Top 5 Boxing Films of All Time

The Fighter‘ a film about the story of ‘Irish’ Mickey Ward

First, I’ll start off with a question:

What is it about boxing movies that guys love?

We can relate to them.

The adversity faced in the ring is a microcosm of what we face in life. And boxing provides the perfect platform for triumph over adversity that men can relate to. You don’t get into boxing because you love getting hit, you become a fighter because you want something better for yourself and for your family – which is at least true with the protagonists in these top 5 movies. It’s not a glamorous business by any means, but neither is life.

It’s this “fight” that appeals to guys. It’s the struggle – both internally and externally – that we can relate to. In each of these movies the antagonists have two opponents who continually knock them down: life and their opponent in the ring. And we all get knocked down in life, but giving up is never an option – and neither is it an option for any of the characters in the movies we love.

They struggle like we struggle, fail like we fail, but they have that killer instinct and that will to succeed that we hope to have. But the only way we find out whether we have it or not, is when we’re faced with an opponent that hits us so hard, we question whether it’s worth continuing this fight. Do we get back up and keep moving forward, or stay down?

Guys like boxing movies because we like fighting. If we’re not crazy about getting in the ring ourselves, we still enjoy seeing two dudes getting in there and beating the crap out of one another. We can appreciate the skill, but we appreciate the warrior even more.

It’s just you in that ring, and when it comes down to it, a lot of times its just you in life working your ass off everyday, keeping the faith until the fight is won.

The Top 5 Boxing Films of All Time

5. Somebody Up There Likes Me

Starring Paul Newman, this movie is about the life of Rocky Graziano. A guy who seems to be heading down the road to becoming a criminal, but finds his calling in the ring instead.

4. Rocky Balboa

This probably won’t make it on most lists, but I think it deserves it’s place at #4, if not higher. Rocky sums up the theme of this movie, and of any other Rocky film with the line: “It ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

The speech he gives to his son is, in my mind, one of the greatest father-to-son speeches in any movie.

3. Rocky

The definition of an underdog is Rocky Balboa. The reality is, most of us are underdog’s in some form or another, which is why I think we can identify so greatly with this film. Even Stallone, when he was making this movie was an underdog who then went on to win the best picture award at the Grammies.

2. Raging Bull

The anti-Rocky movie. What I mean by this is that the Rocky films are all about the underdog triumphing, succeeding and breaking down barriers. But Jake LaMotta never did that. He didn’t triumph over his demons, but rather let get them better of him. It’s a raw movie, no fluff, no “Hollywood”, just the real story about Jake LaMotta, played by Robert DeNiro – who in my mind does the best acting job in a boxing movie.

1. Cinderella Man

The book is even better than the movie, but the movie is one of my favorite’s of all time. They keep the film amazingly true to the actual story of James J. Braddock, which is pretty hard to believe because it’s such an amazing story. You think it’s too good to be true, that it’s product of a good fiction writer, not reality. (The only thing they slide on is the portrayal of the antagonist, Max Baer, who was supposedly a pretty great guy, not the ass hole that he is in the film).

This film is about a man like every one of us who loves his family more than anything, and would do anything to keep them safe. He is given a pretty shitty hand more than once in his life, but he never let’s that keep him down.

Hopefully we’ll see ‘The Fighter’ on this list.

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What movie would you add to the list?

Or take away?

  • i also love watching boxing

  • Although the original Rocky was the film that inspired me on my fitness quest, "Raging Bull" is the movie I think should be on the top of this list. It is one of the greatest movies ever, and I think Marty Scorsese's most important work. That's no brush off of "Cinderella Man", however. It is another all-time great.

    I'm sure you'll post a great review of "The Fighter", Chad. I'm looking forward to that one, too.

    • Joe,

      Those top 3 movies were hard to put in order – especially those top 3. I just watched 'The Fighter' yesterday and will have a review up soon – I was impressed to say the least.

      Hope you have a great Christmas,

      – Chad

  • As an aging amateur boxer who sparred micky Ward twice in the late 80’s, I have enormous respect for him as a boxer and a human being. However, I was disappointed in “The Fighter.” The performances were awesome, although Micky is an even quieter and more unassuming man than Wahlberg depicts, but the boxing scenes were, imho, not terribly accurate or exciting.

    On the whole ZI agree with your choices, though arguably “Fat City” should have been on the list.

    Incidentally, while it is true that one doesn’t get into boxing because on likes to get hit, many of us got into it because we DO like to hit guys. Almost every boxer I have known has had a certain pugnacity, sometimes anger issues, and invariably has gotten into at least a few fights before he took up boxing.

    • Well said Mike –

      Thanks for the comment man. You make a great point that guys get into boxing because the DO like to hit guys. Very true. I've never seen "fat cit" – I'll have to give that a look for sure.

      I like Wahlberg, but I agree that he didn't do the greatest job in playing Ward. As far as accuracy, I think for Hollywood it was good, but ya it wasn't perfect. One of my favorite movies "Cinderella Man" portrayed Max Baer as an animal and a real ass hole. But in real life (and in the book) he's a great guy.

      Hollywood takes their liberties in hopes of making more money.

      Thanks for the comment,

      – Chad

  • Diedrick Z.

    Hey Chad, love the article. I see it was published about 2 years, tought I might add a noteworthy movie

    -Warrior

  • TJ

    million dollar baby!!