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20 Sylvester Stallone Movies Ranked Worst To Best

Sylvester Stallone's legend is one of the most famous in movie history. A struggling actor forced to sell his dog for $40, Stallone wrote a part for himself just to get work, a role about another underdog, Rocky Balboa. Originally, producers wanted someone more famous for the part, but Stallone refused to sell, costing himself thousands when he badly needed it. It was a wise investment, as his own rags-to-riches story powered "Rocky" to become the highest-grossing film of 1976 and an Academy Award for Best Picture. It also made Stallone a star. 

But as much as he's associated with Rocky Balboa, Stallone's career has gone far beyond the Italian Stallion. It includes some of the most iconic characters in cinema and some of the worst movies, well, ever. Using Rotten Tomatoes are our guide (and going rogue when we feel like it), we're going to take a look back at Sylvester Stallone's big-screen career. Which Stallone movies are world champs, and which failed to go the distance? Be Sly, and plan your next Stallone movie marathon — here are 20 Sylvester Stallone movies ranked worst to best!

20. Reach Me

We know what you're thinking — "'Reach Me' ... what?" Yeah, this movie didn't exactly light the box office on fire during its limited release in 2014, nor has it found an audience on streaming, so we can't blame you if you've never heard of it. That's probably for the best. There are Oscar bait movies, and then there are Oscar chum movies. Oscar chum movies are wannabe message films that are made out of the cinematic scraps of better movies and want to be taken seriously very, very badly. But instead, they're just really, really terrible. We're talking movies like "Collateral Beauty," "Crossing Over," or, well, "Reach Me." 

"Reach Me" is one of those "everything is connected" ensemble dramas, like "Crash" and "Grand Canyon" on one end and "Amores Perros" and "Babel" on the other. Tom Berenger plays a writer whose self-help book inspires multiple different people to reevaluate their lives, so given that cheesy Lifetime Original premise, we're already annoyed. Sylvester Stallone plays against type as a toxic gossip columnist modeled on Matt Drudge, so points for originality we guess, but otherwise, "Reach Me" is just a muddled, mawkish mess. With a 4% critic's score and a 48% audience score, "Reach Me" earns the dubious distinction of being Sylvester Stallone's worst movie.

19. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot

We all have moments in our life we're not proud of. For Sylvester Stallone, that moment is a 1992 "comedy" titled "Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot." In the film, Stallone plays a gruff, macho cop who, as the title implies, gets unexpected and unwanted assistance from his elderly mom on a case involving multiple brutal murders. Because that's a thing that happens. 

The titular mom is played by Estelle Getty, so perhaps the idea of pairing the wisecracking matriarch from "The Golden Girls" with John Rambo himself seemed like a can't miss proposition, especially after Arnold Schwarzenegger had success playing against type in the 1988 comedy "Twins."  In fact, Stallone playfully said in an Instagram Q&A (reported by MovieHole) that Schwarzenegger tricked him into doing the part by making him think he was interested in it. However, the Austrian star wasn't, though Stallone actually said "Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot" is the movie he'd most like to remake. Go figure.

"Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot" (even the title makes us cringe) earned an absolutely dreadful 7% critics' score on Rotten Tomatoes and a slightly better but still very, very bad audience score of 21%. "Stop!" also bombed, bad, with $26.6 million, sending Stallone right back to the warm embrace of straight-up action flicks like "Cliffhanger" and "Demolition Man." Too bad, because he's a talented actor and would've done well in any other action-comedy that wasn't "Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot."

18. The Specialist

By the mid-to-late 1990s, moviegoers were starting to get over Sylvester Stallone's one-man-army schtick, though in 1993-1994 he did have an impressive run of hits — "Cliffhanger," "Demolition Man," and "The Specialist." If Stallone thought he was unstoppable, it turned out to be his last hurrah. While the star could still draw big money overseas, "The Specialist" was Stallone's last big domestic box office hit in a starring role besides movies in the "Rocky," "Rambo," and "Expendables" franchises.

