Stallone, Carl Weathers, Tony Burton, Burgess Meredith, Burt Young and Talia Shire reprised their original roles. The Ring magazine heavyweight championship belt makes its first appearance in the series. Released on June 15, 1979, the film was followed by Rocky III in 1982.
On New Year's Day in 1976, Apollo Creed has successfully defended his heavyweight title in a split decision. He and Rocky are taken to the same hospital. Apollo challenges Rocky to a rematch, but Rocky declines and retires from professional boxing. His girlfriend Adrian supports his choice, and so do his doctors, who reveal that he will require surgery for a detached retina, which could lead to permanent blindness. In a private moment, Rocky goes to see a recuperating Apollo, and wants a truthful response if Apollo gave his all in the fight, to which Creed agrees. After Rocky is released from the hospital, he enjoys the benefits of his life's changes: Rocky's new fame attracts an agent who sees Rocky as a potential endorsement and sponsorship goldmine, and his sudden wealth encourages him to propose to Adrian. She happily accepts, and they marry in a small ceremony. Soon after, Rocky and Adrian happily learn that Adrian is pregnant.
Meanwhile, fueled by hate mail, Apollo becomes obsessed with the idea that a rematch is the only way to prove that Rocky's performance was simply a fluke. Determined to rectify his boxing career's only blemish, Apollo ignores all pleas by his friends and family to forget the fight and move on to other potential opponents, and instead demands his team do whatever necessary to goad Rocky out of his hiatus and have a rematch with him.
Rocky at first seems unaffected by Apollo's smear campaign, but his inexperience with money causes him to run into financial problems. After several unsuccessful attempts to find employment, Rocky visits Mickey Goldmill, his trainer and manager, at his gym to talk about the possibility of returning to boxing. At first, Mickey declines, concerned about Rocky's health, but he soon accepts after Apollo publicly insults Rocky. Adrian confronts Rocky about the danger of returning to boxing and reminds him of the risk to his eyesight. Rocky argues that he knows nothing else, so this is the only way he can provide. Adrian, furious at Rocky for breaking his promise, refuses to support him.
Rocky and Mickey begin training, but Rocky is not focused on the job at hand due to Adrian's disapproval. Adrian's brother, Paulie, confronts his sister about not supporting her husband, but she faints during the confrontation and is rushed to the hospital, where she goes into labor. Despite being premature, the baby is healthy, but Adrian falls into a coma. Rocky blames himself for what has happened and refuses to leave Adrian's bedside until she wakes up, and will not go to see his new baby until they can see it together. When Adrian comes out of her coma, she finds Rocky by her bedside, and the couple are shown their new baby, a boy, which they name Rocky Jr. Adrian gives her blessing to the rematch, and Rocky quickly gets into shape for the match. When he makes the same training run that he did in the first film, ending at the "Rocky Steps" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, he is now followed by a crowd of children, some of whom followed him with his consent near the start of his run.
The night of the match arrives, and Apollo has made a public goal of beating Rocky in no more than two rounds to prove the first match going the full fifteen rounds was a fluke. The fight is not nearly as close this time as Rocky, fighting right-handed to protect his eye instead of his natural southpaw, is knocked down twice by Creed and outboxed for much of the fight. By the fifteenth round, Creed is well ahead on points and only needs to stay away from Balboa to win the fight by decision. But Creed, not wanting the fight to end like it did the first time, ignores his trainer's pleas and decides to go for the knockout. In the final round, Rocky switches back to his natural stance and in dramatic fashion both men, exhausted, trade punches until they knock each other down. Rocky rises to his feet at the count of nine while Apollo collapses from fatigue, giving Rocky the win by knockout and making him the new world champion. Rocky then gives an impassioned speech to the crowd and holds the belt over his head with a message for his wife, who is watching the fight on TV: "Yo, Adrian, I did it!"Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, "The Italian Stallion": the underdog who was given one chance at attaining the Heavy Weight Champion title from Apollo Creed in the first film. Due to the public's belief that it was very possible that Rocky would have won, he gets a second shot at the title in this film.
