The sports genre has been inspiring audiences for decades. Between the best sports biopics to movies about the Olympics, this subgenre of cinema teaches people the importance of perseverance and discipline to achieve great goals. Boxing films in particular have been ahead of the pack for their stories of strength and determination. When Martin Scorcese made Raging Bull, we saw the sheer physical and mental toll that training can have on an individual. The great thing about boxing films is that one does not have to be a fan of the sport to appreciate the stories. These films come along with deep backstories including family, love, and overcoming addiction.
Many of the great boxing films have been based on inspiring true stories. This, in turn, makes them that much more enjoyable to watch. Sometimes they win, and sometimes they lose, but by the end of the film, the audience will surely be inspired to go out and chase their dreams. Sylvester Stallone was a struggling actor who wrote the screenplay for Rocky in a last-ditch effort to gain success. The film ended up winning an Academy Award for Best Picture, launched a successful franchise, and skyrocketed Stallone to A-list stardom. Anybody can learn something from these great boxing films. They teach you to go the extra mile and to get back up no matter how many times you are knocked down. Let’s dive into the best movies about boxing, ranked.
9 Bleed For This
The 2016 boxing film Bleed For This tells the story of Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller) whose career and life is shattered after a catastrophic car accident. Despite doctors and everyone else he knows telling him that he will never fight again, he starts to train despite his horrible neck injury. It is an incredible comeback story that teaches you the power of perseverance.
Will Smith gives one of the greatest performances of his career in Michael Mann’s Ali. The film follows the complicated life and career of the iconic boxer, Muhammad Ali (Smith). Not only is it a great boxing film, it also showcases many thought-provoking themes, including religious views and political activism. Smith completely embodies the champion boxer from beginning to end.
Acclaimed filmmaker Ryan Coogler co-wrote and directed this Rocky spin-off following the life of Apollo Creed’s son Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan). At the same time, Stallone reprises his role as Rocky Balboa and takes the job as Creed’s trainer. Coogler’s direction is magnificent and there are several memorable fight scenes. Creed is also filled with a lot of heart, and Stallone gives one of the greatest performances of his career.
6 The Hurricane
Denzel Washington gives a tour de force performance as Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in this inspirational film about boxing and friendship. After the champion boxer is imprisoned for a murder that he did not commit, he dedicates his life to his mental strength and finding a way to prove his innocence. He begins a friendship with a young man and his Canadian caretakers, who eventually help free Carter. It is an inspirational story about personal growth and never giving up.
5 The Fighter
David O. Russell hits the streets of Boston with his true story about professional boxers Mickie Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and Dicky Ecklund (Christian Bale). The Fighter focuses on Mickie’s rise to the championship while dealing with his dysfunctional family, including his drug addicted brother, Dicky. Wahlberg, Bale, along with the rest of the cast, all give stunning performances from beginning to end. The film teaches you the power of hard work, as well as the importance of love and family.
4 Million Dollar Baby
It was refreshing to see a movie focused on a woman boxer in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby. Hilary Swank plays a struggling boxer named Maggie Fitzgerald, who goes under the wing of a stubborn and tough coach, played by Clint Eastwood. Their endearing relationship is the heart of the film and both Eastwood and Swank give fantastic performances. Fitzgerald’s life takes a turn for the worse after she becomes a quadriplegic, and we are given one of the saddest endings in film history.
3 Cinderella Man
Ron Howard’s Cinderella Man is a fantastic boxing film, as well as a deep look into life during the Great Depression. The movie follows James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) who struggles to put food on the table for his family after the economic crash. With the help of his old trainer, Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti), Braddock is given another shot at becoming champion. He overcomes all odds and becomes an inspiration for the masses after winning the title. Howard directs a fantastic boxing film filled with a spectacular cast and a fascinating story.
2 Raging Bull
Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull was a monumental achievement in all aspects of cinema. The story, cinematography, and performances are all top-notch, and we are given one of the best boxing films of all time. Robert De Niro completely transforms into Jake LaMotta, and we watch the deep mental and physical toll that the sport takes on him. The black and white cinematography works perfectly for the story and Scorsese proved, once again, his capabilities as a filmmaker.
It should be no surprise that the iconic story of Rocky Balboa gets the # 1 spot on this list. Stallone’s screenplay was a brilliant and a monumental achievement. Rocky is the classic story of an underdog rising to the top despite all odds. At the same time, it is an endearing love story between Balboa and the soft-spoken Adrian (Talia Shire). The film created one of the most successful franchises in movie history and the original film still holds up to this day.
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