"The Specialist" benefited big time from having Sharon Stone, fresh off box office hit "Basic Instinct," as Stallone's co-star/love interest, leading to a $170 million global take on a $45 million budget. With box office receipts like that, Warner Bros. didn't sweat the film's abysmal reviews — 7% from critics and 29% from audiences. Critics didn't mince words, either, calling "The Specialist" "excruciatingly dumb" and "a stinker in every way." Stallone and Stone laughed all the way to the bank, but there's no denying the result. "The Specialist" is one of the worst movies of either actor's career.

17. The Escape Plan series

Timing is everything. If an action movie starring Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger had been released anytime between 1985 and 2000, it would've made "Avengers"-level money. But instead of striking while the iron was hot, the two biggest action stars of the 1980s waited to release their first on-screen pairing (minus an Arnie cameo in "The Expendables") until 2013. The film, "Escape Plan," made $103 million worldwide on a $70 million budget, qualifying it for "box office bomb" status, but that's evidently still solid enough to justify sequels, albeit of the straight-to-DVD variety. Enter "Escape Plan 2: Hades." 

Stallone was back, but Schwarzenegger was out, this time replaced by Dave Bautista. Stallone once again plays Ray Breslin, who's forced to assemble a team to rescue his most trusted operative from the world's most elaborate prison. Sounds like a perfectly acceptable hour-and-a-half of mindless entertainment, but "Escape Plan 2" is mostly just mindless and not entertainment. The critics' score is 8%, and the audience score is 14% while the consensus is a simple, snarky "do not enter." While "Escape Plan 2" is officially one of Sly's worst, Stallone and Bautista still returned for 2019's "Escape Plan 3: Extraction," but critics were over it, as there's no critics' score, though the audience rating is a pathetic 8%. With numbers like that, it's time Stallone escaped from this franchise.

16. Backtrace

Sylvester Stallone was once one of the biggest movie stars in the world. That time was not this century. Since 2000, Stallone's greatest cinematic successes have come with "Rocky" and "Rambo" sequels, the "every action star ever" franchise "The Expendables," and as a value-adding supporting actor in movies like "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2." Meanwhile, he stays busy in movies like "Backtrace," though if he's looking for something to do, we suggest taking up golf or tennis as a hobby instead. 

In the movie, fellow '80s icon Matthew Modine plays an amnesia-stricken bank robber who escapes from prison and is now on the run from the law, including Detective Sylvester Stallone. It's an interesting premise wrapped inside a tidy 90-minute package, but sadly, as one critic put it, the movie feels like "the cinematic equivalent of a headache." Granted, "Backtrace" is the kind of movie that may have been a big hit in the 1990s. In 2018, however, it earned a 9% critics' score and a 25% audience score, making it one of Stallone's worst movies according to Rotten Tomatoes (and pretty much everyone who suffered through it).

15. Get Carter

One of Michael Caine's most iconic roles was as Jack Carter in "Get Carter." In the 1971 film, Caine played a cold-blooded London gangster who goes on a vengeance-seeking killing spree after his brother is murdered by the mob. So, why are we talking about Michael Caine in a Sylvester Stallone list? Because while "Get Carter" was one of Michael Caine's most famous roles, the remake 29 years later was one of Sylvester Stallone's worst. 

We're not sure what Stallone and Caine talked about on the set of 1981's "Escape to Victory," but we imagine Caine said (in a cockney accent), "Hey mate, you should remake my most famous role," and Stallone replied (in a Philly accent), "Hey yo, that's a good idea." It wasn't. While Caine's "Get Carter" pulled off a fresh 85% Tomatometer ranking, Stallone's remake in 2000 got an 11% critics' score and 28% audience score. It also tanked with $15 million at the domestic box office. Caine also had a supporting role in the remake, so maybe on the set the two actors asked each other, "What are we thinking?!" Honestly, we're not sure, either.

14. Avenging Angelo

Following the completely predictable failure of 2000's "Get Carter," Sylvester Stallone thought he'd follow that travesty with another revenge pic, "Avenging Angelo." Only this time, he ditched his "Get Carter" goatee and starred in a movie with clever alliteration. Maybe that would be the difference maker? Well, "Avenging Angelo" is a little better ... a 13% critics' score and 33% audience score. So there's that. However, "Avenging Angelo's" box office was considerably worse (which is really saying something), tanking with $824,597 solely from the international market, as apparently it only got a theatrical release in Italy. 

