Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My Top Boxing Movies

My movie lists are getting a little more obscure, as "boxing" isn't exactly a genre of movie. But some of the greatest films over history have centered around or incorporated boxing in the plot. Perhaps this has to do with the conflict between good and evil, overcoming opponents, facing challenges, etc. Or maybe it's just entertaining to watch people beat the tar out of one another. Either way, these movies are solid.

Rocky (1976) Rocky Balboa is a character you either love or hate. You can hate him, because there are far too many movies made about him. Or you can love him, because he's the "everyman" hero. Either way, Rocky personified the underdog story: a nobody from Philly rising up to "go the distance" with the world champion Apollo Creed. Rocky's story inspires, gives us hope, and exemplifies humility conquering pride. Rocky won Best Picture for 1976 and made Sylvester Stallone a star.

Raging Bull(1980) Robert De Niro won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of real-life boxer Jake La Motta. While Rocky is a more positive story that gives us hope, Raging Bull portrays the downward spiral of a boxing champion. Raging Bull is hard to watch, as La Motta is a violent and paranoid character that fills the audience with disgust. But the acting and cinematography is phenomenal. Shot in black and white, the film is dark, raw, and honestly depressing. This is a film that stays in your mind for weeks afterwards. I'm reluctant to recommend seeing it, as the content is very graphic, and I almost regret watching it. But I include it on this list because it is a well-made film based on my movie list criteria. This movie creates a philosophical crisis: can art be both offensive/disgusting and quality/valuable? Should we watch films with "bad" content, even though there are important aspects to the film that are worthy of praise? Where do we draw the line between watchable and garbage-worthy? Think about it...then let me know your thoughts!

Ali (2001) Will Smith literally becomes Cassius Clay in this film. While Ali is not much of a role model as he lives based on arrogance, the acting and story-telling is wonderful in this film. Jon Voight also becomes Howard Cosell, and their sarcastic friendship in the film is fun to watch. It must be hard to portray real-life people, but these guys definitely pull it off.

On the Waterfront (1954) While there is no actual boxing in this film, the story centers around an ex-fighter portrayed by Marlon Brando. Terry Malloy (Brando) works at the docks run by the corrupt union boss. When Terry witnesses a murder committed by the boss's thugs, his conscience is stricken with guilt. I first watched this film in high school with my friends Brian and Joe. They both fell asleep. But after watching the film a few more times, I can really appreciate the moral questions brought up by the film, as well as the incredible acting. This film has one of film history's most famous scenes, where Terry and his brother Charley argue in the backseat of a taxi. "I could have been a contender...I could have been somebody..."

Snatch (2000) This British film has one of the best ensemble casts I've ever seen. The dialogue is quick and witty, the characters are quirky and fun, and Brad Pitt is incredible in one-punch bare-knuckle boxing matches. The soundtrack is also incredible. This fast-paced movie is solid, and revolves around illegal boxing matches, diamond thieves, and gypsies in the seedy parts of London.

Million Dollar Baby (2004) Another Best Picture winner, this film is both about boxing and moral dilemmas. While I won't spoil the ending of this film, it does bring up some issues for discussion about life, death, and purpose. While the film is slow-paced (a Clint Eastwood signature), it has incredible depth in its acting and story-telling. The relationship between Maggie and Frankie in the film is moving and deep. I've heard a lot of people say they didn't like this film or couldn't appreciate it. I guess I just disagree. It is a film that brings about dialogue, so that makes it important to me.

Cinderella Man (2005) I must admit, I watched this film with high hopes, but ended a bit disappointed. Russell Crowe is a great actor, and Paul Giamatti was nominated for as Oscar as the manager. I'm honestly not sure why I didn't enjoy it as much as others on this list, but I am trying to be genuine. Maybe I'll give this film another shot (just like Braddock in the movie!) and see if it becomes a winner. I still include it on the list, because even against my own personal feelings, it's a great film about overcoming odds and finding hope during the Depression era.

This is a shorter list, partly because there aren't many boxing-related films, and partly because I haven't seen a few that involve boxing. Here's a few I'm looking forward to renting from Netflix:
The Hurricane (1999), The Quiet Man (1952), Girlfight (2000), The Harder They Fall (1956).

Which boxing movies did I miss? Feel free to include some in the comments below!

A Movie List Disclaimer: Please use wisdom and discernment before choosing to watch some of these films, as many do contain some graphic or offensive material. My movie opinions don't reflect everyone elses. Don't just watch a film because I mentioned it on my blog! Check ratings and content before choosing to view any film.


  1. I'm not a huge fan of boxing films. The Rocky movies are okay. I'd have to say that my favorite on your list is Snatch... no contest.

  2. Cam-
    If you haven't seen On The Waterfront, you have to. No movie scholar can claim movie dominance without it! :)