There have been so many boxing movies made over the years that it's almost impossible to narrow a list down which best represents what we think are the best boxing movies ever made, as certainly, one must take into account the wonderful boxing movies of the '40s like Champion with Kurt Douglas or Body and Soul with John Garfield; certainly one would also be wise to consider the slew of documentaries that have been made about boxing as well such as: When We Were Kings (1996) or Boxing Gym (2010) for example. As there have been so many excellent boxing movies over the last 70 years, we thought it might be best to narrow down our list to five boxing movies that were made within the last 40 years as a means of satisfying contemporary film attention spans, understanding that some, don't appreciate black and white movies today strangely enough...
What follows are our favorite boxing movies (in no particular order):
The film that captures the hearts of so money, and one that has spawned several boxing movie sequels, most recently Creed. Rocky is the film that made Sly Stallone into the Hollywood superstar that he has been now for almost 40 years. Prior to Rocky, no boxing film has ever gone so richly into the heart and make-up of the fighter. The movie captured the essence of the driving force behind the fighter himself. It is a masterpiece, an iconic part of American culture today, and one of the greatest movies of all time.
Raging Bull (1980)
Whereas, in something like Rocky, we as the audience could root and get behind Rocky Balboa the person and fledgling boxer, in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull it's a bit more difficult to do so, as in Bull, Scorsese uses Robert DeNiro to portray Jake LaMotta. LaMotta one of the most notorious boxers in the history of sport is not portrayed with much flattery in the film itself. In fact, it's a man that one is more inclined to dislike then like. He hits women, he gambles, and yet, for all intensive purposes, he is an anti-hero for us to audience to experience.
Cinderella Man (2005)
As Raging Bull was inspired by real boxer Jake LaMotta, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer's Cinderella Man is based entirely on the true events surrounding 1930s heavy-weight champion James Braddock. Braddock was an irish-pounder who at one point injured his and was forced to leave to the ring. In the heat of the Great Depression, Braddock is forced to make ends meet by doing manual labor even though he is unable to do such every day due to his injured hand. Having the soul of a fighter Braddock cannot stay outta of the ring for long, as even with a bad hand, he takes an offer to fight for money against one of the biggest contenders for the light-heavyweight championship. If you've seen Cinderella Man then you know how it turns out, but if you haven't--then we won't spoil it for you.
Fat City (1972)
While Fat City may be just a couple years outside of our 40-year rule, it is an essential boxing movie. Whereas Raging Bull and Cinderella Man examine the fighter before, during, and after his time in the ring, Fat City looks at a former, albeit fictionally, boxer named Billy Tully who is washed out, can no longer be in the ring and a drunk. Actor Stacy Keach delivers a tour-de-force performance alongside actress Susan Tyrell. Tully discovers a young up-and-coming boxer and instead of taking him on and training him, it inspires his own return to the ring. Which, as you may imagine, doesn't go so well.
The Fighter (2010)
Centered around another fictional character, David O. Russell's The Fighter features actors Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo. Wahlberg plays a tried and washed up fighter who has a reputation for being an easy one to beat for all upcoming boxers. The Fighter looks at the drive of the fighter and why they fight even though they shouldn't probably any longer.