You may say, "Sure, but it was straight-to-video in the U.S., so of course it didn't have a great box office." Well, that's true, but that doesn't say much about movie studios' confidence in Stallone's star power at the turn of the millennium, does it? So what's "Avenging Angelo" about? Stallone plays a bodyguard named Frankie, whose mafia boss, the titular Angelo, gets whacked in a restaurant. Frankie then must protect Angelo's daughter, a socialite played by Madeleine Stowe, who never knew her father was the godfather, and now wants to ... avenge Angelo. Based on the premise alone, "Avenging Angelo" shouldn't have been as bad as it was. But movies are more than their premise, or in this case much, much less. The worst part? "Avenging Angelo" isn't even Stallone's worst!

13. Rhinestone

Sylvester Stallone's big-screen comedy career is a corpus of colossally unfunny disasters and duds. Atop his comedic oeuvre is 1984's "Rhinestone," but it's not his best comedy, just his least worst. And for that we can probably credit his co-star, the incomparable Dolly Parton. In "Rhinestone," Parton stretches out of her comfort zone to play a country singer. She's fed up with her manager, so she sets out to turn the next person she sees into a country crooner. That person is a New York cabbie who can't sing a lick, played by Stallone. Undaunted, Parton sets out to transform Stallone's cabbie into a star, and it'll take way more than working "9-to-5" (see what we did there?). 

Rocky and Dolly sounds like a can't miss proposition, especially with the "Pygmalion"/"My Fair Lady" premise, so we really can't blame 20th Century Fox for anticipating they had a hit on their hands. Ironically, that was part of the problem. "Rhinestone" is a movie that takes for granted that its premise is funny, so it never actually bothers to bring the laughs. Basically, the script was the pitch: "Stallone sings country songs. Isn't that hysterical? Right!?" It wasn't. "Rhinestone" also sang a sad tune on the Tomatometer, 14% from critics and 35% from crowds. In 1984, Stallone made "Rhinestone." In 1985, he made "Rambo: First Blood Part II" and "Rocky IV." The lesson was Stallone needed to do less singing and more shooting.

12. Driven

By the turn of the millennium, Stallone wasn't a butts-in-seats movie star outside his safety net "Rocky" and "Rambo" franchises. Rather than star in a movie that catered to where he was in his career, he made a movie straight out of the '80s. Stallone wrote the script for "Driven" and played a fallen Formula One racer who has to show a young up-and-comer what's what in the new world of high-tech racing. 

One of "Driven's" many problems is the classic case of being a "passing the torch" movie where the legend (Stallone) has more movie star presence in his left pinkie than the person he's passing the torch to, in this case a young driver played by Kip Pardue. Despite the charisma gap, Stallone seems bored reciting his own script while director Renny Harlin is overcompensating in a bid to get back to his former glory before "Cutthroat Island." "Driven" revved up a 14% critics' score and 33% audience score, and its $54 million worldwide box office couldn't cover its $72 million budget. The failure of this '80s-esque racing movie in the spring of 2001 anticipated the era-defining success of a different kind of car racing movie that summer — "The Fast and the Furious."

11. Assassins

With the benefit of hindsight, we can look back on "Assassins" and wonder, "What were they thinking?" A bored Sylvester Stallone versus an unhinged Antonio Banderas, with Julianne Moore thrown in the middle, in a blood-soaked action flick directed by Richard Donner, the guy who brought a childlike whimsy to "Superman: The Movie" and "The Goonies." At the time, however, "Assassins" sounds like it could have worked ... maybe. Stallone plays the classic "hit man on his last job" (take a drink) who falls for his target, played by Julianne Moore, and has to protect her from his rival, a loose cannon assassin played by Banderas. 

