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Rocky IV


  • Director's Cut (Rocky vs. Drago)
  • Theatrical Version
Release: Nov 22, 2021 - Author: Muck47 - Translator: Mike Lowrey - external link: IMDB

Comparison between the Theatrical Version (on the German Blu-ray) and the Director's Cut (as VOD from

277 documented differences
Difference: 54.3 sec (without credits)
...with approx. 40 minutes of exclusive material per version


ROCKY VS. DRAGO: An 80s classic reinterpreted

Rocky IV is 80s cinema in its purest form: testosterone-charged macho posturing, Cold War-influenced propaganda, lots of snappy pop music, synthie tunes, training montages and a talking robot. Part 3 of the series, with Mr. T and Hulk Hogan, was already much more light entertainment than its more serious predecessors, but still fit well as a further development of the main character. But in Part 4, Sylvester Stallone went all out, much like in First Blood - Part II, which was also released in 1985, and the then much-maligned film has a loyal following today precisely for that reason. In 2018's Creed II, the story of the Russian Ivan Drago, portrayed by Dolph Lundgren, was continued - more as a profound drama again, i.e. quite differently than was the case with Part 4.

In 2020, Sylvester Stallone dealt with Rocky IV in detail. In comments on it, he referred to the Corona pandemic, among other things, so he had a little more time. The fact that MGM let him work specifically on Rocky IV is certainly related to the fact that this is still the most financially successful part of the series. There was still some material on the cutting table, so Sly experimented with his team of editors on how to give the 80s classic a new look. To say one thing up front: Sly's massively recut reinterpretations of his own works The Expendables (see comparison part 1 / part 2) and John Rambo (see comparison) already offer a good comparison here of what came out.

Although the plot of the film has basically remained the same, they have gone to extreme lengths here and not only changed the tonality, but virtually every single scene has been modified again. It was quite obviously a matter of going more for the serious tone, which, after all, runs through much of the series. That's the essential summary that can be given for the Director's Cut, available in America as VOD since 12 November 2021. In the feature-length Making Of (YouTube), Sly also emphasizes that, in retrospect, both the motivations of the characters and emotional moments came across as far too artificial. With 30 years more life experience, he could of course also classify some things differently and "straighten them out" with a new cut.

The changes in the Director's Cut of ROCKY IV

The devil is in the details: Over 250 changes can be clearly documented, although we have already tried to summarize scene blocks in a meaningful way. Even more than in the report itself, one can hopefully understand from this introductory listing with what intention Stallone restructured the film.

Soundtrack and aspect ratio adjustments

Let's start with a topic that, by its very nature, is difficult to present in a report like this: There are also countless audio adjustments, all of which we haven't included. Essentially, the following key points can be noted.

Replaced score - The legendary theme song from the predecessor, "Eye of the Tiger," was originally heard in the introductory flashback to the events of Part 3. This is no longer the case in the Director's Cut, however this piece can now be heard in the end credits. The intro sequence ends with "Sweetest Victory" instead. At least the montage scenes backed by absolute 80s classics remained unchanged.

Replaced score - In part 4, Vince DiCola was responsible for the score, while in the other parts this was mostly done by Bill Conti. In fact, you can now hear Conti's more familiar themes again in several places, e.g. at Apollo's funeral. These adjustments underline again that they wanted to adapt the film also literally more to the sound of the other parts.

Changed sound effects, especially punching sounds - In many aspects, the theatrical version had more of a comic book-like atmosphere, and this included gaudy overdone sounds during fights. In the director's cut, this has been toned down considerably and it all sounds distinctly more realistic. Like many things, this is of course a matter of taste, especially 80s fans will probably miss the exaggerated sounds.

