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From Rocky to Mary Kom: Seven must-watch boxing films

By: Sports Desk |

Published: June 1, 2020 8:40:43 pm

Stills from “Rocky” (L), “Mary Kom” (C), and “Ali” (R).

The success of the internationally loved combat sport of boxing has been rooted in fierce competition, classic back-and-forth wisecracks, eye-catching rivalries, and most importantly, the thrilling build-up to a match. The inherent nature of the sport is such that every match is much more than two people throwing punches at each other, rather, it acts as a culmination of a story.

Here is a list of seven boxing-based films which you should definitely watch:

Rocky Series (1976-Present)

The fictional boxing drama Rocky caught the world by storm in 1976 which has over the years culminated into a series leading to five sequels over the course of the three decades. All the films star Sylvester Stallone as the titular Rocky Balboa, and they tell the story of how Rocky goes from a small-time aspirant to eventually the world heavyweight champion.

The classic rags-to-riches plot, the fulfilment of the American Dream, and a well-developed antagonist in the form of boxer Apollo Creed have all been seen as reasons for the 1976 film’s massive success. The original Rocky was the highest-grossing film of 1976, and even won three Academy Awards, including the Best Picture of the year.

The success of the Rocky films has also led to a spin-off film series titled Creed, starring Michael B. Jordan in the titular role of Adonis Creed, son of Rocky’s rival-turned-friend, Apollo Creed. The two Creed films, released in 2015 and 2018 have also been well received, and Creed III is currently being developed.

Raging Bull (1980)

Robert de Niro in “Raging Bull”. (Source: Screengrab)

A Martin Scorsese masterpiece, Raging Bull is widely considered to be one of the greatest films ever made. Starring Robert DeNiro as middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta, the film in classic Scorsese fashion explores a lot of the character’s inner turmoil. With an intense portrayal of LaMotta’s rage, aggression, sexual jealousy, and his self-destructive nature, the film received high levels of critical appreciation.

De Niro won the Best Actor award while the film won Best Editing at the 53rd Academy Awards. The visual style of the film and the depiction of LaMotta’s physical and emotional wreckage makes the film a must-watch for any boxing fan.

Cinderella Man (2005)

The Ron Howard directorial is a biographical film about James Walter Braddock, the world heavyweight champion from 1935-1937. Starring Russel Crowe as the titular character, and Renée Zellweger and Paul Giamatti in supporting roles, the film, named after Braddock’s nickname, depicts the boxer’s return from retirement and his unexpected championship run. The film received a lot of positive reviews and was critically lauded, even earning three Academy Award nominations at the 78th edition.

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Ali (2001)

As the name suggests, the 2001 biographical sports drama chronicles the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali over the most important years of his career, from 1964 to 1974. The Michael Mann directorial has a powerful star cast, with Will Smith in the role of the titular character. The film depicts various important events in Ali’s life, including his World Heavyweight Championship victory against Sonny Liston, his conversion to Islam and name change from Cassius Clay Jr., his outspoken comments on the Vietnam War, the Ali-Frazier bout of 1971 and finally the legendary Rumble in the Jungle fight of 1974. Although the film underperformed commercially, it received widespread critical acclaim, even being nominated for the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor at the 74th Academy Awards.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank in “Million Dollar Baby”. (Source: File Photo)

The 2004 Clint Eastwood directorial had all the elements for success right from the onset, including a stellar cast starring Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank, and the breath-taking source material of F.X. Toole. The sports drama tells the story of an underdog female boxer Maggie Fitzgerald and how a boxing trainer helps her achieve her dream of becoming a professional boxer.

The film became an instant fan-favourite upon release and received widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. It even ended up winning four major awards — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor — at the 77th Academy Awards.

Mary Kom (2014)

The Bollywood sports drama is a biographical film on the life of Indian Olympic boxer Mary Kom, played by actress Priyanka Chopra. The film depicts Kom’s journey in the world of boxing, the issues she faces, her single-minded devotion to boxing, and her victory at the 2008 Women’s World Boxing Championships. The film became the first Hindi-language film to be screened on the opening night of TIFF and received favourable reviews from both, critics and audiences alike upon its release, and even went on to win a National Film Award.

Apne (2007)

The 2007 multi-starrer was an instant box office hit upon release, mainly due to its rich emotions and the central storyline involving an elder brother out to take revenge against a boxer who cheated against his brother in a championship match. The film was soaked in nostalgia and was the first film to star the Deol trio — father Dharmendra and his sons Sunny Deol and Bobby Deol.

Boxing has been depicted on-screen on numerous occasions. For those wanting to explore further into boxing-based movies — The Fighter (2010), The Boxer (1997) along with Bollywood’s Mukkabaaz (2017) are some other good picks.

Written by Shubhang Gopal

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