Rocky 5: Alternate ending (video / analysis)

Lee Cleveland Updated
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Rocky 5 (1990), the only movie thus far in the eight Rocky films most fans choose to forget.

The lighting and soundtrack were weak... and the script arguably weaker.

Of course, aside from Rocky's return to his humble beginnings, there has been no mention of anything that happened in Rocky 5 in subsequent sequels thus far.

Low budget, like the original Rocky (1976), Rocky 5 was a far cry from being half as good.

Most of us simply want to transition to Rocky Balboa (or Rocky 6) after Rocky 4, forgetting the 5th movie even took place.


Fast Fact: The original version of Rocky V called for Rocky Balboa to die after a severe in-ring beating by Tommy Gunn, played by late boxer Tommy Morrison.

"At the end of the movie, he is on the way to hospital. His head is in Adrian’s lap and he dies because he’s taken this great beating from Tommy Gunn,” according to director John Avildsen via

“And the last scene of the movie, Adrian comes out of the hospital and there’s the world press assembled because Rocky then is a big deal and she announces that he is dead, but as long as people believe in themselves Rocky's spirit will live forever."


That concept was squashed early on but there was an alternate ending created on film.

Showcasing Rocky's various fighting disciplines / Flashbacks
The fight scene in the alternate ending has similarities and differences to official version. Like the real ending, Rocky uses a combination of boxing and street fighting skills to defeat Tommy Gunn. Hence, Balboa employs a combination of boxing, UFC and WWE which was one of the few nice wrinkles in the movie. It's clear Rocky understands more than one fight discipline and it was cool seeing ply other fighting trades.

And like the real ending, Rocky sees ring flashbacks and is encouraged by his deceased longtime trainer, Mickey.

However, there are striking differences.

Sucker punch and knockdown
For starters, in the alternate version the fight begins with Gunn sucker-punching Balboa who, after initially challenging him, insists he doesn't want to physically engage with Tommy. While Balboa is imparting wisdom on his young former protege, Gunn connects on massive shots that send a defenseless Rocky reeling, eventually flooring the former champ.

In the official version, Rocky makes quick work of Gunn several times before the latter catches Rocky who, thinking the fight was over, turned his back on his hurt foe, leaving himself vulnerable to Tommy's dirty tactics.

Not unlike the official version, a hurt and dazed Rocky is inspired by Mickey; but in the alternate version the latter seems to have more a ghostly presence.

Instead of being a memory, Mickey's ghost appears to actually be on the scene. That segment is awesome and gave me chills, especially with his ominous, very different last words:

"Beat the sh*t out of him!"

Yes, some of 'Ghost Mickey's' comments are a bit different in the alternate version although the premise of his pep talk is the same.

Rocky wins, but not yet
Like the official ending, Rocky, inspired by ol' Mick, pummels Gunn into apparent submission after being floored. However, in the alternate version, Rocky then gets in dominant position while Tommy is on his back and implores Gunn to admit defeat or else.

Is Rocky really going to break Gunn's neck?

Of course not.

When the defiant Gunn refuses to submit, Rocky makes the same mistake he made twice in the official version - He lets Tommy off the hook and subsequently turns his back, leaving himself an open target for retaliation.

Tommy is back in the fight but not for long.

Knockout and subsequent peace / reconciliation
The knockout moments in both versions are similar but in the alternate ending Rocky, after KOing Gunn, subsequently extends his hand to help him back up.

It's a scene right out of a Pepsi or Hallmark commercial, and the backdrop gives it an iconic look and feel.

Of course, there's no reconciliation between Balboa and Gunn in the official version.

Knockout of George Washington Duke 
In the substitute version, Rocky doesn't knockout the greedy fight promoter, obviously a spoof of Don King, even after the latter makes one last attempt to chide Balboa's efforts, insisting Gunn was just a bum anyway.

"Hey Rock, you outclassed the bum, huh?," Duke yells to Rocky after the street fight ends.

Father Carmine
Obviously, dear Father Carmine appears in both versions, sending a warm prayer to Rocky. He was a shoe-in to be in the final scene, regardless.

Pure silliness
Towards the conclusion of the alternative version, Rocky notices a cop ask the vanquished Gunn for his autograph. The scene fixates on Rocky's reaction to the gesture before he turns away to give his attention to his family.

So, let's get this straight... The local hero has just beaten a heartless antihero who used every opportunity to cheat, lie and take advantage of his much older, kind mentor, yet someone is asking for the villain's autograph?

Perhaps it's best the alternate ending wasn't selected.

Corny music
And lastly, in the alternative version, there isn't nearly as much of that corny, teenybopper music playing during the fight. This aspect makes the alternate version a bit more realistic.

Your thoughts?
Do you prefer the official version or the surrogate?



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