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10 Great Boxing Movies to Watch After Seeing ‘Creed’

Written by on November 27, 2015 

Creed 7

The life of a professional boxer can be desperate and toilsome. Unless you’re a marquee prizefighter, there’s little money to be made, leaving many fighters stricken by poverty. Yet, few professions are so straightforward. Almost disturbing in its simplicity, you punch your opponent until they fall down, whilst they try to do the same to you.

In cinema, the boxer is an ever-present figure, often solitary and driven to succeed by demons from the past. Creed, Ryan Coogler‘s new addition to the Rocky series is out this week in a wide release, and garnering some very positive reviews (including our own). There’s no better time to brush up on your boxing movies, as it’s an enthralling little sub-genre, ripe for explosive violence and drama.

We compiled ten of the best boxing movies below, so check them out, and let us know your favorites.

Ali (Michael Mann)

Ali

Michael Mann‘s epic portrait of Muhammad Ali marvelously depicts the champ and the cultural upheaval surrounding his storied and controversial career. Like many biopics, the film merely hits the key points on his resume, including his bouts with Sonny Liston, Smokin’ Joe Frazier and of course, George Foreman. Yet, we see the true essence of Ali encapsulated in Will Smith‘s finest performance, this confident and brash fighter with the youthful spirit of a poet. Mann’s sweeping and layered portrayal boasts a star-studded cast, including Mario Van Peeples, Jamie Foxx and Jon Voight‘s spot-on Howard Cosell, which nails every detail right down to the pelt-like hairpiece. Ali is a thoughtful and aesthetically flawless picture, which succeeds in conveying the harrowing emotions the People’s Champion felt inside and outside of the ring.

The Boxer (Jim Sheridan)

The Boxer

Jim Sheridan‘s third collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis brings boxer Danny Flynn home from prison, after serving 14 years for his crimes as an IRA volunteer. Hoping to go straight and return to boxing and to his first love (Emily Watson), Flynn finds violent conflict in the form of Harry, a ruthless and hateful IRA lieutenant with whom he worked in the past. Emotionally stirring and disturbingly intense, the film builds to several enraging moments in which our villain commits such terribly loathsome acts, the audience (and the surrounding characters) nearly scream for his blood. The scenes in the ring are photographed with careful precision and athletic detail, continually dishing out jabs and blows which land with a gut-wrenching authenticity. A far cry from the flashier, Oscar-winning performances Day-Lewis is known for, but equally powerful for its reserved nuance.

Fat City (John Huston)

Fat City

Rocky Balboa may be a blue collar protagonist, but there is nobody on this list with a bluer collar than Tully (Stacy Keach) in John Huston‘s Fat City. After washing out of the sport years earlier, Tully hopes to escape his skid row life by returning to the ring. Ernie, a young boxer (Jeff Bridges) admires Tully, having seen him fight during his heyday. After Ernie’s admission, Tully asks: “Did I win?” Ernie replies: “No.” Tully simply nods, unsurprised. Fat City is a sobering and realistic portrayal of the toils of pugilism: the mental, the physical and the emotional. After Ernie loses his first match, his manager barks at him to remove his boxing shorts, as the next fighter now needs them. Ernie peels off and hands over the shorts, stained with sweat and blood. The next fighter reluctantly takes them and pulls them on. In an interview, Huston described the archetypal boxer’s struggle in a compassionate and poetic fashion: “Unlike the gambler who throws his money onto the table, the fighter throws himself in.”

Girlfight (Karyn Kusama)

Girlfight

Sadly and unfairly, Karyn Kusama‘s indie debut never achieved the box office of so many lesser low-budget films, but Girlfight is an undisputed winner of the genre. Diana Guzman (Michelle Rodriguez) is an angry, frustrated high school girl, whom we meet beating the crap out of a snarky fellow student. After she’s threatened with expulsion from school, Diane finds herself at the local gym, ringed with young masculine boxers in training. This unfamiliar new world quickly captivates her and soon, Diane is working along side unapproving males, including her father (Paul Calderon, in a fantastic turn) with whom she’ll come to blows. Though Diane may be the only female fighter on the list, she could undoubtedly hold her own with any opponent.

Killer’s Kiss (Stanley Kubrick)

Killers Kiss

Stanley Kubrick made Killer’s Kiss on a meager budget with little-known actors and whatever available New York City locations he could scrounge. A staling, pompadoured boxer falls for a lovely dancer and intends to slip away with her, only to run afoul of her sleazy, dangerous employer. On a narrative level, there’s little to praise. It’s B-movie, film-noir lite at best, but even at the age of 27, Kubrick’s artistry elevates the picture well beyond its pot-boiler origins. The fight sequence achieves an immaculate cinéma vérité period quality, closer to World War II footage than mere sports newsreel.The true power of Killer’s Kiss lies in the photography, the lighting and craftsman-like attention to composition. It’s a fascinating early glimpse of an artist whose skill and talents had not yet fully crystalized, which makes the film even more watchable for its blemishes and scars.

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