* Recommended Titles
The Ring (1927) Carl Brisson, Lillian Hall-Davies, Ian Hunter. Silent film of two boxers vying for the love of the same woman. One of legendary director Alfred Hitchcock's earlier efforts and worth seeing because if his attention to drama and detail.
Speakeasy (1929) Paul Page, Lola Lane. From imbd.com: Newspaper staffer Alice Woods persuades the editor to allow her to chase a story, that of prizefight contender Martin, who is about to fight for the championship. However, he does not know that his manager is preparing to double-cross him.
The Body Punch (1929) Jack Dougherty, Virginia Brown Faire, George Kotsonaros, Wilbur Mack.
Be Yourself (1930) Fanny Brice, Robert Armstrong, Harry Green, Gertrude Astor, Pat Collins. A nightclub singer helps a hard-luck prizefighter become a contender. Simply a sentimental vehicle for Brice.
Hold Everything (1930) Joe E. Brown, Winnie Lightner, Georges Carpentier, Sally O'Neil, Edmund Breese, Bert Roach. A musical about a second-rate fighter whose love life is on the skids because he flirts too much. He then gets involved with gamblers. Features the song "You're The Cream In My Coffee" among others.
* The Champ (1931) Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper, Irene Rich, Roscoe Ates, Edward Brophy. Classic tearjerker about washed up fighter and his loving son. A bit too sentimental at times but well worth watching. Beery won an Oscar for his performance but the young Cooper is just a good as is King Vidor's artistic direction. The film was an instant hit with the public and was the first sports movie to score big at the box office.
Iron Man (1931) Lew Ayres, Jean Harlow, Robert Armstrong. Basic story of prizefighter in love with gold-digger notable for pre-famous Harlow performance. Remade in 1937 and 1951.
The Tip Off (1931) Eddie Quillan, Robert Armstrong, Ginger Rogers, Joan Peers. Boxer gets in trouble when he starts fooling around with a gangster's girlfriend.
Winner Take All (1932) James Cagney, Virginia Bruce, Marian Nixon, Guy Kibbee, Alan Mowbray, Dickie Moore. Cagney is his usual cocky self as a boxer torn between two women.
Lady and Gent (1932) George Bancroft, Wynne Gibson, Charles Starrett, James Gleason, John Wayne. Veteran boxer gets knocked out by a college kid and gets involved in raising an orphan boy with this singer girlfriend.
Madison Sq. Garden (1932) Jake Oakey, Thomas Meighan, Marian Nixon, William Collier, Zasu Pitts, William Boyd, Warren Hymer. A boxer and a wrestler help their manager promote top fights. Gangsters get involved but the good guys win out in the end with help from real life boxers of the time (Tom Sharkey, Tommy Ryan, Teddy Hayes, Billy Papke, Jack Johnson, Todd Sloan). Famous columnists also appear: Damon Runyon, Grantland Rice and others. Wrestlers too.
The Fighting Gentleman (1932) William Collier Jr., Josephine Dunn, Pat OMalley, James J. Jefferies. A young mechanic loses an amateur fight at a carnival, then trains hard to become a professional boxer. Jefferies was the World heavyweight boxing champion, 1899-1905.
* The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933) Myna Loy, Max Baer, Otto Krueger, Walter Huston, Jack Dempsey, Primo Carnera, Jess Willard, James J. Jeffries. Entertaining story of fighters and gangsters and women and all that. Worth seeing for the appearance of the five real life fighters of the day -- Dempsey, Carnera, Willard and Jeffries. Also enjoy Baer's ten-minute song and dance routine with a line of chorus girls and the climax fight with Carnera. Many other boxers and wrestlers introduced before the bout. [Baer was a professional boxer himself, and the father of Max Baer Jr., who played Jethro in the Beverly Hillbillies. Carnero was the current heavyweight champion of the world and Baer was a contender when this movie was made but Baer defeated him for real a couple of months later on June 14, 1934, at New York's Long Island City Bowl. Baer knocked down Carnera a record 11 times in 11 rounds before the referee stopped it.]
The Life of Jimmy Dolan (1933) Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Loretta Young, Aline McMahon, Guy Kibbee, Lyle Talbot, John Wayne, Mickey Rooney, Alan Farina Hoskins. Partying prizefighter Jimmy Dolan accidentally kills a reporter at a party and escapes to a health farm for children. He falls for Loretta Young and softens but when he fights to raise money for the farm, a detective recognizes him. Nice story, cheesy fight scenes.
The Big Chance (1933) John Darrow, Merna Kennedy, Mickey Rooney, Hank Mann. Gangsters get involved in a young boxer's career.
Palooka (1934) Jimmy Durante, Stu Irwin, Lupe Velez, Marjorie Rambeau, Robert Armstrong. Worth seeing for Durante's energetic performance as Knobby Walsh who promotes naοve fighter Irwin. Mobsters try to make life tough for Joe and his socialite girlfriend Anne. Excellent cast includes the fiery Velez and James Cagney's look-alike brother William.
The Personality Kid (1934) Pat OBrien, Glenda Farrell, Claire Dodd. Ritzy McCarthy is made the champ because, unbeknownst to him, most of his fights were fixed. [O'Brien had fighting experience in college and was coached by boxer Jackie Fields for the film. Ex-figters Mushy Callahan and Marvin Shechter played two of his opponents.]
The Irish in Us (1935) James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, Olivia de Havilland, Frank McHugh, Allen Jenkins. Good cast but comedic script falls short.
