It’s no surprise that boxing movies are among the most popular in cinema. They’re full of suspense, drama, and excitement—all of which make them great to watch with friends or family on a lazy afternoon.
You might be surprised to learn that these films can teach us about life and its many struggles.
So if you haven’t seen all these best boxing movies yet (or even just one), make sure you check them out ASAP!
Table of Contents
- Before The Fall (2004)
- Real Steel (2011)
- Ali (2001)
- Rocky II (1979)
- Jungleland (2019)
- Bleed For This (2016)
- China Heavyweight (2012)
- The Hammer (2007)
- The Bleeder (2016)
- Rocky Balboa (2006)
- The Boxer (1997)
- Cinderella Man (2005)
- The Hurricane (1999)
- Killer’s Kiss (1955)
- Tyson (2008)
- Girlfight (2000)
- Rocco And His Brothers (1960)
- Knuckle (2011)
- Creed II (2018)
- The Fighter (2010)
- The Quiet Man (1952)
- Million Dollar Baby (2004)
- The Happiest Day In The Life Of Olli Mäki (2016)
- Raging Bull (1980)
- When We Were Kings (1996)
- Rocky (1976)
- Fat City (1972)
- Gentleman Jim (1942)
- Creed (2015)
Before The Fall (2004)
You can’t talk about boxing movies without mentioning this one before the Fall was directed by Alex Proyas, who also made I, Robot, and Dark City.
Hayden Christensen plays an up-and-coming boxer Jimmy Figgis who gets knocked out in the ring—but he doesn’t stay down for long!
He soon regains consciousness and discovers that his life has changed drastically: his girlfriend is now married to her ex (Bill Irwin), his brother is engaged to another woman (Scott Speedman), and he doesn’t have a job or home anymore.
As if all those things weren’t enough of an adjustment for one guy to handle, Jimmy soon finds out that someone else has taken over his identity completely: he’s disappeared from everyone’s memory except for those closest to him on the night of his loss. This is one of the best boxing movies.
With its dramatic twist ending and positive reviews from critics (#7 on RottenTomatoes’ list of best boxing movies), Before The Fall earned Best Foreign Language Film nominations at both the Academy Awards and Golden Globes (which makes sense since it was filmed in Australia).
Real Steel (2011)
Real Steel is a 2011 American science fiction sports drama film. The film was directed by Shawn Levy and starred Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, and Dakota Goyo.
The film was released in the United States on November 18, 2011. Another good addition to our list of best boxing movies.
The plot of Real Steel takes place in a world where human boxing has been replaced by robot boxing. It centers on Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), who must fight his way back to the top after his robot Max loses a boxing match due to an unexpected glitch that leaves him unable to compete anymore.
Directed by Michael Mann, the film stars Will Smith as Ali. It follows the athlete’s rise to fame and his conversion to Islam. The film also depicts Ali’s refusal to be inducted into the Army during the Vietnam War and his subsequent suspension from boxing for three years.
Ali won Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Jamie Foxx) and Best Music, Original Song Score.
Rocky II (1979)
The second installment in the Rocky series and sequel to the 1976 film Rocky, this film stars Sylvester Stallone as underdog boxing champ Rocky Balboa.
The film was written by Sylvester Stallone and directed by John G. Avildsen. The first film’s co-stars, Carl Weathers and Burgess Meredith, reprise their roles here, while Talia Shire joins the cast as Adrian Pennino (Rocky’s wife). This is one of the best boxing movies.
Rocky II was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Stallone), Best Film Editing, Best Music–Original Score, and Best Writing–Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium at the 52nd Academy Awards but lost all of those categories to Kramer vs. Kramer which also starred Burt Young who played Paulie Pennino in both films.
The new boxing movie JUNGLELAND stars Woody Harrelson as Jim Morris, a former MMA fighter who coaches a high school team. It’s directed by Max Winkler and is based on the memoir by Jim Morris about his time as a boxing coach at De La Salle High School.
JUNGLELAND received mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 63%. It was not well-received for its depiction of the sport and treatment of female characters.
Bleed For This (2016)
Bleed for This tells the true story of boxer Vinny Pazienza, who was told he would never be able to walk again after a horrific car accident. With nothing left to lose, Pazienza underwent an experimental medical procedure that included breaking and resetting his neck to fight again.
This film stars Miles Teller (Whiplash) as Vinny Pazienza, Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight) as Kevin Rooney, and Katey Sagal (Married with Children) as Lorraine Bracco. Bleed For This was directed by Ben Younger (Boiler Room). It won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in 2016 and received nominations for an Academy Award for Best Actor and Critics’ Choice Award for Best Actor in 2017.
