Sports movies often give us the most inspiring stories and characters of any films, but when it comes to a particular sport there are few that manage to match the might and prowess of boxing. Through the years, we’ve bared witness to some of the greatest underdog stories in cinema and many that are among the most emotional through the decades. Boxing not only brings out the best in particular scaled action, but also presents an incredible dramatic punch to its audience, connecting us with the characters like very few others can. With the release of Bleed Like This showcasing yet another sub-genre entry, we look back at those boxing movies that have packed one hell of a mighty punch in the past.
1. The Fighter
Rightly lauded with praise not only by critics and audiences alike, but also with the Academy themselves, David O. Russell’s The Fighter is driven to such a status because of its ability to forge a group of characters who are instantly magnetic and utterly engrossing in their presentation.
Here we have a film that sees a great physical performance from Oscar-winner Christian Bale, but also two uniquely human turns from both Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams. Driven by such an exceptional cast and a powerful story, this is among O. Russell’s best movies and is often unfairly overlooked.
2. Raging Bull
The story of boxing’s Jake La Motta is just as captivating as the performance we witness unfolding in front of our eyes in Martin Scorcese’s all-time classic, Raging Bull. A film that tracks the high and lows of the real-life sportsman, Raging Bull is driven by a charismatic and defining turn from Robert De Niro, portraying the man himself with the most blissful of ease.
Scorcese’s black-and-white presentation and slick camerawork within the ring itself are a joy to behold and De Niro shows us just why he is regarded as one of the greatest actors to have ever graced the screen in this, one of his heyday performances.
If ever someone were to ask you to instantly name a boxing movie then the chances are that you’d be more inclined to opt for Rocky, the undeniable story of Rocky Balboa’s rise to super-stardom in the boxing room. An Oscar winner, the 1976 film epitomises what such a film should focus on, human drama, relationships and that never say die attitude.
It’s testament to the performances of Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire and co that this sparked a whole franchise, pitting Rocky against further formidable forces of brute strength including Mr.T and Dolph Lundgren and cementing a legacy along the way. Any true life underdog story is instantly compared to that of this Hollywood juggernaut and the spirit of the Rocky saga continues to live on to this day in one of our other entries on this list.
4. The Hurricane
Moving, inspirational and one of the most diverse of boxing movies you could find, The Hurricane is one hell of a powerful experience, mixing the sport itself with a true story that pulls at the heart strings and strikes you in the gut with its pull on the emotions.
Denzel Washington portrays Rubin Carter, a professional boxer wrongly accused of triple homicide and forced to serve decades in jail, in one of his most powerful performances of his glittering career. Emotionally engaging, dramatic in its courtroom scenes and possessing a real sense of joy come its conclusion, The Hurricane is a true ‘experience’ and one that you should seek out if you’ve need already seen it.
Pairing Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler with star Michael B. Jordan for the second time, Creed could have easily been the Rocky spin-off that no-one really wanted and fallen by the wayside much like a film such as Rocky V. Thankfully, that was not the case, and instead we received one of the surprise outings of 2016 (UK release) that was filled with raw emotion, a story that represented desire and heart, and a rip-roaring presentation of the sport in the ring. One particular scene epitomises the subliminal director from Ryan Coogler and his dedication to really bringing the sport of boxing to life – an uncut sequence of Jordan’s Adonis battling an opponent, with every uppercut, every graze of the glove and each drip of blood and sweat feeling as real as the next.
Coupled with a true emotional core in the evolving relationship between Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa and his young protégé, Creed is the most recent boxing film that ensures that the sport is still landing those haymakers in delivering sheer brilliance.
You can catch Bleed Like This in cinemas now.