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Rocky? Raging Bull? ranks the top 10 boxing movies

Posted: Wednesday December 29, 2004 12:14PM; Updated: Wednesday December 29, 2004 1:01PM

1. Rocky 1976
Forget the sequels. Forget Sylvester Stallone's career rise to mega-star status (by the way, where has he been lately? Oh, that's right -- he took a wrong turn with Driven). Just go back to the first time you saw Rocky. The packed theater, the movie-goers cheering like they had ringside seats. Few films can do that. Was it an artistic masterpiece? Probably not (although it did win Best Picture). But it was an emotional one.
2. Raging Bull 1980
Some consider it one of the best movies ever made. Many consider it the best made during the '80s. But the Academy didn't even consider it the best of 1980 (beaten out by Ordinary People, no less!). Even so, Robert DeNiro was incredible as Jake LaMotta, earning a Best Actor Oscar in the process. Martin Scorsese was at the top of his game. Unlike Rocky, which tugged at your heartstrings, DeNiro's LaMotta kept punching you in the face with cold, harsh reality.
3. Requiem For A Heavyweight 1962
Anthony Quinn plays a boxer at the end of his career who must deal with his failing health and a manager who no longer believes in him. Cassius Clay (pre-Muhammad Ali) and Jack Dempsey make appearances. No Oscar nominations but a well-crafted flick.
4. Body And Soul 1947
The first really good boxing movie. John Garfield is an amateur who grudgingly turns pro after his father dies. The movie is thought to have influenced how Scorsese made Raging Bull. It also spawned two remakes, including the 1998 version with Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini that will be released on DVD in February.
5. When We Were Kings 1996
This documentary on the Rumble in the Jungle is as good as it gets. Ali shows why he's an international star, and seeing George Foreman in his pre-Grill days reminds us just how feared he was.
6. Somebody Up There Likes Me 1956
Paul Newman stars in this biography of Rocky Graziano. It's an underrated movie and Newman, in his third movie, was just beginning to flex his acting muscles. Meanwhile, Steve McQueen makes his film debut.
7. On The Waterfront 1954
Marlon Brando. "I coulda been a contender!" Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger -- all perfect for a boxing movie. So was Hoboken, N.J., where many of the exteriors were shot. Really, do you need anything more?
8. The Harder They Fall 1956
Humphrey Bogart as ... no, not a boxer but a washed-up sportswriter hired to promote a fighter from Argentina. It was Bogart's last film -- the next year, he died of throat cancer. Steiger pops up again. In fact, Steiger seems so intent on being in boxing movies that he appeared in F.I.S.T, a bad Stallone flick that actually had nothing to do with boxing. Guess the title misled Rod.
9. Champion 1949
Kirk Douglas in a flashback of how his Midge Kelly climbed to the top. Douglas was nominated for Best Actor, and the film received five other nominations (but only one win, for film editing).
10. Fat City 1972
The legendary John Huston directed this tale of two boxers, one (Jeff Bridges) on the way up, the other (Stacy Keach) on the way down. The late Nicholas Colasanto is a trainer -- a role that probably helped shape his character as Coach on Cheers.

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