Aspect ratio 2.35:1 instead of 1.85:1 - The film was shot in 1.37:1 (i.e. almost 4:3 / full screen on old tube TVs) and ran in theaters slightly covered in the desired format 1.85:1. For the director's cut, they went to the negative anew and covered every shot anew significantly more to the wider widescreen format 2.35:1. So at least it wasn't just bluntly zoomed in, but re-framed. The wide format naturally makes some scenes look more epic. Still, this naturally means you have to do without some of the picture information at the top and bottom that you were used to from previous releases. Right at the beginning, we have placed several comparison pictures to get an impression. After all, this also simplifies the readability of the report a bit, because you can see at a glance through the different image format which version is currently described.

New/extended scenes

Despite roughly the same runtime, Sly promised early on that you'd be able to discover around 40 minutes of additional material. As said, this is unfortunately distributed to large parts on extremely high amounts of small stuff, which makes a clear naming of individual scene blocks and quick skimming of the report difficult. However, a few concrete focal points can be noted.

Extended fight scenes - Both Apollo's fight against Ivan and the finale with Rocky against Ivan have been reworked particularly extensively. For this, some footage has been cut out, especially exaggerated elements. Both fights, however, run several minutes longer in absolute runtime. Stallone now celebrates these action highlights and has staged them more exciting, but also more serious. In the first fight, it is particularly noticeable that Apollo now also shows significantly more resistance, so overall, he goes to his doom with a little more dignity. In Rocky vs. Ivan, the process simply seems much more fluid. Stallone also explains in detail in the making of how he sees his accumulated knowledge through the exchange with real boxers appropriately represented in the film through the new cut. In any case, these adjustments should be welcomed by most fans.

Additional scenes with Adrian - It is noticeable that Adrian takes up more space in the plot. This is done through more cuts to her during the fights, but mainly through alternative as well as significantly extended dialogues. This also obviously serves the more dramatic and serious tone. Partly, her comments now come as a substitute for rougher exchanges with Apollo, which means that the tongue-in-cheek bragging has been reduced a bit. In addition, she warns Rocky before Apollo's fight that he himself would have it in his hands to exert influence on Apollo. Especially in light of Rocky's inner conflict over the series, this of course makes sense and adds more depth to the plot.

Apollo and his wife - As just alluded to, Apollo's provocations have been dialed down considerably. At the same time, Apollo is allowed to reveal more athletic and personal ambitions in additional dialogue, whereas in the theatrical version, the focus was primarily on his inflated ego and misguided patriotism. Even in the completely changed intro sequence, more flashbacks to Part 3 show how Apollo had a significant impact on Rocky. The additional eulogy by Tony Burton also adds a bit of emotional context. In the making of, Stallone comments that Apollo's motivation in the theatrical version always came across to him as too artificial. At the same time, he himself would not have been able to sufficiently classify some of the character traits during the development process of the theatrical version. He has now rectified this. At the same time, Apollo's wife suffers more extensively, so that the family drama comes more to the fore here as well. Whether this works for the viewer in the overall construct of the film is ultimately a matter of taste.

Nicolai as the mastermind behind Ivan - At the latest, Ivan Drago's appearance in Creed II made him clearly more human and tangible. This direction was consistently approached by several small details in the Director's Cut. Several hints of steroids were removed. At the same time, Ivan is now often seen looking rather reserved and intimidated. Especially promoter Nicolai interrupts him several times and is shown in further intercuts. Stallone said he was very enthusiastic about Michael Pataki's performance and has now incorporated more of it in the Director's Cut. While Ivan was ultimately portrayed as an overpowering machine in the theatrical version, the Director's Cut leaves the impression that he is also just a victim as a propaganda tool for others. In the making of, Stallone refers as an analogy to Max Schmeling as Hitler's model boxer, he wanted to work out this background better. Again, one can certainly be divided on whether this serves the film's content or reinterprets a beloved figure a bit too much.

Removed scenes

In the previous section, we already hinted at several points which elements were removed from the film in exchange for the extensions. A few major differences can be grouped here, too.

