The Top 5 Boxing Movies To Inspire You in Training
As you know all too well, champ, boxing is all about pushing yourself. Blood, sweat and tears are the precious ingredients. It means pushing the rock of achievement, like the ancient myth of Sysyphus, up a hill in defiance of the gods. But unlike in the myth, where the rock always rolls back, in boxing you can actually complete your achievement. And it feels glorious! Or, sometimes, boxing can be defeating. Putting months of preparation for an important championship, or a match, only to be defeated time and time again. But the challenge only makes the victories sweeter. Boxing is inspiring.
To sum it up, boxing is struggle, but also the success of overcoming it. Today, I’m feeling inspired. Here’s my list of the best 5 movies about boxing – because what’s inspiration if you don’t share it? I hope you’ve enjoyed, or will enjoy these works of art in the future.
#5 GIRLFIGHT (2000)
Ladies first, as the saying goes. But oh, such strong ladies… Michelle Rodriguez practically debuted with this movie, which, while on its own was not a huge success, is still a pretty good boxing movie. Michelle plays Diana, a troubled girl going through the confusion of adolescence. From fights at school to verbal abuse from her angry father when she’s home, Girlfight portrays what life is really like for many girls – not the rose-tinted, sugary fantasy we stereotypically know it for, but a true and testing battleground of growing up and finding your place in the world.
And that is where it all begins – with a fight. One day, Diana goes to the local boxing gym to pick her brother up, when she gets into a fight with a boxer. And discovers, to her amazement, that she’s actually good at punching people in the face! That’s her first step to the path to glory, as she later gets her own trainer, and climbs up on the path of success – not only professional, but personal as well. Perhaps one of the most iconic moments of the film is when Diane, fed up and finally able to take a stand, confronts her own father’s abuse. What a debut for both Michelle Rodriguez, and her alter ego, Diane. Girlfight is a truly inspiring boxing movie with a coming-of-age story thrown in the ring.
#4 ALI (2001)
If Girlfight covered coming-of-age to entering, boxing, then “Ali” covers entering boxing to greatness. Will Smith doesn’t just act here – he becomes Cassius Clay, and then he transforms into Muhammad Ali. While a biography, this movie also sheds light on the historical context of the time, making “Ali” a story of both a boxer fighting and winning in the boxing ring, as well as an individual fighting and winning over the challenges of his time. If you’re looking for a film to inspire you to act not just inside the ring, but also survive the challenges outside it, this is it. Life is a fight, and why only be the Heavyweight Champion of the world, when you can also be a champion of your own life? This is the stuff of legend, a spectacle of history.
#3 MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004)
3… 2… 1… KO! Yeah, those words are exactly the theme of Million Dollar Baby. Boxing is a dangerous sport, perhaps the most dangerous one. And boxers love boxing so much that they’re willing, even excited to put their lives on the line every time they step into the ring and face their opponent. Directed by Clint Eastwood, who’s also starring as Frank, a gym owner and boxing trainer, this movie is a perfect heart-wrenching drama mixed in with the realities of boxing. Our hero is Maggie Fitzgerald, a woman boxer (played masterfully by Hilary Swank), who goes through all the processes that make someone a great boxer. However, Eastwood is not merely content to show us the cool sides of the sport – he’s after the dead-serious ones as well. Without spoiling the movie for you further, go and check out Million Dollar Baby. It’s one of the best boxing movies out there, addressing, perhaps, the most important questions. It can be any one of us.
#2 RAGING BULL (1980)
A lot can be said about Raging Bull, and that is exactly its merit. It definitely is a boxing movie, but at the same time it’s a complex work of art by Scorcese, who manages to create a masterful character study of the main character. Played by Robert De Niro (who gained 27 kilos for the role), Jake LaMotta is a deeply troubled man who isn’t a boxer because he’s into boxing, but rather – he uses boxing to vent. From being an outlet for him for the immense rage that he feels, to a just arena of punishment where he can atone for his flaws, boxing starts off as LaMotta’s emotional punching bag. But it ends the other way around – his unbridled rage puts its boxing gloves on and beats his life to a pulp. A cautionary, but fascinating tale of what boxing can be, portrayed through the artful lens of Martin Scorcese. Robert De Niro’s brilliance here is only matched by his brutality.
#1 ROCKY (1976)
A movie loved by all, boxer and non-boxers alike, Rocky is not just a movie, but a cultural icon. It is the story of an underdog finally succeeding, and in more ways than one. It is not widely known, but Sylvester Stallone actually wrote the script for the movie and in doing so launched himself to success. Prior to this, Sylvester Stallone was an underdog as an actor as well, struggling to get any kind of role in the movie industry. It can be said that Rocky was, in a way, partly autobiographical – an actor’s struggles as an underdog, transformed into Rocky Balboa, an underdog boxer’s struggle to fame.
Rocky is so popular also because it’s a great study into how hard work and effort can ultimately lead to greatness. From the sweaty gyms, toiling workout sessions, to those long, epic shots of Rocky running in the sunset, Rocky is perhaps the best study of boxing through the eye of the camera. The iconic song ‘Eye of the Tiger’ is nowadays almost inseparable from Rocky and the feeling of success and empowerment. Indisputable classic, and a champion of boxing movies.