10. Snatch (2000)
Our top 10 boxing movies list starts with a fighter you can’t really understand–Mickey O’Neil (Brad Pitt). Fight promoter Turkish (Jason Statham) convinces a gangster by the name of Brick Top (Alan Ford) to allow bets on his bare-knuckle boxer, Mickey.
These are slugfest, so things can go sideways quickly, and they do. Mickey does not throw his first match as previously agreed, and an infuriated Brick Top demands another match. Squaring off outside of the ring, are a host of criminals fighting over a priceless diamond.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Benicio del Toro, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, Brad Pitt, Rade Šerbedžija, Jason Statham, Stephen Graham
Release date: January 19, 2001
Runtime: 102 minutes
9. Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)
Fictional aging heavyweight Louis “Mountain” Rivera (Anthony Quinn) is defeated by a young Cassius Clay, the future Muhammad Ali.
Rivera’s scheming manager (Jackie Gleason) owes money on bets placed against his client Rivera and convinces him to wrestle instead of returning to the ring. Humiliated by the suggestion, Rivera finds himself against the ropes as his career choices fade.
Director: Ralph Nelson
Cast: Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney, Julie Harris
Release date: October 16, 1962
Runtime: 95 minutes
8. The Hurricane (1999)
When you think of a good prizefighting movie with a black actor in the lead, your thoughts may turn to Gladiator 1992 starring Cuba Gooding Jr. But one of Hollywood’s biggest stars makes a case for Hurricane.
Ranking #8 on our greatest brawler list is The Hurricane. This film tells the story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a man whose fresh title win is short-lived.
Carter was arrested and found guilty of murdering three people in a New Jersey bar. And he is quickly sentenced life in prison–3 times over. But we later find out he and his partner John Artis (Garland Whitt) did not commit the crime.
Big screen fist fights based on true stories don’t always get it right. So, why does Hurricane make our lineup? The superior acting of Washington, and The Hurricane’s nemesis Detective Della Pesca (Dan Hedaya).
Director: Norman Jewison
Cast: Denzel Washington, John Hannah, Deborah Kara Unger, Liev Schreiber, Vicellous Reon Shannon, David Paymer, Dan Hedaya, Harris Yulin, Rod Steiger
Release date: December 29, 1999
Runtime: 146 minutes
7. Cinderella Man (2005)
During the Great Depression, ex-bruiser James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) works as a day laborer until his former manager Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) offers him a one-time shot against a rising young contender. True to form, Braddock wins the fight and decides to stay in the ring for more.
The Cinderella Man goes from temp work and government handouts to cash in hand and turns his attention to a battle with champion Max Baer (Craig Bierko). Fearful wife Mae (Renée Zellweger) prays no harm will come to her man. Her scenes are slightly cliché and reminiscent of the Adrian/Rocky scenes from Rocky, but the final product is a terrific smack down flick.
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Craig Bierko, Bruce McGill, Paddy Considine
Release date: June 3, 2005
Runtime: 144 minutes
6. Southpaw (2016)
Excellent slugfest films make the cut regardless of the year, and Southpaw doesn’t disappoint. Billy “The Great” Hope (Gyllenhaal), the reigning junior middleweight boxing champion, has it all: a loving family, an awesome southpaw boxing style, and lots of money.
But one ill-fated evening changes this, and Billy loses everything. He soon finds an unlikely trainer in Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker), a former fighter who trains the city’s toughest. A gripping story as we long to see Billy put things back together and become a champion once again.
To pull off a believable scene in a movie about boxers is not easy. But our star makes it look that way. Whether we refer to it as the Jake Gyllenhaal boxing movie or Southpaw, it’s one of best.
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Naomie Harris, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Oona Laurence, Rachel McAdams
Release date: July 24, 2015
Runtime: 130 minutes
5. Fat City (1972)
Congrats, you’ve reached the middle of our punching competition list.
Next is the tale of a over-the-hill boxer that wants another go. His desire seems to play out in film as it does in the real sport.
Passing the torch to a younger fighter can be difficult, especially when that athlete hasn’t come to grips with reality. Tully (Stacy Keach) is inspired by a much younger boxer Ernie (Jeff Bridges) to return to the ring and become champ.
Unquestionably, both fighters seem up for the challenge mentally, but that’s only half of the battle. A top 10 boxing movies entry with the word fat in its title Makes our countdown? Yes, film classic Fat City packs a punch.
Director: John Huston
Cast: Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell, Candy Clark
Release date: July, 26, 1972
Runtime: 97 minutes
4. Girlfight (2000)
Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, and Hilary Swank received multiple Oscar Awards for Million Dollar Baby (showcasing a female fighter), but the raw energy and performance of Michelle Rodriguez cannot be denied.
Diana Guzman’s (Rodriguez) path to womanhood is nothing short of exhaustive to both her and everyone who knows her. Struggling to find answers and solace in a crazy world, this hot-tempered young lady laces up a pair of gloves and takes on anyone including herself.
Director: Karyn Kusama
Cast: Michelle Rodriguez, Jaime Tirelli, Paul Calderón, Santiago Douglas
Release date: September 29, 2000
Runtime: 110 minutes
3. Raging Bull (1980)
Love him or hate him, Martin Scorsese’s motion picture is a contender. Raging Bull initially bombed at the box office but is now regarded as one of the foremost prizefighting dramas of all time.
The rage and self-destructive behavior that was Jake LaMotta is captured perfectly by Robert DeNiro and great supporting cast. This sparring performance goes the distance.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent, Nicholas Colasanto, Theresa Saldana
Release date: December 19, 1980
Runtime: 129 minutes
2. Rocky (1976)
Coming in at #2 on our boxing movies list is Rocky. Sylvester Stallone stars as Rocky Balboa, a small-time fighter from around the way.
Balboa is a standup guy who gets the break of a lifetime: a fight with heavyweight champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). But there’s one problem–Balboa has rocky skills at best. He improves his abilities however, with lots of epic training. As we watch him transform from a nobody into a legend.
His love interest is Adrian (Talia Shire), whom he meets in a pet store and his trainer is the unforgettable Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith). Top boxing movies get three things right: a believable main character, an inspiring story, and great production. Rocky’s got it all.
So, sit back and get ready to cheer for the Italian Stallion.
Director: John G. Avildsen
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith
Release date: December 3, 1976
Runtime: 119 minutes
1. When We Were Kings (1996)
After you watch this documentary about three-time world heavyweight Muhammad Ali, you will know why this boxing great impacted the world like he did. Brash, cocky, and more than a little arrogant, Ali backed up all claims of being the best with speed, agility, and punching prowess.
When We Were Kings focuses on Ali’s epic battle with daunting opponent George Foreman in Africa. In summary, the host town of Kinshasa, Zaire hasn’t been the same since.
Several fictional and non-fictional boxing movies have been made. And many in fact feature The Greatest. But the finest boxing documentaries past or present have the title When We Were Kings.
Director: Leon Gast
Cast: Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, James Brown, B.B. King, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, Spike Lee, The Crusaders, The Spinners
Release date: October 25, 1996
Runtime: 89 minutes