An anonymous person said, “Boxing is like a ballet where there would be no music or choreography and the dancers would hit each other. “
Finding a good boxing film is not difficult. From Charlie Chaplin’s burlesque to the drama and true story of boxer Rubin Carter, and of course all of the Hollywood portrayals of Muhammad Ali. The spectator sport seems to find itself at home on screen.
Boxing and combat sports have attracted so much attention for nearly half a century, that they have been awarded a specific genre of film: the boxing film.
We all have our favourite kinds of movies: action movie, war movie, animated movie, sci-fi movie, horror movie, blockbusters, biopics …
We will never forget the great films that have gone down in the history of contemporary cinema such as those of A. Hitchcock, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Tarantino, Polanski, Ford Coppola, the Coen brothers, D. Fincher, D. Lynch, and those of Ken Loach.
The list of great films to see is long for a movie buff.
A cinephile or aspiring boxer can also look for a didactic aspect in these films that retrace the lives of boxing world champions, before putting the boxing gloves on in the ring.
Here, is a top 10 list made by us of the greatest boxing movies to make it into the hall of fame.
So what’s is our favourite boxing movie?
This American film was directed by Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977) in 1915.
Charlie Chaplin gives a memorable boxing performance in the Champion.
We all know the legendary character of Charles Chaplin, one of the staples of the history of cinema in the 20th century, who played in more than 80 films during a career of nearly 70 years.
In The Champion, we see Challenger, a wanderer, donning boxing gloves to take on the role of sparring partner – a training partner to help a champion prepare for a match against boxer Bob Uppercut to win a little money.
But when Challenger sees Bob Uppercut defeat all his opponents, who fall one by one like flies, Challenger begins to regret his daring choice.
When it comes time for the illustrious Challenger to enter the ring, we see him secretly slip a horseshoe into his glove.
The vagabond then becomes a boxer, and acrobatically rises to the challenge in a last fight.
This film is not part of boxing history but remains good entertainment!
A film that has become both legendary and world famous, Rocky is a series of films written and directed by the American actor Sylvester Stallone.
In total, there are eight films made since 1976, retracing the fictional story of an Italian-American boxer, from the poor and crowded neighbourhoods of Philadelphia, to become boxing world champion: Rocky Balboa.
Rocky Balboa has managed to become both a legend and a hero to cinephiles and boxing fans alike.
Played throughout the Reagan years (1980-1988) up until today, the trilogy has become a tribute to the real boxer Chuck Wepner (who almost put down Muhammad Ali) while conveying the image of the American dream.
This biopic – a biographical film – is considered one of the top films ever made, which traces the career of Jake LaMotta (1922-2017), released in 1980.
Raging Bull definitely isn’t a romantic comedy. At least we don’t think so.
Voted best film of the decade in 1990, and nominated or eight Academy awards, this masterpiece on the rise of the “Bronx Bull” was directed by Martin Scorcese, starring Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta.
The breathtaking film shows J. LaMotta, coming from a very modest background, rising for twenty years to notoriety, through his victories in hand-to-hand combat, notably against Sugar Ray Robinson and Marcel Cerdan, becoming world champion in middleweight category from 1949 to 1951.
And then, the decline, the inevitable fall of the champion …
Criticism of the film? One could object to Scorcese having too much interest in the boxer’s private life rather than his legendary fights.
Almost every film critic, however, would say that this is a key reference in the boxing film genre.
Perhaps it’s one of the reasons you want to take up boxing!
Fans of the “Noble Art” say that this film is one of the best films revealing the power of great competitors.
Finally, an incredible boxing documentary.
This documentary film, released in 1996, retraces the mythical fight between Muhammad Ali and George Fworeman in Kinshasa (formerly Zaire, Democratic Republic of Congo), on October 30, 1974.
This fight was nicknamed “The Rumble in the Jungle” and it was Muhammad Ali – Cassius Clay – who put George Foreman on the mat, by knockout (KO) in the eighth round.
The film evokes, in addition to the mythical final of the world championship, the tactics of Mr. Ali –
The rope-a-dope is performed by a boxer assuming a protected stance (in Ali’s classic pose, lying against the ropes, which allows much of the punch’s energy to be absorbed by the ropes’ elasticity rather than the boxer’s body). The boxer keeps their guard up and is prepared for the incoming blows, while looking for opportunities to counter punch their opponent, who by mounting an offensive may have left themselves open to counters.
The film also evokes the climate in which championship was organized, including the dictatorship of Mobutu.
The film received the Oscar for best documentary film in 1997 at the Academy Awards.
Directed in 1999, Hurricane Carter is a biographical film that evokes the difficult journey of boxer Rubin Carter (1937-2014), aka Hurricane Carter.
