In honor of the Independence Day holiday weekend, I’d like to share with you something I recently learned about this great country of ours: There is not a universal consensus about what the most patriotic movie of all time is.
Yes, I was as shocked as you. Apparently, people claim all sorts of movies are the most patriotic of all time. From “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” to “Top Gun.” From “Air Force One” to “Saving Private Ryan.” From “Independence Day” to “The Great Escape.” Those are all good movies (well, mostly), and they’re certainly all patriotic. But none of them is the most patriotic movie of all time.
Because the most patriotic movie of all time is obviously “Rocky IV.”
Why is it so obvious, you ask? Ha, you’re funny! It’s clearly because “Rocky IV” is the only movie ever made that contains all 10 Patriotic Movie Elements: Fighting, victorious underdogs, American-flag shorts, training montages, defeated Russkies, American-flag top hats, James Brown, American-flag boxing gloves, attractive blondes, and American flags.
A lesser-known hallmark of “Rocky IV” is that, in addition to its endless font of unadulterated patriotism and moving dialog (“Without some damn war to fight, then the warriors might as well be dead, Stallion.”), it also serves as an excellent reminder of five things to keep in mind for anyone attempting to connect with and market to men.
1. Style does not trump substance.
When Apollo agrees to fight Drago, he concentrates on creating an entertaining spectacle rather than focusing on the fact that he’s boxing a gigantic, dead-eyed Russian killing machine. As a result (spoiler alert!), things do not go well for Apollo. Similarly, men can smell B.S. If you’re not offering them specific and relatively unique value propositions, they’ll know. And their attitude toward your product will be very similar to Drago’s toward Apollo: “If he dies, he dies.”
2. Men are loyal.
Does Rocky throw in the towel when Apollo asks him not to? No, because he’s a loyal friend! (Uh, that decision kind of results in Apollo’s death, but Rocky avenges that.) Anyone who successfully markets to guys — whether it be with shaving cream or cars or condoms — must note that men often stick with a brand or product for years. Why? If it works, it works, and knowing he’ll always grab the same thing on the shelf is one less thing for a guy to have to think about.
3. Guys like old-timey stuff
The nearly eight-minute-long “Rocky IV” training montage is the ultimate training montage. And the whole point of it is that old-fashioned things are synonymous with heart, whereas newfangled things aren’t. Does that mean guys want iPads that run on diesel? Of course not. But men love old stuff—or new stuff that pays tribute to old stuff. Just ask any bearded fella in a fedora, flannel shirt, leather work boots, and salvaged-denim jeans riding a refurbished classic motorcycle on his way to a concert featuring one of the zillion current bands that employ a banjo player.
4. Women make everything better.
At first, Adrian refuses to travel to Russia with Rocky, because she understandably is pretty sure he is going to be pummeled into hamburger meat by Drago. But when she does finally show up, Rocky’s training reaches a whole other level. Similarly, it’s basically impossible—like it or not—to make men feel like they’re being pandered to by attractive women, even when it makes little to no sense for those women to be there.
5. When in doubt, be funny.
When Apollo is at the pre-fight press conference next to Drago, Apollo tells reporters that he’s “retired more men than Social Security!” And for a moment, everyone forgets that he is clearly going to be destroyed. Later, when the fearsome Drago climbs into the ring to fight Rocky, Paulie—who earlier had told Rocky how much he respected him—says, “You remember what I said about wanting to be you? Forget it.” People think men have trouble expressing their feelings. And...they’re correct. But men actually express much more than they’re given credit for; it’s just that they express so much through the veil of humor. It’s their native language, and it’s always the best way to reach them.