Boxing is a longtime favorite sport of many, dating back to around 3000 BC Egypt. From the earliest reports to the modern-day fights watched on national television today, boxing has caught the hearts of many sports fanatics. With many fighters finding relief from poverty and difficult situations in the ring, boxing comes with real-life tragedies and triumphs around every turn.
Finding its way into the Olympics in 1904, it is no surprise that boxing would make its way to the big screen. Like many sports movies, boxing movies tend to focus on the world’s top boxers, so maybe in a few years we’ll see the next Muhammad Ali or Sugar Ray Robinson on the big screen.
With hundreds of boxing films hitting the cinemas over the years, some of them have made big names for themselves with fans and moviegoers alike. Here is our list of the best boxing movies of all time to satisfy even the biggest boxing fans.
No boxing movie list would be complete without Sylvester Stallone and Rocky. This reference does not only include the original from 1976 that won the hearts of boxing fans and movie lovers alike. The glory of Rocky Balboa started with this original movie and has carried on through to the newest installment of Creed II released in 2018. This story takes on the real-life struggles boxers face, from the dangerous toll the profession takes on one’s body to the mental trials faced before, during, and after each match. Creed shines with the strength of Rocky Balboa’s times with the introduction of Adonis (the son of Rocky’s one-time-nemesis-turned-friend, Apollo Creed).
Raging Bull is the story of Robert De Niro’s character Jake LaMotta. This 1980 movie is based on the events of LaMotta’s life as he has written them in his memoirs. The story tells of the trials of Jake LaMotta from the beginning, to fame, and the following decline. It shows the effects of anger, jealousy, and misunderstandings and how they take a toll on the path of one’s life. From success to jail, this movie highlights the best and worst there is in the boxing world.
When We Were Kings
The 1996 documentary film When We Were Kings relates the story of the October 30, 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” fight between two boxing greats, then champion George Foreman and his challenger, Muhammad Ali. This film combines footage from the match itself as well as newer interviews to tell the stories of African Americans and the African continent where the fight took place.
Million Dollar Baby
Clint Eastwood, Hillary Swank, and Morgan Freeman bring the boxing world to life with this 2004 drama in which Frankie Dunn (Eastwood) reluctantly agrees to train Maggie Fitzgerald (Swank). This movie highlights the life of fighters and the relationship they have with their trainers. Through trials and triumphs, the characters find the path to success together.
The 2005 movie Cinderella Man takes on the rags to riches story of James J. Braddock (Russel Crowe), who finds renewed success in the ring during the Great Depression. He returns to the ring full time after a successful fight against a young rising star, and against the desires of his wife (Renee Zellweger). Depicting the trials boxers face and the ups and downs their lives can take, this movie has won hearts around the world, which has earned it a spot in the best boxing movies list.
There could not be a best-of-the-best list for boxing movies without including “The Greatest” boxer — Muhammad Ali. This 2001 film starring Will Smith details the life of boxing great Muhammad Ali. Viewers will discover the passion and fight that was behind one of the most admired boxers of all time. Loved for his presence in the ring and his activism and philanthropy work outside the ring, Ali was — and is — one of the greats of boxing of all time, making it natural that his story would become a great film as well.
While this is only a sampling of the boxing movies that have endured throughout time, these movies are among the best there are. So they’re not something to miss!
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