Boxing films are among the most treasured genres in American movies – indeed, just about everyone knows the motivational theme song from Rocky, the beautiful script and character development from Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby, and Robert De Niro impersonating Marlon Brando in front of the mirror during Raging Bull, in which he famously proclaims in a rough, Bostonian accent “I coulda been a contender.”
Besides the “holy trinity” of boxing films listed above, there are so many other classics of the boxing genre. Here, we go into the ten best of all time.
10) Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)
This is a classic Paul Newman film from 1956, in which Newman portrays the famous boxing champion Rocky Graziano. This is a classic “zero-to-hero” comeback story of an athlete who is known for participating in criminal activities, has a stint in prison, and then finds his way to a boxing match in which he becomes the champion. A classic tale of the 1950s.
9) Rocky Balboa (2006)
Also known as “Rocky VI,” this latest rendition of the Rocky series is probably the best one of the entire collection since the first one. In the film, Rocky, now aged 59, is inspired to come back into the boxing ring after seeing an ESPN digital fantasy matchup of him fighting one of the current boxing champions. A story that has more emotional depth than Rocky II-V, this is a classic 21st century boxing film.
8) The Harder They Fall (1956)
Widely known throughout the entire film community as the very last film of Humphrey Bogart’s, The Harder They Fall is the ultimate boxing film from the 1950s. Instead of focusing on a classic comeback story such as in the film Somebody Up There Likes Me, this movie is an investigation into the 1923 boxing scandal, a scandal filled with brutal beatings, cheating boxers out of their winnings, and an official who demands that the sport of boxing ends. While it is not Bogart’s greatest film, it is a stunning conclusion to an unrivalled career in Hollywood.
7) Cinderella Man (2005)
An intriguing film known for not performing well at the box office, this is the story of Russell Crowe playing role of a boxer named Braddock, who breaks his hand during a match. Forced to retire, Braddock begins to work in manual labor, only to have a second chance at boxing. A classic hero comeback story, this movie is one of the all-time underrated great sports films in American history.
6) The Boxer (1997)
Who is a more compelling and convincing actor in the 21st century than Daniel Day-Lewis? One of his lesser known movies, The Boxer is a fantastic film that follows the story of a man trying to make a name and life for himself out of prison (hmmm…there seems to be a running theme amongst all of these boxing movies). A well-received movie, The Boxer is a classic amongst modern day sports films.