American Exceptionalism and Nationalism in Rocky Iv

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More and more modern films resort to geopolitical tricks to diversify the movie and increase the audience. This trend was maintained even back in the early 90s. So, the movie ‘Rocky IV’ released in 1985 from the Rocky series directed by Sylvester Stallone used parallel between the box and Cold War to somehow rescue the Rocky franchise. Although the movie Rocky IV appears to end the Cold War in the movie, it attaches great importance at making a comparison between two nations in a detailed way by highlighting the ideology of American exceptionalism, but it can be an only geopolitical trick to increase box office. By comparing two main characters Rocky and Drago who symbolize their countries and by analyzing some scenes and speech of minor characters the degree of propaganda of American’s ideologies can be verified.

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Throughout the film, American and Soviet ideologies were shown based on the two main characters where Rocky “looked better”. Starting with the main characters of the film Rocky and Drago who symbolize their countries, can be seen clearly set opposite between them. Rocky is characterized as a free man with the individual will of a fighter and the desire to help his comrades while Drago is a machine created by Soviet scientists and government for the sole purpose of defeating America’s best boxer. From here, the directors show limited democracy and the imposition of goals in the USSR. The great example is that in one of the Drago’s famous line before the last battle, he says “I must break you”, not will or want to break you (Ciecka, 2015). During the whole movie, Drago is shown as a caged animal whereas Rocky is fully opposite. In the training, Drago is controlled by scientists and representatives of government and uses all possible means such as steroids and technologies to reach goal imposed on him. Moreover, in the press conferences, all decisions and speeches are made disregarding him. Drago shows the reality of a country with a communist ideology where all decisions are made without the participation of the people. Rocky being in another country and being an outsider puts himself against the terrible weather, but he is still American and free to make decisions. This uncovers the American enthusiasm and assurance to accomplish achievement and point high. Comparing two boxers clearly shows the superiority of America formed on concepts of democracy and individual liberty over communist and anti-democratic USSR.

Secondary actors and decisions taken in some scenes also showed the superiority of the political ideology of America over USSR. The best friend of Rocky Apollo can be taken as a great example of American liberalism. During the fight between Apollo and Drago, the first one is on the verge of death where Rocky could save him by throwing a towel into the ring, but Apollo makes decisions to fight to the end and stops Rocky from doing so (Chartoff, Winkler, & Stallone, 1985,0:31:28 ). It represents respect for the rights and choices of each person as the highest value in American society. Also, in the press conference before this fight, Rocky’s brother-in-law Paulie says: “Hey, we don’t keep our people behind a wall with machine guns” by defining USSR as a violent and anti-democratic country (Chartoff, Winkler, & Stallone, 1985, 0:37:03). As the film comes to a logical conclusion, during the fight angry and losing Drago overcomes a collectivist ideology as he spurns the disappointed and dissatisfied government’s spokesman and embraces “American” individualism by hollering: 'I fight to win! For me! For me!' (Lopes & Brock, 2015). Additionally, the communist ideology of the USSR becomes an object of bullying as Drago fans begin to support Rocky, shouting his name out loudly (Chartoff, Winkler, & Stallone, 1985, 1:20:35). This, in turn, is the fall of Soviet ideology and adopting more superior capitalist ideologies after (Essays, 2018). Endless whoops ‘Rocky!’ essentially declare America as the single superpower. This moment in conjunction with the rest clearly shows the defeat of Soviet’s ideologies against the USA in the movie.

From a different perspective, the idea of the triumph of American political ideologies can be used as a method to increase box office. If initially moviemaking was mostly concentrated on telling the viewer a certain event or story often in a dramatic way, lately it turned into a way to make money as Rocky IV did. According to IMDB (n.d.), the worldwide box office of the Rocky IV crossed the mark of 300 million dollars. The success of the film cannot be associated with an excellent script or acting game because it was nominated for 9 categories in the film award Golden Raspberry handed to the worst films and was awarded five of them (“Golden Raspberry”, n.d.). Therefore, Sylvester Stallone just resorted to geopolitics which was very relevant in those years because after decades of tension between superpowers conflict was a turning point. According to Essays UK (2018), “The movie inspires nationalistic feelings among the American citizens and glorifies the ideology of the nation to the best effect” thereby just motivating them to go to the cinema. Finally, he just took advantage of the current topic in society and mixed it with American exceptionalism to save the franchise and arouse the interest to his film. However, such a detailed comparison and the ultimate victory of American ideology outweighs the idea of including geopolitics to increase the box office. The significant amount of geopolitics in the movie may change the perceptions of the audience. In a swing situation in 80th, where the main rival in the way of American supremacy Soviet Union was rolling into the economic and political abyss, the successful propaganda of American exceptionalism would put a fat point (Lemza, 2014). Thus, the main goal of the movie was to promote American exceptionalism over the world.

Now, the integration of geopolitical themes into contemporary films can be seen effortlessly without any in-depth analysis. However, by analyzing the main characters or key scenes of the film as an example of ‘Rocky IV’ movie propaganda purposes can be found. ‘Rocky IV’ is a film filled with the propaganda of American exceptionalism based on a comparison of the two superpowers at the time where the Soviet regime falls before the ideologies of America. Use of American exceptionalism as a geopolitical trick in the movie for multiplying the earnings is denied due to thoroughly detailed distribution of it. The motion picture effects on nationalistic emotions of the Americans and proclaims the American ideology of freedom and democracy above all others. Rocky 4 is a great movie that has fully exploited geopolitics and has become a cult.

Works cited

  1. Ciecka, M. (2015). Rocky IV (1985). In Cold War Film Genres (pp. 157-169). Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
  2. Chartoff, R., Winkler, I., & Stallone, S. (Producers), & Stallone, S. (Director). (1985). Rocky IV [Motion Picture]. United States: MGM/UA Entertainment Company.
  3. Lopes, P. D., & Brock, S. (2015). Geopolitics and film: Mapping the intersection of popular geopolitics and film. In Geopolitics and the Media: (Re) Constructing the Crises in Europe (pp. 155-176). Springer, Cham.
  4. Essays, UK. (2018). Propaganda, Popular Culture, and the Cold War. Retrieved from
  5. IMDB. (n.d.). Rocky IV. Retrieved from
  6. Geiger, J. (2019). The Politics of American Exceptionalism in Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky IV. Journal of Popular Film and Television, 47(2), 95-104.
  7. McDonald, P. J. (2018). The Cold War on Film: Propaganda, Popular Culture, and Geopolitics. Springer, Cham.
  8. Jørgensen, J. D., & Stougaard-Nielsen, J. (2018). Cultural Imaginaries of the Geopolitical: Danish and European Narratives in the Making of the Arctic. Nordic Journal of Cultural Policy, 20(2), 136-152.
  9. Lu, Y., & Wei, W. (2017). From propaganda to cultural diplomacy: A comparative study of American and Chinese film policy. Public Relations Review, 43(1), 237-246.
  10. Šmíd, M. (2019). Geopolitics in Czech Popular Culture. In The Routledge Handbook of Geopolitics and the Humanities (pp. 169-181). Routledge.

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