Get in the ring with these classic films
There's something about boxing that makes it a uniquely cinematic sport. With this weekend's Columbus Celebrates Its Boxing Legends event taking place, I'm stepping into the ring to rank some of my all-time favorites — and only three of them are from the “Rocky” series!
1. “Raging Bull”
One of the great American films from one of the great American directors and starring one of the great American actors, this Martin Scorsese/Robert De Niro collab seems to always top these lists. It's for a reason.
It was the American Dream told as a boxing story, and introduced the world to eventual superstar Sylvester Stallone, who also wrote the screenplay.
3. “The Fighter”
Director David O. Russell has had a great and varied filmography to date, and his tale of boxer "Irish" Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his brother (Christian Bale) remains a standout. Bale won a supporting acting Oscar, as did co-star Melissa Leo.
4. “When We Were Kings”
This documentary on the famed “Rumble in the Jungle” fight pitting Muhammad Ali against George Foreman captured Ali at his peak and showcased the spectacle of the sport.
In this truly impressive reboot for the Rocky series, director Ryan Coogler reteamed with his “Fruitvale Station” star Michael B. Jordan in a story that smoothly spanned generations.
6. “Million Dollar Baby”
In my opinion, this is the best of Clint Eastwood's directorial efforts, which also featured him in front of the camera as an aging trainer who forms a special bond with a young female boxer (an Oscar-winning turn by Hilary Swank).
Oh, look, here's another example of a director with a history of great, varied storytelling doing a boxing tale. In this case, it's Michael Mann contributing a biopic on the sport's true legend, played here by Will Smith.
8. “The Hurricane”
The story of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter — famously told in song by Bob Dylan — was a tale of a boxer, yes, but it focused on his wrongful imprisonment for murder. It certainly doesn't hurt that he was played by Denzel Washington.
9. “Rocky IV”
OK, so it's cheesy, over-the-top Cold War exploitation, but damn if it isn't entertaining. Paired with “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” it pretty much makes 1985 the year Stallone defeated communism.
10. “Cinderella Man”
Boxing stories tend to be either underdog stories or comeback stories. Ron Howard paired with Russell Crowe for one that was both.