* The Milky Way (1936) Harold Lloyd, Adolph Menjou. Entertaining comedy of milkman-turned-prizefighter by mistake. Typical story-line but worth seeing because of the legendary Lloyd's comedic talents.
Kelly the Second (1936) Patsy Kelly, Gwinn Williams, Charley Chase, Pert Kelton, Edward Brophy. A feisty Irish girl turns a tough New York City truck driver with a hearty appetite into a boxer.
Laughing Irish Eyes (1936) Phil Regan, Walter C. Kelly, Ray Walker. An Irish-American boxing promoter goes to Ireland to recruit a local blacksmith.
Cain and Mabel (1936) Marion Davies, Clark Gable, David Carlyle, Allen Jenkins, Roscoe Karns. A big production musical that involves a romance between a prizefighter and a showgirl. More singing and dancing than fighting. Davies second-to-last film and she was only 39.
* Kid Galahad (1937) Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Wayne Morris. Well-done drama with similar story line as Palooka only played straight with outstanding cast.
When's Your Birthday (1937) Joe E. Brown, Marion Marsh, Edgar Kennedy, Margaret Hamilton. Silly comedy with Brown a boxer who is obsessed with astrology.
The Crowd Roars (1938) Robert Taylor, Edward Arnold, Frank Morgan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Jane Wyman, Nat Pendleton. Entertaining script of father getting son into fight game corrupted by the underworld. Better than the Mickey Rooney remake in 1947.
Spirit of Youth (1938) Joe Louis, Clarence Muse, Edna Mae Harris, Mantan Moreland. The story of boxer Joe Thomas, not unlike the life of Louis himself with the World Heavyweight Champ playing the title role.
* Golden Boy (1939) Barbara Stanwyck, Adolphe Menjou, William Holden, Lee J. Cobb, Joseph Calleia, Sam Levine. The story of aspiring musician-turned-prizefighter is slightly dated but still well worth viewing. Holden debut role as the boxer flung him into stardom. Based on the Clifford Odets stage play.
* They Made Me a Criminal (1939) John Garfield, Claude Raines, Ann Sheridan, the Dead End Kids. A boxer mistakingly thinks he committed a murder while drunk. The script lags at times but the cast is fun to watch.
Keep Punching (1939) Henry Armstrong. Quickie produced to cash in on Armstrongs fame. In 1938, he held three of boxing's eight weight-class championships simultaneously. Bandleader Les Norman composed the music and also appears as himself.
Kid Nightingale (1930) John Payne, Jane Wyman,. A fight promoter talks a singing waiter into a boxing career.
Invitation to Happiness (1939) Irene Dunne, Fred MacMurray, Charles Ruggles, Billy Cook. A cocky boxer romances a rich backer's daughter.
* City for Conquest (1940) James Cagney, Ann Sheridan, Frank Craven, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Frank McHugh, George Tobias, Elia Kazan, Anthony Quinn. Pretty good story of a boxer, who is blinded in the ring, and his younger brother. Cagney is always great and the cast reads like a who's who of character actors. Rare acting appearance for future director Kazan. [Quentin "Baby" Breese, a professional boxer, was the stand in for Cagney in some of the fight scenes.]
* Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) Robert Montgomery, Evelyn Keyes, Claude Raines, Rita Johnson, Edward Everett Horton, James Gleason. Excellent comedy of an accidentally deceased prizefighter escorted back to earth into a new body. Solid cast and script (that won two Oscars) works so well that two future movies used same formula. One was Heaven Can Wait, the 1978 football comedy starring Warren Beatty. Based on the Harry Segall stage play.
Ringside Maisie (1941) Ann Southern, George Murphy, Robert Sterling, Virginia O'Brien. A young undefeated boxer wants out of the ring game. Romance at a boxing camp. Real boxer Max Rosenbloom has a cameo as a punch-drunk fighter.
Knockout (1941) Arthur Kennedy, Virginia Field, Anthony Quinn. Ok story of talented prizefighter that not always takes his profession seriously.
The Pittsburgh Kid (1941) Billy Conn, Jean Parker, Henry Armstrong. The story of Conn, the light heavyweight champion, 1939-41 with Armstrong playing his sparring partner. Art Donovan is the ring announcer.
* Gentleman Jim (1942) Errol Flynn, Alexis Smith, Jack Carson, Alan Hale, William Frawley, Minor Watson, Ward Bond, John Loder. Biography of turn-of-the-century heavyweight champ James J. Corbett played to the hilt by the dashing Flynn with expert direction by Raoul Walsh. Supporting cast is also good including Bond as fellow boxing star John L. Sullivan. [Corbett knocked out John L. Sullivan for the heavy weight title in 1892, the first gloved championship bout.]
Sunday Punch (1942) William Lundigan, Jean Rogers, Dan Dailey, J. Carrol Naish, Sam Levene, Guy Kibbee, Rags Ragland, Leo Gorcey. Two boxers are vying for the same girls attentions. They end up in the ring together.
* The Great John L. (1945) Greg McLure, Linda Darnell, Barbara Britton, Lee Sullivan, Otto Krueger, Wallace Ford, George Matthews, Rory Calhoun. Pretty good biography of the legendary nineteenth century bare-knuckles boxer John L. Sullivan - "The Boston Strongboy". [The last bare-knuckles championship was won by Johnson in 1889 when he knocked out Jake Kilrain in the 75th round!]
