Top 10 Boxing Movies

Written by Patrick Alexander

Sports play a major part in the way the world works; from Superbowl Sunday to the World Cup final, pretty much everyone follows one sport or another. The problem is, the popularity of sports in general dictates that Hollywood tries and tries to churn out successful sporting movies, but sporting movies are notoriously hard to get right. That said, boxing seems to be one of the few sports that does work on film, and I’m here to prove it with 10 great boxing movies. Before we crack on with this list, I have to give some honorable mentions to a few films that didn’t quite make it into the top 10.¬†


Rocky III (1982): When you think of boxing movies, you naturally think of the ‘Rocky’ franchise, but we can’t have seven ‘Rocky’ films in here can we? In this third film, the villain Clubber Lang (played by Mr. T) makes a strong¬†case for himself and this is a great film, but not quite as good as some of the others in the series.

Cinderella Man (2005): One of Russell Crowe‚Äôs finest works, with a¬†fantastic Paul Giamatti supporting role, but this film’s old-old-old school mentality¬†lulls a hair too much to sneak into the top ten.

The Boxer (1997): Keeping it simple with the title, ‘The Boxer’ stars Daniel Day Lewis as a killer. But ‘The Boxer’ is not even his best¬†film about being an Irish Revolutionary. I mean, come on Daniel; what¬†kind of warped sequel to ‘In the Name of the Father’ is this?¬†

Okay, on with the real winners…


fatcity

10. Fat City (1972); Directed by John Huston; Starring Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges

Synopsis: Two men, working as professional boxers, come to blows when their careers each begin to take opposite momentum.

Verdict: A real old school boxing flick and the godfather of all boxing¬†movies, pre-dating both ‘Rocky’ and ‘Raging Bull’. Stacy Keach, as Tully,¬†carries the film‚Äôs focus in his showdown with a young Jeff Bridges. ‘Fat¬†City’ is everything you want it to be; non-formulaic, aware of its angle,¬†full of classic 70s dialogue, and a rip-roaring bout that will keep you on the¬†edge of your seat. Had the story aged better over time, ‘Fat City’ would,¬†indubitably, deserve to be ranked higher.


the-fighter-7

9. The Fighter (2010); Directed by David O. Russell; Starring: Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg

Synopsis: A look at the early years of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, and his¬†brother who helped train him before going pro in the mid 1980s.

Verdict: Micky Ward sure does come off as a prick, but with Bale and¬†Wahlberg in tow, the director Russell actually makes you want to root¬†for Ward by the end. Dysfunctional in nature, Dicky Eklund‚Äôs portrayal¬†absolutely ties together what would have been a rather bland stint¬†without him. Docked points for sub-par boxing scenes by Marky Mark, ‘The Fighter’ has a candor and a degree of authenticity¬†which allows it to¬†keep it‚Äôs head above water¬†among the all-time boxing greats.


ali

8. Ali (2001); Directed by Michael Mann; Starring Will Smith, Jamie Foxx

Synopsis: A biography of sports legend, Muhammad Ali, from his early days to his time in the ring.

Verdict: Will Smith brings to life the childhood hero of many,¬†Muhammad Ali. We‚Äôve all got posters on our walls of the man who¬†could truly float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. From his “Thrilla in¬†Manila” to his personal journeys stateside, Ali fought more powers than¬†just Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier. Smith‚Äôs wily persona of the world-class champion lands a devastating blow on this list amongst the great¬†boxing flicks of old.


southpaw

7. Southpaw (2015); Directed by Antoine Fuqua; Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker

Synopsis: Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Wills to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services.

Verdict: A vociferously flashy, most glamorous, Eminem-infused battle¬†blast, ‘Southpaw’ attacks both fast and strong. Gyllenhaal is so¬†unbelievably ripped and his surreal training sequences totally make¬†this film. Fighting Miguel ‚ÄėMagic‚Äô Escobar, the fiery Colombian¬†antagonist only makes you root for Billy Hope and his lost hope even¬†more. Some may call ‘Southpaw’ formulaic and chalk this one up to¬†bias based on its recent release, but Antoine Fuqua gets everything right from tight boxing¬†sequences, to max-level grandeur, to a hard-hitting lefty landing a¬†wonderful wallop into this top ten.


rocky 4

6. Rocky IV (1985); Directed by Sylvester Stallone; Starring Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren

Synopsis: After iron man Ivan Drago, a highly intimidating 6-foot-5, 261-pound Soviet athlete, kills Apollo Creed in an exhibition match, Rocky comes to the heart of Russia for 15 pile-driving boxing rounds of revenge.

