The sport of boxing has been a source of inspiration for filmmakers for many years. The intensity and drama in a boxing ring have helped it become one of the most popular sports to use as the subject of movies. With these nineteen best boxing movies, you will have your heart accelerating in no time.
1. Rocky (1976)
English 2h IMDb
Director: John G. Avildsen
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young
With its notoriety, Rocky has become so synonymous with the boxing genre that it is hardly worth mentioning, but it certainly deserves a place in the list of best boxing films ever made.
Rocky tells the story of a down-on-his-luck guy who gets a chance to become a boxing champion. It’s a feel-good movie featuring a young and fresh-faced Stallone as the lead character, Rocky Balboa.
The movie won three Oscars and countless awards and accolades. With its brilliant acting and an excellent soundtrack, Rocky is one of the most recommended movies in the boxing and sports genre.
2. Ali (2001)
English 2h 37m IMDb
Director: Michael Mann
Stars: Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight
This biopic film tells the story of the life of a world-renowned boxer, Muhammad Ali. Ali is a film that focuses on the early years of the famous boxer, from his humble beginnings as a child and his discovery of boxing to his ascent to the top of the boxing world.
Seeing the growth of Ali as a character can bring a tear to the eye of even the most hardened boxing fan. Ali was nominated for several awards upon release, including several Golden Globes and Academy Awards, including a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Will Smith’s performance.
3. Raging Bull (1980)
English 2h 9m IMDb
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci
Nothing is to be said more when Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro are in the film’s credits. Raging Bull details the real-life story of Jake La Motta as he struggles to strike the balance of his personal and professional life.
With the direction of Scorsese, the film garnered praise throughout the cinema sphere, leading them to win two Oscars.
You will surely love the magnificent and gut-punching boxing sequences guaranteed to leave you at the edge of your seats. It’s an excellent choice for your next sports movie marathon, especially if you are interested in the life of a boxing champion.
4. Creed (2015)
English 2h 13m IMDb
Director: Ryan Coogler
Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson
Sylvester Stallone reprises his role as Rocky Balboa in Ryan Coogler’s Creed. The story details the later life of retired Rocky as he takes in the young boxer Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) under his wing. As the son of his friend and former rival Apollo Creed, Rocky takes on the journey of bettering his student’s life.
The film won various accolades and awards to capture the essence of an excellent boxing film. It’s also a generally welcomed comeback for the franchise and Stallone.
5. Cinderella Man (2005)
English 2h 24m IMDb
Director: Ron Howard
Stars: Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Craig Bierko
The Great Depression is a devastating economic problem that causes ex-fighter James Braddock to hit rock bottom. As James struggles to pay the bills and provide for his family, he vows to return to the ring again.
Without anyone by his side except for his family, Braddock showcases extreme determination causing him to rise as a boxing champion once again.
Cinderella Man is one of those real-life sports flicks with an incredibly inspiring rags-to-riches storyline. Its charm and moving tale earn it multiple awards and praises from critics and audiences.
6. Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)
English 1h 35m IMDb
Director: Ralph Nelson
Stars: Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney
Ralph Nelson’s Requiem for a Heavyweight is one of the oldest films on this list, having been made in 1956, and it is undoubtedly one of the most dramatic. The film tells the story of a once-great boxer who is now past his prime, Louis ‘Mountain’ Rivera (Anthony Quinn).
Although it’s a movie about boxing, other themes include poverty, greed, and betrayal. It is a film that may not be as well-known as some of the other films on the list, but it’s undoubtedly a must-see for fans of the sport of boxing.
7. The Fighter (2010)
English 1h 56m IMDb
Director: David O. Russell
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams
The Fighter biographical film tells the story of two boxing brothers from Lowell, Massachusetts. The film follows Micky and Dicky and their struggles to make it in the world of professional boxing. It’s an excellent film to peek at the professional and personal life of boxing champions.
With its incredible cinematography and writing, the movie won two Oscars and many awards. It’s a must-watch even if you are not into boxing and sports. The Fighter transcends the boundaries set by its genre and has become one of the most influential and successful films since its release.
8. The Hurricane (1999)
English 2h 26m IMDb
Director: Norman Jewison
Stars: Denzel Washington, Vicellous Shannon, Deborah Kara Unger
The Hurricane details the fight of Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter in the ring and the court. As a Black American, Carter faced an accusation of murder that caused his career and freedom. Through the help of the good people around him, their team works toward the dismissal of Carter.
As a sports film, The Hurricane gives much more than the standard boxing flick. The movie tackles the importance of friendship and the daily prejudice black folks face. With gut-punching boxing sequences and genuine emotional plot beats, The Hurricane brings over the moving tale of Hurricane to the screen.
9. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
English 2h 12m IMDb
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman
Female leads can be scarce in sports and boxing flicks, but Million Dollar Baby is here to fill that void. The film follows the story of Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), who wants to be a professional boxer. Although uncooperative at first, Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) finds himself forming a mentor-student bond with the young fighter.
The film features a strong performance from the cast, especially Hilary Swank, who won an Oscar for her role in the movie. Million Dollar Baby was critically acclaimed on release and transcended the genre into the cinema scene.
10. The Boxer (1997)
English 1h 53m IMDb
Director: Jim Sheridan
Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Emily Watson, Daragh Donnelly
The extremely famous match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman is a critical part of boxing history. When We Were Kings is a film documentary that details the story behind the fight. Set in 1974, the two must know which is the real king of the ring.
Tagged as Rumble of the Jungle, the film is filled with many footages and archives from the fight. If you are particularly interested in the lives of these boxing champions, this Oscar-nominated documentary is a perfect way to be entertained and gather some knowledge.
