Popular Boxing Films

Posted on 9 Jan 00:00



People love boxing movies because of the emotional charge and the thrill that come with it. Boxing movies motivate people because they show them that with persistence and hard work, you can succeed. Boxing films also show people that to succeed you need dedication and sacrifice. The inspiration people get when watching boxing films have made them popular among movie lovers. This’s why boxing films always feature in the list of the best classic movies.

Listed here are a few of the most popular boxing movies of all time. The legendary boxing films featured in the article include Rocky (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Million Dollar Baby (2004), The Harder They Fall (1956), The Champ (1979), Triumph of Spirit (1986), and Body and Soul (1981).

1)  Rocky (1976)

Rocky is a classic boxing film written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. Rocky is considered the best portrayal of the American dream. The film tells the story of Rocky Balboa, a kind and hardworking Italian American boxer. He works as a debt collector in a slum in Philadelphia. Rocky’s break through comes when he gets the chance to fight for the heavy weight championship. Apart from Stallone, other major stars in the film include Talia Shire (Adrian), Burt Young (Pauline), Burgress Meredith (Mickey Goldmill), and Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed).

Rocky was made on a lean budget of just over $1 million. However, upon release, the movie was a super hit that grossed $225 million in gross sales. This made it the highest earning movie in 1976. Stallone’s performance in Rocky earned him high praise from the critics. It made him one of the major movie stars and screenwriters in Hollywood.

Awards and Nominations
It was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won three including the best picture category. In 2006, the Library of Congress selected the film for preservation because it was culturally, historically and aesthetically significant. 

2)  Raging Bull (1980)

Raging Bull is a film directed by Martin Scorsese and it’s an American biographical sports drama. Raging Bull is adapted from Jake LaMotta’s memoir Ranging Bull: My Story. The film was co-produced by Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winker. The film stars Robert De Niro (Jake LaMotta), an Italian-American middleweight boxer. Jake presents self-destructive behavior.  For example, he is obsessively angry, displays sexual jealousy, and has an animalistic appetite. This destroys Jake’s marriage.

The film was released in New York on November 14, 1980, and subsequently released in theaters on December 19, 1980. The film was made with a budget of $18 million, but made only $23 million at the box office due to a lukewarm reception. The movie received mixed reviews after it was released. The performance by De Niro was praised, but the movie received negative reviews because of its very violent content.

Awards and Nominations
Despite the criticism, the film received eight nominations for the Academy Awards. The movie won two Academy Awards for the Best Actor and the Best Editing. 

Raging Bull became a popular boxing movie after it was released and is now considered one of the greatest boxing movies ever made. The National Film Registry, selected it for preservation in 1990.

3)  Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Million Dollar Baby is an American sports drama co-produced by Clint Eastwood in 2004. The film is based on a short story by F.X Toole that was originally published under the title 'Rope Burns'.  The movie stars Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank. The film is a story of unrecognized boxing trainer haunted by mistakes from his past. The trainer tries to right his wrongs by assisting an underdog amateur boxer to accomplish her dream of turning professional.

The story begins with a waitress from Missouri called Maggie Fitzgerald showing up in a run-down gym in Los Angeles run by Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood). Maggie asks Frankie, an old boxing trainer, to be her trainer. Initially, he refuses, but Maggie continue to train in the gym tirelessly against Frankie’s advice. He told Maggie that she was too old to start a boxing carrier.

On the contrary, Eddie Dupris (Morgan Freeman), Frankie’s friend and employee encourages and helps Maggie. Frankie reluctantly agree to train Maggie after his big prospect, “Big Willie” signs up with another manager.

Awards and Nominations
When the movie debuted, it received widespread accolades from the critics. Consequently, the movie won four academy awards that included the Best Picture and the Best Actress for Hilary Swank. 

4)  The Harder They Fall (1956)

'The Harder They Fall' is an American boxing film released in 1956 and directed by Mark Robson and written by Phillip Yordan. The film is based on Budd Schulberg’s novel published in 1947. The movie was nominated for academy awards in the category of the best cinematography for black and white. It was also Humphrey Bogart's last film.

In this movie, a sportswriter by the name Eddie Willis goes broke, and he is fired by the newspaper where he works. Nick Benko, a boxing promoter hires Eddie.  Nick has a new towering boxer by the name Toro, who can't fight. He plans to use Toro’s size as a trick to make money in boxing. However, Toro and his manager Luis don't know about Nick’s gimmick. All ofToro matches are fixed to make people believe that he was a real fighter. 

Nick promises Eddie a big payday so that he will overlook Nick's dishonest scheme. Eddie publicizes Toro as 'real' up and coming fighter, eventhough his first fight is disasterous. The boxing commission threatens to investigate the fight.

Eddie and the team go on bus tour that crisscrosses states to advertise the fighter. This heightened Toro's image as one of the best contenders. While on the tour, Eddie negotiates with other managers to make sure all the fights remain fixed.

5)  The Champ (1979)

The Champ is a remake of the award-winning movies of the same name directed by King Vidor in 1931. The 1979 version is a sport film drama directed by Franco Zeffirelli. The movie stars Jon Voight (Billy Flynn), has custody of his son Timothy (Ricky Schroder). He tries to support his son and mend with his ex-wife Annie (Faye Dunaway) by boxing again.

Plot:  Billy Flynn (Jon Voight) is an ex-boxing champion living in Hialeah Florida. He decides to give up his boxing career and settle down as a horse trainer. However, he receives a boxing proposition that will secure him a match in the future. Billy goes to the gym with his son, but walks away to a bar after learning the man he was supposed to meet has not arrived.

Billy meets on a boat with his ex-wife and her current husband along with his son. Timothy and his mother play together. However, it’s Annie’s current husband (Arthur Hill) who confronts Billy and convinces him to tell Timothy that Annie is his mother. Billy had previously told his son that his mother died.

Awards and Nominations
Ricky Schroder received an academy award for the best new male star of the year for his performance as T.J Flynn at the age of nine. Voight received the nomination for the best actor, but didn’t win the award.

6)  Triumph of The Spirit (1986)

'Triumph of The Spirit' is a biographical drama film directed by Robert M. Young, starring Willem Dafoe and Edward James Olmos. The screenplay is based on true life events. Most of the film is based during the Germany Nazi era when death camps still existed. A Jewish boxer by the name Salama Arouch is forced to fight new recruits to death as the SS guards watch for entertainment.

The film opens with Salamo Arouch in Thessaloniki, Greece. His passion is boxing, but he is captured with his family and fiancé in 1943 and transported to Auschwitz. The SS guards use him for entertainment by forcing him to box against fellow captives. He complies because he knows that if he refuses, his family will suffer the consequences. On the contrary, winning means extra rations to share with his family. If Arouch lost, he knows he will be sent to the gas chamber. His love for his fiancée Allegra also gives him the determination to stay alive.

7)  Body and Soul (1981)

'Body and Soul' is an American drama movie written by and starring by Leon Isaac Kennedy alongside his wife Jayne Kennedy. George Bower directed the film, which is a remake of a 1947 movie that depicted corruption, violence and temptation between a boxer and a sensational woman. The casts includes:  Leon Isaac Kennedy (Leon Johnson), Muhammad Ali (Himself), and Jayne Kennedy.

Awards and Nominations
The movie won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture.


The seven classic boxing film mentioned above are considered some of the best of all time by different sources and critics. The reason is that all depict characters overcoming challenges to emerge victorious, and that is inspirational.

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