While Donner was one of the best action directors of his generation (e.g. the "Lethal Weapon" franchise), his forte was action-comedy. Maybe Donner wanted to stretch out, so he inexplicably shot "Assassins" to be a morose meditation on violence despite the script being a silly shoot-'em-up. So the movie is pretentious and pandering. Banderas didn't get the memo, and he plays his character with enough zany mugging to be a villain in the 1960s "Batman" TV show, while Stallone morbidly mumbles his way through the whole movie. The hit man actioner was not a hit, with a 16% critics' score and 45% audience score while its $83 million worldwide ended Stallone's 1995 (which also included huge bomb "Judge Dredd") on a whimper, not a bang.

10. Rocky II

"Rocky II" is an interesting entry in Sylvester Stallone's career and the "Rocky" canon. It foreshadows the crowd-pleasing self-parody and "sequels for sequels' sake" that the future films would become while also being a wholly enjoyable (if not 100% necessary) follow-up to a true cinematic masterpiece. 

Put simply, "Rocky II" didn't have to exist, but we're glad it does. Basically, moviegoers loved Rocky and wanted to see him again, and this time they wanted him to win the title. So while "Rocky" was a feel-good film about an aging boxer who went the distance against the world champion and greatest pugilist of his time, "Rocky II" is about that same boxer somehow beating the world champ. It's a stretch, but the gift of "Rocky II" makes you believe it's not only plausible but inevitable. 

The fact the sequel still won over so many stuffy critics — who were probably miffed the crowd-pleasing "Rocky" won Best Picture over dark, New Hollywood darlings "Taxi Driver," "Network" and "All the President's Men" — speaks to its quality. "Rocky II" scored a 71% critics' score and 82% audience score, and it earned $200 million worldwide, one of the best box office scores of the series, even without inflation. It also gave us one of the greatest movie quotes of all time, "Yo Adrian, I did it!" So for that alone, "Rocky II's" pop cultural bona fides are well deserved. Yo Adrian, Rocky did it. Again!

9. F.I.S.T.

Ask even a casual moviegoer what genre Stallone's most associated with and they won't even pause — action. Specifically, brawny, musclebound, one-man-army action movies. Alas, Stallone started his post-"Rocky" movie star career following a more traditional path as a respected thespian, not a machine gun-shooting, one liner-spewing action star. Case in point — his much-anticipated "Rocky" follow-up, and one of the most interesting movies in his career, "F.I.S.T." 

F.I.S.T. stands for "Federation of Interstate Truckers." Stallone's essentially a stand-in for Jimmy Hoffa in this "rags to riches to sleeping with the fishes" fable about a factory worker who rises to become the head of a union but whose life spirals out of control as he gains power and forms a partnership with the mob. The movie co-stars Rod Steiger and Peter Boyle, and it was directed by Norman Jewison, so there was plenty of talent in front of and behind the camera. However, the screenwriter, Joe Eszterhas, who would go on to write "Basic Instinct," has about as much subtlety as, well, Sharon Stone in that one scene from "Basic Instinct." 

Meanwhile, Stallone did a pass on the script, but he's more known for crowd-pleasers, not character examinations. "F.I.S.T." worked, but barely, at least for critics, who gave it a 73% score, though moviegoers were less kind, with a 56% audience score and $20 million worldwide gross.

8. Cop Land

Following three of the biggest bombs of his career in the mid-1990s ("Judge Dredd," "Assassins," and "Daylight"), Sylvester Stallone decided to try serious dramatic acting for the first time in two decades. "Cop Land" was certainly poised for prestige, as Stallone led an all-star cast with Ray Liotta, Harvey Keitel, and Robert De Niro, in a film written and directed by James Mangold. "Cop Land" is really good ... it just wasn't good enough. As the critics' consensus on Rotten Tomatoes put it, "'Cop Land' matches its star-studded cast with richly imagined characters while throttling the audience with carefully ratcheted suspense, although it lacks the moral complexity of classic crime thrillers." Talk about a "yeah, but ..." review, right?

"Cop Land" was only Mangold's second film, and while it had ambitions of being a Martin Scorsese-level masterpiece, it inevitably came up short. Still, it's a good movie, and Stallone's the best part, embodying Gary Cooper as the sheriff of a suburban New Jersey town who single-handedly takes on corrupt New York City cops. "Cop Land" boasted a 76% critics' score and 67% audience score, and it made money on its $15 million budget, earning $63 million worldwide. While "Cop Land" may not have made the 1997 year-end best list, it is one of Stallone's best and is definitely worth a watch if you've never seen it.

