With the drama of underdog stories and the action in the ring, boxing has always been a favorite when it comes to depicting sport on the silver screen. Boxing betting is just as popular and has been the subject of some movies as well.
The standard of boxing films is so high that it is actually difficult narrowing it down to five of the best. But here is our selection of pugilist pictures that you absolutely have to see.
One of the most well know and best loved boxing films of all time, Rocky brought Sylvester Stallone to the forefront of Hollywood with his self-penned story of a small-time Philadelphia boxer who is given the chance to fight for the world heavyweight title.
The film could be regarded as predictable but it is the performances from Stallone and his fellow cast that boosts Rocky into movie legend. Countless sequels and spin-offs have followed in its wake – and there is even a statue of Rocky Balboa in the center of Philadelphia. You can read more about Rocky statue in the blog post Legendary Movie Sets Open to the Public.
When We Were Kings (1996)
The sport of boxing might lend itself perfectly to drama but one of the greatest ever films is a documentary following the build up to one of the most famous fights of all time. In 1974 promoter Don King brought the heavyweight champion George Foreman and former champion Muhammad Ali to what was then called Zaire for ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’.
This Academy Award-winning documentary is arguably about the time even more than the event. At a time when Black Power and civil rights were making the headlines, this film examines African-Americans and their relationship with Africa like no other. This is a thoroughly engrossing film with incredible archive footage.
Raging Bull (1980)
This is one of those boxing films that all other fight movies are compared to. Martin Scorsese explores the darker side of the sport with Robert De Niro starring as Jake La Motta, a hot-headed champion and alcoholic who tastes success but ruins his family life in the process.
Raging Bull has been considered Scorsese’s best film – which is saying something considering his movie history – and uses black and white film to stunning effect. The brutal fight scenes are some of the most realistic ever committed to celluloid.
The Fighter (2010)
Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale provide the central story of this film about two boxers dealing with family pressures, drug addiction and the sport that seems like the only way out for many. Wahlberg plays the boxer struggling to get his career back on track with the help of his cocaine-addicted brother.
Melissa Leo is the overbearing mother and manager, while Amy Adams puts in an incredible performance as Wahlberg’s girlfriend. As with many of the best boxing dramas, The Fighter is not so much about the sport and the bouts themselves – but everything that goes on outside the ring.
Fat City (1972)
This is a boxing film that may not be quite as well known as some of the others on this list, but deals with the brutality of life in and out of the ring for the fighters themselves to devastating effect. Stacy Keach stars as a washed up fighter who is inspired to restart his career after sparring with youngster Jeff Bridges.
Keach’s comeback is successful in the ring for a while – but not so much outside – and he is forced to deal with the unfair life he has been dealt. Family pressures and alcoholism feature heavily as we see two fighters at different ends of their careers struggling to deal with the way the sport treats its main attractions.