China Heavyweight (2012)
The film is set in London and revolves around a young man named Billy F. Gibbons (played by Jack O’Connell), who dreams of becoming a champion boxer. When he meets Henry Plimpton, who also wants to become a boxer, they form an alliance and try to train together.
The film was directed by Stephen Frears and written by Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson. It stars Jack O’Connell as Billy F. Gibbons, Nicholas Farrell as Henry Plimpton, Paul Anderson as McManus, James Faulkner as Terry Wilson/Billy’s father, and David Hayman as Franky Walker/Billy’s uncle.
The Hammer (2007)
The Hammer is the real-life story of a man who became a professional boxer and had a lot of success. He was a world champion, one of the best fighters in history, and an excellent boxer and athlete.
This film is based on the life of former two-time world champion Bobby Czyz (played by Mickey Rourke), whose career was derailed by injuries, tragedy, family issues, and substance abuse—but ultimately, he found redemption through fighting again when no one else believed he could do it.
In addition to Rourke’s strong performance as Czyz, The Hammer also features Clint Eastwood as his trainer Angelo Dundee; James Caan as his manager Butch Lewis; Teri Hatcher as Czyz’s girlfriend; Scott Glenn as his father-in-law/trainer Buddy McGirt; Joe Mantegna as trainer Lou Duva; Kevin Dunn as promoter Bob Arum; Michael Rapaport as promoter Lou Duva Jr.; Robert DeNiro Jr., son of Robert DeNiro Sr., plays himself in a role written specifically for him here too!
The Bleeder (2016)
The Bleeder is the story of Tommy Gunn, an aspiring boxer with a penchant for trouble and a history of injuries. When his brother convinces him to dive in order to win some cash, Tommy is drawn into the shady world of illegal gambling and corruption within the sport.
Featuring Michael B. Jordan as Tommy and Clifton Collins Jr as his brother Ronnie, The Bleeder was directed by Brian Goodman and written by Chad Law as part of Amazon Studios’ Video Direct program.
Rocky Balboa (2006)
You know what you’re going to get with a Rocky movie. The same old story of an underdog fighter who gives it his all and overcomes the odds to become a World Champion. But this film is different because it’s not your usual underdog story, as Rocky Balboa is no longer an up-and-coming fighter. Instead, he has been retired for some time now and spends his days working at a meat factory while training a young boxer named Tommy Gunn (Ventimiglia). When
Tommy wins the title belt from Apollo Creed’s son (Banderas), and Rocky decides to come out of retirement so he can train him for an upcoming match against Mason “The Line” Dixon (Masterson). This is one of the best boxing movies.
Rocky Balboa is one of my favorite films in this series. It has great fight scenes with plenty of blood and bone-crunching sounds, along with some fun moments between Stallone and Banderas when they spar together during their training sessions for the big match on New Year’s Eve 2006; at Madison Square Garden!
The Boxer (1997)
The Boxer is a film based on the true story of Irish boxer Jim Braddock. He was considered one of the best boxers in the world until an injury forced him to retire from boxing. After Jim’s wife dies, he becomes homeless and goes on a downward spiral that lands him in jail. While incarcerated, he meets Pete McCormick (Mark Wahlberg), who helps him find his way back into boxing.
The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Mark Wahlberg) and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Paul Guilfoyle). This movie will have you laughing, crying, and cheering!
Cinderella Man (2005)
Cinderella Man is an Oscar-nominated movie from 2005 that tells the story of James J. Braddock, a boxer who worked his way up from poverty to become heavyweight champion of the world. It’s based on a true story and stars Russell Crowe as Braddock and Renée Zellweger as his wife, Mae.
The movie received three Oscar nominations: Best Actor (Russell Crowe), Best Supporting Actress (Renée Zellweger), and Best Editing (James Haygood). It was also nominated for Best Picture at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs.
The film grossed over $54 million domestically during its theatrical run in 2005—not bad for a sports drama!
The Hurricane (1999)
This biographical drama is based on the life of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a boxer who spent 19 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Denzel Washington plays the role of Carter, while Vicellous Reon Shannon plays his opponent, John Artis. Liev Schreiber also appears as detective Jim Rothstein in this film directed by Norman Jewison.
The Hurricane is a movie that surprised me and showed me there are still some gems out there to find! You can watch it on Netflix if you have it or rent it from any local video store near you!
Killer’s Kiss (1955)
KILLER’S KISS is a 1955 film written and directed by Stanley Kubrick, and it’s his first feature film, based on the novel “The Criminal” by Lionel White. The story follows boxer James McCoy (played by Frank Silvera), who falls in love with Gloria Price (played by Jamie Smith), who is involved with gangster Eddie “Madman” Martin (also played by Frank Silvera).