11. Southpaw (2015)
English 2h 4m IMDb
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence
A story of redemption and grieving, Southpaw details the fall and rise of Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal). With its excellent writing and brilliant cast, you are for a moving tale about how a man can turn his life around.
A light-heavyweight champion married to the love of his life, Billy’s life seems perfect. However, his wife is shot and killed after an altercation with a rival, leading him to spiral downwards. To get his daughter back from the Social Services, Billy seeks help from the trainer Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker).
12. Champion (1949)
English 1h 39m IMDb
Director: Mark Robson
Stars: Kirk Douglas, Arthur Kennedy, Marilyn Maxwell
Released in 1949, Mark Robson’s Champion is one of the oldest boxing films. Starring Kirk Douglas and Arthur Kennedy, the black and white film is an excellent time capsule of the late 40s. With a black and white reel and smooth-talking actors, you are sucked in with their charisma.
The film follows the story of Midge Kelly as he tackles the limelight of the boxing ring. With his influence and ongoing success, Midge continues on the path of selfishness that alienates the people around him. Can the boxing champion reconcile his personal and professional life?
13. China Heavyweight (2012)
Chinese 1h 34m IMDb
Director: Yung Chang
Stars: Moxiang Qi, Yunfei Miao, Zongli He
Most boxing movies primarily detail the American perspective of the sport. However, China Heavyweight is here to change the tide. As evident in its name, the film documentary details the history of the sport in China and how it’s being dealt with in modern times.
The film follows the boxing coach Qi Moxiang as he searches for talented young boxers throughout the rural villages. Ripe with promise, Qi Moxiang chooses Miao Yunfei and He Zongli to be under his wing. As the three tackles the world of professional boxing, they must come with the adversities to ensure their place in the sport.
14. Before the Fall (2004)
German 1h 50m IMDb
Director: Dennis Gansel
Stars: Max Riemelt, Tom Schilling, Devid Striesow
Before the Fall is a boxing flick that doesn’t hold its punches against the political themes from World War II; directed by Dennis Gansel, the film is poignant with its hooks about the period. The German film is ripe with commentary with an added dash of boxing sequences.
The film follows Friedrich Weimer (Max Riemelt) as he gets into a top-of-the-line high school due to his boxing skill. Against his father’s wishes, the teenager makes his way to the school as it promises a bright future for its students. As he enters the institution, the young boxer discovers it’s not what it seems.
15. Hard Times (1975)
English 1h 33m IMDb
Director: Walter Hill
Stars: Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Jill Ireland
Set in the time of the Great Depression, Hard Times poses the extreme risks one might take to escape their oppressed status. The film follows Chaney and Speed as they travel across New Orleans to join illegal underground boxing matches. With multiple challenges pushing towards their downfall, can the two rise up?
Hard Times is oozing with the vibe of an old retro film. Complete with excellent boxing matches and great action sequences, you are in for a ride to the 70s.
16. The Great White Hope (1970)
English 1h 43m IMDb
Director: Martin Ritt
Stars: James Earl Jones, Jane Alexander, Lou Gilbert
Set in the 70s, the film follows Jack Jefferson (James Earl Jones), a black boxer that struggles against prejudice and racism in the ring. Being a black heavyweight, many people look forward to removing Jack from the scene. With a framed crime, he is pushed to leave America to escape prison time.
With its Oscar-nominated cast, the film provides the audiences with brilliant performances. Without holding punches from the racism many faces, the film is poignant with rich commentary.
17. The Champ (1979)
English 2h 1m IMDb
Director: Franco Zeffirelli
Stars: Jon Voight, Faye Dunaway, Ricky Schroder
The Champ details the story of Billy Flynn (Jon Voight) as he struggles to maintain the custody of his eight-year-old son. Knocked out by life through gambling and alcoholism, Billy must return to the ring before his son’s estranged and wealthy mother takes him away.
With an incredibly emotional plot, boxing might be the farthest away from the storyline. However, The Champ ties the two plot beats to a coherent and moving story. It’s the perfect blend between family drama and a sports flick.
18. Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)
English 1h 53m IMDb
Director: Robert Wise
Stars: Paul Newman, Pier Angeli, Everett Sloane
Robert Wise’s Somebody Up There Likes Me details the life of the boxing champion Rocky Graziano. Staying through to his autobiography, the film takes the book of the same name to the screen. The biopic details Rocky’s childhood and his World Middleweight Championship career.
The film is an excellent must-watch if you love the historical side of boxing. With its brilliant scenes and perfect adaptation, the movie won two Oscars. It garnered the Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction award that year.
19. Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (2004)
English 3h 34m IMDb
Director: Ken Burns
Stars: Jack Johnson(archive footage), Keith David(voice), Samuel L. Jackson(voice)
If you want to delve into film documentaries about a boxing champion, this movie is an excellent must-watch. Unforgivable Blackness is one of the highest-rated films about boxing. It tackles the life of Jack Johnson and how he struggled as a black man in the boxing industry.
Being born in a period of rampant racism, Johnson carves his spot as the first African-American boxing champion.
With its excellent production and incredible narration, the docu-film won three primetime Emmys and other various accolades. If you are looking for an entertaining documentary to increase your knowledge in the history of boxing champions, this film is a great starter.
Boxing is a great sport, and it makes for excellent storytelling in the form of feature-length movies. If you enjoy boxing, this list of the nineteen best boxing movies is guaranteed to make your next movie marathon. Whether you are in for a biopic, documentary, or inspirational tales of champions, there is a movie on this list.