Throughout cinema history, boxing movies have proven to be tremendously successful, with a brilliant contribution to the genre practically every decade. In this article, we are going to discuss some of the best boxing movies of all time.
This is due in part to the popularity of underdog stories, as many of the entries rely on a character working hard to overcome a challenge at the end (the big fight). This is a tried-and-true storytelling formula, and boxing, with its dramatic nature, lends itself nicely to film.
Boxing movies have been prominent in the sports genre of cinema since the past century. Such films, which typically fall under the drama category, center on the personal and professional hardships of fictional boxers, as in the Rocky franchise, Southpaw, Million Dollar Baby, and so on. Raging Bull is the most popular boxing biopic, with Ali, Hands of Stone, and The Fighter keeping pace behind.
Since the beginning of filmmaking, boxing and cinema have been strongly intertwined. The sport’s pulsating thrill and violent elegance were made for the cinema, and boxing fights were included in some of the first motion pictures. During the twentieth century, as the sport increased in popularity, so did the movie genre. We have curated a list of the 10 best boxing movies of all time below. Choose your pick!
Table of Contents
Check Out Our List Of The 10 Best Boxing Movies of All Time:
1. Raging Bull (1980)
8.2 on IMDB
Jake La Motta, played by Robert De Niro in the film Raging Bull, is a brash champion and alcoholic who wrecks his family’s life. La Motta, unlike the other boxers in the film, is definitely not a role model. It aims to explore the brutality that distinguishes this fighter and the violent sport he is a part of, and is regarded by some as Martin Scorsese’s best film.
Rather than glorifying boxing, the film explores the darker side of the sport, and Scorsese does not hold back. In terms of editing, Thelma Schoonmaker’s cutting in the fierce and gruesome fight sequences makes Raging Bull a trailblazer in boxing movies.
2. Rocky (1976)
8.1 on IMDB
Rocky is a crown jewel in Sylvester Stallone’s filmography, with a hearty dose of drama, romance, and, of course, boxing. Rocky Balboa, the funny yet determined boxer, is easily one of Hollywood’s best underdog characters. Rocky’s coach, Mickey Goldmill, and opponent Apollo Creed, in addition to Rocky, proved to be equally important personalities.
The 1976 classic is loaded with iconic moments that defined the future of its many sequels, as well as numerous boxing dramas, whether it’s the inspirational training montage or Mickey’s temper outbursts.
3. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
8.1 on IMDB
A Million Dollar Baby, a 2004 drama film directed by Clint Eastwood, may sound like an all-too-familiar boxing movie about a trainer with past regrets helping an underdog rise to the top, but it is much more. The film stars Eastwood, Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman and was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
It is a dark, powerful, and poignant film that stunned moviegoers when it was released because of its dismal finale. It’s a brilliantly designed and shot movie, and it’s clear from the get-go that this isn’t your typical boxing movie, but rather something far more profound.
4. Cinderella Man (2005 film)
8.0 on IMDB
Cinderella Man, directed by Ron Howard and starring Russell Crowe, Renee Zellwegger, and Paul Giamatti, was released in 2005 and is based on the life of heavyweight boxing champion James J. Braddock. The film is set in the 1930s and follows Braddock (Crowe), an Irish-American boxer who is experiencing success until it is taken away from him owing to the Great Depression and a broken hand.
He is forced to retire from boxing and accept work on the docks, but his management gives him the chance of a lifetime when he offers him the chance to fill in for the world’s number two contender in a fight. Remarkably, he wins by knockout in the third round, and a legend is born.
5. The Fighter (2010)
7.8 on IMDB
In The Fighter, Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale star as half-brothers with a complicated history with boxing. Bale’s Dicky Eklund is a washed-up pro-boxer who battles a cocaine addiction, while Wahlberg’s Micky Ward attempts to get his career back on track.
The ensuing family drama aids in the development of a more dialogue-driven boxing film. Rather than focusing on high-octane boxing matches, The Fighter tries to comprehend the internal conflicts that a fighter could confront before entering the ring.
6. The Hurricane (1999)
7.6 on IMDB
Denzel Washington stars as Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a former middleweight boxer who is falsely condemned for a triple homicide in New Jersey in the mid-1960s. The film follows two plot lines, allowing the spectator to witness both the fierce and violent adolescent combatant and the mature pacifist that he grows into.
It also follows a young Brooklyn adolescent who becomes interested in Carter’s life and, as a result, helps to have his case re-examined, leading to his release from prison in 1985.
7. Creed (2015)
7.6 on IMDB
The Rocky franchise reappeared in the 2010s with the spin-off Creed, after six films over three decades. Sylvester Stallone reprises his role as the legendary boxer Rocky Balboa, this time as his coach. Michael B. Jordan plays Adonis Creed, the son of former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, who is an up-and-coming fighter.
Creed benefits enormously from having a hero who is as committed to the sport as Rocky was in his prime. Aside from the emotional themes, Creed’s combat sequences are incredibly realistic and believable, especially considering the cast includes real-life boxers such as Tony Bellew and Gabriel Rosado.
8. Before the Fall (2004)
7.4 on IMDB
Before The Fall, a German film from the 2000s is a coming-of-age drama told from the perspective of a teenage boxer. When compared to other boxing historical films, the film has some reflective and politically heated moments that set it apart.
Friedrich Weimer desires to enroll in a Nazi academy as a child during WWII, since it may be his only chance to give his boxing skills a much-needed platform. Although the institution provides him with several opportunities to demonstrate his ability, it also has the effect of altering his entire philosophy.
9. Southpaw (2015)
7.4 on IMDB
Southpaw doesn’t shy away from using standard boxing movie tropes, but Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as the primary character elevates the drama above the cliches. The film centers around a left-handed boxer who reaches a low moment in his life after the death of his wife, as the title suggests. The former champion, beset by sadness and inner demons, makes one last attempt to reclaim his previous glory.
10. Ali (2001)
6.8 on IMDB
It’s a difficult challenge to play Muhammad Ali, but Will Smith delivers a strong and assured performance that contributes to the film’s success as a biographical portrait of the boxing legend. From 1964 to 1974, the film chronicles his career, including key events such as winning the heavyweight title, converting to Islam, criticizing the Vietnam War, being banned from boxing and returning to fight against Joe Frazier, and culminating in the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” fight against George Foreman in 1974.
Also Checkout: 10 Best Sports Biopics to watch