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The 33 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 20 reviews, before we ranked them with our weighted formula calculating a film’s Tomatometer score, its number of reviews, and year of release.

Think you got what it takes to take on the champs? Hit ’em where it counts! Hit ’em right in the 33 Best Boxing Movies of All Time! Alex Vo

#33
#33
Adjusted Score: 64943%
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: Things are not going well for Erik Kernan (Josh Hartnett). Erik, a sports reporter, is stuck covering the bush leagues... [More]
Directed By: Rod Lurie

#32

I Am Ali (2014)
65%

#32
Adjusted Score: 65244%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Muhammad Ali's own audio journals, friends, family and fellow boxers provide insight into the extraordinary life and legendary career of... [More]
Directed By: Clare Lewins

#31

Rocky III (1982)
67%

#31
Adjusted Score: 68836%
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: Having become the world heavyweight champion, former working-class boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is rich and famous beyond his wildest... [More]
Directed By: Sylvester Stallone

#30

Before the Fall (2004)
67%

#30
Adjusted Score: 66892%
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: An idealistic boxer (Max Riemelt) bonds with an aspiring writer (Tom Schilling) while training at a Nazi academy.... [More]
Directed By: Dennis Gansel

#29

Real Steel (2011)
60%

#29
Adjusted Score: 69645%
Critics Consensus: Silly premise notwithstanding, this is a well-made Hollywood movie: Thrilling and exciting action with just enough characterization.
Synopsis: Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) used to be a prizefighter but lost his chance to win a title when heavy, towering... [More]
Directed By: Shawn Levy

#28

Ali (2001)
68%

#28
Adjusted Score: 74115%
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: With wit and athletic genius, with defiant rage and inner grace, Muhammad Ali forever changed the American landscape. Fighting all... [More]
Directed By: Michael Mann

#27

Rocky II (1979)
72%

#27
Adjusted Score: 73047%
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: Although working-class Philadelphia boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) lost his high-profile bout with the cocky world champion Apollo Creed (Carl... [More]
Directed By: Sylvester Stallone

#26

Jungleland (2019)
74%

#26
Adjusted Score: 76309%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to muscular work from director/co-writer Max Winkler and his stars, Jungleland punches above its weight in a crowded genre.
Synopsis: When a devastating loss in the ring leaves Lion and his manager/brother Stan in debt to a local crime boss,... [More]
Directed By: Max Winkler

#25

Bleed for This (2016)
70%

#25
Adjusted Score: 77862%
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: Vinny "The Pazmanian Devil" Pazienza (Miles Teller), a local Providence boxer, shoots to stardom after winning two world title fights.... [More]
Directed By: Ben Younger

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: 81016%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: With the help of a dedicated coach, two teenagers in rural China hope to become successful professional boxers and escape... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Yung Chang

#23

The Hammer (2007)
80%

#23
Adjusted Score: 80874%
Critics Consensus: The Hammer perseveres as both an above-average sports comedy and a perfect starring vehicle for Carolla.
Synopsis: On his 40th birthday, chronic underachiever Jerry Ferro (Adam Carolla) loses his carpentry job and his girlfriend. However, all is... [More]

#22

The Bleeder (2016)
81%

#22
Adjusted Score: 85748%
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, N.J., a man who went 15 rounds in the ring with Muhammad Ali. But... [More]
Directed By: Philippe Falardeau

#21

Rocky Balboa (2006)
77%

#21
Adjusted Score: 84879%
Critics Consensus: Implausible but entertaining and poignant, Rocky Balboa finds the champ in fighting form for the first time in years.
Synopsis: Now long-retired, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) runs a Philadelphia eatery and mourns the loss of his beloved wife, Adrian. Yearning to... [More]
Directed By: Sylvester Stallone

#20

The Boxer (1997)
80%

#20
Adjusted Score: 84001%
Critics Consensus: The Boxer is a standard drama that packs a true emotional wallop thanks to the highly tuned central performances.
Synopsis: Rising teen boxer and Belfast native Danny Flynn (Daniel Day-Lewis) was imprisoned for 14 years after getting involved with the... [More]
Directed By: Jim Sheridan

#19

Cinderella Man (2005)
80%

#19
Adjusted Score: 88264%
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: During the Great Depression, ex-boxer James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) works as a day laborer until his former manager Joe... [More]
Directed By: Ron Howard