The Kid From Brooklyn (1946) Danny Kaye, Virginia Mayo, Vera-Ellen, Steve Cochran, Eve Arden, Walter Abel. Decent remake of but not for all tastes. We'd rather watch Lloyd in The Milky Way.
Joe Palooka, Champ (1946) Leon Errol, Elyse Knox, Joe Kirkwood Jr. From imdb.com: Manager Knobby Walsh discovers young hunk Joe Palooka and trains him to fight the champ. Mobsters try to make life tough for Joe and his socialite girlfriend Anne. Cameos by several boxing stars including Joe Louis and Henry Armstrong.
The Mighty McGurk (1946) Wallace Beery, Dean Stockwell, Dorothy Patrick, Edward Arnold, Aline MacMahon, Cameron Mitchell. A washed up prizefighter takes in an orphaned boy.
* Body and Soul (1947) John Garfield, Lilli Palmer, Hazel Brooks, Anne Revere, Joseph Pevney, Lloyd Goff, Canada Lee, William Conrad. Gripping story of determined middleweight boxer Charlie Davis working his way up any way he can to be the champ. The final match is expertly filmed helping the editors to win an Oscar that year. Similar story line to Champion and easily one of the best fight films ever. The movie capitalized at the box office on the current New York State investigations concerning corruption in sports.
* Killer McCoy (1947) Mickey Rooney, Brian Donlevy, Ann Blyth, James Dunn, Tom Tully, Sam Levene. Rooney gives fine performance (as usual) as an innocent dancer-turned-fighter who accidentally falls into gangster crowd and gets mixed up in a murder. Excellent fight scenes. This film could mark Rooneys graduation into adult roles at the age of 27. Remake of The Crowd Roars.
Joe Palooka in the Knockout (1947) Joe Kirkwood Jr., Leon Errol, Elyse Knox, Trudy Marshall. From imdb.com: Heavyweight champion Joe, after knocking out and opponent who later died in his dressing room, feels responsible and threatens to give up boxing. But the dead fighter's fiancι thinks he died as the result of a drug that was given to him by a gang of gamblers, who made a rich haul betting on Palooka.
Whiplash (1948) Dane Clark, Alexis Smith, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden, Jeffrey Lynn, S.Z. Sakall, Alan Hale. Average story of an artist-turned-boxer. Watch Golden Boy instead.
Leather Gloves (1948) William Asher, Cameron Mitchell, Virginia Grey, Sam Levene, Blake Edwards. Another boxer on the way down story.
* The Set-up (1949) Robert Ryan, Audrey Totter, George Tobias, Alan Baxter, James Edwards, Wallace Ford. Intense, believable story of washed-up fighter battling his manager and his wife while refusing to take a dive. Ryan is excellent in the lead role, as are the well-staged fight scenes. Unusual for the times, the entire movie takes place in one night.
* Champion (1949) Kirk Douglas, Marilyn Maxwell, Arthur Kennedy, Ruth Roman, Paul Stewart, Lola Albright. Douglas gives gripping performance as a selfish, greedy boxer Midge Kelly who stops at nothing to get to the top. Harry Gerstad won an Oscar for editing. Douglas was nominated for the role that made him a star. Based on a Ring Lardner short story and Carl Foreman's Oscar-nominated screenplay.
Joe Palooka in the Counterpunch (1949) Joe Kirkwood Jr., Suni Chorre, Marcel Journet, Leon Errol, Elyse Knox. From imdb.com: Joe heads for South America to fight the Latin champ. Shipboard, he helps federal agents fight counterfeiters. He also spars with love interest Anne Howe.
Right Cross (1950) June Allyson, Dick Powell, Lionel Barrymore, Ricardo Montalban. Unusual story of boxer and sportswriter in love with the same woman. Marilyn Monroe can be seen briefly in a supporting role.
Golden Gloves Story (1950) James Dunn, Dewey Martin, Kat Westfall, Kevin O'Morrison. The story of two fighters leading up to the championship bout.
Iron Man (1951) Jeff Chandler, Evelyn Keyes, Stephen McNally, Joyce Holden, Rock Hudson, Jim Backus. Remake of 1931 film told more from the boxer's point of view.
The Ring (1952) Gerald Mohr, Rita Moreno, Lalo Rios. Veteran fight manager trains and promotes a poor but talented Chicano. Very good representation of the Irving Shulman novel of the same name.
Flesh and Fury (1952) Tony Curtis, Jan Sterling, Mona Freeman, Wallace Ford, Harry Guardino. Pretty decent story of deaf boxer looking for respect and the love of a good woman.
The Fighter (1952) Richard Conte, Vanessa Brown, Lee J. Cobb, Roberta Hayes. A vengeful boxer uses winnings to help settle the score for his family's murder. Set in Mexico.
Glory Alley (1952)... Ralph Meeker, Leslie Caron, Gilbert Roland, John McIntyre, Louis Armstrong. New Orleans boxer Socks Barbarrosa mysteriously retires right before his heavyweight title bout and is labeled a coward. He joins the army, goes to Korea, and comes back a war hero. Too much talk and too many musical interludes. [Glory Alley is a slummy stretch of Bourbon Street.]