Verdict: In the fight that single-handedly ended the Cold War, Rocky¬†goes toe-to-toe with the juiced-up Russian cyborg machine, Ivan¬†Drago, who inexplicably felled the great Apollo Creed. Rocky lights our¬†hearts on fire by selecting the hard way out¬†in defeating his¬†Russian nemesis. Through snow-clogged sprints and intense cabin¬†training, Rocky once again shows us that there are no demons out there incapable of being defeated. A 15-round packed-punch of¬†emotion, passion, and defeating the Soviets lands ‘Rocky IV’ a place in the¬†throes of greatness.


undisputed

5. Undisputed (2002); Directed by Walter Hill; Starring Wesley Snipes, Ving Rhames

Synopsis: When heavyweight champion George ‘Iceman’ Chambers¬†lands himself in prison, the resident gangster arranges a boxing match with¬†the reigning prison champ.

Verdict: Outside of having, pound-for-pound, the greatest boxing¬†sequence of all time in film history (and you can take that to the¬†bank), ‘Undisputed’ brings the unique concept of prison boxing to the¬†table, an advantage unbeknownst to any other of its contemporaries.¬†Iceman Chambers vs. Monroe Hutchens is right up there with Balboa¬†vs. Creed, in terms of strength of fighting skills plus high class¬†drama. The total underdog of the list, ‘Undisputed’ will wow you with its¬†technical, authentic feeling final round. A must-see for boxing fans¬†everywhere.


creed

4. Creed (2015); Directed by Ryan Coogler; Starring Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone

Synopsis: Everyone’s favourite former¬†World Heavyweight Champion, Rocky Balboa,¬†serves as trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late¬†friend and former rival Apollo Creed.

Verdict: After the abomination that was ‘Rocky Balboa’, ‘Creed’ gets the¬†franchise right back in line with technically savvy, intense boxing, led by¬†magnificently deft camera work throwing us into all angles of the ring.¬†Throw in real life boxer, Tony Bellow, playing the indomitable ‚ÄėPretty‚Äô¬†Ricky Conlon across the ring from Adonis Johnson (Creed), and the¬†authenticity levels are unparalleled. With great training montages,¬†including a dirt bike sidled run up the steps to victory, ‘Creed’ supplants¬†not only Southpaw as the best boxing flick of 2015, but perhaps may¬†be the #1 boxing picture of the past decade.


the-hurricane_000

3. The Hurricane (1999); Directed by Norman Jewison; Starring Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber

Synopsis: The story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a boxer wrongly¬†imprisoned for murder, and the people who aided in his fight to prove¬†his innocence.

Verdict: One of the better ‚Äúoutside the ring‚ÄĚ stories of the bunch, elevated by a Mt.¬†Rushmore performance by Washington. Washington, as Rubin ‚ÄúHurricane‚ÄĚ Carter fights not only his¬†weary opponents in the ring, but the racism and hate that imprisoned¬†an innocent man, until love overflows to bust him out. A real knockout¬†punch right into the sixteenth round, ‘The Hurricane’ will box a hole right into¬†the throws of your heart.


rocky

2. Rocky (1976); Directed by John G. Avildsen; Starring Sylvester Stallone, Carl Stone

Synopsis: Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer, gets a supremely rare chance to fight the heavy-weight champion, Apollo Creed, in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.

Verdict: The ultimate underdog story. The picture that made you¬†believe you could conquer any obstacle in life by running up a few¬†steps in front of a local museum. Bill Conti‚Äôs epic soundtrack, Rocky¬†Balboa‚Äôs finest clash with Apollo Creed, and the city of Philadelphia‚Äôs¬†soul combine to make ‘Rocky’ an all-timer. With Burgess Meredith, a world class¬†stick man, and the darling Talia Shire along for the ride, Rocky¬†conquers every mountain, both real and metaphorical on its climb to¬†the top (well, nearly the top).


Raging.Bull.04

1. Raging Bull (1980); Directed by Martin Scorsese; Starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci

Synopsis: An emotionally self-destructive boxer’s journey through life,¬†as the violence and temper that leads him to the top in the ring,¬†destroys his life outside it.