As he begins to make himself known to the general public, the international boxer in the middleweight category learns of the apocalypse and descends into hell (figuratively).
Like the sport itself, The Hurricane is bursting with drama.
Ranked in the top 10 in 1963, he went on to win and managed to achieve the improbable: to become one of the serious contenders for the world title.
He continued his meteoric rise until he was accused, in 1967 and 1976, of a possible triple murder in 1966.
Ready to put on your boxing gloves?
Directed by Karyn Kusama in 2000, this film puts female boxing in the spotlight through a young woman with a painful past and from a disadvantaged social context.
Girlfight was well received by critics upon its release.
Originally from Brooklyn, with a suicide mother, an alcoholic and violent father, having been expelled from several schools, Diana Guzman finds in boxing a refuge and a subterfuge to get away from the vicissitudes of the life she is trying to flee.
She channels her rage towards the punching bag at the boxing club and finds a joie de vivre by identifying with other social groups outside of her own social world, made of despair and violence.
Among the list of films on the Noble Art, Ali is among those to see without doubt.
Released in 2001, the film tells the story and life of the most famous boxer, between his coronation of world champion in 1964 in his first fight against Sonny Liston, up until his fight against G. Foreman in Kinshasa in 1974.
A biographical portrayal of the greatest boxing legend of all time. . . Muhammad Ali.
Undefeated in the boxing ring, the film also chronicles the activism of the boxer, who would change his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, become a Muslim and who was close to the militant activist for human rights, Malcom X.
Incarnated by Will Smith, we discover on screen one of the best dramas made about boxing and Muhammad Ali.
Want to read the legendary punchlines of this famous boxer?
Hilary Swank was famously underpaid for this film which won her an oscar in 2005.
Among recent films, it is impossible to study or review boxing films without recognizing the Clint Eastwood masterpiece.
If our readers love boxing, you absolutely must see the film Million Dollar Baby (2004).
Former boxing coach, Frankie (Clint Eastwood) runs a small boxing gym with his partner “Scrap” (Morgan Freeman), a former boxer.
A young woman – Margaret “Maggie” Fitzgerald – upsets the balance of the boxing club, and pushes Frankie – in a phenomenal acting game – to become her boxing coach despite his initial reluctance.
With intensive training and Frankie’s advice, “Maggie” (Hilary Swank) gaines notoriety by winning KO victories in the first round.
Frankie makes known his wish to stop, believing that things are going too far.
He organises one last fight, for the world title: a fight against Billie (played by the boxer Lucia Rijker), which takes a dramatic turn…
A poignant film about a boxer with a tragic destiny, perhaps one of the most beautiful boxing films of the last twenty years.
Released in 2005, this film directed by Ron Howard stages the story of James J. Braddock (1905-1974), world champion American heavyweight from 1935 to 1937.
Cinderella Man was nominated for three Academy Awards in 2006.
In the early 1930s, he tried to escape financially while the United States was stuck in the Great Depression, as he resolves to do odd, uninteresting jobs with little reward to survive with his wife.
Yet he is incited to fight the number 2 in the world: a match that ends with his thunderous victory in the third round.
Now considered the favorite challenger of the world number one, a decisive match for his career looms, against Max Baer …
Directed in 2013, this excellent French film recalls the life of Victor Younki (1911-1945), youngest boxer of all time to have been crowned double champion of France (1931-1932) and world champion flyweight the same year .
A stirring historical portrayal of both athleticism and terror.
Of Tunisian nationality – Tunisia still being a French colony – and of Jewish confession, he moved to Paris in the early 1930s.
While the political, economic and social climate is deteriorating everywhere in Europe, Victor Younki does not long suffer the consequences of anti-Semitism and the rise of fascism.
While Hitler has been in charge of Nazi Germany since 1933, V. Younki agrees to play in Berlin just after Kristallknocht (1938).
Seeing that the number of Jewish raids is accelerating, he thinks of leaving France in the early 1940s.
However, he never has time …
Arrested on denunciation by the French Gestapo in Paris, he was sent to the Auschwitz extermination camp on September 21, 1943.
Nicknamed “the champion”, he is summoned to box at the camp, during matches refereed by SS where the winner gets an extra ration of food, while the loser is executed.
Having won all of his matches, he dies on January 22, 1945, shot by an SS he had beat previously in the boxing ring.
A tragic, chilling film in which Brahim Asloum plays the role of Victor Younki – aka Victor Young Perez – that painstakingly describes the ravages of Nazi barbarism and war.
A good way to discover on the screen one of the best French boxers.
See 10 good reasons to take up boxing here!
Finally, see a summary of all things boxing here.