* The Joe Louis Story (1953) Coley Wallace, Paul Stewart, Hilda Simms, James Edwards. Cheap production values do not do the "Brown Bomber" justice although the film stays somewhat accurate. Included are film clips of bouts with Primo Carnera, Max Baer, Max Schmeling and Billy Conn. [Louis's fame reached a peak in 1938 in front of 70,000 at Yankee Stadium when he knocked out German boxer Schmeling, Adolph Hitler's main man. His ring record was 68 wins (54 by knockout) and three losses (one by decision for Ezzard Charles and he was knocked out by Schmeling and Rocky Marciano. Wallace, who had a professional boxing record of 20-7-0, was one of four fighters ever to defeat Rocky Marciano (they were all amateur matches however). Check out Spirit of Youth starring Joe Louis as well.]
Off Limits (1953) Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney, Marilyn Maxwell. Basically an Army comedy.
Champ for a Day (1953) Alex Nicol, Audrey Totter, Charles Winninger, Hope Emerson, Harry Morgan. Standard murder mystery.
Tennessee Champ (1954) Earl Holliman, Dewey Martin, Shelley Winters, Keenan Wynn, Dave O'Brien. Story of a God-fearing boxer who won't take a dive and reforms his crooked manager.
The Square Jungle (1955) Tony Curtis, Pat Crowley, Ernest Borgnine, Paul Kely, Jim Backus. Eddie Quaid starts boxing to earn money to win back his girl and save his father from alcoholism. Joe Louis has a cameo.
Killer's Kiss (1955) Frank Silvera, Jamie Smith, Irene Kane. Early Stanley Kubrick murder mystery.
* Somebody up There Likes Me (1956) Paul Newman, Pier Angeli, Everett Sloan, Eileen Heckart, Sal Mineo, Robert Loggia, Steve McQueen. First rate biography of middleweight champ Rocky Graziano's rise to the top despite being raised in poverty and delinquency. Newman gives one of the decades best performances in any film. Film won an Oscar for cinematography and set design and also marked the debuts of McQueen and Loggia. Announcer Mark Scott has a cameo.
*The Harder They Fall (1956) Humphrey Bogart, Rod Steiger, Jan Sterling, Mike Lane, Edward Andrews, Nehemiah Persoff. Cynical sportswriter-turned-press agent finally realizes manipulative tactics in fight game are not for him and exposes crooked promoter. Hard biting drama is Bogey's last feature film before his death. Jersey Joe Walcott (as Toro Morenos trainer) and Max Baer (as champ Buddy Brannon) also appear. Jack Albertson has a bit part as Gus Dundees trainer. From the Budd Schulberg novel. [Lane wrestled professionally in the early 50's under the name of Tarzan Mike. Walcott was the heavyweight champion, 1951-52.]
The Leather Saint (1956) Paul Douglas, John Derek, Jody Lawrence, Cesar Romero. Story of a clergyman who becomes a fighter to earn money for his church.
* Monkey on My Back (1957) Cameron Mitchell, Paul Richards, Dianne Foster, Jack Albertson, Kathy Garver. Mitchell plays real life boxer Barney Ross, who enlisted in the marines at thirty, won the Silver Star fighting on Guadalcanal, but was given too much morphine by medics and became an addict. Good performances by all.
Fight for the Title (1957) George Brenlin, Don Haggerty, Arlene McQuade, William Newell, Bill Erwin, Michael Landon. Based on the life of Hall of Fame boxing champ Benny Leonard, the Ghetto Wizard.
Kid Galahad (1962) Elvis Presley, Gig Young, Lola Albright, Joan Blackman, Charles Bronson, Ned Glass. Third remake is not as intense but worth a look because of Elvis. Clichι-ridden movie could've been better but Hollywood did not know what they had with the talented Elvis. Instead, they make him sing six bad songs but at least teamed him with the up-and-coming Bronson.
* Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney, Julie Harris. Well-acted but grim tale of washed-up fighter Mountain Rivera just trying to make ends meet any way he can. Not for all tastes since film concentrates on character study rather than action. Great cast with story based on original television script by Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame. Don't miss Cassius Clay's (Muhammad Ali) cameo at beginning of film when he was in his prime. Jack Dempsey also appears. TV version (Playhouse 90, 1956) starred Jack Palance, Keenan Wynn, Ed Wynn and Kim Hunter.
A Swingin' Affair (1963) William Wellman Jr., Arline Judge, Sandra Gale Bettin. A college man boxes for summer money in low budget teen movie. Forgettable.
The Great White Hope (1970) James Earl Jones, James Alexander, Lou Gilbert, Chester Morris, Hal Holbrook. The story of Jack Jefferson and his white mistress. Unfortunately, the film focuses more on their relationship than his boxing career since he was constantly harassed for it. Adapted from the Broadway hit with Jones and Alexander (in her film debut) reprising their stage roles. Based on real life story of Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion. [The title refers to America's search for a white boxer to regain the title from Johnson. They finally found one in Jesse Willard who knocked Johnson out in 1915.]
Ripped Off (1971) Robert Blake, Ernest Borgnine. Italian-made murder mystery.
* Fat City (1972) Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrell, Candy Clark, Nicholas Colasanto. Excellent story of a small-time alcoholic boxer who tries for a comeback while training his young protιgι. Based on the Leonard Gardner novel and directed by John Huston.
Confessions of Tom Harris (1972) Don Murray, Linda Evans, David Brian, Gary Clarke, Logan Ramsey. Romance and corruption in the fight game. Murray also produced and wrote the story.
All-American Boy (1973) Jon Voight, E.J. Peaker, Ned Glass, Ann Archer. Story of Olympic-boxing hopeful misses the mark.
The Rumble in the Jungle (1974) Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman. Ali employs his "rope-a-dope" tactic for the first time. Also show clips from his pre-fight press conferences.
