The 5 best boxing films of all time.
Boxing and cinema have always been excellent bedfellows, with hundreds of films about the brutal sport produced over the decades.
Hollywood has been making movies that perfectly capture the drama in and out of the ring since the silent era; all of them telling inspirational stories that always find a way into our hearts. The tales about underdogs rising to the top against all odds, fighting their own demons in the ring and overcoming adversity are infinite. The reason that this movie genre has done so well over the last century is because not only is it the most violent and theatrical sport, but also because those stories embody inner battles we all face deep down; boxing means pushing yourself when you’re ready to give up, it’s all about the plight of one determined man struggling to succeed and shedding blood, sweat and tears in doing so. It’s all about discipline and redemption taking centre stage in a battle waged in an arena that gives you nowhere to run or hide, where fate is decided upon a throw of the dice or swing of a killer left hook. Here are 5 of the best films Hollywood has made about the ring.
Raging Bull, 1980
Even though Martin Scorsese has never been a boxing fan, he managed to make the greatest boxing film ever, and one of the best of Scorsese’s celebrated career.
This masterpiece drama stars Robert De Niro as middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta, a man who uses boxing as a way of liberating all the rage he bears inside, hoping to receive all the punishment he feels he deserves.
It’s the biographical story of a self-destructive man whose inner demons, passionate jealousy, and exceedingly violent energy eviscerates his relationship with his family but also propels him to victory in the ring.
Possibly the greatest underdog movie of all time, Rocky is a compelling comeback story and one of the most iconic movies of our time. Rocky Balboa, played by Silvester Stallone, is a working class dreamer who climbs his way up from small time fights to earn a shot at the heavyweight title.
The Rocky theme song holds a place in all of our hearts, inciting us to remember one of the most uplifting zero-to-hero stories ever told. There’s a reason this movie has become a reference point for three generations to date.
Million Dollar Baby, 2004
An emotive and compelling drama about Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) and her trainer Frank, played by director Clint Eastwood, two characters brought together by their shared passion for boxing. It starts looking like yet another underdog tale but quickly develops into something much more profound. The moral weight of the film and its stunning performances by both Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood make it rise above the ranks of other boxing films, celebrating the dangerous sport and those who are willing to give it everything they have.
When We Were Kings, 1996
Leon Gast‘s When We Were Kings is a documentary about the greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali. The film highlights the legendary Muhammad Ali-George Foreman fight in Zaire in 1974, a fight that resonated far beyond the ring, and brings back all the excitement of the “Rumble in the Jungle“. Behind the scenes storylines and rare footage make this possibly the best documentary about boxing ever made.
The Fighter, 2010
Receiving seven Academy award nominations, The Fighter tells the true story of Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), a welterweight boxer who finds success in the ring and struggles to keep it with the help of his family. David O. Russell mixes many of the familiar elements of great boxing films, using the brothers’ dynamic of Raging Bull and Rocky’s underdog element. The drama focuses on the dysfunctional relationships in the tough-as-nails Ward family, with Melissa Leo playing Micky’s controlling mother Alice and Chrisian Bale, who won an Oscar for his performance, playing Micky’s well-meaning but troubled brother Dicky.
Boxing dates back to the original Olympians, and has remained a popular sport to this day. While the sport itself seeks a new champion to inspire fans to return to the ring, boxing movies offer an endless amount of inspirational stories to watch in the meantime. From Rocky’s ever-inspirational story and his heart wrenching cry for Adrian, to the brutal darkness in Raging Bull’s gritty character study, or the emotionally devastating Million Dollar Baby, this collection of brilliant boxing films all show the many faces of the fiery and intense sport.