Verdict: A legendary, poetic performance by the menace of a boxer,¬†Robert De Niro playing Jack La Motta. This it the film that makes any young¬†kid want to be a boxer and perhaps evokes a raging bull inside all of¬†us. ‘Raging Bull’ is filled with demons, relief, and a pleasantly insane¬†narrative. Viciously brutal boxing sequences mixing slow beating and¬†frenetic flurries of blows, plus a heart of gold, mean Scorsese‚Äôs finest¬†work tops this list.

Advertisements

Watch This Space: November 16 – 22

Welcome to your weekly go-to film guide ‚ÄstWatchThisSpace ‚Ästwhere we¬†recommend what¬†to watch in the cinema and¬†on the television, and remind you of¬†those brilliant films hiding¬†in your DVD collection.

IN THE CINEMA

Out this week is the final installment of ‘The Hunger Games’ franchise, with ‘Mockingjay Part Two’. The film will see the civil war of Panem reach its climax, as Katniss Everdeen (played by the perfectly cast Jennifer Lawrence) leads a group of rebels to the Capitol to assassinate President Snow. It’s also worth mentioning that this is the last film of the exceptional Philip Seymour Hoffman, after tragically passing away last year. The franchise finale is set to be a box-office smash, and for fans of the series this is definitely one to watch.

ON TV

Monday 22:45 GMT: Had a tough Monday? Unwind with the simple but brilliant comedy ‘Meet The Parents’ on BBC1. Easy-watching doesn’t come much easier than this, with slapstick humour aplenty from Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro.

Tuesday 19:00 GMT: Okay so it might feel too early to get into the Christmas spirit, but Film4 certainly think it’s time. Watch the classic story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, in the modern adaptation ‘Scrooged’, starring Bill Murray as the main miser.

Thursday 21:00 GMT: Have an excellent Thursday with the weird and wonderful adventures of ‘Wayne’s World’ on 5*. Check out our review if you need any more persuading. Alternatively, newbies to ‘The Hunger Games’ franchise can see where it all began on Film4.

Friday 23:35 GMT: Loosely based on true events, ‘Badlands’ is all about James Dean lookalike Kit, played by Martin Sheen, and the much younger lady he falls in love with, as they embark on an unfortunate road trip through the South Dakota badlands. Filled with violence and murder, this fantastic Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque film makes BBC2 the place to be this Friday.

Saturday 21:45 GMT: With¬†an outstanding ensemble female cast, including Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard and Octavia Spencer, ‘The Help’ is one of those films that everybody should see at least once. Luckily, BBC2 are on hand to deliver a movie which will make you laugh and break your heart in equal measure.

DIG IT OUT

This is our favourite part of the¬†WatchThisSpace¬†section. We delve into our own DVD collection and pick out some amazing films, that may not instantly spring to mind when you‚Äôre stuck for inspiration to make your movie night a success. Maybe you‚Äôve never seen a film that we pick ‚Äď or even heard of them for that matter ‚Äď but you‚Äôre gonna have to trust us on this one, and¬†Dig It Out.

The Artist:¬†How can you describe one of the best movie experiences of one’s life?¬† How can you make a black and white, silent movie set in 1927 (but made in 2011) sound appealing? Would a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 97% swing it? How about the exemplary French and American cast, including Jean Dujardin and John Goodman? Maybe the quirky plot piques your interest, as silent movie star George and young dancer Peppy’s lives drastically change as the pioneering ‘talking pictures’ take over Hollywood. Reams and reams could be said on behalf of this modern film which says nothing at all, but truth be told, seeing is believing. Beautiful, uplifting and inspired by simpler times, this is one you should definitely seek out.

Mean Streets:¬†It’s Mr Martin Scorsese’s birthday this Tuesday, and whilst this man should be celebrated on a daily basis, now would be as good a time as any. Last week, our Twitter debates focused on the legendary director, with ‘Goodfellas’ crowned his finest work. One film which didn’t feature in the discussions was ‘Mean Streets’. This beautifully crafted crime movie is one of Scorsese’s earlier works, but with the familiar faces of Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel in leading roles, its appeal still resonates with today’s audience. Fans of Marty, and the crime genre as a whole, should check this out as a priority.

The Nightmare Before Christmas:¬†It’s not quite the most wonderful time of the year, but the spookiest time of year has officially passed. What better film to settle you in for the transition between holidays than Tim Burton’s classic stop-motion film about Jack, the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, as he decides to take over Christmas for one year. With a catchy soundtrack by Danny Elfman, a love story between Jack and Sally, the rag doll, and a heart-warming conclusion, this is the perfect film to watch now those darker nights are settling in.

