Even though I’m not a boxing aficianado by any stretch of the term, I find myself extremely interested in boxing films. Some of them are so raw and stripped down, and the sport itself has such a history of being involved with the mob, etc, that the subject is now an inherently fascinating one. A few off the top of my head Diggstown, The Set-Up, Kid Galahad, Ali, and Raging Bull. I’m subtracting On the Waterfront, mostly because it’s not really about boxing.
Personally my favorite is The Set-Up, but how about you? You like them? Dislike them? Have a favorite?
Raging Bull is probably my favorite. Also like The Set Up, Diggstown, Hard Times, Fat City, Somebody Up There Likes Me, Cinderella Man(Russell Crowe is very good in this-altho the film is marred by the domestic sequences), Million Dollar Baby.
Wasn’t HOMEBOY a boxing film?
Homeboy was a Mickey Rourke boxing film, yes.
John Garfield made a great boxing film in the 40s, the name of which escapes me.
The Rocky series is an obvious entry in the genre.
Justin, that was “Body and Soul”.
Soybean, thanks. I thought that was the title, but I wasn’t sure. I kept thinking, wait, isn’t Body and Soul about jazz? lol. But yeah, Garfield made for a good boxer.
There are two prison boxing movies, too — Penitentiary, which is really good, and Triumph of Will, with Willem Dafoe, which I’ve never seen.
On Ali, WHEN WE WERE KINGS beats the Mann by a knock out in round one, in my opinion.
Going back in time, boxing is important in ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS.
An early fight scene, and a very good one, in D. W. Griffith’s BROKEN BLOSSOMS.
Rocco and His Brothers, yes, very good MMoore.
There could be a book about boxing movies as a genre.
There should be a book about boxing movies. I’d buy it.
And I prefer the Mann film to When We Were Kings, but I saw Ali after the critical dismissal had occurred, and therefore had very low expectations, which it trounced. There’s actually a moment in there when Ali repeats a bit of dialogue first in his head, then says it to the Malcolm X character, that gave me chills. It was the moment I realized that Michael Mann could take any actor and make him fantastic.
Surprised nobody’s mentioned The Harder They Fall.
The Willis sections of Pulp Fiction.
How about Jim Sheridan’s The Boxer with DDL? I believe it involved the IRA to an extent.
the john huston film fat city
Raging Bull is one of my favorite films.
Rocky sucks, but boxing movies can be alright.
I’d like to see The Boxer with Daniel-Day Lewis in it…
The Great White Hope and Somebody Up There Likes Me are both supposed to be classics, but I don’t really like either (I box, and for me they don’t really convince me of fight reality, the kind of people who are drawn into the life, and their reasons why). In fact there are not many (if any) boxing films that actually capture the sweet science with any great authenticity, and most fall either into emotional slop (The Champ_), hero worship (_Ali ) or historical inaccuracy (The Harder They Fall). The Boxer starring Daniel Day Lewis is pretty good, depicting a hard Irish life and motivations with some realism (“I’m not a killer, Maggie, but this place makes me want to kill.”)
Fat City is my favorite boxing film, outside of actual footage of boxing matches. Killer’s Kiss is an early Kubrick that gets under the skin convincingly. Requiem for a Heavyweight is a good portrait of the damage done, as is the schmaltzy Million Dollar Baby. Girlfight is a much better portrait of a woman boxer however. Well worth checking out.
I can’t think of anymore right now—- blame it on mid-brain damage
Oh, the bare knuckles fighting in Far and Away. Tobias, your comment about the hard Irish life made me think of that.
REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT (’62) One of the greatest film on boxing, and its dark underbelly. Made several times but this version is the best in my opinion. Brilliant cast with Anthony Quinn, Mickey Rooney as his sideman, and Jackie Gleason as the corrupt mob-dealing manager, with cameos by Jack Dempsey and a very young Cassius Clay.
THE HARDER THEY FALL – Bogart, in his last film plays a luckless sportswriter mixed up in corruption.
WHEN WE WERE KINGS
SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME
Body and Soul
Somebody up there likes Me
Requiem for a Heavyweight
Sadly boxing seems to be a dying sport in regards to the extremes in which the media seems to follow. Watching a boxing match is much like watching a film. Boxing has always been of interest to me, and watching those old fights capture and present emotions in ways few things can.
Jack Dempsey vs Jess Willard, 1919.
