What Was Your Favorite Boxing Movie of Over 50 Made?
By Ken Hissner: This writer has a small collection of boxing movies but has learned there have been well over 50 boxing movies made!
At age 77, I go back to my all-time favorite “Body & Soul,” starring my all-time favorite actor John Garfield made in 1947. It’s about a young boxer’s talented career when an unethical promoter takes interest in him. Sound familiar? Garfield himself was an amateur boxer out of New York.
My collection includes “Raging Bull,” the 1988 starring Robert DiNero playing former middleweight champion Jake LaMotta. There’s “Cinderella Man” in 2005 starring Russell Crowe playing former heavyweight champion James J. Braddock.
“The Hurricane” starring Denzel Washington in 1999 playing Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the former middleweight contender. “Million Dollar Baby” starring Clint Eastwood, who also got the best director in the film. Hillary Swank, who played the boxer, got the best actress.
“Gentleman Jim” starring Errol Flynn in 1942 playing heavyweight champion James J Corbett. “Ali” starring Will Smith in 2001, a biography of sports legend Muhammad Al, focusing on his triumphs and controversies from 1964 to 1974. Ali said, “Jughead is playing me?”
The “Kid Galahad” re-make from the 1937 film with this one starring Elvis Presley in 2012. Presley was a martial arts man in real life and became a close friend of Muhammad Ali. It was more realistic than some of those phony movies he made and didn’t like making them.
One of my very favorites was “The Champion” starring Kirk Douglas, one of my favorite actors in 1949. He was a great actor with some great fight scenes. He played boxer Midge Kelly whose rise to fame …mainly stepping on other people.
A little-known pair of movies that I have one is “Hands of Stone” starring Robert DiNero about former champion Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran. The other was “Southpaw” starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Forest Whitaker who played a retired fighter and trainer. Gyllenhaal was an Academy Award nominee.
“Great White Hope” starring Samuel L. Jackson in 1996 playing Jack Jefferson about heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. “The Set-Up” starring Robert Ryan in 1949 who in real life boxed at Dartmouth College. Expecting the unusual loss, a boxing manager takes bribes from a betting gangster without telling his fighter.
“The Champ” starring Wallace Beery as an alcoholic ex-boxer struggles to make a good living for his son, in 1931 and one of my favorite movies and actors. The sequel was starring Jon Voight. Another favorite is “The Harder They Fall” starring Humphrey Bogart in 1956.
The fighter was similar to heavyweight champion Primo Carnera having a bunch of set up’s before Bogart told him. Not believing it the fighter was beat up by his trainer to prove a point. An ex-sportswriter is hired by a shady promoter to promote his latest find, an unknown but easily exploitable rising star from Argentina.
Probably the biggest at the box office was “Rocky” starring Sylvester Stallone with a gross of $117.24 million in 1976. Heavyweight Chuck Wepner got an out-of-court payday suing because it was pertaining to him. I believe I’m one of the few boxing people that didn’t like it due to it being so unbelievable and never watched any of the following one’s.
A little known movie was called “Chuck” in 2016 a drama inspired by Wepner who had a once-in-a-lifetime bout with Muhammad Ali” He told his wife before the bout “tonight you will be sleeping with the champ!” After losing his bout the wife asked, “what room is Ali in?”
“The Fighter” starring Mark Wahlberg in 2010 about boxer Mickey Ward a fledgling boxer who tries to escape the shadow of his more famous but troubled older boxing brother and try to get a shot at greatness. Wahlberg did a great job in this one. “Fat City” starring Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges in 1972. Two men, professional boxers come to blows when their careers each begin to take opposite momentum.
“Requiem for a Heavyweight” is the 1962 movie starring Anthony Quinn, Mickey Rooney, and Jackie Gleason. It was about the corruption in boxing featuring Muhammad Ali. “When We Were Kings” 1996 film a documentary about the 1976 heavyweight bout in Zaire, “The Rumble in the Jungle” between champion George Foreman and challenger Ali. Another film pertaining to Ali was “The Greatest” in 1977 with Ali portraying himself in a reconstruction of the events that brought him to fame. Also starring in the film was Ernest Borgnine.
“Somebody Up There Likes Me” starring Paul Newman in 1956 based on the autobiography of middleweight champion Rocky Graziano’s childhood to his rise to his world championship win in 1947.
I know I’ve left out some that readers will probably remind me. So “What’s your favorite boxing movie?”
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