A Scanner Darkly: Based on the novel by Philip K. Dick, this surreal, futuristic film is interesting for many reasons. First of all, the whole thing is shot in a quirky, animated style which gives it a strangely fun feel, which is cleverly contrasted against a narrative focusing on identity, law, surveillance and drug use. Starring Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson and a brilliant performance from Robert Downey Jr, as well as being directed by Richard Linklater (Boyhood), this crazy film is executed brilliantly. ‘A Scanner Darkly’ has achieved something of a cult status since its release in 2006, and now is the time for you to find out why.

This week’s WatchThisSpace was compiled by Sasha Hornby and Jakob Lewis Barnes

Watch This Space: June 15 – 21

Welcome to your weekly go-to-guide ‚ÄstWatchThisSpace ‚Ästwhere we give you recommendations of films to watch in the cinema, on the television and those brilliant films hiding¬†at the back of your DVD collection.

IN THE CINEMA

If you’re a fan of the TV show, then you will have been waiting for this day for a very long time. If you’ve never seen ‘Entourage’ before, now is the perfect time to get acquainted with the whole gang. With A-List cameos coming at you from all angles and the usual touch of humour from the regulars, this movie has entertainment value in abundance. Read our exclusive, sneak peek¬†review if you’re still unsure.

See one of England’s best-loved detectives portrayed by one of England’s best-loved actors this week in Mr Holmes. The film is very different to its predecessor starring Robert Downey Jnr, as it stars Ian McKellen as a 93 year old Sherlock looking nostalgically back on his career. This film won’t break box office records, but it should make for some pleasant viewing if you decide to take a trip to the cinema.

ON TELEVISION

Tuesday 23:55¬†GMT:¬†Whilst it may not command as much attention as some of Quentin Tarantino’s higher profile films, ‘Jackie Brown’ has all the trademark violence, dark humour and plot twists that you would expect from any film in his portfolio. Prop up the eyelids and catch this underrated classic on¬†ITV4.

Wednesday 18:35 GMT:¬†I remember watching¬†‘Beaches’ years ago, but it is only retrospectively that I have come to appreciate how powerful a film it actually is. If you do choose to tune in to Film4 this evening, beware! Tears will flow, and if they don’t? Well, you’re just not human.

Friday 16:40 GMT:¬†A pioneer in the sci-fi genre this Friday afternoon as ‘Planet Of The Apes‘ graces our screens on Film4. Sit back and enjoy the original film from a franchise that has spanned decades. The effects may look a bit dated now, but this is classic and a must watch for any sci-fi fan.

Sunday 16:30 GMT:¬†Again,¬†a film which doesn’t particularly stand out¬†amongst its competitors in the formidable Disney collection, but ‘The Hunchback Of Notre Dame’ is a delightful family film. Tune in to¬†Channel 5 and give the kids a perfect Sunday afternoon.

Sunday 21:00 GMT:¬†Multi-Oscar winning film ‘The Deer Hunter’¬†finishes off our week of recommended films, and it ensures we go out with a bang! A captivating film about the troubles and terror caused by the Vietnam War and how it affects a group of friends, this film is a must watch over on ITV4 if you haven‚Äôt already. Remember to have some tissues on hand though; you could be tearful by time the credits role.

DIG IT OUT

This is our favourite part of the¬†WatchThisSpace¬†section. We delve into our own DVD collection and pick out some amazing films, that may not instantly spring to mind when you‚Äôre stuck for inspiration to make your movie night a success. Maybe you‚Äôve never seen a film that we pick ‚Äď or even heard of them for that matter ‚Äď but you‚Äôre gonna have to trust us on this one, and¬†Dig It Out.

Good Will Hunting:¬†Last week we were treated to the first trailer of Ridley Scott‚Äôs latest epic ‘The Martian’ starring Matt Damon. One of Damon‚Äôs most captivating and celebrated performances is the title role in ‘Good Will Hunting’ starring alongside the¬†late, great¬†Robin Williams (who is phenomenal in this film by the way). This film is incredibly moving and boasts an incredible script from Damon and Ben Affleck, so if you‚Äôre going to watch any Matt Damon film, make sure it‚Äôs this one.