7. Rocky Balboa

Rocky Balboa was supposed to hang up the gloves with 1990's "Rocky V," but Stallone was disappointed with the results, and so was everybody else. Despite re-teaming Stallone with the original film's director, John G. Avildsen, "Rocky V" was the worst in the franchise (lacking the redeeming kitsch factor and pop culture iconography of "Rocky IV"), with a 30% critics' score and 31% audience score, which ended the series on a sour note. At least temporarily. 

Like the old saying goes, if you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself. So 16 years (and several massive box office bombs) later, Stallone sought to give his most famous character the proper sendoff with 2006's "Rocky Balboa." Largely, he succeeded. Implausibly, the then-sexagenarian Balboa laced up his gloves to take on a 20-something fighter in his prime. However, plausibility left the series a long time ago, so what matters is that "Rocky Balboa" brought back the same sentiment, entertainment, poignancy, and inspiration of the series' best entries. "Rocky Balboa" earned a 77% critics' score and 76% audience score, as well as $156 million worldwide on a $24 million budget. It also showed that even in the aughts, critics and moviegoers were still ready to root for Rocky. 

6. Death Race 2000

Before there was Rocky Balboa or John Rambo, there was "Machine Gun" Joe Viterbo. While the mythology around Stallone's career is that he never had a role in anything before "Rocky," that's not true, as he had a prominent part in 1975's "Death Race 2000," a strange brew of a movie that can best be described as a mix between "Mad Max" and "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." It's the year 2000, and America is on the brink of collapse and ruled by a totalitarian regime. The most popular entertainment is the Transcontinental Road Race, a NASCAR for nihilists, where racers earn points for time ... and for mowing down innocent pedestrians. 

Stallone played Joe Viterbo, the villain to David Carradine's Frankenstein, a racer who's more machine than man. Does this sound like a movie that's so bad it's good? Well, it's actually just plain good, with an 81% critics' score and a 64% audience score. However, the film wasn't enough to make Stallone a star (that would come one year later with "Rocky"), nor did the movie's cult classic legacy do anything to save the 2008 remake starring Jason Statham, "Death Race," from crashing and burning with a 46% score and $36 million box office gross. We're hoping Stallone ragged Statham about it on the set of "The Expendables."

5. Creed II

After "Creed" successfully relaunched the "Rocky" franchise, this time with Michael B. Jordan playing the underdog pugilist and Sylvester Stallone as the wise old mentor, a "Creed II" was inevitable. Given the "Rocky" series went from Oscar glory to star-spangled '80s excess (albeit in an awesomely cheesy way), it was no guarantee a "Creed" sequel would be good. But "Creed II" was good — really good. 

Steven Caple Jr. took the director's reigns from "Creed" director Ryan Coogler (who was busy making "Black Panther"), as well as Stallone himself, who was briefly attached to direct and who co-wrote the script with Juel Taylor. While directors playing musical chairs is usually a recipe for failure, "Creed II" rose above the challenge and succeeded in a big way. 

Sure, it adheres to a predictable franchise formula, with Adonis Creed fighting Viktor Drago, the son of the "Rocky IV" villain who killed his father, but when a movie hits the notes this well, we don't care. We're not alone, as "Creed II" scored an 83% critics' score and 79% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Maybe a future "Creed" sequel will have Adonis taking on the son of Mr. T's Clubber Lang from "Rocky III?" We're so there. Alas, it may be without Balboa, as Stallone posted on Instagram (according to a Vanity Fair report) that "Creed II" was his last "Rocky" film. If so, he went out like a champ.

4. Antz

Fresh off Pixar's groundbreaking success with "Toy Story," every movie studio in Hollywood wanted to get in the CG animation business. Pixar followed up "Toy Story" three years later with the well-received but ultimately forgettable "A Bug's Life," though that film actually came out one month after a very similar film from DreamWorks — "Antz." "Antz" stars Woody Allen as a worker ant, Sharon Stone as his love interest, Gene Hackman as the villain, and Sylvester Stallone as his musclebound best friend. 

