August 31, 2016

Cinema’s Most Golden Boxing Pictures Examined

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Written by: Lee Skavydis
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Hands of Stone finally got its US theatrical release last week after suffering from distribution issues that had once prevented any confirmed release date. It is the latest in the long line of biographical boxing movies that have told the story of a legendary sporting hero facing off in the squared circle. Of course, fictional ones, such as Rocky Balboa, have made their mark in motion picture history captivating audiences the world over with the ups and downs of the franchise’s individual narratives.

This feature is going to examine six of what it thinks is the six best movies of all time that feature boxing as an instrument in chronicling a more central tale.

Raging Bull (1980)


The fight scenes may be a little outlandish, but Raging Bull perfectly captured the style of 1940’s New York, and in particular Jake Lamotta’s psychological mindset in and out of the ring. The movie was filmed in monochrome for added authenticity although one struggles to understand the point the picture was attempting to make. If any. Even at the conclusion, it seems that Lamotta never found his salvation but Raging Bull is a thrilling character study of a man who was, at times, pushed to the brink of madness.

Rocky (1976)


Influenced by Muhammad Ali when he was knocked down by opponent Chuck Wepner in a bout that was originally predicted to be an easy title defence for the self proclaimed The Greatest, Rocky tells the tale of a club fighter by the name of Rocky Balboa who is given a chance to fight for the world heavyweight championship. The film serves as inspiration for those that need a little push in life and that anything can be achieved if you set your mind to it.

The song Gonna Fly Now eventually became a part of pop culture and reached number 1 in 1977 in America. Stallone starred in five more sequels that did not match the original in terms of dramatic impact, although most were entertaining in their own right.

Rocky IV (1985)


Known to be one of 1980’s most definitive movies, the Rocky series may have lost it’s dramatic roots by this point, but campy high octane action was put in its place which served this particular entry pretty well. Revenge became the central theme in Rocky IV and it is heavily agreed on that this sequels features perhaps the best fight scenes in the entire franchise!

Loaded with cheesy one liners, a seemingly invincible villain much in the same vein as the likes of the Terminator, a thumping rock soundtrack and an ending that was the series’ most unlikely, Rocky IV is hard not to enjoy!

Southpaw (2015)


The cinematic poster may have got the promotion for this film off to a bad start by showing the lead in a pose that just happened to be completely the opposite to southpaw, but the gritty modern drama lent the audience a rather realistic portrayal of a life of a boxer that isn’t always pleasant.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Billy Hope, a boxing world champion who at first has it all, but a public incident changes his life dramatically when his wife is tragically killed, sending him on a downward spiral of depression. His only child is taken into care and his house is eventually repossessed, forcing Hope back to the drawing board to hone his defensive skills in order to face tricky rival Miguel Escobar.

Southpaw offers the notion that it is possible to pick yourself back up again when one falls even if you have to make sacrifices for the greater good. Gyllenhaal is impeccable as the volatile Hope, which the picture makes known that he is not a through and through good guy but somebody who has demons that he must defeat in order to rise up once again.

When We Were Kings (1996)


Not strictly a movie, When We Were Kings is more a feature length documentary telling the real life events leading up to the famous bout titled The Rumble In The Jungle between Muhammad Ali and then heavyweight champion, George Foreman.

The film charts the challenges of those involved in making the match including advancing promoter Don King who was still in the process of making a name for himself (and money!), Foreman’s physical troubles in training and the inspiration that Ali was to the people of Africa.

The soundtrack may not resonate well with more modern audiences but artists such as James Brown and B.B King were an ingrained part of black culture in the mid 1970’s when racial tensions were high. The fight was viewed much more than a championship boxing match, symbolising pride and the unique culture of Africa that, when viewed in a more general fashion, is a general showcase for the deprived people that occupy that part of the world.

Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)


The oldest boxing related movie on this list, Somebody Up There Likes Me made in 1956, stars Paul Newman as boxer Rocky Graziano the former middleweight champion boxer.

Newman plays Graziano as a force to be reckoned with by the law and everybody that is close to him. Newman plays him as someone who, like many fighters before discovering boxing, see life as something that can be full of dangerous opportunities if you dare to take them but in doing so, lose the respect of many. Throughout Somebody Up There Likes Me, Graziano slowly gains recognition and praise on his way to achieving the ultimate success in what still is the most brutal sport on the planet.

If ever there was a sports movie that told the quintessential story of a person that went from zero to hero then don’t miss this one!

About the Author

Lee Skavydis
Lee Skavydis
I am a die hard movie fan, owning over 500 movies on both DVD and Blu Ray. I try to go to the cinema at least once a week when time permits. My other hobbies include following fight sports such as boxing, travelling around, writing and editing, listening to heavy rock and cook the odd occasional recipe. I used to write for several prolific boxing websites, interviewing some of the most famous names associated with the sport around.



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