Boxing movies have been quite popular in the sports genre of cinema since the nineteenth century. Such boxing films, which typically fall under the drama category, centre on the emotional and professional problems of fictitious boxers, like in the case of the Rocky franchise, Southpaw, Million Dollar Baby, and so on. Raging Bull is the most popular boxing biopic, followed by Ali, Hands of Stone, and The Fighter.
“The Fighter,” featuring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, has received rave reviews and will be released in theatres around the country today. This film appears to have the potential to become one of the best boxing movies of all time. Wahlberg portrays “Irish” Micky Ward, while Bale plays his brother, who was once a proud warrior but is now on drugs and on the verge of death.
We don’t know where this film will rank among the finest boxing movies just yet. Is it better than any Rocky film or John Wayne’s performance in “The Quiet Man”?
Boxing and cinema have been inextricably linked since the dawn of filmmaking. The sport’s pulsating excitement and furious elegance were well suited to the cinema, and boxing contests are included in some of the earliest surviving motion pictures. The movie genre rose in popularity alongside the sport during the twentieth century.
It’s no wonder that filmmakers return to it on a regular basis. With its mythology, violent battles, and lengthy history of societal upheaval, football can be a symbol for almost everything. They might be basic battle stories, but they are more often than not examinations of greedy commercial exploitation, poverty, brutality, and racism. They poke fun at class differences and what it means to be a “guy” in the world. They can, however, be melancholy reflections on what could have been or might never have been. They talk of the long black night of the soul, damned-if-you-do existentialism in which you climb from the gutter only to be eaten up and spit out by the sport’s furious internal mechanisms. However, there are also lighthearted celebration biopics and comedy parodies to pick from.
Boxing movies have proven to be tremendously successful throughout film history, with a spectacular contribution to the genre apparently appearing every decade. This is due in part to the popularity of underdog stories since many of the entries focus on a character working hard to overcome a challenge at the end (the big fight). This is a basic storytelling pattern, and because boxing is so dramatic, it lends itself beautifully to film. Here are ten of the best boxing movies of all time. All of them will have you hyped up and ready for anything.
Top 15 Best Boxing Updated In 2022
We won’t know for a long time. But which are the best boxing movies of all time? It would be difficult to rate such wonderful films; there have been many. With the argument just getting started, here are the top 15.
Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci feature in this real-life storey of boxer Jake LaMotta. This film, directed by Martin Scorsese, was released 30 years ago this weekend. The battle sequences are as realistic as they can be, with DeNiro excelling as the irascible warrior. The film lasts 129 minutes and is captivating from the first scene. Forget boxing; this is one of the best films of all time, placing #24 on the AFI list.
Rocky is well-known. One of history’s most incredible stories, and a real underdog at its best. Rocky, a lowly schlub, is given the opportunity to fight the World Heavyweight Champion, Apollo Creed, and makes the most of it. This film, starring Sylvester Stallone, who also authored it, and ranked # 78 on the American Film Institute’s list of the finest 100 American movies, marked the beginning of what may be the greatest film series of all time.
Russell Crowe’s portrayal of boxer James J. Braddock’s genuine storey brings tears to my eyes. This film provides us with an inside look at how horrible the Great Depression was and how a man who has been through the worst of it comes out with heart and resolve. When Braddock fights Max Baer in this film, he has one of the best fight scenes in any boxing film.
Clint Eastwood directed and starred in this moving film, which was released in 2004. Hilary Swank delivers the strongest performance of her career as Maggie, a waitress from Missouri who passionately wants to be a champion but is 31 years old and knows nothing about the sport. Despite this, Maggie triumphs and earns a crack at the world title before a heartbreaking finish.
In this film about the life of the first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, James Earl Jones portrays Jack Jefferson. Jane Alexander leads the remainder of the group as Johnson’s white buddy, Eleanor Backman. The antagonism in this 1970 film is palpable from the start and grows as Jefferson continues to fight and visit Backman.
A Film Made in America In this 1949 noir directed by Roberts, Robert Ryan appears as Bill “The Stoker” Thompson, an over-the-hill boxer still attempting to fight in this 1949 noir. Stoker’s manager, and a guy named Little Boy, arrange a battle between Stoker and Tiger Nelson, who is much favoured. Stoker discovers the fix and beats Nelson in a gruelling match.
