The 33 Best Boxing Movies of All Time

Pugilists have been popular camera subjects since the start — boxing, at the time, being arguably the most interesting thing you do to another person in public. In the odd century-plus that’s passed since, boxing cinema has evolved past mere punching for spectacle. It’s about personal toil. Training. Strength. Sacrifice. Undying commitment to the physical vision. And then it’s about hitting somebody for money. Or respect, sure.

Tonight’s title bout: The best-reviewed boxing movies ever! In one corner, we have heavyweight classics like Rocky and Raging Bull. In the other, hungry newcomers like Creed and Million Dollar Baby. And in another corner (we have a lot of corners): hard-hitting documentaries, repped by When We Were Kings and Unforgivable Blackness. And, yes, we’re going international in this corner: see Knuckle all the way from Ireland, and China Heavyweight, all the way from, er, China. To be a contender, the movie needed to put up a Fresh rating after 20 reviews, before we ranked them with our weighted formula calculating a film’s Tomatometer score, its number of reviews, and year of release.

Think you got what it takes to take on the champs? Hit ’em where it counts! Hit ’em right in the 33 Best Boxing Movies of All Time!

#33
#33
Adjusted Score: 64140%
Critics Consensus: While sluggish in spots, Resurrecting the Champ is a sports/newsroom drama elevated by high-caliber performances by Samuel Jackson, Josh Hartnet, and Alan Alda.
Synopsis: A troubled reporter (Josh Hartnett) sees a chance to save his foundering career with a story about a former boxer... [More]
Directed By: Rod Lurie

#32

I Am Ali (2014)
64%

#32
Adjusted Score: 64325%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Muhammad Ali's own audio journals, friends, family and fellow boxers provide insight into the extraordinary life and legendary career of... [More]
Directed By: Clare Lewins

#31

Rocky III (1982)
63%

#31
Adjusted Score: 66849%
Critics Consensus: It's noticeably subject to the law of diminishing returns, but Rocky III still has enough brawny spectacle to stand in the ring with the franchise's better entries.
Synopsis: Old foe Apollo Creed trains ex-boxing champ Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) for a rematch with brutish Clubber Lang (Mr. T).... [More]
Directed By: Sylvester Stallone

#30

Before the Fall (2004)
67%

#30
Adjusted Score: 66432%
Critics Consensus: Despite a degree of predictability and cliches, the high production values and sincere performances by the leads elevate this coming-of-age story set in Nazi Germany.
Synopsis: An idealistic boxer (Max Riemelt) bonds with an aspiring writer (Tom Schilling) while training at a Nazi academy.... [More]
Directed By: Dennis Gansel

#29

Real Steel (2011)
60%

#29
Adjusted Score: 68942%
Critics Consensus: Silly premise notwithstanding, this is a well-made Hollywood movie: Thrilling and exciting action with just enough characterization.
Synopsis: A small-time boxing promoter (Hugh Jackman) and his estranged son (Dakota Goyo) reluctantly join together to build and train a... [More]
Directed By: Shawn Levy

#28

Ali (2001)
68%

#28
Adjusted Score: 73018%
Critics Consensus: Though perhaps no film could fully do justice to the fascinating life and personality of Muhammad Ali, Mann's direction and Smith's performance combine to pack a solid punch.
Synopsis: Muhammad Ali (Will Smith) battles Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman and raises controversy outside the ring.... [More]
Directed By: Michael Mann

#27

Rocky II (1979)
71%

#27
Adjusted Score: 72702%
Critics Consensus: Rocky II is a movie that dares you to root again for the ultimate underdog -- and succeeds due to an infectiously powerful climax.
Synopsis: Underdog Philadelphia fighter Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) gets another shot at heavyweight champ Apollo Creed.... [More]
Directed By: Sylvester Stallone

#26

Jungleland (2019)
73%

#26
Adjusted Score: 75233%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to muscular work from director/co-writer Max Winkler and his stars, Jungleland punches above its weight in a crowded genre.
Synopsis: When a devastating loss in the ring leaves Lion and his manager/brother Stan in debt to a local crime boss,... [More]
Directed By: Max Winkler