The movie has gained popularity over the years because it’s considered one of the earliest examples of noir.
Perhaps the most accurate depiction of a boxer’s life on film, “Tyson” tells the story of the Rise and Fall of Mike Tyson. Directed by James Toback and starring Michael B. Jordan as Tyson, “Tyson” was released in the US on November 14, 2008, to generally positive reviews. The film was awarded several awards at different festivals worldwide, including at Deauville International Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix award.
The plot follows Mike Tyson from his early years through his rise to fame as one of boxing’s greatest fighters until his eventual downfall after being convicted of rape charges against Desiree Washington (played by Rachel Nichols). This is one of the best boxing movies.
Girlfight is a 2000 movie directed by Karyn Kusama, who also wrote and produced the film. The movie stars Zoe Bell (the director’s stunt double in Kill Bill), Tricia Vessey, and Renee Olstead as three girls forced to fight each other to pay off their debts.
The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on December 20, 2000, and received positive reviews from critics.
The story begins with three young women—Julie Westlake (Zoe Bell), Trish Van Eyck (Tricia Vessey), and Robin Tyler (Renee Olstead)—who have all gotten into trouble with the law for various reasons:
- Julie stole money from her boss.
- Robin lied about being pregnant so she could stay out of jail.
- Trish hurt someone while driving drunk.
To avoid jail time, they are told that they must fight each other in an underground fighting ring until one person wins all ten rounds without losing any points or getting knocked out.*
Rocco And His Brothers (1960)
Rocco and His Brothers is a 1960 film directed by Luchino Visconti and starring Alain Delon, Renato Salvatori, Annie Girardot, and Katina Paxinou. It is based on the novel by Thomas Mann.
The film covers four generations of men of the Rizzo family (Italian for “Rock”) who emigrated to France from Sicily in 1893 to escape poverty after their farm created no income. They settle in an unoccupied house near Nice until they find work under brutal conditions in nearby mines—until one day, Rocco decides that he has had enough and runs away from home as his brothers remain behind with their father. Upon reaching Paris, he meets an older man named Enrico, who takes him under his wing but dies soon afterward, leaving Rocco on his own again.
As time passes, both Enrico’s daughter-in-law Anna Giordano (Katina Paxinou), who grows attracted to Rocco despite her marriage being unhappy, and Berthold Rizzo (Renato Salvatori) join him there, where they meet up with other immigrants looking for work until eventually returning together back home having made enough money, so everyone has food again.
Knuckle is a 2011 film about a boxer forced to retire after being involved in a car accident. He then becomes a bouncer at his brother’s nightclub but gets back into boxing after being offered large sums of money. The movie stars Jason Statham as the eponymous Knuckle and features Ray Winstone (The Departed) and Vinnie Jones (Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels).
In an interview with Empire Magazine, director Michael Jai White said that he wanted to make an “old school” boxing movie with Knuckle: “I want people to feel like they were taken back in time when they watch this film.” this is another good addition to our list of best boxing movies.
Creed II (2018)
CREED II is a 2018 boxing movie and sequel to CREED, starring Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed (son of Apollo Creed) and Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. In this series installment, Adonis trains for a big fight with Viktor Drago (played by Florian Munteanu), son of Ivan Drago, who killed Apollo in Rocky IV.
The Fighter (2010)
The Fighter is the story of Micky Ward (played by Mark Wahlberg) and his brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), who were both boxers. Their story is based on real events, but it’s told through fiction.
Micky’s career turns when he meets Charlene Braddock, who becomes his girlfriend and later wife. She pushes Micky to train harder and win more fights, but she also causes him to lose his focus in the ring as he begins to think about her instead of fighting. Meanwhile, Dicky has been out of boxing for years because of drug use—but with Charlene’s help, he gets back into training to fight himself professionally again.
The Quiet Man (1952)
The Quiet Man is a 1952 film starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, and Barry Fitzgerald. It was directed by John Ford, who won the Academy Award for Best Director in 1955 because of this film (and also shot The Searchers).
The movie was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song (“The Quiet Man” by Jimmy Van Heusen) and two more: Best Cinematography and Best Score.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
This story follows a young woman who works as a waitress in the evening and trains to become a boxer in her spare time. She eventually earns a spot on the national boxing team, but just when she seems set to achieve her dream of becoming the world champion, an injury threatens to end her career.
Million Dollar Baby won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director (Clint Eastwood). It also won two Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture Drama and Best Actress (Hilary Swank).
