1 Raging Bull
Not only by far the best boxing film ever made, Raging Bull is also one of the greatest films ever made. Directed by Martin Scorsese, this 1980 tale of the trials and tribulations of Jake LaMotta was about boxing only superficially; on the surface. What made it special was that it was about so much more.
2 Million Dollar Baby
Directed by Clint Eastwood, and based on the stories of F.X. Toole (a pen name for boxing trainer Jerry Boyd), this 2004 film explored the idea of a woman in a man’s world better than any other boxing film to date. It won four Oscars and has clearly stood the test of time.
As iconic and important as any boxing film, the original Rocky, released in 1976, has probably done more for the sport in terms of attracting people to either watch it or participate in it than any other on this list. It also launched the career of Sylvester Stallone.
4 The Set-Up
An underrated and rarely mentioned classic, the 1949 film The Set-Up deals with what happens when a boxing manager taking bribes from a gangster without telling his fighter, who is determined to turn his life around with a win. It plays out in real time and is tense and claustrophobic in the best way.
5 Fat City
Based on the excellent novel of the same name, Fat City is a 1972 film directed by John Huston about two rival boxers, played by Jeff Bridges and Stacy Keach, whose careers go in different directions. Susan Tyrell, meanwhile, got a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her portrayal of an alcoholic wife.
6 The Fighter
Of all the modern Hollywood takes on boxing, few have been more satisfying or realistic than David O’Russell’s 2010 film The Fighter. Essentially the story of brothers Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund, it managed to eschew maudlin sentimentality, the curse of so many other boxing films, and deliver something truthful.
7 The Harder They Fall
Written by the great Budd Schulberg, this 1956 film is about an ex-sportswriter hired by a shady fight promoter to promote his latest protégé from Argentina. It stars Humphrey Bogart and Rod Steiger.
8 The Hurricane
Less about boxing and more about a fight for justice, The Hurricane, a 1999 film directed by Norman Jewison, focuses on Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a middleweight contender wrongly imprisoned for murder. Carter is played in the film by Denzel Washington, whose performance ranks alongside any actor-turned-boxer performance.
9 Requiem for a Heavyweight
Notable for sightings of Muhammad Ali, Jack Dempsey, Willie Pep and Gus Lesnevich, 1962’s Requiem for a Heavyweight also brought out the best in actors Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney and Julie Harris.
10 Cinderella Man
Ron Howard’s 2005 film Cinderella Man tells the story of James J. Braddock, a supposedly washed-up boxer who roared back to challenge for the heavyweight championship of the world. It is typically Hollywood in its execution but is carried by a powerful performance by Russell Crowe in the lead role.