Paulie's robot (Sico) - A very significant contribution to the trashy-humoristic note of the theatrical version was obviously made by the house robot Sico, who of course provided some laughs (or annoyed head-shaking) as a contrast to the grim Paulie. Early on in the development of the Director's Cut, comments by Stallone about the robot caused concerned fan reactions. Any scenes with it were radically deleted and thus, unfortunately, some nice remarks by Paulie are missing. The fact that Paulie is coming to Russia at all now seems a bit bumpy, since a scene of him packing had to completely give way thanks to robots in the background. In addition, this is accompanied by the fact that Rocky's son no longer follows the fight against Ivan on TV in the Director's Cut, as the robot in the Santa outfit sits in on all these moments. Basically, the missing robot has an impact especially on the first half of the film: Thus, the relationship between Rocky and Apollo is now completely in the foreground here, it is no longer interrupted by "comic relief" scenes on the sidelines.

Less Brigitte Nielsen - There was a lot of criticism at the time that Nielsen, who had previously only appeared in Red Sonja, had only gotten so much screentime because of her fling with Stallone at the time. She was back again in Creed II, and there was some speculation as to whether there was some trouble between her and Sly there as well. Whatever the reason, it's obvious that Sly reduced her role in the Director's Cut to a minimum. It's downright cute how consistently he replaced short cuts of her at the edge of the ring with other shots here. In any case, the impression of a grudge against the ex-wife resonates a bit, although criticism of her acting talent certainly had its justification. Some fans will welcome these cuts, but it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Reaction shots - In the making of, Sly describes this aspect quite well, which is already noticeable in total. There were often quite flat close-ups of e.g. the grim Ivan or Apollo/Rocky in the theatrical version. Partly in this context, Sly also mentions that the film was made at the height of MTV's success and that they rather delivered an overlong, stylish music video. Real drama sometimes fell by the wayside. In any case, striking close-ups or zooms on faces were significantly reduced across the board, resulting in a completely different, more serious atmosphere.

Montage scenes - No, thankfully none of these iconic scenes have been removed. However, two aspects can be highlighted in this context. On the one hand, the "No easy way out" sequence has been colored B/W as much as possible. This is probably meant to better highlight the flashback shots, but will probably piss off some viewers. It is also noticeable that a moment in which a picture of Ivan is torn to pieces exactly at the beginning of the chorus has now been moved. It's just a small cut, so to speak, but fans have already criticized it extensively in international forums.

Speech after the final fight - Even at the time of its creation, and even more so nowadays, it simply cannot be denied that Rocky's final words, wrapped in an American flag and cheered by the Russian spectators, are downright unintentionally comical. Even in the DC, Rocky still concludes in his speech that everyone could change. The words up to that point, however, are nowhere near as patriotic and thick. The Russian rulers now also no longer stand up and applaud, but leave the hall without a word. So this is a much more fitting reaction to the previously so penetratingly designed antagonists. Whether it was again so meaningful that Rocky now even gives his arch-enemy Ivan a friendly fistbump, may again certainly also be subject to critical discussion.

So is the new cut of ROCKY IV worth it?

Here we have once again a clear case of an ultimately unclear conclusion. The Director's Cut is such a severely altered version that it absolutely must be evaluated separately from the known theatrical version. The intention behind some of the changes is really interesting and gives the characters a completely different focus. Whether you think it's necessary at all and don't already consider the theatrical version perfect anyway, especially with all the frequently discussed flaws that make it the ultimate "guilty pleasure" experience for many fans, is of course up to everyone.

In any case, the amount of alternative material is impressive. It's really interesting how many different takes with partly quite different basic moods were obviously recorded already at that time. Considering many a legendary and yet still lost desired version of other films, it is quite interesting what was shot here at all on the one hand and then carefully archived over 30 years later on the other. Sly himself has often emphasized that he often did not feel really sure about many things at the time. In retrospect, one would doubt some of the editing decisions and prefer to give the film a completely new direction through various (often only discreet) interventions. No matter what you think about the Director's Cut, it is a really interesting example of the extensive possibilities in film editing.

By the way, in the interview just linked, Sly mentions that he would also like to work on Nighthawks, Paradise Alley and Rocky V. In these films, he sees the clearest differences to his own vision. It will be interesting to see if similar recuts of other films will see the light of day sooner or later...

