Best Boxing Movies Of All Time

Alphabetical List of Boxing Movies

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Boxing is an exciting sport, with dramatic bouts, stunning upsets over the years and, sadly, some vicious beatings. It's not surprising, then, that the sport has served as the basis for hundreds of movies, almost since studios began making films. Below is a list of the best, grouped by the time periods in which they were made.

1894-1929

The earliest boxing films featured real boxers, such as "Corbett and Courtney Before the Kinetograph," a staged bout that starred real-life heavyweight champ James Corbett, "Broken Blossoms," a  tearjerker starring Lillian Gish and "Battling Butler," a comedic gem from Buster Keaton.

  • Corbett and Courtney Before the Kinetograph (1894)
  • Boxing Match; or, Glove Contest (1896)
  • Broken Blossoms (1919)
  • Battling Butler (1926)

1930-1939

The Depression years brought boxing movies telling stories of struggles, triumph and tragedy, such as "The Champ," the story of a washed-up alcoholic boxer living in squalor with his young son, "Dink," trying to gain a second chance in the ring, as Wikipedia notes, and "Joe Palooka," who follows in his prizefighter father's footsteps and finds success, only to descend into a life of debauchery.

  • The Champ (1931)
  • The Bermondsey Kid (1931)
  • Winner Take All (1932)
  • The Big Chance (1933)
  • The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933)
  • Joe Palooka (1934)
  • The Milky Way (1936)
  • Kid Galahad (1937)
  • Spirit of Youth (1938)
  • Hollywood Stadium Mystery (1938)
  • They Made Me a Criminal (1939)
  • Golden Boy (1939)

1940-1949

Biopics were introduced during the WWII and post-war years, with films about heavyweight champs Corbett and John Sullivan, as well as  film-noir movies such as "The Set-Up," detailing a corruption-filled boxing world, with crooked managers and violent gangsters.​

  • City for Conquest (1940)
  • The Great John L. (1945)
  • Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)
  • Gentleman Jim (1942)
  • Body and Soul (1947)
  • Champion (1949)
  • The Set-Up (1949)

1950-1959

There may not be a better boxing moving -- indeed there are few better movies, period -- than " On the Waterfront," a film about "an ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman (who) struggles to stand up to his corrupt union bosses," according to IMDb.

The period also saw a 1953 biography of real-life champ Joe Louis.

  • Fight for the Title (1952)
  • The Fighter (1952)
  • The Ring (1952)
  • The Square Ring (1952)
  • The Joe Louis Story (1953)
  • On the Waterfront (1954)
  • Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)
  • The Harder They Fall (1956)

1960-1969

The 1960s, a time of protests and upheaval, was not a big decade for boxing movies. And, this decade would not get its own section except for the emergence of a movie about pugilism that might rival "On the Waterfront" for the best film on the subject. Starring Anthony Quinn, "Requiem for a Heavyweight" focuses on a "heavyweight boxer who is forced from the ring by a body that just can't take the punishment anymore and a doctor's warning that blindness will result if he does keep fighting," according to Rotten Tomatoes. Some critics said it was Quinn's finest performance.

  • Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)
  • Kid Galahad (1962)
  • Legendary Champions (1968)

1970-1979

Of course, the decade would have to start with a couple of movies about world champ  Muhammad Ali, previously known as Cassius Clay, including one of the first fantasy-fight movies, imagining what would have happened if two great fighters from different eras could have met in the ring during their prime.

Also, Sylvester Stallone, starring as a small-time boxer from working-class Philadelphia, who gets his shot at the big time, won an Academy Award for best picture and kicked off what would become a series of "Rocky" movies. And, John Voight starred in "The Champ," a superb remake of the 1931 original.

  • A.k.a. Cassius Clay (1970)
  • The Super Fight: Marciano vs. Ali (1970)
  • Ashita no Joe (1970)
  • The Great White Hope (1970)
  • Fat City (1972)
  • Hard Times (1975)
  • Rocky (1976)
  • Rocky II (1979)
  • The Champ (1979)

1980-1999

This period combines two decades, because the 1980s and 1990s were not strong decades for boxing movies -- with some notable exceptions. Some critics consider "Raging Bull" the best boxing movie ever and even the best movie of the decade. The film, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro, told the story of real-life fighter Jake La Motta, whose self-destructive habits sabotaged his career and destroyed his relationship with his family.

The period also saw a solid documentary about Ali 

  • Raging Bull (1980)
  • Dempsey (1983)
  • Muhammad Ali: The Whole Story (1996)
  • The Hurricane (1999)

2000-2017

The current period didn't see as many great boxing movies as earlier years, but, again, there were some notable exceptions. "Cinderella Man," inspired by the life of heavyweight champion James J. Braddock, starred Russell Crowe and was directed by Ron Howard. Clint Eastwood won an Academy Award for his direction of the aching "Million Dollar baby," which also won the award for best picture for 2005. "Thrilla in Manila" was an excellent TV documentary about Ali's 1975 fight against Joe Frazier in the Philippines. With "Creed," Stallone returned to form and gave an Oscar-nominated performance as the mentor for the son of character Apollo Creed. And, "Bleed for This" was a little-noticed based-on-the life story starring Miles Teller about a boxer who comes back from a near-fatal car accident in a victorious return to the ring.

  • Cinderella Man (2005)
  • Against the Ropes (2004)
  • Million Dollar Baby (2004)
  • Thrilla in Manila (2008)
  • The Fighter (2010)
  • Creed (2016)
  • Bleed for This (2016)