Best Boxing [Day] Movies

Well, it looks like you’ve all survived xmas — congratulations! I had a lovely relaxing time that involved exactly zero shopping, so hurray for me.

Today is Boxing Day. That name always has perplexed me; it has something to do with boxes… Empty boxes that used to hold presents? Full boxes because we’re putting away xmas stuff? I’m not too sure. But, of course, it also reminds me of that other boxing, the one where people punch one another for others’ entertainment and profit. Strangely, this type of boxing has fascinated me for the longest time. And, while I would never get into the ring (I like my nose and my brain exactly where they are now!), I have enjoyed doing kickboxing for fun and fitness. In fact, I used to own a heavy bag that I regrettably had to leave behind when I moved away from my home town. In one apartment, I had it hanging smack dab in the middle of the main hallway. Bless my roommate for having put up with that!

But mostly, I just like boxing movies.

George Foreman and Muhammad Ali: Rumble in the Jungle (Corbis)

George Foreman and Muhammad Ali: Rumble in the Jungle (Corbis)

There’s something about the sport that makes for great dramatic narrative. For instance, boxers are usually from the wrong side of the tracks; they tend of have an interesting hard luck story and/or crazy family situation. Training to be a boxer requires no fancy equipment just some talent,  a bare-bones gym that smells of sweat, and a gnarly-looking trainer with an even harder luck story. As well, a charismatic manager with dubious ethics certainly helps create some drama. And, of course, the humiliation of getting beaten up, of having a nose that’s dripping with blood, an ugly swollen eye, and yet to continue fighting… well, that makes for great cinema.

So here they are, ladies and gentlemen, the undisputed champions of my heart: 5 boxing films that I love and recommend!

When We Were Kings (1996): I tend to like documentaries in general, and this is a great one! When We Were Kings is about a 1974 match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman that takes place in Zaire. Promoted as the “Rumble in the Jungle”, this match is interesting because of the political and cultural dimensions, and also because of what we know now about the ways in which these men’s lives have played out. Talking heads such as Spike Lee and George Plimpton offer great insight. Oh, and James Brown is in there too!

Raging Bull (1980): What can I say about this film that hasn’t already been said? It has been called the best film of the 1980s. It certainly is beautiful; that Scorsese made this in black and white I think is pretty gutsy and the whole thing is just amazing. Seriously.

Raging Bull trailer

Girlfight (2000): Michelle Rodriguez plays the main role in this independent film that launched her career. Not all of the performances are great and there are some unpolished moments, but overall this is really good story about an angry girl who becomes a boxer. I love to see strong women kicking ass and Girlfight delivers!

Michelle Rodriguez in Girlfight

Michelle Rodriguez in Girlfight

The Fighter (2010): This is a film that focuses mostly on family dynamics with some amazing performances. The Fighter is based on a true story and it’s told superbly well by David O. Russell who also directed the recently released Silver Linings Playbook.

Cinderella Man (2005): I’m surprised by how much I love this movie. The narrative arc of Cinderella Man is a classic one about an underdog, just a really good guy, struggling and making good. There’s nothing ground breaking here; nevertheless, it’s 100% enjoyable.

Sure, there are other good boxing movies (you may have heard of this one called “Rocky”, I dunno), but these are my personal favourites. Does anyone have any recommendations for me?


  1. Pretty sure you have seen “Million Dollar Baby”? That one left me crying. I also really enjoyed “Cinderella Man”!

  2. Usually I do not read article on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to try and do so! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, quite great article.

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