10 Must See Boxing Films
Being a highly emotional sport, and provider of many a real life underdog-against all odds stories it’s no surprise that Hollywood has got its filthy paws all over the boxing storybook, thus spawning numerous critically acclaimed boxing films.
Here are some my favourites…
1. The Rocky Franchise
Like the eponymous hero himself, number one was an absolute no brainer. The “Rocky story” has become short hand for anyone who goes on to succeed, despite the odds being stacked against them, and is a classic piece of Hollywood, with the original film winning the 1976 Academy Award for best picture. Will certainly be seen as Stallone’s defining character, and the although he tried desperately to fuck up the series with Rocky V, “Rocky Balboa”, the 6th film proved that you should never write the old champ off just yet.
2. Cinderella Man
Cinderella Man directed by Ron Howard told the story of James Braddock, a washed up depression era, proto-rocky-eseque fighter who like his successor, won the Heavyweight championship of the world…against all odds, or more accurately 10-1.
3. The Harder they fall
The Harder They Fall is a classic film noir starring legendary actor Humphrey Bogart in his last film before his unfortunate death in 1957. The black and white film tells the story of the “Primo Carnera” boxing scandal with Bogart playing a down on his luck reporter tasked with promoting and helping publicise the illegitimate mob owned heavyweight contender.
4. Somebody Up There Likes Me
Another older one now…Somebody Up There Likes Me is a 1956 film depicting the life of legendary middleweight boxer Rocky Graziano, another precursor to the rocky story genre ;). The film focuses on his discharge from the US army, his subsequent discovery of his talent when he needs money, and an unfortunate setback in the form of black mail, before re-matching a fighter he previously lost to, winning the world title, and presumably living happily ever after.
5. Million Dollar Baby
Million Dollar Baby is an excellent female-orientated sports movie directed, co-produced, and scored by Hollywood tough guy Clint Eastwood, starring himself, Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman. The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and without giving two much away, has a morally ambiguous ending. Set your stool out for a real tear jerker i.e potentially sad ending.
Ali is a 2001 American biographical film directed by action film supremo Michael Mann. The film tells the story of the boxer Cassius Clay and his subsequent transformation to Muhammad Ali from 1964 to 1974. Will Smith turns in an excellent performance, capturing of the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, converting to Islam, criticising the Vietnam War, quitting boxing, returning to fight Joe Frazier, before beating George Foreman in the Legendary Rumble in the Jungle. It isn’t a straight up boxing movie, and at times gets rather political.
7. The Boxer
You could say that this title is somewhat misleading. The film isn’t necessarily about Boxing per Se but nonetheless as you would expect from Daniel Day-Lewis, it is a real powerful story with acting, second to none. The film centres on boxer and former Provisional IRA Volunteer, Danny Flynn, who is trying to “go straight” after his release from prison, and the difficulties he encounters.
8. The Hurricane
The Hurricane tells the incredibly story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the former middleweight boxing champion who was falsely convicted of a triple homicide in a bar in Paterson, New Jersey, seemingly due to racism, and inadequte police investigation. Besides this key turning point the film also depicts life in prison and how he was freed by the love and compassion of a teenager from Brooklyn and his Canadian foster family.
9. The Fighter
The Fighter is a 2010 biographical sports drama film directed by Hollywood flavour of the month David O. Russell, and starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo. The film focuses on the life of professional boxer Micky Ward (Wahlberg) and his older half-brother Dicky Eklund (Bale), and shows his transition from an unspectacularly average fighter, to his career defining bout with Arturo Gatti.
10. Raging Bull
Raging Bull is perhaps the most critically fawned upon film amongst this list, which isn’t too surprising with the Scorsese/De Niro dynamic. The biopic depicts some of the battles ( both inside and outside of the ring *sigh*) that Jake LaMotta went through throughout his career as a boxer. The fights scene’s are really excellent, and you can tell that De Niro put EVERYTHING into the role, from having professional fights himself, to gourging on Italian cuisine to gain 60 pounds for the scenes of the older La Motta. Obsessed levels of dedication went into the film, and some of the facts are mind blowing.