#25

Bleed for This (2016)
70%

#25
Adjusted Score: 75488%
Critics Consensus: Bleed for This rises on the strength of Miles Teller's starring performance to deliver a solid fact-based boxing drama that takes a few genre clichés on the chin but keeps on coming.
Synopsis: With help from trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart), champion boxer Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller) tries to make a comeback after... [More]
Directed By: Ben Younger

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: 81102%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: With the help of a dedicated coach, two teenagers in rural China hope to become successful professional boxers and escape... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Yung Chang

#23

The Hammer (2007)
80%

#23
Adjusted Score: 80712%
Critics Consensus: The Hammer perseveres as both an above-average sports comedy and a perfect starring vehicle for Carolla.
Synopsis: A famous boxing coach offers a 40-year-old underachiever (Adam Carolla) another chance to train for a spot on the U.S.... [More]

#22

The Bleeder (2016)
81%

#22
Adjusted Score: 83417%
Critics Consensus: Chuck is hit with a handful of sports biopic clichés but ultimately punches above its weight, largely thanks to a muscular performance from Liev Schreiber.
Synopsis: Liquor salesman and part-time prizefighter Chuck Wepner gets the chance to take on Muhammad Ali in a highly publicized title... [More]
Directed By: Philippe Falardeau

#21

Rocky Balboa (2006)
77%

#21
Adjusted Score: 84040%
Critics Consensus: Implausible but entertaining and poignant, Rocky Balboa finds the champ in fighting form for the first time in years.
Synopsis: Retired Rocky's (Sylvester Stallone) plan to re-enter the ring for a few small matches escalates into a full-fledged bout with... [More]
Directed By: Sylvester Stallone

#20

The Boxer (1997)
80%

#20
Adjusted Score: 84736%
Critics Consensus: The Boxer is a standard drama that packs a true emotional wallop thanks to the highly tuned central performances.
Synopsis: A former IRA activist (Daniel Day-Lewis) faces violent opposition as he reopens a boxing gym and rekindles romance with his... [More]
Directed By: Jim Sheridan

#19

Cinderella Man (2005)
80%

#19
Adjusted Score: 87071%
Critics Consensus: With grittiness and an evocative sense of time and place, Cinderella Man is a powerful underdog story. And Ron Howard and Russell Crowe prove to be a solid combination.
Synopsis: Despite a string of losses and injuries, boxer Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) makes a dramatic comeback and faces champion Max... [More]
Directed By: Ron Howard

#18

The Hurricane (1999)
83%

#18
Adjusted Score: 88559%
Critics Consensus: Thanks in large part to one of Denzel Washington's most powerful on-screen performances, The Hurricane is a moving, inspirational sports drama, even if it takes few risks in telling its story.
Synopsis: Aided by a Brooklyn teen (Vicellous Reon Shannon) and three Canadians, boxer Rubin Carter (Denzel Washington) fights to be exonerated... [More]
Directed By: Norman Jewison

#17

Killer's Kiss (1955)
82%

#17
Adjusted Score: 83266%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A New York boxer (Jamie Smith) corners a dancer's (Irene Kane) bad boss (Frank Silvera) in a mannequin factory.... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

#16

Tyson (2008)
85%

#16
Adjusted Score: 90009%
Critics Consensus: A fascinating, emotional, and frank confessional from Iron Mike that sheds a sympathetic light on one of boxing's most controversial icons.
Synopsis: Interviews, archival footage and photographs help illustrate a biography of the life of former boxer Mike Tyson, in and out... [More]
Starring: Mike Tyson
Directed By: James Toback

#15

Girlfight (2000)
88%

#15
Adjusted Score: 92344%
Critics Consensus: Michelle Rodriguez gives a compelling performance, despite lack of a boxing background; Karyn Kusama packs a punch with this directorial debut.
Synopsis: A young Latina (Michelle Rodriguez) hones her boxing skills at a Brooklyn gym, where she falls in love for the... [More]
Directed By: Karyn Kusama

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 91746%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An impoverished widow and her five sons migrate from a small Italian village in search of a better life.... [More]
Directed By: Luchino Visconti

#13

Knuckle (2011)
93%

#13
Adjusted Score: 93877%
Critics Consensus: A gritty documentary that captures the brutality and banality of bare-knuckle fights among Irish Travellers.
Synopsis: Two feuding Irish families resolve their differences through bare-knuckle boxing.... [More]
Starring: Ian Palmer
Directed By: Ian Palmer

#12

Creed II (2018)
83%

#12
Adjusted Score: 99442%
Critics Consensus: Creed II's adherence to franchise formula adds up to a sequel with few true surprises, but its time-tested generational themes still pack a solid punch.
Synopsis: Under guidance from Rocky Balboa, boxing phenom Adonis Johnson prepares for an epic showdown against the son of Ivan Drago... [More]
Directed By: Steven Caple Jr.