The Happiest Day In The Life Of Olli Mäki (2016)
The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki is an excellent film about the life of professional boxer Olli Mäki. The Finnish fighter was a WBC and WBA world heavyweight champion during the 1960s but also struggled with alcoholism. In this movie, he struggles to stay sober as he prepares for a big fight against George Foreman in Nigeria.
The film is directed by Juho Kuosmanen and stars Nelly Hirst-Gee as Mäki’s wife, Arja; Max Ovaska plays Mäki himself.
Raging Bull (1980)
Raging Bull is one of the greatest sports movies of all time. It tells the story of Jake La Motta and his rise to fame within the boxing world. Still, it also explores his tumultuous relationship with his wife Vickie, played by Cathy Moriarty. This is one of the best boxing movies.
This movie features some incredible performances from Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci (who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor) and brilliant direction from Martin Scorsese (who won an Oscar for Best Director).
The cinematography by Michael Chapman is also notable—he was nominated for an Academy Award for this film. Another highlight is how Scorsese uses music in conjunction with editing to create a dazzling montage near the end that summarizes everything we’ve seen up until then—you’ll be blown away by those few minutes alone!
When We Were Kings (1996)
When We Were Kings is a 1996 documentary film directed by Leon Gast. The film depicts the events leading up to, during, and after the Rumble in the Jungle boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman on October 30, 1974, at the former N’Janga Stadium in Kinshasa Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo).
The movie’s title refers to a phrase from Shakespeare’s Henry V speech before Agincourt: “We few, we happy few.” In this case, it refers to those involved with or interested in promoting or participating in professional boxing at that time.
Howard Bingham, one of Ali’s closest friends and confidants, shot the movie. Bingham died not long after filming ended, so I never saw his work come together on screen. It won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 69th Academy Awards ceremony and The 70th Academy Awards ceremony, which took place on April 29, 1997, respectively.
Rocky is a 1976 American sports drama film directed by John G. Avildsen and both written by and starring Sylvester Stallone. It tells the rags to riches American Dream story of Rocky Balboa, an uneducated but kind-hearted working-class Italian-American boxer working as a debt collector for a loan shark in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Rocky starts as a small-time club fighter who works his way up the ranks at the expense of his opponent’s health or life.
The film also stars Talia Shire as Adrian Pennino (his love interest), Burt Young as Paulie Pennino (his brother and trainer), Burgess Meredith as Mickey Goldmill (his trainer and manager), Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed (the reigning heavyweight champion), and Tony Burton as Duke “Duke” Evers (Rocky’s best friend).
The movie spawned sequels: Rocky II, III, IV, V & VI, with each one being released approximately every four years since they were all made between 1976 and 2006; In addition, there was also a spinoff TV series titled “Rocky,” which ran from 1979 – 1982 on NBC.
Fat City (1972)
“Fat City” is a classic boxing movie starring Jeff Bridges and Stacy Keach. The film was directed by Academy Award-winning director John Huston, who also directed classics like “The Misfits” and “Under the Volcano.”
The story takes place in the 1930s during the Great Depression. A down-and-out boxer named Billy Tully (played by Keach) is allowed to fight for a championship title at Madison Square Garden if he can make weight.
His manager (Bridges) decides to help his diet so that he can do it but ends up getting into trouble with gangsters when he borrows money from them without telling Billy about it first. This is one of the best boxing movies.
Gentleman Jim (1942)
Gentleman Jim is based on the life of James J. Corbett, the first boxer to win the world heavyweight championship in 1892.
It stars Errol Flynn as Corbett and Alexis Smith as his wife, Nellie Bly. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Actor and Best Cinematography (Black-and-White).
The plot focuses on Corbett’s struggles with his father, who wants him to become a lawyer but who eventually supports his son after he becomes famous in boxing circles.
Corbett uses his fame to launch a political career that ends up being short-lived due to corruption charges against him.
In this film, Adonis Creed (played by Michael B. Jordan) is the son of Apollo Creed from Rocky IV. He grew up in an orphanage and trained to fight in amateur boxing matches.
Rocky Balboa (portrayed by Sylvester Stallone), who trained his father, also becomes a mentor for Adonis as he prepares himself for professional fighting.
Creed was directed by Ryan Coogler, known for directing Fruitvale Station and Black Panther. It was released on November 25, 2015, and grossed over $109 million worldwide at the box office on its opening weekend alone!
It won numerous awards during award season, including Best Supporting Actor (for Sylvester Stallone), Best Film Editing, and Best Soundtrack, among others. This is said to be one of the best boxing movies.
These are just a few of the boxing-related films that are available. I encourage you to look at some of these movies and see if they interest you.
There is so much more out there than just Rocky, and if you want to learn more about the sport, then movies like “Raging Bull” will show you what it takes to become a champion!