Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Just For Laughs: 'The Big Lebowski' Live Read With Michael Fassbender & Jennifer Lawrence Just For Laughs: 'The Big Lebowski' Live Read With Michael Fassbender & Jennifer Lawrence Union Rep Says Safety Was A Concern On 'The Revenant' Shoot Union Rep Says Safety Was A Concern On 'The Revenant' Shoot "A Living Hell": 'The Revenant' Is Reportedly $35 Million Over Budget, A Producer Exited The Movie, And More "A Living Hell": 'The Revenant' Is Reportedly $35 Million Over Budget, A Producer Exited The Movie, And More 'Top Of The Lake' Season 2 Starts Shooting This Year, Elisabeth Moss Returns 'Top Of The Lake' Season 2 Starts Shooting This Year, Elisabeth Moss Returns Watch: Video Essay Counts Down The 10 Most Beautiful Movies Of All Time Watch: Video Essay Counts Down The 10 Most Beautiful Movies Of All Time Watch: Bond Is Back In New Trailer For 'Spectre' With Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, And More Watch: Bond Is Back In New Trailer For 'Spectre' With Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, And More Alejandro González Iñárritu Still Has To Shoot The Finale Of 'The Revenant' Alejandro González Iñárritu Still Has To Shoot The Finale Of 'The Revenant' BBC's 100 Greatest American Films List Includes 'The Dark Knight,' 'Heaven's Gate,' 'Chinatown,' 'Tree Of Life,' And More BBC's 100 Greatest American Films List Includes 'The Dark Knight,' 'Heaven's Gate,' 'Chinatown,' 'Tree Of Life,' And More Sigourney Weaver Says Ridley Scott Dropped 'Alien 3' After Learning 'Alien vs. Predator' Was Developing Sigourney Weaver Says Ridley Scott Dropped 'Alien 3' After Learning 'Alien vs. Predator' Was Developing 10 Acting Partnerships That Span Multiple Films 10 Acting Partnerships That Span Multiple Films Ava DuVernay Says She Turned Down 'Black Panther' Because There Might've Been Too Much Compromise Ava DuVernay Says She Turned Down 'Black Panther' Because There Might've Been Too Much Compromise Sam Mendes Says 'Spectre' Will Be His Last James Bond Movie, Reveals Theme Song Is Done Sam Mendes Says 'Spectre' Will Be His Last James Bond Movie, Reveals Theme Song Is Done The 20 Best Films Of 2015 So Far The 20 Best Films Of 2015 So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season Stephen King Says Wendy In Kubrick's 'The Shining' Is "One Of The Most Misogynistic Characters Ever Put On Film" Stephen King Says Wendy In Kubrick's 'The Shining' Is "One Of The Most Misogynistic Characters Ever Put On Film" All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More Martin Scorsese Names His 11 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time Martin Scorsese Names His 11 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time

11 Boxing Films That Will Knock You Out

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist December 10, 2010 at 7:15AM

Not every sport works well on the big screen, and it's not always the ones you think. Basketball? Surprisingly, not that cinematic. Golf? Actually pretty gripping, when done well. Soccer? Don't make us laugh. But probably the king of big-screen sports has to be boxing. It's as stripped down as we can get, in terms of games -- two men (usually), in shorts, punching each other in the face.
11
Mark Wahlberg David O. Russell The Fighter

Not every sport works well on the big screen, and it's not always the ones you think. Basketball? Surprisingly, not that cinematic. Golf? Actually pretty gripping, when done well. Soccer? Don't make us laugh. But probably the king of big-screen sports has to be boxing. It's as stripped down as we can get, in terms of games -- two men (usually), in shorts, punching each other in the face.

It's pretty hard to make boxing look uninteresting on screen, and some of the greatest filmmakers ever have done some of their finest work with the sport and, more importantly, with those who take part in it. David O. Russell's drama "The Fighter" hits theaters today in limited release, and, as you'll know from our review, we're big fans: it's as solid a boxing film as has been released in recent years, with some storming performances, and should figure heavily in awards season.

To celebrate its release, we've selected a handful of notable boxing pictures from through the ages. They swing from the masterpieces to... the Ron Shelton movies, but, if Russell's film gives you a taste for the canvas, there are worse places to start. And no, "Kangaroo Jack" didn't make the cut.

“Ali" (2001)
It's fair to say that expectations were sky-high for "Ali." Michael Mann was coming off what's still the best film of his career, "The Insider," and teaming with a giant movie star, Will Smith, who was taking on the most ambitious dramatic role to date, by embodying a true icon. And it's fair to say that, for most, if not all, those expectations weren't met -- the film was mostly shut out of the Oscars, divided critics and audiences, and is somewhat forgotten, nearly a decade on. To some degree, it's deserved -- the film's wildly overlong, attempting to take on too grand a scope of Ali's life, and as a result never really gets to the heart of the man, or the politics surrounding him (the latter not helped by some weak supporting performances like Mario Van Peebles's take on Malcolm X). But when it works, it sings -- like the stunning opening sequence set to Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me," one of the best things Mann's ever shot. It's an uncharacteristically warm, vibrant film from the director, in no small part because of his star -- Smith is genuinely tremendous, borrowing his own star charisma and tripling it for Ali -- five minutes in, you forget that it's Smith at all. If what surrounds him was as good as the central performance, or indeed, that given by Jamie Foxx, the film'd be a classic. [C+]

“Champion" (1949)
Likely to be one of, it not the most anti-boxing boxing movies ever made, Mark Robson's "Champion" is also one that is weird, grim, but not all that compelling. Kirk Douglas stars as Midge Kelly, the "go-getting boxer" who started as a low-means hot head to a two-time title holder. If it wasn't for Douglas' charm (or maybe familiar face), Kelly would be utterly unlikable: he abandons his wife, screws over his brother and promoter, is cocky, schemes people who are scheming him, commits adultery, etc. Predictable it isn't, but some of the more notable oddities are the breaks in tone, going from a film-noir character piece to a romantic comedy (complete with peppy score) to a kitchen-sink drama and back again. Successfully experimental? Well, no, either Robson didn't have the skill to properly direct all of these different approaches or he had no idea that they had no place together in the same film. Despite all of this, the boxing matches are quite lively, but probably the most impressive scene involves Kelly being jumped by gambling sharks, leading to an 8-on-1 impromptu cage-match, complete with plenty of cheap shots and chairs to backs. Robson never again captures this intense energy, nor does he properly exploit this event to amplify or change Douglas' demeanor. There's so much potential for something with substance, but Robson's always missing the boat or sleeping on the job. [C+]

This article is related to: Feature, The Fighter


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates