The 53 Best Boxing Movies of All Time

Pugilists have been popular camera subjects since the start — boxing, at the time, being arguably the most interesting thing you do to another person in public. In the odd century-plus that’s passed since, boxing cinema has evolved past mere punching for spectacle. It’s about personal toil. Training. Strength. Sacrifice. Undying commitment to the physical vision. And then it’s about hitting somebody for money. Or respect, sure.

Tonight’s title bout: The best-reviewed boxing movies ever! In one corner, we have heavyweight classics like Rocky and Raging Bull. In the other, hungry newcomers like Creed and Million Dollar Baby. And in another corner (we have a lot of corners): hard-hitting documentaries, repped by When We Were Kings and Unforgivable Blackness. And, yes, we’re going international in this corner: see Knuckle all the way from Ireland, and China Heavyweight, all the way from, er, China. To be a contender, the movie needed to put up a Fresh rating after 5 reviews, before we let ’em duke it out and get ranked by Adjusted Tomatometer once the blood and sweat settled.

Think you got what it takes to take on the champs? Hit ’em where it counts! Hit ’em right in the 53 Best Boxing Movies of All Time!

#53
Adjusted Score: 15.463%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story documents one of the most shocking and brutal events in the history of... [More]
Directed By: Ron Berger, Dan Klores

#52
#52
Adjusted Score: 19.386%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A young fighter and an elderly trainer try to trade their shaky futures in for a championship belt in this... [More]
Directed By: Eddie O'Flaherty

#51
Adjusted Score: 26.925%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Experience legendary boxer Jack Johnson's remarkable struggle both in and out of the ring in documentary filmmaker Ken Burns' two-part... [More]
Directed By: Ken Burns

#50
#50
Adjusted Score: 33.242%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Television-honed Aussie director Shawn Seet helms this contemporary domestic drama about the events that befall a family of Sicilian immigrants... [More]
Directed By: Shawn Seet

#49

Blue Blood (2006)
100%

#49
Adjusted Score: 35.095%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Cambridge and Oxford have long had well-earned reputations as two of the finest schools in the United Kingdom -- and... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Stevan Riley

#48

Kids Return (1996)
100%

#48
Adjusted Score: 33.614%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Following his 1995 brush with death in the form of a motorcycle accident, actor/comedian/writer/director Takeshi Kitano spins this wistful --... [More]
Directed By: Takeshi Kitano

#47
Adjusted Score: 39.103%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini wasn't merely the lightweight champ. He fought for his father and for those in small towns... [More]
Directed By: Jesse James Miller

#46
#46
Adjusted Score: 47.71%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Danny Kaye stars in this remake of the 1936 Harold Lloyd vehicle The Milky Way as Burleigh Sullivan, a mild-mannered... [More]

#45
#45
Adjusted Score: 62.32%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This filmization of Aben Kandel's novel City for Conquest stars James Cagney as a truck driver-turned-boxer. As Cagney rises to... [More]
Directed By: Anatole Litvak

#44

I Am Ali (2014)
64%

#44
Adjusted Score: 64.103%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Unprecedented access to Muhammad Ali's personal archive of "audio journals" as well as interviews and testimonials from his inner circle... [More]
Directed By: Clare Lewins, Clare Lewis

#43
#43
Adjusted Score: 61.809%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A pair of blue-collar buddies use hypnosis to turn a wimpy boxer into a champ in this crime comedy, which... [More]
Directed By: Sidney Poitier

#42
#42
Adjusted Score: 63.591%
Critics Consensus: While sluggish in spots, Resurrecting the Champ is a sports/newsroom drama elevated by high-caliber performances by Samuel Jackson, Josh Hartnet, and Alan Alda.
Synopsis: Director and co-screenwriter (along with Chris Gerolmo, Allison Burnett, and Michael Bortman) Rod Lurie tells the uplifting tale of a... [More]
Directed By: Rod Lurie

#41

Real Steel (2011)
60%

#41
Adjusted Score: 67.35%
Critics Consensus: Silly premise notwithstanding, this is a well-made Hollywood movie: Thrilling and exciting action with just enough characterization.
Synopsis: A gritty, white-knuckle, action ride set in the near-future where the sport of boxing has gone high-tech, Real Steel stars... [More]
Directed By: Shawn Levy

#40
#40
Adjusted Score: 67.286%
Critics Consensus: Despite a degree of predictability and cliches, the high production values and sincere performances by the leads elevate this coming-of-age story set in Nazi Germany.
Synopsis: Albrecht Stein, a youth coming of age in Nazi Germany, is enrolled in the Napola political academy by his father.... [More]
Directed By: Dennis Gansel

#39
Adjusted Score: 67.533%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This portrait of former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali was actually shot over two periods, the first leading up to his... [More]
Directed By: William Klein

#38

On the Ropes (1999)
93%

#38
Adjusted Score: 66.718%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The dreams and struggles of three aspiring boxers and the trainer who works with them (at the same Bed-Stuy gym... [More]

#37

Rocky III (1982)
63%

#37
Adjusted Score: 66.001%
Critics Consensus: It's noticeably subject to the law of diminishing returns, but Rocky III still has enough brawny spectacle to stand in the ring with the franchise's better entries.
Synopsis: Sylvester Stallone returns to the character which made him famous in this wildly successful sequel. Rocky III starts with the... [More]
Directed By: Sylvester Stallone

#36

Battling Butler (1926)
80%

#36
Adjusted Score: 81.713%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this film, wimpy millionaire Alfred Butler goes on a vacation in the mountains with his faithful valet. While communing... [More]
Directed By: Buster Keaton

#35
#35
Adjusted Score: 75.639%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Award-winning filmmaker Yung Chang returns to China for another riveting documentary on that country's ever-changing economic landscape-this time through the... [More]
Directed By: Yung Chang

#34

Ali (2001)
68%

#34
Adjusted Score: 72.972%
Critics Consensus: Though perhaps no film could fully do justice to the fascinating life and personality of Muhammad Ali, Mann's direction and Smith's performance combine to pack a solid punch.
Synopsis: The life story of heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, following the champ's early days as Cassius Clay and his rise... [More]
Directed By: Michael Mann

#33

Bleed For This (2016)
70%

#33
Adjusted Score: 75.056%
Critics Consensus: Bleed for This rises on the strength of Miles Teller's starring performance to deliver a solid fact-based boxing drama that takes a few genre clichés on the chin but keeps on coming.
Synopsis: BLEED FOR THIS is the incredible true story of one of the most inspiring and unlikely comebacks in sports history.... [More]
Directed By: Ben Younger

#32

Rocky II (1979)
71%

#32
Adjusted Score: 73.151%
Critics Consensus: Rocky II is a movie that dares you to root again for the ultimate underdog -- and succeeds due to an infectiously powerful climax.
Synopsis: After scoring a personal victory (though a physical defeat) in his "Cinderella" bout with Apollo Creed, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone)... [More]
Directed By: Sylvester Stallone

#31

The Ring (1927)
100%

#31
Adjusted Score: 92.236%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Alfred Hitchcock's silent The Ring is a traditional prizefighting melodrama, elevated by the richness of the characterizations and the stylish,... [More]
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

#30

The Champ (1931)
90%

#30
Adjusted Score: 90.667%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this film, Wallace Beery stars as a washed-up boxer. The bibulous Beery travels from one tank-town bout to another... [More]
Directed By: King Vidor

#29

The Hammer (2007)
80%

#29
Adjusted Score: 80.53%
Critics Consensus: The Hammer perseveres as both an above-average sports comedy and a perfect starring vehicle for Carolla.
Synopsis: Can a guy edging into middle age become a success fighting guys half his age? That's the big question behind... [More]

#28

Rocky Balboa (2006)
77%

#28
Adjusted Score: 83.097%
Critics Consensus: Implausible but entertaining and poignant, Rocky Balboa finds the champ in fighting form for the first time in years.
Synopsis: The greatest underdog story of our time is back for one final round of the Academy Award-winning Rocky franchise. Former... [More]
Directed By: Sylvester Stallone

#27
Adjusted Score: 83.83%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Based on boxer Rocky Graziano's autobiography, this film accurately depicts the teen-aged Rocky as an unregenerate punk, evidently doomed by... [More]
Directed By: Robert Wise