Talia Shire as Adrian Balboa: Rocky's love interest-turned-wife. During labor, with their first son, she enters a coma for a large portion of the film.
Burt Young as Paulie Pennino: Rocky's friend, and brother of Adrian.
Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed: Current Heavyweight Champion of the world who gave Rocky a shot at the title in the first film, during which he won by split-decision. Because of the close outcome of the fight the general public believes that Apollo did not necessarily win, and thus he gives Rocky a second chance in a rematch.
Burgess Meredith as Mickey Goldmill: Rocky's friend, manager and trainer; a former bantamweight fighter from the 1920s and the owner of the local boxing gym.
Tony Burton as Tony "Duke" Evers: Apollo's father-figure, friend, trainer, and manager.
Sylvia Meals as Mary Anne Creed: Apollo Creed's wife.
Seargeoh Stallone as Robert "Rocky" Balboa, Jr.: Rocky and Adrian's newborn child. Seargeoh appeared in the film uncredited.
Joe Spinell as Tony Gazzo: Loan shark and Rocky's former employer.
Paul J. Micale as Father Carmine: Rocky's ecclesiastical leader.
Jeff Temkin portrays the ring announcer. Appearing as themselves are referee Lou Filippo and commentators Brent Musburger, Stu Nahan and Bill Baldwin. LeRoy Neiman makes an uncredited non-speaking cameo appearance during the training scenes in the film; he is shown drawing a picture of Apollo while he is training.
After the enormous success of the first Rocky, the producers were anxious to make a sequel. Stallone again wrote the script, originally titled Rocky II: Redemption, but John G. Avildsen declined to direct again because he was busy with pre-production on Saturday Night Fever. Stallone wanted the job and waged as big a campaign as he had for the lead role in the previous film. United Artist executives were reluctant to give the actor the directing reins because, while he had previously directed the drama Paradise Alley, it was not a success. However, producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff understood how much of the success of the first Rocky had come from Stallone's enormous input and lobbied hard to get him the job.
The story development of involving Rocky surprising Creed by switching to fighting right-handed was not in the original script and only came about because of an accident onset. While getting in shape for the film, Stallone was bench pressing and ripped his left pectoral muscle and needed surgery. Therefore he could not fight with his left hand.
The film's ending fight sequence also posed a challenge because at the time Talia Shire was busy making the drama Old Boyfriends and couldn't be on the set. So Stallone came up with the idea of having her watch the fight from home because of the new baby. Adrian's scenes were actually filmed some months later, toward the end of the shoot.
An estimated 800 school children were used as extras in the scene in which Rocky runs through Philadelphia.
Just as in the previous installment, Bill Conti composed the film's music. A soundtrack album containing Conti's score was released on August 25, 1979, and charted on the Billboard 200 for five consecutive weeks.
Bill Conti – piano (1)
Mike Lang – piano (8)
David Duke – horn solo (4)
Frank Stallone - vocals (7)
DeEtta Little, Nelson Pigford – vocals (5)
- "Redemption" – 2:34
- "Gonna Fly Now" – 2:35
- "Conquest" – 4:42
- "Vigil" – 6:31
- "All of My Life" – 3:56
- "Overture" – 8:38
- "Two Kinds of Love" – 2:37
- "All of My Life" – 2:27
Rocky II holds a 73% approval rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes; out of 26 reviews, the average rating is 6.5/10. The site's consensus reads: "Rocky II is a movie that dares you to root again for the ultimate underdog – and succeeds due to an infectiously powerful climax." The film won Best Picture at the American Movie Awards and won the People's Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture. Dre Rivas of Film.com included it in his list of top ten films of 1979.
Rocky II finished in the top three highest-grossing films of 1979, in both the North American market and worldwide. The film grossed $6,390,537 during its opening weekend, $85,182,160 at the U.S. box office, and $200,182,160 overall.
A novelization was published by Ballantine Books in 1979. Sylvester Stallone was credited as the author. The book is a first-person narrative told by Rocky himself.