Hard Times (1975) Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Jill Ireland, Strother Martin. Not boxing per se but rather street fighting-- 1930s New Orleans, bare-knuckle style. Pretty violent at times but also entertaining as Bronson always is.
Let's Do It Again (1975) Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, Jimmie Walker, Calvin Lockhart, John Amos, Denise Nicholas. Comedy has its moments as two buddies hypnotize youngster into thinking he's a great boxer. Worth seeing as a change-of-pace.
* Rocky (1976) Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith. The film that rocketed Stallone and Rocky Balboa to fame and had theatre audiences cheering is a classic and won Oscars for best picture, director and editing and is followed by five sequels. Stallone became only the third person in film history (Charles Chaplin and Orson Welles were the other two) to be nominated for best screenplay and best acting. [Stallone was inspired by watching unknown Chuck Wepner knock down Muhammad Ali in 1975. Even though Wepner eventually lost the fight, Stallone was impressed with the crowd's wild response to the punch. Stallone had $106 in his bank account at the time and three bad movies to his credit. He trained six hours a day for five months before shooting started.]
The Greatest (1977) Muhammad Ali, Ernest Borgnine, John Marley, Robert Duvall, James Earl Jones, Roger E. Mosley, Ben Johnson, Paul Winfield. Ali plays himself in botched biography devoid of a good script and necessary direction. Ali's presence and Mosley's portrayal of Sonny Liston are the film's only saving grace although film was originally an audience pleaser. Simple-minded script by Ring Lardner Jr. should be renamed The Worstest.
Ring of Passion (1978) Bernie Casey, Stephen Macht, Britt Ekland, Denise Nicholas, Allen Garfield, Joseph Campanella. TV-movie recreating the two Joe Louis-Max Schmeling fights prior to World War II. Film is too preachy with not enough fight scenes and could have been a lot better.
Movie, Movie (1978) George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, Eli Wallach, Red Buttons, Barbara Harris, Barry Bostwick, Harry Hamlin, Art Carney. Actually, a double feature 1930s style with a John Garfield-like boxing movie paired with a musical.
* Rocky II (1979) Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith. Basically, a continuation of the first film, with climactic fight scene a must-see. Because of injuries from the first Apollo Creed bout, doctors warn Rocky not to fight again. But Creed, stung by accusations that the first fight was fixed, challenges Rocky to a rematch.
Flesh & Blood (1979) Tom Berenger, Mitchell Ryan, Kristin Griffith, Denzel Washington, Suzanne Plashette, John Cassavetes, Bert Remsen, Dolph Sweet. Decent TV-movie about a street-wise ex-com who becomes heavyweight contender. Hard-hitting script based on the Pete Hamill best-seller.
The Champ (1979) Jon Voight, Faye Dunaway, Ricky Schroeder, Jack Warden, Arthur Hill, Strother Martin, Joan Blondell, Elisha Cook. This remake of the 1931 classic misses the mark mostly due to miscasting.
Marciano (1979) Tony LoBianco, Belinda J. Montgomery, Vincent Gardenia. Biography of the undefeated, untied Rocky Marciano fails to hit home as TV-movies so often do. For some strange reason, the producers decided to concentrate on his private love life and the problems with his manager rather than his ring accomplishments. Big mistake. [The "Brockton Blockbuster" retired 49-0 in 1956.]
The Prizefighter (1979) Tim Conway, Don Knotts, David Wayne. Comedy takes place in the 1930s and is strictly for the kids.
The Main Event (1979) Barbra Steisand, Ryan O'Neill, Paul Sand. Lame story of bankrupt executive who inherits a boxer.
Goldie and the Boxer (1979) O.J. Simpson, Melissa Michaelson, Vincent Gardenia, Ned Glass, Phil Silvers.
* Raging Bull (1980) Robert DeNiro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent, Theresa Saldana. This is what a real boxing movie ought to look like. The biography of Jake LaMotta ranks right up there with Body and Soul and Rocky as the three best boxing movies of all time. Filmed in black and white to capture the feeling of the 50's, the movie was adapted from LaMotta's autobiography of the same name. Best actor Oscar to DeNiro, who gained 30 pounds for the role, as well as an Oscar for the editing. [His actual nickname was the "Bronx Bull". He was the only boxer to knock out Sugar Ray Robinson Saldana was viciously attacked by a stalker in 1982 when he became obsessed with her after he saw her in this film. She recovered to play the wife in The Commish.]
Body and Soul (1981) Leon Isaac Kennedy, Jayne Kennedy, Peter Lawford. Poor remake of 1947 classic. Muhammad Ali has a cameo.
Goldie and the Boxer Go To Hollywood (1981) O.J. Simpson, Melissa Michaelson, Roger Bowen.
Rocky III (1982) Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, Mr. T. Former rival (in the first two films) Apollo Creed becomes Rocky's trainer after Clubber Lang (convincingly played by Mr. T) knocks him out. Each installment in the Rocky series is worth seeing once.
Honeyboy (1982) Erik Estrada, Morgan Fairchild, James MacEachin, Robert Costanzo. Rico 'Honeyboy' Ramirez is a Latino youth from East Los Angeles who happens to be a pretty good middleweight boxer. Romance and gangsters soon follow.
The Challenge (1982) Scott Glenn. American boxer becomes involved in family conflict in Japan.