#26

Chuck (2017)
80%

#26
Adjusted Score: 82.768%
Critics Consensus: Chuck is hit with a handful of sports biopic clichés but ultimately punches above its weight, largely thanks to a muscular performance from Liev Schreiber.
Synopsis: He was the pride of Bayonne, New Jersey, a man who went fifteen rounds in the ring with Muhammad Ali,... [More]
Directed By: Philippe Falardeau

#25

The Boxer (1997)
80%

#25
Adjusted Score: 84.023%
Critics Consensus: The Boxer is a standard drama that packs a true emotional wallop thanks to the highly tuned central performances.
Synopsis: Jim Sheridan (In the Name of the Father) co-scripted (with Terry George) and directed this drama about an Irish professional... [More]
Directed By: Jim Sheridan

#24

Killer's Kiss (1955)
86%

#24
Adjusted Score: 88.167%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Stanley Kubrick's second film, Killer's Kiss was summed up by one influential critic as an experiment in esoterica. Filmed on... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

#23

The Set-Up (1949)
78%

#23
Adjusted Score: 78.569%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: As shown by the clock face that opens and closes the film, The Set-Up takes place within a compact 72... [More]
Directed By: Robert Wise

#22

Cinderella Man (2005)
80%

#22
Adjusted Score: 87.231%
Critics Consensus: With grittiness and an evocative sense of time and place, Cinderella Man is a powerful underdog story. And Ron Howard and Russell Crowe prove to be a solid combination.
Synopsis: The true story of an athlete who achieved his greatest success against the most daunting odds of his life is... [More]
Directed By: Ron Howard

#21

The Hurricane (1999)
83%

#21
Adjusted Score: 87.79%
Critics Consensus: Thanks in large part to one of Denzel Washington's most powerful on-screen performances, The Hurricane is a moving, inspirational sports drama, even if it takes few risks in telling its story.
Synopsis: In 1966, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was a top-ranked middleweight boxer whom many fight fans expected to become world champion. When... [More]
Directed By: Norman Jewison

#20

Tyson (2009)
85%

#20
Adjusted Score: 89.429%
Critics Consensus: A fascinating, emotional, and frank confessional from Iron Mike that sheds a sympathetic light on one of boxing's most controversial icons.
Synopsis: "Tyson" is acclaimed indie director James Toback's stylistically inventive portrait of a mesmerizing Mike Tyson. Toback allows Tyson to reveal... [More]
Directed By: James Toback

#19

Girlfight (2000)
88%

#19
Adjusted Score: 91.006%
Critics Consensus: Michelle Rodriguez gives a compelling performance, despite lack of a boxing background; Karyn Kusama packs a punch with this directorial debut.
Synopsis: A high-school senior with a fiery temper and reputation for trouble, Diana lives with her brother and single dad, Sandro,... [More]
Directed By: Karyn Kusama

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 92.423%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A remake of Rod Serling's award-winning teleplay, this movie proves to be equally powerful when undertaken by Anthony Quinn. Centering... [More]
Directed By: Ralph Nelson

#17

Creed II (2018)
83%

#17
Adjusted Score: 96.045%
Critics Consensus: Creed II's adherence to franchise formula adds up to a sequel with few true surprises, but its time-tested generational themes still pack a solid punch.
Synopsis: Life has become a balancing act for Adonis Creed. Between personal obligations and training for his next big fight, he... [More]
Directed By: Steven Caple Jr.

#16

Champion (1949)
93%

#16
Adjusted Score: 94.441%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this boxing drama, Kirk Douglas stars as Midge Kelly, a poor, ambitious boy who accidentally learns that he is... [More]
Directed By: Mark Robson

#15
Adjusted Score: 91.441%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Luchino Visconti's operatic masterpiece tells the story of the Parondis, a poor family from a village in southern Italy who... [More]
Directed By: Luchino Visconti

#14

Knuckle (2011)
93%

#14
Adjusted Score: 93.541%
Critics Consensus: A gritty documentary that captures the brutality and banality of bare-knuckle fights among Irish Travellers.
Synopsis: An epic 12-year journey into in the world of an Irish Traveller community, Knuckle takes us inside their brutal, secretive... [More]
Starring: Liam Ó Maonlai
Directed By: Ian Palmer