Footage is raw as hell. Brutal. No boxing drama has ever come close to capturing the fury of it. The early days, when as long as a man had his knees off the canvas, you could strike him… By the end of round one, Willard was left with a shattered jaw (as in shattered, destroyed), almost all his teeth knocked out, a fractured eye socket, ribs crushed like a concertina in the hands of a giant, and the obligatory broken nose.
In one of the films shot that day in grainy black and white, as Dempsey leaves this broken man (6 ft 6½ and 40lbs heavier than him, previously undisputed heavyweight champ, last of the old Gentleman Jim-styled fighters) crumpled on the mat, it’s said you can see a railroad pin fall from Dempsey’s glove, and be quickly covered up by the hat of his cornerman…
Dempsey was an animal and a poet in the ring, a death’s head, a pure manifestation of poverty and rage.
Matthew, as a big fight fan myself I lament the lack of attention boxing is getting, but I have to say that the corruption of all of the boxing organizations in addition to the multitude of boxing organizations brought down boxing from what it was. This level of corruption started with one man, in my opinion, Don King. There are allusions to it in Michael Mann’s Ali.
I think that fight sport is evolving and its just a matter of time before something like Raging Bull is made for MMA. David Mamet’s RED BELT is a good example of this, but with every one of these movies there is a plethora of Never Back Down/MTV MMA movies saturating the market.
Anyway back to boxing! The Harder They Fall (Bogart) I just saw it on TCM last weekend, it was really good. I’m a big fan of Ali, the Boxer, probably the only person on here who likes Rocky, and Raging Bull.
Joe Louis vs. ‘Two-Ton’ Tony Galento, 1939.
Yeah, that’s a great one too. Galento was just a big solid wall of bastard, and Louis—- pure class.
Did people really like Ali? I hated it. It was like one very long MTV commercial.
I hear tell there’s an ‘Irish’ Micky Ward biopic on the way. And I would watch the fuck out of Toback’s Tyson doc, if it dropped in my lap.
“There should be a book about boxing movies. I’d buy it.”
Robert Ryan in “The Set Up”
Made better by the fact that Ryan was himself a legitimate boxing talent.
Raging Bull isn’t really a boxing film, it’s a character study of a man who happened to be a boxer, so I don’t think this one, as brilliant a film as it is, qualifies as a boxing film.
Tobias Morgan: I really enjoyed Ali, but I’m a fan of most of Michael Mann’s work. I think his mastery of the digital medium is above and beyond most of his contemporaries’ and Ali is a perfect example of this. Also, the film has some deeply interesting thematic material, which (I assume) made it hard to sit through for most of the MTV crowd.
Joe Nelson: I’d have to disagree with you, seeing as how a lot of the action takes place in the ring or to do with the sport of boxing. If he weren’t a boxer, it would be a completely different movie.
Tobias, I’m with Joshua on this I enjoyed Ali, it’s not my favourite Michael Mann film though. I though it was a bit long, but the boxing sequences were amazing some of the shots he got during the fights, not to mention the mixing of film and digital in the fights themselves. Overall it’s a pretty innovative way to shoot a fight sequences.
I agree that the fights scenes were amazing in Ali: you can’t fault the choreography, or Will Smith… he did an incredible job recreating every muscle twitch, expression and subtlety… my problem with the film wasn’t that, or the length or even Mann’s smooth-as-ever, complete mastery of cinematography. It was the endless scenes drowned in soundtrack, the lack of any real study of the Malcom X influences, the skirting over Ali’s broken marriages without getting into any real psychology as to why he was so weak with commitment… He pissed blood for hours after Rumble in the Jungle. He had a gang of Nation of Islam soldiers chanting “Death to Whitey” for days in his training camp before his 1965 re-match with Sonny Liston. The film avoided a portrait of Ali’s brutality (preferring to focus more on the legend and not the man), his separatism (""No intelligent black man or black woman in his or her right black mind wants white boys and white girls coming to their homes to marry their black sons and daughters"), and the indignity of his end career (where his ego and refusal to quit lead to a series of humiliating defeats) and the mid-brain damage that lead to Parkinson’s.
It’s not like anyone’s going to make another Ali film where Ali is on the set. I just feel like they missed the opportunity to create a definitive portrait.
In a class by itself, Scorsese’s Raging Bull.
As previously stated, Raging Bull is the all-time best. But what about Million Dollar Baby?