Dempsey (1983) Treat Williams, Sam Waterston, Sally Kellerman. Biography of the great Jack Dempsey, the Manassa Mauler, is just another disappointing TV-movie. Fight scenes are decent, what little we see of them. Much more could have been done with this exciting life but a poor script and miscasting once again drag the film down. [Nickname: the "Manassa Mauler".]
Tough Enough (1983) Dennis Quaid, Carlene Watkins, Stan Shaw, Pam Grier, Warren Oates, Bruce McGill, Wilfred Brimley. Country singer enters boxing competition.
Rocky IV (1985) Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Dolph Lundgren, Brigette Nielson. This time, Rocky travels to Russia to defend the U.S.A.'s world title against a seemingly indestructible Russian champ. Training camp footage and final bout scene are the highlights.
Heart of a Champion: The Ray Mancini Story (1985) Robert Blake, Doug McKeon. Average TV-movie about lightweight champ "Boom Boom" Mancini. Sylvester Stallone produced the fight scenes.
Streets of Gold (1986) Klaus Maria Brandauer, Adrian Pasdar, Wesley Snipes, Angela Molina. Ex-Russian boxing champion trains two inner city kids for U.S. boxing team.
Heart (1987) Brad Davis, Frances Fisher, Steve Buscemi, Robinson Frank Adu. Washed up fighter trying for comeback. We've seen it done much better several times.
Homeboy (1988) Micky Rourke, Christopher Walken, Debra Feuer, Thomas Quinn, Kevin Conway. Depressing story of washed-up alcoholic boxer and his relationship with crooks and his girlfriend. Why does Walken always wind up in these kinds of movies?
Split Decisions (1988) Craig Sheffer, Jeff Fahey, Gene Hackman, John McLiam, Jennifer Beals, Eddie Velez. The story of three generations of boxers who eventually split as rivals with the mob also involved. Too clichιd to be recommended.
Spike of Bensonhurst (1988) Sasha Mitchell, Ernest Borgnine, Anne DeSalvo, Sylvia Miles. Comedy about Brooklyn street youth wants to be a boxer but gets in trouble when he fools around with a gangster's girl.
Fistfighter (1988) George Rivera, Edward Albert, Brenda Bakke. A man is forced into the world of bare fisted fist fighting to avenge the death of a friend. World Wrestling champion Billy Graham has a cameo.
Triumph of the Spirit (1989) William Dafoe, Edward James Olmos, Robert Loggia. True story of Greek-Jewish boxer Salamo Arouch's travails in the Auschwitz prison camp during WWII. Significant saga is well done but is too depressing in some scenes for all tastes. Filmed on location.
* Champions Forever (1989) An insightful look at the careers of heavyweight champs Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes and Ken Norton.
Rocky V (1990) Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Sage Stallone, Burgess Meredith, Tommy Morrison. The aging and down-on-his-luck Rocky trains a younger boxer (his real life son) in his image. Easily the worst of the Rocky series.
Crossing the Line (1991) Liam Neeson, Billy Connolly, Joanne Whalley. From imdb.com: An unemployed Scottish miner is forced into bare-knuckle boxing to make ends meet.
Diggstown (1992) James Woods, Louis Gossett Jr., Bruce Dern. A tail of con men, big shots, gamblers and brawlers. Gossett is the aging fighter, Woods his manager and con man and Dern the big shot. Final scene pits Gossett against ten different fighters to win a bet.
Far and Away (1992) Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Thomas Gibson. An Irish farmer and his landlord's daughter, come to 1890s Boston to box. Directed by Ron Howard.
Night and the City (1992) Robert De Niro, Jessica Lange, Cliff Gorman. A Shady New York lawyer turns boxing promoter and hustler.
Gladiator (1992) Cuba Gooding, Jr., James Marshall, Robert Loggia, Ossie Davis, Brian Dennehy, Cara Buono, John Heard, Jon Seda, Lance Slaughter. Chicago teenager wants to be the new Rocky but crooked promoter gets in his way. Pass.
Percy and Thunder (1993) James Earl Jones, Courtney B. Vance, Billy Dee Williams. TV-movie about an ex-boxer who becomes the mentor of a young middleweight contender.
Tyson (1995) Michael Jai White, George C. Scott, Paul Winfield. The rise and fall of heavyweight champ Mike Tyson, his marriage to Robin Givens and his relationship with promoter Don King.
* When We Were Kings (1996) Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Don King, James Brown, B.B. King, Spike Lee, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton. Examines the Ali-Foreman title bout in 1974 Zaire. Included in the "Rumble in the Jungle" festivities are the preparations, observations and celebrity interviews. Won an Oscar for Best Documentary.
The Great White Hype (1996) Damon Wayans, Peter Berg, Samuel L. Jackson. A scheming promoter sets up a racially motivated boxing match.
* The Boxer (1997) Daniel Day-Lewis, Jim Sheridan, Emily Watson. A witty and profound film set in Belfast about a once-promising boxer who was sent to prison for fourteen years by the Irish Republican Army. He opens a gym with his former coach, and resumes his boxing career after his release and is still in love with his old girlfriend who's since married, to a soldier whos still in prison. The movie draws on rich characterization with conflicts and power struggles set during the war. The Watson and Day-Lewis chemistry really works in this one.
Don King: Only in America (1997) Ving Rhames, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Jeremy Piven, Darius McCrary, Keith David, Gabriel Casseus. TV-movie of fight promoter Don King showing his rise from street hoodlum to minor music promoter to major fight promoter.