Runtimes are ordered as follows: Theatrical Version Blu-ray / Director's Cut VOD

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Another variation of the MGM Lion.

Director's Cut 8 sec longer

Theatrical Version Blu-rayDirector's Cut VOD

Before we get to the differences, here's a little image comparison. The 1.85:1 of the Theatrical Version has been covered to 2.35:1 for the Director's Cut, so it offers significantly less image information. At least the visible image area moves up or down depending on the shot. In some scenes, you can even see significantly more at the bottom or top in the DC.

Theatrical Version Blu-rayDirector's Cut VOD

Alternative / Removed in the Director's Cut
00:10-08:38 / 00:18-07:21

Until the scene with Apollo in the pool, the versions start completely alternatively.

In the Theatrical Version (= Theatrical Cut, TC), there are a few initial credits and from boxing gloves, there is a transition to flashbacks to Rocky III. The scenes often play out in slow motion, with Eye of the Tiger heard throughout. A rather peppy introduction that no longer exists in the DC. After the jubilant jump, there is a change to a scene with Rocky and Apollo in the training ring. After a lot of shittalk, they go at each other and the picture freezes. We continue with a scene at the family: The son is filming, Rocky is fooling around. Inside, Paulie is waiting with a birthday hat and is in a bad mood. Rocky presents his birthday present: the legendary trashy robot, which was completely removed in the DC. Paulie, of course, is not thrilled with the gift. Rocky then also brings Adrian a cake to bed, since it's their 9th wedding anniversary. A few posters and newspaper clippings follow, introducing Ivan. His arrival at the airport is also shown. Lastly, a first shot of Apollo in the pool.

In the Director's Cut (= DC), we first see a flashback to the first fight against Clubber Lang, where Rocky goes down. Apollo comments on this from ringside and it fades to a scene at night where Rocky pays a visit to his statue. Angry, he throws his helmet at it and heads to the training gym. There Apollo motivates him a bit - and a flashback to the final fight against Clubber follows. During this, Apollo speaks well to him during the breaks, several times he mentions the "Eye of the Tiger". Also during the fight scenes, you can constantly hear the comments of the two, music is only partially and rather discreetly in the background. When the fight is won, you also see a bit more of the cheering. At last, the new title fade-in.

Theatrical Version 85,2 sec (= 1:25 min) longer

08:42-08:50 / 07:25-07:34

Before the report about Ivan starts on TV, there are a few alternative shots. In the TC, there is more focus on Apollo, in the DC, more on the dogs.

Director's Cut 0,8 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

08:55-09:06 / 07:39-07:50

The TC stays longer on Apollo, while the DC switches to the perspective with the TV in the background. Then a different shot of Ludmilla: the TC in close-up, the DC has Ivan next to her. Finally, the DC switches to Apollo one more time, while the TC stays on the TV throughout.

Theatrical Version 0,1 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

Removed in the Director's Cut
09:18-09:34 / 08:02

Missing in the DC is how Ludmilla first mentions Manuel Vaga and Sergei Rimsky as Ivan's coach.

+ 15,6 sec

09:34-09:51 / 08:02-08:32

When the promoter Nicolai brings up a fight with Rocky, it plays out in similar but alternate takes. In the DC, he's saying that Ivan could be introduced in America like that. The interviewer also reiterates here that Ivan is only an amateur so far. In his answer, Nicolai adds that Ivan is the most perfectly trained athlete in the world.

Director's Cut 13 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

Alternative / Removed in the Director's Cut
10:06-11:00 / 08:47-10:22

How Apollo informs Rocky can be seen in a very separate scene.

In the Theatrical Version, Rocky is washing his car. His son joins him from the background - with the house robot, which should also be the reason for the complete deletion of this scene. After all, the robot was completely deleted from the film. Here, Apollo calls and Rocky listens to his comments on his cell phone.

