Take some training inspiration from the silver screen as you settle down to watch one these top boxing films
From dramatic underdog tales to uplifting rags to riches stories, there have been plenty of boxing films over the years that have captured the thrill, the struggle, the guts and the glory of boxing.
Energetic training montages, emotional defeats and climactic championship fights can all serve as inspiration for both amateur and professional boxers.
As the weather gets colder and we all spend more time indoors watching the television, a boxing movie can be just the thing to watch on a dreary winter evening. Which is why we’ve put together a list of the top 13 boxing movies to motivate you to get in the ring and push yourself to be your best.
So, read on to find out our list of the best boxing films of all time.
Best boxing films for iconic cinematography: Raging Bull
Released: 1980 | Starring: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent | Stream on: Amazon Prime Video | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 96%
This Scorsese classic earned Robert De Niro an Oscar for his portrayal of real life boxer Jake LaMotta. LaMotta’s temper and violence led him to the top of his boxing career but destroyed his family life.
This film follows LaMotta through two decades of his life and explores the boxer’s struggle to leave the violence in the ring.
Despite having less fight content than other boxing movies in this list, Raging Bull is a powerful look at the life of a boxer both in and out of the ring.
Best boxing films for brilliant biopics: Ali
Released: 2001 | Starring: Will Smith, Jon Voight, Jamie Foxx | Stream on: Amazon Prime Video | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 67%
This biography of boxing icon Muhammad Ali focuses on his life between 1964 and 1974. From his infamous conversion to Islam to refusing to serve in the Vietnam war, Ali is as much a look at the boxing legend’s life outside of the ring as it is a celebration of his successes within it.
The biography reaches a climax with Ali’s historic ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ fight against George Foreman to regain the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World.
Ali is a great, dramatised look at the life of Muhammad Ali, arguably the greatest boxer of all time. For any boxer at any level, this story of Ali’s life is a great inspiration.
Best boxing films for an inspirational real-life story: Risen
Released: 2010 | Starring: Stuart Brennan, John Noble, Erik Morales, Shane Richie | Stream on: Amazon Prime Video (not inc. in subscription)
Released in 2010, Risen follows the life of Welsh born boxer, Howard Winstone, in his journey to achieve boxing greatness.
Winstone’s story is one of overcoming adversity, as after suffering an injury in an industrial accident as a young man, Winstone lost the tips of three fingers and was unable to make a fist with his right hand which looked to stop his boxing career in its tracks.
However, as the film shows, the determined Winstone wasn’t ready to hang up his gloves just yet. Instead, Howard who had been known for his right handed power, completely changed the way he boxed to accommodate his injury.
What follows is a gripping tale of Winstone’s journey to glory. This is one of the less know boxing films but is one of our favourites for its fantastic depiction of one man’s determination and strength in pursuit of glory.
Best for a gripping journey of recovery: Bleed for This
Released: 2016 | Starring: Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal, Ciarán Hinds| Stream on: Amazon Prime Video (not inc. in subscription) | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 70%
Bleed for This follows the real life story of World Champion boxer Vinny “The Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza. The movie begins with Vinny’s 1988 WBC World Light Welterweight title fight against Roger Mayweather, which, after partying hard the night before, Vinny loses.
After this loss Pazienza’s manager encourages him to hang up his gloves and retire. But, with his heart set on another fight, Vinny hires Kevin Rooney as his coach. However before he can try for another title fight with his new manager, Vinny is involved in a devastating car accident which leaves him with a broken neck.
What follows is a gripping journey to recovery as Vinny works to prove the doctors who told him he’d never walk again wrong. Bleed for this is the tale of one boxer’s incredible strength and determination to return to the sport he loves against all odds.
Best for a look at a boxing institution: When the Smoke Clears
Released: 2011 | Starring: Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Angelo Dundee
Joe Frazier is a boxer who’s story became overshadowed by his biggest rival; Muhammad Ali. But, despite his rivalry with Ali being one of the most famous in any sport, Joe Frazier has largely remained in the shadows.
However, in When the Smoke Clears, Frazier’s story is finally told. This documentary tells Frazier’s story of redemption and humanises the boxer who was so often portrayed as the enemy against Ali. When the Smoke Clears follows Frazier as he fights against the closure of his Philadelphia gym.
Frazier’s gym is a boxing institution, if Philadelphia is the capital of boxing, then Joe’s gym is the White House. For true boxing fanatics, When the Smoke Clears is an unmissable insight into a forgotten legend.
Best for motivational training montages: Rocky
Released: 1976 | Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers | Stream on: Amazon Prime Video (not inc. in subscription) | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 93%
One of the most iconic boxing films of all time, Rocky is the ultimate underdog story. When heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed, visits Philadelphia looking for an unknown boxer to take on in an exhibition match, Rocky sees it as a chance to break into the big time.