The Kid (1997) Bruce Willis, Spencer Breslin, Emily Mortimer, Lily Tomlin, Jean Smart. From imdb.com: An unhappy and disliked image consultant gets a second shot at life when an eight year old version of himself mysteriously appears. Disney movie.
Snake Eyes (1998) Nicholas Cage, Gary Sinise, John Heard, Carla Gugino, Stan Shaw, Kevin Dunn, Michael Rispoli, Joel Fabiani, Luis Guzmαn, David Higgins, Mike Starr. Brian DePalma thriller about a murder during high stakes boxing match in Atlantic City. Cage and DePalma fans like it, others take it or leave it.
Body and Soul (1998) Ray Mancini, Michael Chiklis, Rod Steiger, Joe Mantegna, Jennifer Beals. Disappointing remake of the original John Garfield 1947 movie.
Rocky Marciano (1999) Jon Favreau, Penelope Ann Miller, Judd Hirsch, Tony Lo Bianco, Duane Davis, Rino Romano, George C. Scott. TV-movie about the only undefeated world heavyweight champion in the history of boxing. Worth seeing.
* The Hurricane (1999) Denzel Washington, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Deborah Unger, Liev Schreiber, John Hannah, Dan Hedaya, Debbi Morgan, Clancy Brown, David Paymer, Harris Yulin, Rod Steiger, Garland Whitt. A deeply moving film, Washington stands out in this true story of fighter Ruben "Hurricane" Carter who was falsely imprisoned for murder in 1966. Shannon plays Lesra, who was instrumental in his release. Whitt is prison mate John Ardis. Directed by Norman Jewison. [Bob Dylan, Ellen Burstyn and other famous people rallied to Carter's defense leading to his release from prison in 1985.]
Muhammad Ali: King of the World (2000) Terrence Howard, John Ventimiglia, Steve Harris, Gary Dordan. TV-movie looks at three decades in the life of Cassius Clay/ Muhammad Ali beginning with his early career. Howard gives a good performance portraying the man who once proclaimed himself as "The Greatest." Based on David Remnick's '98 best-selling book.
* Play it to the Bone (2000) Antonio Banderas, Woody Harrelson, Lolita Davidovich, Tom Sizemore, Lucy Liu, Robert Wagner, Richard Masur, Willie Garson, Cylk Cozart, Jack Carter. Two ex-boxers and best friends (Cesar Dominguez and Vince Boudreau) travel to Las Vegas to fight for the first time. Celebrities appearing as themselves include Kevin Costner, George Foreman, Buddy Greco, Mitch Halpern, Chuck Hull, Jim Lampley, Steve Lawrence, Larry Merchant, Rod Stewart, Mike Tyson, James Woods. Ron Shelton (Bull Durham and White Men Can't Jump) wrote and directed. Shelton brings excitement to the screen just as he does in all his movies.
Shiner (2000) Michael Caine, Martin Landau, Frances Barber, Frank Harper, Andy Serkis, Claire Rushbrook, Danny Webb, Matthew Marsden. An ambitious promoter organizes a world-title bout in England, and bets everything he has on his son who is in the fight.
Price of Glory (2000) Jimmy Smits, Jon Seda, Clifton Collins Jr., Maria del Mar, Sal Lopez. A former boxer, whose career was damaged by his crooked manager, pushes his three sons to fight.
* Ali (2001) Will Smith, Mykelti Williamson, Jon Voight, Mario Van Peebles, Jamie Foxx, Ron Silver, Paul Rodriguez. A biography Muhammed Ali, from his early days as an Olympic champion to his days in the ring and his battle with the US government. Ali was not only a great fighter, but a civil rights leader and compares him to his friend, Malcolm X. It also explores his troubled marriages.
Carman: The Champion (2001) Carman, Michael Nouri, Patricia Manterola, Jeremy Williams, Jed Allan, Romeo Fabian, Betty Carvalho, Jay Arlen Jones, Scott L. Schwartz, Bill Boggs, Steve Albert. A former boxing champion-turned-minister accidentally knocks out the current world cruiserweight champion and is forced into a title bout billed as "The Saint vs. The Sinner." Decent acting debut by Carman, the famous Christian pop singer, who has some boxing skill. He also wrote the story.
* Joe and Max (2002) Leonard Roberts, Til Schweiger, Peta Wilson, Richard Roundtree, John Toles-Bey, David Paymer, Jurgen Schornagel, Bruce Weitz. True story of Joe Louis and Max Schmeling following their historic 1938 championship bout in Yankee Stadium. The fight was billed nationally as the U.S. vs. Hitler and Louis registered a KO at 2:06 of the first round, the second fastest knockout in heavyweight history. Schmeling defeated Louis two years earlier in what was hailed in Nazi Germany as a huge victory for the Third Reich. The two later became friends. Filmed in Berlin.
Undisputed (2002) Wesley Snipes, Ving Rhames, Peter Falk, Jon Seda, Fisher Stevens, Michael Rooker, Wes Studi. The World Heavyweight Champion, convicted of rape, fights a bout while confined in Sweetwater Prison. Master P plays the leader of a prison rap group.
Undefeated (2003) John Leguizamo, Adrian Martinez, Juan Carlos Hernαndez, Clifton Collins Jr., Nester Serrano. From imdb.com: A boxer must navigate a path between his newfound fame and his former life.
* Million Dollar Baby (2004) Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman. A waitress from a dysfunctional loser family hires an old trainer to help her become a successful boxer.
