What Are the Best Movies About Boxing?

The best Hollywood movies about the sweet science

Even though boxing is a less popular sport today than it was in the early 20th century, Hollywood loves a great boxing movie. There's something so dramatic about seeing two men (or women) going up against each other with nothing but their fists and their wills to survive. Hollywood also loves a great comeback story, and so many boxing movies like 2016's Bleed For This (about boxing champion Vinny Pazienza) focus on the rise—or the fall—of a great fighter.

While there are plenty of great documentaries about boxing (like When We Were Kings) and countless great movies about ex-boxers (like On The Waterfront and The Quiet Man), this list focuses on narrative boxing movies that involve scenes with in-ring action. Here are ten of Hollywood's best movies about the Sweet Science.

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Fat City (1972)

Fat City
Columbia Pictures

Hollywood favorite Jeff Bridges starts as teenage boxer Ernie Munger in one of his earliest movie roles in Fat City. The film was based on the popular novel Fat City by Leonard Gardner, who adapted the screenplay himself. Director John Huston made a career out of making films about tough characters in even tougher situations, and Fat City explores Munger's life and the lives of his acquaintances as they try to desperately make ends meet in a run-down city in California.

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The Hurricane (1999)

The Hurricane
Universal Pictures

We don't get much in-ring action in The Hurricane because the real-life backstory of boxer Rubin "The Hurricane" Carter is even more compelling—Carter was twice convicted for a triple-homicide that many believe he did not commit. Academy Award winner Denzel Washington stars as Carter. Though the film has been criticized for its historical accuracy, it's still a thrilling movie with a great performance by Washington.

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Gentleman Jim (1942)

Gentleman Jim
Warner Bros.

Boxing was a very different sport before James J. Corbett, the iconic late nineteen century champion, laced up his gloves. Hollywood icon Errol Flynn played Corbett in this film, which focuses on Corbett's match with world heavyweight champion John L. Sullivan (played brilliantly by Ward Bond). It's a fascinating look at when boxing was something of an underground sport.

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Creed (2015)


Though Creed is technically Rocky 7, it's a completely new take on the long-running boxing franchise and is arguably the best film in the series since the original. Creed focuses on Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of Rocky's in-ring rival Apollo Creed, who asks the aging Rocky to train him for a boxing career. The acclaimed film even earned Sylvester Stallone an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

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Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)

Requiem for a Heavyweight
Columbia Pictures

One of downsides of boxing is the health and money issues boxers face after retiring. This 1962 film is an early exploration of that, featuring Anthony Quinn as aging boxer "Mountain" Rivera. His manager is played by Jackie Gleason in one of his rare dramatic roles. The film also stars Mickey Rooney and a pre-Muhammad Ali Cassius Clay. The screenplay was actually written by Rod Serling of The Twilight Zone fame.

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The Fighter (2010)

The Fighter
Paramount Pictures

Director David O. Russell got his career back on track with The Fighter, a biopic about the relationship between real-life boxing half-brothers "Irish" Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) of Boston. The gritty realism of the film made it a huge success, and both Bale and co-star Melissa Leo won Oscars for their roles. Bale lost a significant amount of weight to portray the drug-addicted Eklund

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Cinderella Man (2005)

Cinderella Man
Universal Pictures

Boxer James Braddock gave Americans a lot of hope when he rose from being a dock worker with an average fight record to becoming the World Heavyweight Champion during the height of the Great Depression. Cinderella Man, a biopic on Braddock's life, was directed by Ron Howard and stars Russell Crowe as Braddock and Renee Zellweger as his wife. The cast also included Paul Giamatti, who played Braddock's manager. Howard did an admirable job of recreating Depression-era New York City.

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Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Million Dollar Baby
Warner Bros.

Not only are women capable of knocking out opponents in the ring, but movies about women boxers can also win Best Picture—as Million Dollar Baby did. Hilary Swank has never been better as a poor woman who takes up boxing under the wing of reluctant trainer Clint Eastwood, who also directed the film. Million Dollar Baby builds to a heart-wrenching ending in which Eastwood does some his best late-career acting work. The film won four Oscars, including Best Picture.

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Rocky (1976)

United Artists

It's almost impossible to think of Sylvester Stallone without thinking about Rocky, the franchise about an underdog Philadelphia fighter that started with this Best Picture-winning entry. Though some Rocky sequels are better than others, the original's focus on a down-on-his-luck fighter going the distance in a million-to-one shot has made generations of fans cheer. The fact that Rocky is also a love story has ensured that it would appeal to anybody with a heart.

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Raging Bull (1980)

Raging Bull
United Artists

Martin Scorsese has directed several masterpieces, but Raging Bull might top all of them. Robert De Niro stars as real-life champion Jake LaMotta, a man whose outside-the-ring battles dwarfed anything he faced inside the ring. The stark black and white cinematography and a stunning supporting performance by Joe Pesci make the film one for the ages and are easily the greatest boxing movie in cinema history.