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10 Best Boxing Movies, Ranked by Tomatometer

10 Best Boxing Movies, Ranked by Tomatometer

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! On the full list from Rotten Tomatoes, 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 rank the list, we listed Certified Fresh films first, followed by Fresh and then the Rotten movies.

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

When We Were Kings (1996)

#1 When We Were Kings (1996)

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: the "Rumble in the Jungle" between champion George Foreman and challenger Muhammad Ali. In historical footage and new interviews, this documentary explores the relationship between African-Americans and the African continent during the Black Power era in terms of both popular culture and international politics, including the brutality of then-dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

Starring: Muhammad AliGeorge ForemanDon KingB.B. King

Directed By: Leon Gast

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli MÄKI (2016)

#2 The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (2016)

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 stadium.

Starring: Jarkko LahtiEero MilonoffOona AirolaJoonas Saartamo

Directed By: Juho Kuosmanen

Creed (2015)

#3 Creed (2015)

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. However, boxing is in his blood, so he seeks out Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and asks the retired champ to be his trainer. Rocky sees much of Apollo in Adonis, and agrees to mentor him, even as he battles an opponent deadlier than any in the ring. With Rocky's help, Adonis soon gets a title shot, but whether he has the true heart of a fighter remains to be seen.

Starring: Michael B. JordanSylvester StalloneTessa ThompsonPhylicia Rashad

Directed By: Ryan Coogler

Cutie and the Boxer (2013)

#4 Cutie and the Boxer (2013)

Critics Consensus: A beautifully-made documentary that explores the challenges and richness of both marriage and art through the lens of a fascinating and complex couple.

Synopsis: Noriko seeks an identity of her own after 40 years of marriage to famous boxing artist Ushio Shinohara.

Starring: Noriko Shinohara

Directed By: Zachary Heinzerling

Raging Bull (1980)

#5 Raging Bull (1980)

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. He falls in love with a gorgeous girl from the Bronx. The inability to express his feelings enters into the ring and eventually takes over his life. He eventually is sent into a downward spiral that costs him everything.

Starring: Robert De NiroCathy MoriartyJoe PesciFrank Vincent

Directed By: Martin Scorsese

Knuckle (2011)

#6 Knuckle (2011)

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.

Starring: Ian Palmer

Directed By: Ian Palmer

Catch the Fair One (2021)

#7 Catch the Fair One (2021)

Critics Consensus: A serious-minded drama that's also a propulsive thriller, Catch the Fair One anchors its powerful performances in real-life horror.

Synopsis: A Native American boxer embarks on the fight of her life when she goes in search of her missing sister.

Starring: Kali ReisDaniel HenshallTiffany ChuMichael Drayer

Directed By: Josef Kubota Wladyka

A Prayer Before Dawn (2017)

#8 A Prayer Before Dawn (2017)

Critics Consensus: A Prayer Before Dawn is far from an easy watch, but this harrowing prison odyssey delivers rich rewards -- led by an outstanding central performance from Joe Cole.

Synopsis: The amazing true story of Billy Moore, an English boxer incarcerated in Thailand's most notorious prison. Thrown into a world of drugs and violence, he finds his best chance to escape is to fight his way out in Muay Thai tournaments.

Starring: Joe ColeBilly MoorePornchanok MabklangPanya Yimmumphai

Directed By: Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire

The Fighter (2010)

#9 The Fighter (2010)

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 Bale), once a promising boxer himself, is his very unreliable trainer. Despite Micky's hard work, he is losing and, when the latest fight nearly kills him, he follows his girlfriend's advice and splits from the family. Then Micky becomes a contender for the world title and he -- and his family -- earns a shot at redemption.

Starring: Mark WahlbergChristian BaleAmy AdamsMelissa Leo

Directed By: David O. Russell

Rocky (1976)

#10 Rocky (1976)

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 champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), when the undefeated fighter's scheduled opponent is injured. While training with feisty former bantamweight contender Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith), Rocky tentatively begins a relationship with Adrian (Talia Shire), the wallflower sister of his meat-packer pal Paulie (Burt Young).

Starring: Sylvester StalloneTalia ShireBurgess MeredithBurt Young

Directed By: John G. Avildsen


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