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In The Arena Blog

The World’s Best Boxing Movies

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Boxing is a fantastic form of exercise and just as much fun to watch as it is to participate. For those who love everything about boxing, it is a good idea to take your love of boxing onto the big screen and make sure to catch the following great boxing movies.

The top two boxing movies of all time are generally thought to be “Raging Bull” and “Rocky.” “Raging Bull,” based on the life of legendary fighter Jake La Motta, is a nearly perfectly made film. Black and white cinematography adds tension to a story about a tormented boxer, portrayed beautifully by Robert De Niro. De Niro, a perfectionist in all of his roles, trained with Jake La Motta in order to really immerse himself into the character. “Rocky,” albeit based on a fictional character, is the classic story of the underdog, brilliantly and subtly portrayed by Sylvester Stallone who also penned the film itself. “Rocky” is certainly the easier character to love, but La Motta is a fascinating character nonetheless.

While “When We Were Kings,” is a documentary and not a feature film, this fact doesn’t detract from its overall greatness. The Oscar-winning film details the 1974 match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, known as “The Rumble in the Jungle.” The fight is legendary, pitting Foreman, the undefeated heavyweight champ, against Ali, who had been trying to regain the title since being banned from boxing for evading the draft. You can further delve into Ali’s greatness by watching Will Smith’s performance in “Ali.”

Ali actually took a turn as an actor in 1979’s “Freedom Road,” but that isn’t at all about boxing. To see Ali when he was still known by the name Cassius Clay, take a look at “Requiem for a Heavyweight.” Ali is seen in the opening fight of the movie, where he pummels a once-great fighter, played by Anthony Quinn, at the end of his career. The movie also stars Jackie Gleason as his unworthy manager, who owes money to the mafia after betting against Quinn during his bout against Cassius Clay.

Boxing movies typically aren’t cheerful, but they do seem to do an excellent job of showcasing interesting characters and relationships. “Million Dollar Baby” is certainly as dark as any boxing film and definitely worth watching. The performances, especially the scenes between Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood, are amazing. Eastwood stars and directs and earned an Oscar for his direction. Swank picked up her second Oscar for her performance as Maggie Fitzgerald, and Morgan Freeman also earned an Academy Award playing Eastwood’s partner and only friend.

These are just a few great boxing films, and there are many more, some old and some new, and many based upon real-life fighters. “The Fighter,” which stars Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg is a dramatization of fighter Micky Ward and his complicated half-brother, Dicky Eklund, who helped Ward train for the world light welterweight title. Another great film about boxing is “Cinderella Man,” which starts Russell Crowe and legendary fighter James Braddock. In “The Hurricane,” Denzel Washington does an admirable job of portraying Ruben “Hurricane” Carter, a rising star in the boxing world who is sent to prison after being wrongly accused of murder. The last movie is less about boxing than the others but still a great movie.


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