Featuring perhaps the most famous training montage in movie history, watching Rocky is sure to make even the most exercise-averse person motivated to get in the ring.
Best boxing films for gritty family dramas: The Fighter
Released: 2010 | Starring: Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo | Stream on: Amazon Prime Video | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 91%
Based on the true story of ‘Irish’ Micky Ward, The Fighter follows Micky’s rise to the top. Micky has spent a lifetime in the shadows of his half brother Dicky, also a boxer, who knocked out Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978 before turning to drugs as his career stalled.
After realising that his unreliable trainer/brother, Dicky, and manager/mother, Alice, may not have his best interests at heart, Micky breaks away from his family looking for a trainer that can take him to the top.
The Fighter is a gritty look at the boxing industry and the real life story of a boxer’s unlikely rise to fame. Seeing how Micky succeeds after finding the right trainer is an inspiration for any boxer; with the right attitude and the right people around you, you can go all the way.
Best boxing film for jaw-dropping fight scenes: Bloodsport
Released: 1998 | Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Forest Whitaker | Stream on: Amazon Prime Video | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 39%
In this iconic 80s movie, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Frank Dux, an American soldier who has spent his life training as a martial artist. When an opportunity to fight in the ‘Kumite’, an underground no-holds-barred martial arts competition arises, Dux flees his army base and travels to Hong Kong to compete.
Don’t get put off by the low Rotten Tomatoes score. Sure, there’s no real plot and the acting isn’t exactly Oscar-worthy, but Bloodsport contains some of the best martial arts fight scenes we’ve ever seen.
Best boxing films for masterful MMA: Warrior
Released: 2011 | Starring: Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison | Stream on: Netflix | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 83%
Fueled by childhood resentment, ex-marine Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh after 10 years to face his recovering alcoholic father and recruit him as his trainer for Sparta, an upcoming Mixed Martial Arts contest.
While in Philadelphia, unaware of his brother’s return, Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) turns to underground MMA fighting in an attempt to save his family from financial struggles.
As they each progress through the ranks to reach the final rounds of Sparta, the two estranged brothers realise they will have to face off in the ring to win the $5 million prize.
Set against a backdrop of family tension and bitterness, Warrior features some incredible fight scenes from Hardy and Edgerton that are sure to inspire you to pick up your gloves. It might be controversial to some, but we think this is Hardy’s best role to date.
Best for heartwarming redemption tales: Southpaw
Released: 2015 | Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, Naomie Harris | Stream on: Amazon Prime Video | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 60%
Southpaw sees Jake Gyllenhaal play Billy Hope, an undefeated but troubled boxer. After a brutal beating in the ring, Billy’s wife convinces him to retire. But, when tragedy strikes on the night of his retirement announcement, Billy spirals out of control; losing his home and daughter in the process.
The ‘fall from grace’ and ‘road to redemption’ storyline is a classic trait in boxing films, and Southpaw is no different. This film is a dark and emotional tale of a determined boxer fighting for his family.
Best for continuing a legacy: Creed
Released: 2015 | Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad | Stream on: Amazon Prime Video | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 95%
A spin off from the Rocky films, Creed follows the story of Adonis ‘Donnie’ Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) who is the son of Apollo Creed. After leaving Los Angeles for Philadelphia to pursue boxing full time, Donnie recruits Rocky Balboa to train him.
Creed is an unusual take on the traditional boxing film storyline as Adonis fights to live up to his father’s name and gain a reputation in his own right. Continuing the Rocky story, Creed is a must watch for fans of the original Rocky films and boxing fans alike.
Best for real life stories: When We Were Kings
Released: 1996 | Starring: George Foreman, Muhammad Ali, James Brown, B.B. King | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 98%
While technically not a drama, When We Were Kings is one of the best boxing documentaries of all time. When We Were Kings explores the relationship between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali as African Americans and the African continent in the Black Power era following their 1974 championship fight in Zaire.
With historical footage and interviews with George Foreman and Muhammad Ali, When We Were Kings is a great look at the wider impact of the iconic ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ from the perspective of the men in the ring.
Best for heart wrenching drama: Million Dollar Baby
Released: 2004 | Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, Anthony Mackie | Stream on: Amazon Prime Video | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 91%
Million Dollar Baby is a hard hitting look at how one moment can change a boxer’s life forever.
Following aspiring boxer Maggie Fitzgerald, played by Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby is a tale of a determined working class woman trying to break into boxing. When Maggie finally gets her shot at a championship fight, a dirty move by her aggressive opponent tragically changes her life forever.
Whether you’re looking for some motivation to push yourself further in your training, a deeper insight into the boxing industry or a film to unwind with after a heavy training session; there’s something for everyone in these top 10 boxing films.
Once you’ve finished your movie night, make like Rocky and get back in the ring in a pair of Cleto Reyes Sparring Gloves.