Boxing movies are a popular genre of cinema that showcase the drama, action and emotion of the sport. Whether it’s based on a true story or a fictional one, boxing movies often inspire and entertain audiences with their portrayal of courage, perseverance and triumph. Here is my list:
10b. Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)
This film adaptation of Rod Serling’s teleplay stars Anthony Quinn as Harlan “Mountain” McClintock, a washed-up boxer who faces the end of his career after a brutal defeat by a younger opponent. His manager Maish (Jackie Gleason) owes money to the mob and tries to persuade McClintock to become a professional wrestler, while his cut man Army (Mickey Rooney) tries to protect him from further harm. McClintock also meets Grace (Julie Harris), an employment agency worker who offers him a chance at a new life. The film features cameo appearances by Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), Jack Dempsey and other boxing legends. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography and is praised for its realistic portrayal of the boxing world and its human drama.
10a. Bleed for This (2016)
Based on the life of Vinny Pazienza, a former world champion boxer who made an incredible comeback after a near-fatal car crash. The film stars Miles Teller as Vinny, who shows his dedication and resilience as he defies the odds and returns to the ring with a metal brace around his head. Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal, Ciarán Hinds, and Ted Levine also deliver strong performances as Vinny’s coach, mother, father, and manager, respectively. Bleed for This is a gripping and inspiring story of courage and perseverance that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
9. The Harder They Fall (1956)
This film noir marks Humphrey Bogart’s final screen appearance as Eddie Willis, a former sportswriter who is hired by a shady promoter Nick Benko (Rod Steiger) to hype up Toro Moreno (Mike Lane), an unknown but massive Argentinian boxer. Willis soon discovers that Toro has no talent and that all his fights are fixed by Benko, who plans to cash in on a title fight with champion Buddy Brannen (Max Baer). Willis struggles with his conscience as he witnesses Toro’s exploitation and the corruption of the sport he loves. The film is based on Budd Schulberg’s novel, which was inspired by the real-life story of Primo Carnera, a boxer who was allegedly manipulated by mobsters. The film is acclaimed for its gritty realism, sharp dialogue and powerful performances by Bogart and Steiger.
8. The Fighter (2010)
Directed by David O. Russell and starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, The Fighter is a biographical drama that tells the story of Micky Ward, a professional boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts, and his half-brother Dicky Eklund, a former boxer who struggles with drug addiction and crime. The movie depicts Micky’s rise to fame as he fights for the world title, while Dicky tries to redeem himself as his trainer and mentor. The Fighter received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and won two for Best Supporting Actor (Bale) and Best Supporting Actress (Melissa Leo).
7. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Eastwood, Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby is a sports drama that follows Maggie Fitzgerald, a waitress who dreams of becoming a professional boxer. She convinces Frankie Dunn, a grizzled trainer who owns a gym, to take her under his wing and train her for the big leagues. Along the way, they develop a father-daughter bond that is tested by tragedy. Million Dollar Baby won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Swank) and Best Supporting Actor (Freeman).
6. Creed (2015)
A spin-off of the Rocky series, Creed stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson, the son of Apollo Creed who never knew his father. Adonis seeks out Rocky Balboa to train him as a boxer and follow in his father’s footsteps. Together, they face challenges both inside and outside the ring, as Adonis prepares to fight the reigning champion Ricky Conlan. Creed was praised for its performances, direction and homage to the original Rocky movies.
5. Cinderella Man (2005)
Directed by Ron Howard and starring Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger, Cinderella Man is a biographical drama that tells the story of James J. Braddock, a boxer who was forced to retire due to injuries and poverty during the Great Depression. He makes an unlikely comeback when he gets a chance to fight for the heavyweight title against Max Baer, who was notorious for killing two men in the ring. Cinderella Man was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor (Paul Giamatti).
4. When We Were Kings (1996)
This documentary film chronicles the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” heavyweight championship bout between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman that took place in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1974. The film features archival footage of the fighters, their trainers, promoters, journalists and celebrities, as well as interviews with Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, Spike Lee and others who witnessed the event. The film also captures the cultural and political context of the fight, including the Zaire 74 music festival that featured James Brown, B.B. King and other soul legends. The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and is widely regarded as one of the best sports documentaries ever made.
3. The Hurricane (1999)
Directed by Norman Jewison and starring Denzel Washington, The Hurricane is a biographical drama that depicts the life of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a middleweight boxer who was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent 19 years in prison before being exonerated by a group of activists. The movie shows Carter’s struggle for justice and freedom, as well as his friendship with Lesra Martin (Vicellous Reon Shannon), a young man who helped prove his innocence. The Hurricane was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards
2. Rocky (1976)
The film that launched a franchise and made Sylvester Stallone a star, Rocky is an iconic and influential movie that tells the story of Rocky Balboa (Stallone), a small-time boxer from Philadelphia who gets a chance to fight against the world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Written by Stallone and directed by John G. Avildsen, Rocky is a classic underdog tale that combines realistic fight scenes with memorable characters and dialogue. The film also features one of the most famous montages in cinema history, as Rocky trains for his big fight by running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
1. Raging Bull (1980)
Widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, Raging Bull is a masterpiece of filmmaking that depicts the life and career of Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro), a middleweight boxer who was known for his brutal style and temperamental personality. Directed by Martin Scorsese and based on LaMotta’s autobiography, Raging Bull is a stunning and visceral portrait of a man who destroys himself and everyone around him with his violence and jealousy. De Niro delivers an astonishing performance as LaMotta, gaining and losing weight to portray him at different stages of his life. The film also features superb cinematography, editing, and sound design that capture the intensity and realism of the boxing scenes.