#13

The Fighter (2010)
90%

#13
Adjusted Score: 97.64%
Critics Consensus: Led by a trio of captivating performances from Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams, The Fighter is a solidly entertaining, albeit predictable, entry in the boxing drama genre.
Synopsis: Mark Wahlberg stars in Paramount Pictures' inspirational docudrama exploring the remarkable rise of Massachusetts-born, junior welterweight title winner "Irish" Micky... [More]
Directed By: David O. Russell

#12

The Quiet Man (1952)
91%

#12
Adjusted Score: 98.859%
Critics Consensus: Director John Ford and star John Wayne depart the Western for the Irish countryside, and the result is a beautifully photographed, often comedic romance.
Synopsis: Returning to the Ireland of his birth, director John Ford fashions a irresistable valentine to the "Auld Sod" in The... [More]
Directed By: John Ford

#11
#11
Adjusted Score: 98.84%
Critics Consensus: Clint Eastwood's assured direction - combined with knockout performances from Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman - help Million Dollar Baby to transcend its clichés, and the result is deeply heartfelt and moving.
Synopsis: Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is a veteran boxing trainer who has devoted his life to the ring and has precious... [More]
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

#10

Rocky (1976)
94%

#10
Adjusted Score: 100.957%
Critics Consensus: This story of a down-on-his-luck boxer is thoroughly predictable, but Sylvester Stallone's script and stunning performance in the title role brush aside complaints.
Synopsis: A slightly dimwitted amateur boxer from Philadelphia's tough neighborhood gets a surprise shot at fighting for the heavyweight championship, while... [More]
Directed By: John G. Avildsen

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 100.227%
Critics Consensus: An engrossing documentary that's as much about a time and a place as it is about a fight.
Synopsis: On October 30, 1974, perhaps the most famous heavyweight championship boxing match of all time took place in Kinshasa, Zaire:... [More]
Directed By: Leon Gast

#8

Hard Times (1975)
92%

#8
Adjusted Score: 92.594%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A street-fighter looking for a better way of life takes a chance. Charles Bronson stars as Chaney, a Depression-era bare-knuckles... [More]
Directed By: Walter Hill

#7
#7
Adjusted Score: 100.83%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This offering is one of the finest boxing films ever made, following a sportswriter who suffers a number of moral... [More]
Directed By: Mark Robson

#6

Gentleman Jim (1942)
100%

#6
Adjusted Score: 100.544%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This is a loosely structured biopic about 19th-century bare-knuckle boxing champion James J. Corbett.... [More]
Directed By: Raoul Walsh

#5

Body and Soul (1947)
100%

#5
Adjusted Score: 101.116%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Considered one of the greatest boxing film ever made, Body and Soul features the late-great John Garfield playing pugilist Joe... [More]
Directed By: Robert Rossen

#4

Raging Bull (1980)
93%

#4
Adjusted Score: 99.78%
Critics Consensus: Arguably Martin Scorsese's and Robert De Niro's finest film, Raging Bull is often painful to watch, but it's a searing, powerful work about an unsympathetic hero.
Synopsis: The story of Jake LaMotta, a former middleweight boxing champion, whose reputation for tenacity and success in the ring was... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#3
Adjusted Score: 99.619%
Critics Consensus: The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki sidesteps sports biopic clichés with a beautifully filmed, well-acted look at the balance between career fulfillment and personal happiness.
Synopsis: The true story of Olli Mäki, the famous Finnish boxer who had a shot at the 1962 World Featherweight title.... [More]
Directed By: Juho Kuosmanen

#2

Fat City (1972)
100%

#2
Adjusted Score: 102.494%
Critics Consensus: Fat City is a bleak, mordant, slice of life boxing drama that doesn't pull its punches.
Synopsis: This gritty yet affectionate look at the world of small-time boxing highlights a down-and-out slugger and a young up-and-comer, both... [More]
Directed By: John Huston, John Houston

#1

Creed (2015)
95%

#1
Adjusted Score: 106.979%
Critics Consensus: Creed brings the Rocky franchise off the mat for a surprisingly effective seventh round that extends the boxer's saga in interesting new directions while staying true to its classic predecessors' roots.
Synopsis: Adonis Johnson Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, attempts to follow in his father's... [More]
Directed By: Ryan Coogler

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