In the Director's Cut, Apollo joins Rocky in the garden and they talk about Ivan's abilities. Rocky mentions that he was asked to do a show fight, but wasn't interested. Apollo critically asks why he isn't into it. He makes it clear that he himself would be hot for the fight and emphasizes the political explosiveness. He says it's something for the history books to stand up to Russian propaganda. Rocky is disinterested and instead mentions that Adrian cooked delicious food. Apollo should stay for (Italian) dinner, he says.

Director's Cut 40,8 sec longer

11:00-11:32 / 10:22-10:50

The first shots of the promo event at Ivan's training camp are also completely different, although the content here says the same thing. The TC has more closeups and shots of the technique, which may seem a bit dated today. The last, frontal shot of Nicolai looks the same at first glance, but is also an alternate take.

Theatrical Version 3,7 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

11:36-11:39 / 10:54-10:57

With the same dialogue, again a closeup in the TC, while the DC shows a half-total.

No time difference

Removed in the Director's Cut
11:39-11:59 / 10:57

Removed in the DC was how the interviewer is referring to anabolic steroids. Nicolai presses around a bit, Ivan is uncomfortable.

+ 20,4 sec

11:59-12:09 / 10:57-11:00

The strength demonstration is then also introduced alternatively and in more detail in the TC. Only here does Nicolai mention that an ordinary heavyweight would average a compressive force of 700 pounds/cm².

Theatrical Version 7 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

Removed in the Director's Cut
12:14-12:15 / 11:05

Before Ivan strikes, the TC has a quick shot of Ludmilla.

+ 0,8 sec

Removed in the Director's Cut
12:17-12:18 / 11:07

The computer animation of the punch, which seems quite outdated nowadays, has been removed.

+ 0,7 sec

Alternative / Removed in the Director's Cut
12:24-12:28 / 11:13-11:15

The TC shows Ludmilla, the DC Ivan. Only in the TC does a reporter then ask again what results Nicolai means.

Theatrical Version 2,2 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

Removed in the Director's Cut
12:40-12:44 / 11:27

Removed is how Adrian is asking Apollo why he wants to fight again. Apollo replies that he firmly believes in it.

+ 4,2 sec

Removed in the Director's Cut
13:06-13:46 / 11:49-11:51

In the Director's Cut, a short re-cut to the thoughtful Rocky was inserted here.

This was done to cover up the fact that in the Theatrical Version, the robot comes into play one more time. He now suddenly talks like a woman and pours Paulie some beer. When he drives away, Rocky asks who taught him to speak like that.

Theatrical Version 38,3 sec longer

Removed in the Director's Cut
13:51-13:54 / 11:55

To a shot of Rocky, Apollo says in the TC that they could count on support from the media through Rocky.

+ 3,5 sec

13:59 / 12:00-12:08

In the DC, Adrian replies that it's not the Middle Ages anymore and that things are more civilized nowadays.

8,1 sec

Alternative / Removed in the Director's Cut
14:27-14:36 / 12:36-13:43

The scene ends differently.

In the Theatrical Version, Paulie asks if Apollo knows the comics. Apollo answers in the negative and Rocky chuffs at the comment.

In the Director's Cut, Rocky goes to Adrian and asks if she is angry. Adrian says that Apollo is afraid of being forgotten. His reasons for fighting would be the wrong ones and she just thinks it's a bad publicity stunt. Rocky asks again and jokes (with the bag of buns in his hand) that they could practice a round.

Director's Cut 58,4 sec longer

Removed in the Director's Cut
14:43-14:46 / 13:50

A short comment by Rocky about the old fight against Apollo on TV was removed.

+ 3 sec

Removed in the Director's Cut
15:04-15:12 / 14:08

In the TC, Rocky briefly reassures Apollo that he has not been forgotten. He replies that at least no one would ask him for autographs anymore.

+ 8,2 sec

Removed in the Director's Cut
15:23-15:27 / 14:20

In the TC, Apollo asks irritatedly who else (instead of the Russians) he should fight.

+ 3,9 sec

Removed in the Director's Cut
15:31-15:42 / 14:24

Before Apollo gets up annoyed, Rocky addresses his concerns more seriously. Apollo continues to brush him off.