The second instalment of the six-part film series pits Balboa against Creed II. Creed desires a rematch when Balboa retires, so he mocks Balboa, forcing the rematch. The now-married Balboa, and soon-to-be father, do not train properly, and boxing does not appear to be on his mind until his girlfriend, Adrian, collapses and nearly dies. From that moment on, with Adrian’s support, a new Rocky Balboa is created, and he defeats the champ to win the title.
The original “Champ” from 1931 somewhat outperforms Jon Voight in “The Champ” (1979). Wallace Beery plays Champ, a drunken gambler who is raising his kid, Dink. The title overcomes the Mexican Heavyweight champ in his final match to reclaim his son’s horse, which he had previously lost due to a gambling debt. The Champ returns to the locker room, seriously injured after the match, and dies. This film establishes one of the most memorable lines: “I want the Champ!”
The original storey and film have been recreated several times, including Heaven Can Wait and Down to Earth, but this is by far the greatest. Joe Pendleton dies by accident before being resurrected in the body of another man. He begins to square up the life of the guy whose body he is in before being moved to his last body, Murdoch, a boxing opponent. This enthralling film stars Robert Montgomery.
Denzel Washington appears as Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a powerful fighter sentenced to jail for the murder of three people. Carter, who was sentenced to three life terms with another guy, John Artis, insists he did not murder anyone. When it was revealed that his conviction was “based on racism rather than reason,” he was fired. This film is excellent in depicting what Carter went through in his life and in order to be released from prison.
Albert Maysles and Bradley Caplan collaborated on this episode of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, which features sports films created by great filmmakers that prioritise humanistic, captivating storytelling and high-quality production standards. The film relies heavily on footage shot by Maysles in 1980, during the build-up to and aftermath of the famed Holmes v. Ali fight. It was a battle that should never have happened; Holmes idolised Ali, who was well past his peak and was displaying early indications of Parkinson’s illness. But the champ’s arrogance, not to mention a shady, hungry entourage, would not enable him to depart graciously. Instead, this devastating picture follows Ali, the hero, as he is brought down by a skilled and self-effacing guy who had no intention of hitting him.
In this 1970s biopic based on his autobiography, Muhammad Ali does what he does best: he plays himself. The picture, which was partially shot by arthouse filmmaker Milos Foreman, has a brilliant supporting cast that includes Ernest Borgnine, Robert Duvall, and James Earl, Jones. Almost all of the boxing contests are from Ali’s battles. If this all sounds very flawless, it’s not—the film is pretty silent on the more contentious aspects of Ali’s life and doesn’t strive to uncover anything new—but it’s still a completely lovely depiction of the champ.
The Emile Griffith vs. Benny Paret bout of 1962 is regarded as one of boxing’s most devastating incidents. Ring of Fire delves into it in-depth, piecing together the events of the evening—as well as the many decades of rage, sorrow, and shame that have followed. Before their fight, Paret muttered a homophobic insult to Griffith. Griffith, a closeted homosexual, erupted in a frenzy, and Paret was knocked out by the 12th round. Only Paret collapsed in front of the ring, fell into a coma, and died 10 days later. Years later, still suffering from the pain of this occurrence, Griffith seeks out a meeting with Paret’s son, who offers him forgiveness. It’s a strong concoction of old-world anxieties about sexuality, masculine fury, and the power of forgiveness.
In this superb Italian melodrama, boxing is an unintentional avenue to fame and fortune. In Luchino Visconti’s 1960 film, Alain Delon played one of four Southern Italian farm boys who go to Milan with their mother. These farm guys in the big city are quickly drawn in and spoilt by the city’s thrills—girls, crime, and the fight racket. Boxing is included in the film not just as a symbol of the perils (and rewards) of urban life, but also as a litmus test for moral strength. When Rocco’s brother Simone turns into a slacker boxer devoid of discipline and moral rigour, Rocco—a better, nicer human being—steps in and soars to victory.
Robert Wise appreciated double-acts. In his career, he created two terrific boxing films, as well as two great films about adolescents in NYC gangs. Wise produced Rocky Graziano’s life storey prior to West Side Story, wanting to showcase the fighter’s ne’er-do-well criminal upbringing and eventual army defection. Paul Newman plays Graziano as a big-mouthed, roughneck charmer who is lovable despite himself. It’s one of the rare boxing movies that start gruff and brutal and finishes joyfully, with Graziano on top. Somebody Up There Likes Me is a realistic look at New York street life and the calming impact boxing may have on such an erratic character.