to do the same thing by having his legendary Han Solo character die in the original trilogy of Star Wars films, and he seemed far less enthusiastic about returning to the franchise decades later than Stallone has been.

However, there is a key difference in how these two actors wanted to kill off their famous characters. While Ford begged George Lucas frequently to kill off Solo, it was always assumed it would be during a big moment, and when The Force Awakens rolled around, that’s what happened: Han Solo died in a failed attempt to redeem his son Kylo Ren. By contrast, Sylvester Stallone wanted to give Rocky an ignominious death in the back of a cab, and we’re pretty sure that Balboa’s biggest fans would have absolutely hated such an ending.

Of course, we’re willing to bet that nobody is happier that Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky lived past that third movie than Stallone himself. The franchise helped turn Stallone into a Hollywood legend, and Rocky is arguably a character that has resonated with audiences even more than his other characters such as John Rambo. Unfortunately, he does not return as this character in Creed III, meaning that we’ll probably never see Rocky get a seventh movie where he gets a rematch with his greatest foe: that weird robot from Rocky IV.