#11

The Champ (1931)
95%

#11
Adjusted Score: 97518%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A has-been boxer (Wallace Beery) trains in Tijuana for a comeback to impress his son (Jackie Cooper).... [More]
Directed By: King Vidor

#10

The Fighter (2010)
91%

#10
Adjusted Score: 99139%
Critics Consensus: Led by a trio of captivating performances from Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams, The Fighter is a solidly entertaining, albeit predictable, entry in the boxing drama genre.
Synopsis: Having earned a shot at a world championship, boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) reunites with his estranged brother (Christian Bale)... [More]
Directed By: David O. Russell

#9

The Quiet Man (1952)
91%

#9
Adjusted Score: 99353%
Critics Consensus: Director John Ford and star John Wayne depart the Western for the Irish countryside, and the result is a beautifully photographed, often comedic romance.
Synopsis: An Irish-born boxer (John Wayne) returns to his homeland to reclaim his family's farm and begins a turbulent romance with... [More]
Directed By: John Ford

#8
#8
Adjusted Score: 98937%
Critics Consensus: Clint Eastwood's assured direction - combined with knockout performances from Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman - help Million Dollar Baby to transcend its clichés, and the result is deeply heartfelt and moving.
Synopsis: A deep bond develops between a cantankerous trainer (Clint Eastwood) and the female boxer (Hilary Swank) he reluctantly takes under... [More]
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

#7
Adjusted Score: 99997%
Critics Consensus: The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki sidesteps sports biopic clichés with a beautifully filmed, well-acted look at the balance between career fulfillment and personal happiness.
Synopsis: Olli Mäki loses a fight for the world championship in the second round by knockout in front of a packed... [More]
Directed By: Juho Kuosmanen

#6

Raging Bull (1980)
94%

#6
Adjusted Score: 101976%
Critics Consensus: Arguably Martin Scorsese's and Robert De Niro's finest film, Raging Bull is often painful to watch, but it's a searing, powerful work about an unsympathetic hero.
Synopsis: The violent nature of prizefighter Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro) leads first to a boxing championship, then to a downward... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 99804%
Critics Consensus: An engrossing documentary that's as much about a time and a place as it is about a fight.
Synopsis: The Oscar-winning chronicle of the 1974 championship bout between boxers George Foreman and Muhammad Ali.... [More]
Directed By: Leon Gast

#4

Rocky (1976)
93%

#4
Adjusted Score: 100680%
Critics Consensus: This story of a down-on-his-luck boxer is thoroughly predictable, but Sylvester Stallone's script and stunning performance in the title role brush aside complaints.
Synopsis: Heavyweight champ Apollo Creed gives Philadelphia club fighter Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) a title shot.... [More]
Directed By: John G. Avildsen

#3

Fat City (1972)
100%

#3
Adjusted Score: 103044%
Critics Consensus: Fat City is a bleak, mordant, slice of life boxing drama that doesn't pull its punches.
Synopsis: A young fighter (Jeff Bridges) inspires a boozing ex-boxer (Stacy Keach) working as a fruit picker to try a comeback.... [More]
Directed By: John Huston

#2

Gentleman Jim (1942)
100%

#2
Adjusted Score: 103356%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Boxer James J. Corbett develops a new style of fighting as he prepares to meet champion John L. Sullivan.... [More]
Directed By: Raoul Walsh

#1

Creed (2015)
95%

#1
Adjusted Score: 108780%
Critics Consensus: Creed brings the Rocky franchise off the mat for a surprisingly effective seventh round that extends the boxer's saga in interesting new directions while staying true to its classic predecessors' roots.
Synopsis: Long-retired boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) agrees to train Apollo Creed's son (Michael B. Jordan) to become a fighter, even... [More]
Directed By: Ryan Coogler

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