Jaws:¬†Jurassic World’¬†was tearing up box office records last weekend (if you haven‚Äôt already seen it, then make sure you do as a matter of urgency), and the franchise began with Steven Spielberg and his visionary directing. Why not dig out one of his other monster movies in ‘Jaws’. The film celebrates its 40th birthday this year, so what better excuse to relive the horror and immerse yourself into the dark depths of the ocean. Oh, and remember that iconic soundtrack? That‚Äôs worth a revisit in itself.

Ghostbusters:¬†The wheels are really turning on the upcoming, female led reboot of the classic ‘Ghostbusters’ franchise, with Paul Feig directing his favourite ladies. But news from the project this week revealed that Chris Hemsworth, the mighty Thor, will be taking on the role of the receptionist for next year’s reimagining. Rewind time and enjoy the original this week.

Guardians Of The Galaxy:¬†This week there’s double the celebrations, with birthdays for¬†both Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana coming up. Watch the pair link up as part of the best Marvel team (yes, better than The Avengers, promise), for tonnes of action and excitement, the usual Marvel humour and one of the best soundtracks EVER.

This week’s WatchThisSpace was compiled by Jakob Lewis Barnes and Nick Deal

Watch This Space: May 11 – May 17

Welcome to our newest feature¬†‚Äď WatchThisSpace ‚Äď where we give you recommendations of films to watch in the cinema, on the television and those brilliant films hiding¬†at the back of your DVD collection.

IN THE CINEMA

As most of you are well aware, ‚ÄėMad Max: Fury Road‚Äô opens this weekend. Charlize Theron has a buzz cut, Tom Hardy dons a mask AGAIN and George Miller is back to his weird and wonderful best after the happiest of ‚ÄėHappy Feet‚Äô to bring us dystopian chaos of the most explosive and action-packed variety.

For most, a trip to the cinema this weekend will provide a very clear fork in the road; you either go for an abundance of gore and violence, or warm up your vocal chords and sing at the top of your voice with ‚ÄėPitch Perfect 2‚Äô. Luckily for us, we love both, so we get double the fun this weekend.

ON TELEVISION

Monday 23:05 GMT:¬†There are very few directors with such a legendary status as that of Alfred Hitchcock, whose diverse and unusual body of work boasts numerous classics. One of the most disturbing of these films is arguably ‘The Birds’ which you can catch over at Film4.

Tuesday 23:40 GMT:¬†Denzel Washington is now 60 years old, and still an absolute badass. See him at his most formidable and dangerous best, with a hint of emotion in the 2004 great ‘Man On Fire’, again on Film4.

Thursday 22:00 GMT:¬†Every week, there are plenty of war films we could recommend to you. As fantastic as it is, ‘The Great Escape’ is on TV every Sunday, without fail. So let More4 show you¬†a different perspective to the war with Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Inglorious Basterds’.

Saturday 21:20 GMT:¬†Comedy creations don’t come much better than Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge. A timeless character who has improved with age. BBC2 brings us¬†‘Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa’, the feature length follow up that we so desperately needed.¬†

Sunday 15:00 GMT:¬†The weekend is nearly over, so spend a couple of hours with the family and watch everyone’s favourite wild child, Lindsay Lohan, before she turned bad. ‘Parent Trap’ is delightful afternoon viewing on Channel 4.

DIG IT OUT

This is our favourite part of the¬†WatchThisSpace section. We delve into our own DVD collection and pick out some amazing films, that may not instantly spring to mind when you‚Äôre stuck for inspiration to make your movie night a success. Maybe you‚Äôve never seen a film that we pick ‚Äď or even heard of them for that matter ‚Äď but you‚Äôre gonna have to trust us on this one, and Dig It Out.

If election week has left you feeling militant, and ready to revolt, instead of setting a couple of bins on fire and engaging in a bit of casual looting, why not fight the man with some anti-establishment viewing:

A Clockwork Orange:¬†Stanley Kubrick delivers a masterpiece in cinema history, with lead character Alex running around trying to defile pretty much everything in sight – so you don’t have to. The ultimate social menace.

Taxi Driver:¬†Robert De Niro’s chilling monologues will say everything you wish you could. And just when you’re feeling disillusioned and frustrated, remember “we’re all fucked”.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:¬†If you were old enough to vote, you probably don‚Äôt have to ask the parents for a sick day. Ferris did and look how much fun he had. So either way, run from the doldrums of normal life and have a crazy day.

This week’s WatchThisSpace was compiled by Jakob Lewis Barnes and Samuel James