+ 10,6 sec

Removed in the Director's Cut
15:57-16:07 / 14:39

Apollo asks where else they should go. After all, he says, you can't be born again.

+ 10 sec

Removed in the Director's Cut
16:13-16:14 / 14:45

Rocky says at the beginning of the shot that he likes Apollo just the way he is.

+ 1,1 sec

Removed in the Director's Cut
16:22-16:26 / 14:53

At the end of the shot, Rocky is saying that they are normal people now. Apollo contradicts him earlier at the beginning of the follow up shot with "No, Stallion!"

+ 4,3 sec

16:57-17:38 / 15:24-15:46

The dialogue ends in alternate takes. In both, Apollo asks Rocky to stand by him - in the TC "stand by my side," in the DC instead "stand in my corner." In the DC, Rocky only nods briefly with a serious expression.
In the TC, there is a little dialogue instead. Furthermore, Apollo jokes a bit here and Rocky is also rather joking. While the scene seems rather dramatic in the DC, macho posing is in the foreground in the TC.
Theatrical Version 19,1 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

Removed in the Director's Cut
17:40-17:42 / 15:48

Another closeup of a slogan on the advertising poster in the TC.

+ 1,2 sec

Removed in the Director's Cut
17:44-17:45 / 15:50

Another closeup of Apollo being dubbed "Superhype".

+ 1,3 sec

17:54-18:19 / 15:59-16:35

A longer part of the press conference is basically identical, but runs as an alternate take in the DC in a distant wide shot. There, Rocky additionally jokingly expresses that he at least tries to tell Apollo something, but that would not be so easy. The media is happy about that. In the TC, there are much more closeups between the participants instead.

Director's Cut 11,3 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

18:26-18:29 / 16:42-16:45

In response to Apollo's joke about Ivan's speechlessness, you can see Mary Anne laughing at it in the TC. Adrian also struggles to grin. In the DC, instead, two alternate takes with both looking serious.

No time difference

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

Removed in the Director's Cut
18:29-18:45 / 16:45

Only in the TC does Ludmilla comment that Apollo would be very well known in her country and thus a victory over him would be a great success. Apollo briefly repeats in disbelief.

+ 15,7 sec

18:45-19:02 / 16:45-17:00

Apollo asks Ivan in an alternate take if he really thinks he could win. Interestingly, in the DC, Ivan then replies himself that he didn't come to the country to lose. In the Theatrical Version, Ludmilla does this for him. She also grumbles a bit that Apollo would insult her.

Theatrical Version 2,3 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

Removed in the Director's Cut
19:13-19:14 / 17:12

At the beginning of the shot, Nicolai only barks out a "Yes!" in the TC first.

+ 0,7 sec

19:16-19:20 / 17:14-17:17 bzw. 17:21-17:23

Different reaction shots. The DC also uses the two from the TC a few seconds later, while the TC shows Apollo throughout.

No time difference

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

Removed in the Director's Cut
19:21-19:22 / 17:18

Removed was the "You just hold on here" at the beginning of the shot of Apollo.

+ 1,5 sec

19:36-19:37 / 17:32-17:42

How Nicolai calls Apollo a "has-been" can be seen in an alternate take. Only in the DC does Nicolai add that defeating Apollo would be beneath Ivan. He should face the real champion instead, he says.

Director's Cut 9,6 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

19:44-19:51 / 17:49-17:54

Before Ivan shoves Apollo, the latter is only allowed to provoke him one more time in the TC. The shove can also be seen in an alternate take. In the DC, Ivan seems a bit more threatening. Here again a cut to Mary Anne and Adrian, they are obviously worried.

Theatrical Version 2,4 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

19:59-20:08 / 18:02-18:13

Apollo's exit also follows in alternate takes. Basically the same thing is said, also from Apollo to Rocky. However, in the TC it seems more like a big show, in the DC more dramatic.

Director's Cut 1,8 sec longer

Theatrical VersionDirector's Cut

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