#18

The Hurricane (1999)
83%

#18
Adjusted Score: 87685%
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: Denzel Washington is Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a man whose dreams of winning the middleweight boxing title were destroyed when he... [More]
Directed By: Norman Jewison

#17

Killer's Kiss (1955)
83%

#17
Adjusted Score: 84549%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Davey Gordon (Jamie Smith), a New York City boxer aging out of his profession, meets dancer Gloria Price (Irene Kane),... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

#16

Tyson (2008)
85%

#16
Adjusted Score: 90898%
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: Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson reflects on his tumultuous life both in and out of the ring. Filmmaker James... [More]
Starring: Mike Tyson
Directed By: James Toback

#15

Girlfight (2000)
87%

#15
Adjusted Score: 90568%
Critics Consensus: Michelle Rodriguez gives a compelling performance, despite lack of a boxing background; Karyn Kusama packs a punch with this directorial debut.
Synopsis: Newcomer Michelle Rodriguez in an astounding performance alongside Jaime Tirelli, Paul Calderon and Santiago Douglas. Nothing comes easy for Diana... [More]
Directed By: Karyn Kusama

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 91252%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Rosaria Parondi (Katina Paxinou), an impoverished Italian mother, moves to Milan with her close-knit family of five sons to find... [More]
Directed By: Luchino Visconti

#13

Knuckle (2011)
93%

#13
Adjusted Score: 94143%
Critics Consensus: A gritty documentary that captures the brutality and banality of bare-knuckle fights among Irish Travellers.
Synopsis: Two feuding Irish families resolve their differences through bare-knuckle boxing.... [More]
Starring: Ian Palmer
Directed By: Ian Palmer

#12

Creed II (2018)
83%

#12
Adjusted Score: 102147%
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: In 1985, Russian boxer Ivan Drago killed former U.S. champion Apollo Creed in a tragic match that stunned the world.... [More]
Directed By: Steven Caple Jr.

#11

The Champ (1931)
96%

#11
Adjusted Score: 97349%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Champ (Wallace Beery) is a down-on-his-luck boxer in Tijuana whose son, Dink (Jackie Cooper), adores him despite Champ's addictions to... [More]
Directed By: King Vidor

#10

The Fighter (2010)
91%

#10
Adjusted Score: 100359%
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: For Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), boxing is a family affair. His tough-as-nails mother is his manager. His half-brother, Dicky (Christian... [More]
Directed By: David O. Russell

#9

The Quiet Man (1952)
91%

#9
Adjusted Score: 97269%
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: After accidentally killing an opponent in the ring, boxer Sean Thornton leaves America and returns to his native Ireland, hoping... [More]
Directed By: John Ford

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 101343%
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 Los Angeles boxing trainer who keeps almost everyone at arm's length, except his... [More]
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

#7
Adjusted Score: 101579%
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: Olli Mäki loses a fight for the world championship in the second round by knockout in front of a packed... [More]
Directed By: Juho Kuosmanen

#6

Raging Bull (1980)
94%

#6
Adjusted Score: 101191%
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 a middleweight boxer as he rises through ranks to earn his first shot at the middleweight crown.... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 100586%
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

#4

Rocky (1976)
91%

#4
Adjusted Score: 97555%
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: Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), a small-time boxer from working-class Philadelphia, is arbitrarily chosen to take on the reigning world heavyweight... [More]
Directed By: John G. Avildsen

#3

Fat City (1972)
100%

#3
Adjusted Score: 102223%
Critics Consensus: Fat City is a bleak, mordant, slice of life boxing drama that doesn't pull its punches.
Synopsis: Washed-up boxer Tully (Stacy Keach) is inspired to restart his career after seeing potential in a teenager, Ernie (Jeff Bridges),... [More]
Directed By: John Huston

#2

Gentleman Jim (1942)
100%

#2
Adjusted Score: 102363%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Jim Corbett (Errol Flynn) is a bare-knuckles boxer, who is determined to rise above his station. Jim and his friend,... [More]
Directed By: Raoul Walsh

#1

Creed (2015)
95%

#1
Adjusted Score: 107326%
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 (Michael B. Jordan) never knew his famous father, boxing champion Apollo Creed, who died before Adonis was born.... [More]
Directed By: Ryan Coogler