Creed is a 2015 American sports drama film, written and directed by Ryan Coogler, co-written by Aaron Covington, and produced by Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler, and Sylvester Stallone. The film stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson Creed, Apollo’s son, with Stallone reprising the role of Rocky Balboa. It also features Tessa Thompson, Tony Bellew, and Graham McTavish. It is the seventh Rocky film, both a spin-off from the original series and a successor to 2006’s Rocky Balboa. The film reunites Jordan with Fruitvale Station writer/director Coogler, and with Wood Harris, whom Jordan worked with on The Wire.
Filming began on January 19, 2015 in Liverpool, and later also took place in Philadelphia, Rocky’s home. Creed was released in the United States on November 25, 2015, the fortieth anniversary of the date of the opening scene in the original Rocky.
In 1998, Adonis “Donnie” Johnson, the son of an extramarital lover of former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, is serving time in a Los Angeles youth facility when Creed’s wife, Mary Anne, pays him a visit and offers to take him in.
Seventeen years later, Donnie walks away from his job at a securities firm to pursue his dream of becoming a professional boxer. Mary Anne vehemently opposes this, remembering how her husband was killed in the ring 30 years earlier (against Ivan Drago in Rocky IV). He tries to get a slot at Los Angeles’ elite Delphi Boxing Academy, but is turned down. Undaunted, Donnie travels to Philadelphia in hopes of getting in touch with his father’s old friend and rival, Rocky Balboa.
Donnie tracks down Rocky at Rocky’s Italian restaurant, Adrian’s, named in honor of his deceased wife. When he hears Donnie’s request to train him, Rocky is reluctant to get back into boxing, having suffered brain trauma during his career as a fighter (Rocky V) and having already made a one-off comeback at a very advanced age (Rocky Balboa), but eventually agrees. Donnie trains at the Front Street Gym, with several of Rocky’s longtime friends as cornermen, and also finds a love interest in Bianca, an up-and-coming singer and songwriter.
Donnie, now known as “Hollywood Donnie,” defeats a local fighter, and word gets out that he is Creed’s illegitimate son. Rocky gets a call from the handlers of world light heavyweight champion “Pretty” Ricky Conlan, who is due to be forced into retirement by an impending prison term. He offers to make Donnie his final challenger–provided that he change his name to Adonis Creed. Donnie balks at first, wanting to forge his own legacy. However, he eventually agrees.
While helping Donnie train, Rocky learns he has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He is unwilling to undergo chemotherapy, remembering that it wasn’t enough to save Adrian when she had ovarian cancer. His diagnosis and the fact that his best friend and brother-in-law Paulie Pennino – Adrian’s brother – has now passed away in addition to Adrian and Apollo further force him to confront his own mortality. Seeing Rocky shaken, Donnie urges him to seek treatment.
Donnie fights Conlan in Conlan’s hometown of Liverpool. Many parallels are present between the fight that ensues and Apollo and Rocky’s first fight forty years earlier (Rocky). Before going into the ring, Donnie receives a present from Mary Anne–new American flag trunks similar to the ones Apollo and later Rocky wore. Additionally, to the surprise of nearly everyone, Donnie goes the distance after giving Conlan all he can handle. Conlan wins on a split decision (just as Apollo retained his title by split decision against Rocky), but Donnie has won the respect of Conlan and the crowd; Conlan tells him that he is the future of the light heavyweight division.