We know what you're thinking. Woody Allen ... in a kid's movie? What can we say? The 1990s were a weird time. While the idea of Woody Allen starring in a kids movie sounds unbelievably icky now (and honestly, it should've been considered icky then), "Antz" was actually a big hit, earning $152 million worldwide on a $60 million budget. "Antz" also received rave reviews from critics, with a 92% critic's score, though moviegoers were much less impressed, giving it a rotten 52% score. That critics' score is still enough to make "Antz" one of Sylvester Stallone's best movies, though that rotten audience score probably still "bugs" him (sorry, we couldn't help ourselves).

3. First Blood

Having one famous character is great, but having two is rarefied territory for an actor. If nothing else, you can keep making sequels for both franchises until the audience stops showing up (and then you just wait a decade or two before making a legacy sequel for nostalgia junkies). Except for maybe Harrison Ford with Han Solo and Indiana Jones, there's no other actor whose two most famous characters are more iconic than Sylvester Stallone's — Rocky Balboa and John Rambo. 

While the "Rambo" franchise quickly became a living, breathing embodiment of the dumb, one-man-army action movie, it didn't start off that way. In fact, with an across-the-board 85% critics and audience score, "First Blood" is one of Sylvester Stallone's best movies and one of the best action movies of the 1980s. Critics were effusive in their praise, saying, "Much darker and more sensitive than the sequels it spawned, 'First Blood' is a thrilling survival adventure that takes full advantage of Sylvester Stallone's acting skills." Yes, Stallone is a fine actor, and "First Blood" confirms it. Alas, every other "Rambo" movie confirms Stallone is also a very smart actor and would rather cash fat checks than win critical accolades. Honestly, we can't blame him.

2. Creed

Sylvester Stallone thought he'd retired the Italian Stallion with 2006's "Rocky Balboa," and it would've been a great way to go. But then, hot indie director Ryan Coogler, who gained attention with his somber drama "Fruitvale Station," came to him with an idea — what about a "Rocky" movie where Rocky is the mentor, and this time, the boxer is the illegitimate son of his late best friend and greatest rival, Apollo Creed? Now that's a heckuva pitch! Stallone was in, and for the first time in the character's 40-year history, Stallone wasn't the primary creative driving force behind a "Rocky" movie. 

It turned out pretty well, as "Creed" earned a 95% critic's score and 89% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as $173 million worldwide on a $37 million budget. "Creed" also scored Stallone a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 2016, his first nomination since the original "Rocky," making him one of only six actors who've received multiple Oscar nominations for playing the same character. This distinction placed Stallone on an illustrious list beside Paul Newman as "Fast" Eddie Felson and Al Pacino as Michael Corleone. Yeah, pretty impressive. Stallone may have come up short on Oscar night, but despite his defeat the verdict is in "Creed" is one of Sylvester Stallone's best movies.

1. Rocky

Here's the one that started it all. Before Rocky Balboa became world champion, found the eye of the tiger, avenged his best friend's murder in the ring, and single-handedly won the Cold War, he was just a down-on-his-luck, aging boxer from Philly whose best days were behind him ... until he caught a lucky break. If you're not humming "Gonna' Fly Now" this very second, then you don't have a pulse. "Rocky" made Sylvester Stallone an overnight sensation, not unlike the title character himself. Has an actor ever had more in common with his most famous character ... well, except for when Arnold Schwarzenegger played an emotionless robot? 

Stallone not only created Rocky Balboa on the silver screen — he literally created him on the page. So, it's kinda like when William Shakespeare played characters in his own plays (yes, we did just compare Stallone to Shakespeare). But there's a reason "Rocky" went the distance and won over critics and moviegoers in the super cynical 1970s — it's really, really good. It boasts a 93% critic's score on Rotten Tomatoes, though the audience score is an inexplicably mediocre 69% (nice), leading us to wonder what Tomatometer voters are smoking. When your movie is so iconic it inspires one of Philadelphia's most sought-after landmarks, you know it's good. Yes, "Rocky" may be a close second to "Creed" on the Tomatometer, but it is number one in our hearts. More than five decades later, "Rocky" still goes the distance and is the best Sylvester Stallone movie.