Against the Ropes (2004) Meg Ryan, Omar Epps, Skye McCole Bartusiak, Tony Shalhoub, Charles Dutton, Timothy Daly, Joseph Cortese, Kerry Washington. The movie is based on the life story of Jackie Kallen, one of the first and most successful female boxing managers in the history of the sport. It is entertaining throughout, but takes liberties and closes with a clichιd ending.
Black Cloud (2004) Eddie Spears, Russell Means, Julia Jones, Tim McGraw, Rick Schroder. From indb.com: An inspirational story about a young Navajo, Native American boxer, who overcomes personal challenges as he comes to terms with his heritage, while fighting his way for a spot on the US Olympic boxing team.
* Cinderella Man (2005) Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Connor Price. The story of Depression-era boxer and folk hero Jim Braddock. A Ron Howard production.
Fighting Tommy Riley (2005) Eddie Jones, J.P. Davis, Christina Chambers, Diane Tayler. From imdb.com: An aging trainer and a young fighter, both in need of a second chance, team-up to overcome the demons of their past...and chase the dreams of their future.
* Rocky Balboa (2006) Sylvester Stallone, Burt Young, Milo Ventimiglia, Antonio Tarver, Geraldine Hughes. Rocky comes out of retirement to fight with the reigning Heavyweight Champion, Mason "The Line" Dixon.
Lights Out (2006) Cazimir Milostan, Patrick Thompson, King Stuart. From imdb.com: A retired journeyman boxer forced to give it up steps back in the ring one last time.
Resurrecting the Champ (2007) Samuel L. Jackson, Josh Hartnett, Kathryn Morris, Dakota Goyo, Alan Also, Rachel Nichols, Teri Hatcher. A former boxing champ, long thought dead, is discovered homeless by a young sports reporter
Strength and Honour (2007) Michael Madsen, Vinnie Jones, Patrick Bergen, Richard Chamberlain. From imdb.com: A single father decides to break his dying wife's last wish to not box again in order to save his young son from certain death.
Jump In! (2007) Corbin Bleu, Keke Palmer, David Reivers. Disney movie about a young boxer wanting to follow his fathers footsteps to the Golden Gloves. He also has a passion for jumping rope.
Beyond the Ring (2008) Andre Lima, Martin Cove, Gary Busey, Brye Cooper. From imdb.com: A professional fighter, now retired, is forced back to the ring because of his daughter medical bills stocking up.
Phantom Punch (2008) Ving Rhames, Stacey Dash, Nicholas Turturro. The life of heavyweight champ Sonny Liston, and his story of jail, illiteracy, drugs, mafia and racism. Movie suffers from questionable production values and erroneous or embellished details. HBO's documentary "Sonny Liston: The Mysterious Life and Death of a Champion" is better. From imdb.com: Liston was knocked down two minutes into a championship fight by a seemingly harmless right hook from Muhammad Ali. It would forever be known as the "Phantom Punch." Liston later died under mysterious circumstances.
Rigged (2008) Rebecca Neuenswander, Chad Ortis, Kurt Hanover. From imdb.com: In the seedy underground of illegal prizefighting, a corrupt boxing promoter is embroiled in a dangerous fight-fixing scheme with his female prizefighter.
From Mexico with Love (2009) Kuno Becker, Steven Bauer, Stephen Lang, Alex Nesic, Danay Garcia. A washed-up trainer trains a migrant farmworker with a bad attitude.
The Fighter (2010) Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo. From imdb.com: Boxer "Irish" Micky Ward's unlikely road to the world light welterweight title. His Rocky-like rise was shepherded by half-brother Dicky, a boxer-turned-trainer on the verge of being KO'd by drugs and crime.
Real Steel (2011) Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Durand. A small-timer promoter and his son build and train a championship robot boxer.
Grudge Match (2013) Sylvester Stallone, Robert Di Nero, Kim Basinger. A pair of old boxing rivals come out of retirement to fight 50 years after their last match.
Mohammad Alis Greatest Fight (2013) Christopher Plummer, Benjamin Walker, Frank Langella, Danny Glover, Ed Begley Jr. Ali battles the Supreme Court when he refuses to report for induction into the Army and fight in Viet Nam.
Creed (2015) Sylvester Stallone, Michael B. Jordan, Graham McTavish, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad. Rocky Balboa is now the trainer and mentor to Adonis Creed, the son of former rival Apollo Creed.
* Southpaw (2015) Rachel McAdams, Jake Gyllenhaal, 50 cent, Forest Whitaker, Naomi Harris. A boxer fights his way to the top, while his life is falling apart.
* Hands of Stone (2016) Edgar Ramirez, Robert De Niro, Usher Raymond, Ruben Blades, John Tuturo, Ana de Armas. The life of Panamanian lightweight Roberto Duran, regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time. He was nicknamed "Manos de Piedra" ("Hands of Stone") for his powerful punches. He held world titles in four different weight classes. He is also famous for forfeiting his welterweight title in the middle of his 1980 rematch with challenger Sugar Ray Leonard. Of his 119 fights, he had 103 wins with 69 knockouts. The film also covers his relationship with legendary trainer Ray Arcel.
Bleed For This (2016) Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal, Ciaran Hinds, Ted Levine. The true story of boxer Vinny Pazienza who made a big comeback after a near fatal car crash. He won titles at lightweight and light middleweight prior to his spinal injury accident. Doctors told him he might never walk again but he began a workout regimen against doctors' orders. He returned to the ring thirteen months after the accident to fight sox more bouts.