We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
Warrior (starring Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Notle) is not a boxing movie. I know it's MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). So why on Earth am I writing a TOP 7 about boxers one week after Warrior failed to excite audiences at the box office? Wow. Great question. I'll try to answer that. 1) If this article gets you excited about seeing someone punch someone else (in a movie) then maybe you'll go see Warrior, which I totally think you should. 2) When I was watching Warrior I wasn't comparing it kickboxing movies (Bloodsport), or films that have a lot of fighting in them (Fight Club). I kept going back and comparing them to the drama of boxing films. While I realize Tommy (Hardy) could potentially destroy anyone on this list, I'm still going to make it. Keep in mind, this isn't my TOP 7 Boxing Movies. This is a list of the characters I love watching fight in the ring. This isn't about the screenplay, the love interest or anything like that, it's about the boxer. Ding, ding. There's the bell. Let's get started.
7. Diggstown (1992)
Recap: Gabriel (James Woods) has just been released from prison. He sets up a bet and now he needs an old friend to help him out. 'Honey' Roy Palmer (Gossett Jr.) must beat 10 men in the boxing ring in a span of 24 hours. Reason: This is the George Foreman story before Foreman. Well, not before him, but before he got fat and old and could still fight. Roy, 42, has a strong punch that carries him through. Plus, he's being trained by Woods and Oliver Platt. What could go wrong? The format of the film (10 matches) allows us to watch a variety of styles and Roy hangs in well even at his advanced age. There's a con involved at the end, so I'm left to always wonder if Roy had enough in him for one more fight. Best Quote: He's bigger than you are. He's tougher. He's faster. He's younger than you are. He hasn't fought 22 rounds today, but remember this... you are BLACK!
6. Cinderella Man (2005)
Recap: James Braddock (Russell Crowe) is a washed up boxer who fights back and has a chance to become a champion in the 1930s. Reason: Yes, I know the depression can be depressing. But once again, who you have in your corner can really help. James has Joe Guold played by Paul Giamatti. I really liked this period piece and Braddock's motivation to fight (it's all he's got) is all I need. Just like 'Honey' Roy Palmer, James Braddock is a thick man who takes a lot of punches. Max Baer kills men in the ring, but James has to take him on to get the title. Best Quote: You think you're telling me something? Like, what, boxing is dangerous, something like that? You don't think working triple shifts and at night on a scaffold isn't just as likely to get a man killed? What about all those guys who died last week living in cardboard shacks to save on rent money just to feed their family, 'cause guys like you have not quite figured out a way yet to make money off of watching that guy die? But in my profession - and it is my profession - I'm a little more fortunate.
5. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Recap: Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) will not quit. She keeps bugging Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) until he finally agrees to train/manage her. Reason: Man, I should do a TOP 7 Corner Men, because look who Maggie got, it's Morgan Freeman with the amazing name of Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris. Did I say Maggie won't quit? Well, I guess I'm just talking about everything up until the ending. Let's not focus on that part though, OK? Watching a woman do man's work, yes I did just say that, is fantastic to see. Swank throws herself into this role and there are plenty of times that you actually consider NOT wanting to mess with her. She's technically superior to #6 and #7. Maggie knocks'em out in the first round. You have to respect that. Best Quote: If there's magic in boxing, it's the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance, beyond cracked ribs, ruptured kidneys and detached retinas. It's the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you.
4. The Hammer (2007)
Recap: Once a good amateur boxer, Jerry Ferro (Adam Carolla) is now a washed middle-aged man. He moonlights as a boxing instructor, but once he spares and has success against a young talent, he decides to give it another go. Reason: Adam Carolla can box. So, this film actually looks like a boxer boxing. Sure, right now we've got four boxing movies, and three are over-the-hill but I don't care. Jerry gets his high quality knockout in the ring, and I won't give away the really good ending with his training partner Robert Brown (Harold House Moore). If you haven't seen it, it's a perfect example of one of those films you feel like you discovered, and must tell everyone else to see. Best Quote: That's good. Take that energy, take that hostility and harness it. Use it. You've got the Eye of the Asshole, my brother.
3. The Fighter (2010)
Recap: "Irish" Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is trying to make his life as a boxer work, but his brother Dicky (Christian Bale) and his whole family keep getting in the way. Reason: Yes, Bale most definitely deserved his Oscar, but lets focus on the fighting. I love how The Fighter actually makes you feel like you're watching real boxing matches. Micky needs Dicky in his corner, giving him advice, but Wahlberg is the first guy (Swank excluded) on this list that actually makes you think, "I wonder what he could do in the ring against an actual fighter?" The title fight in London absolutely gives me chills. Best Quote: I'm the one who's fighting. Not you, not you, and not you.
2. Raging Bull (1980)
Recap: It's the real-life story of Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro). He's an absolutely self-destructive violent man, but he can box. Reason: There is only one better at receiving a punch, and that man is in the number one spot. The best bout here is the 15 rounder with Laurent Dauthuille. A bloody Jake takes punch after punch in super-slow motion. I never liked the man, but somehow found myself desperately rooting for him. That's the power of De Niro, Scorsese, and the story of an insane fighter. Best Quote: You punch like you take it up the ass.
1. Rocky IV (1985)
Recap: Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) decides he must go to the U.S.S.R. to fight and defend the honor of his friend Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Reason: What did you expect? He didn't end the cold war in the first Rocky, he did it after defeating Drago (Dolph Lundgren). The entire second half of the film feels like a training montage, and I love training montages. These are over-the-top human specimens taking wallop after wallop. The fighting sucks me in every time. I cheer every time. The other Rocky movies don't have that power even though the first and third are technically better films, and even Rocky Balboa works for me. It's like this is the superhero edition of the Rocky films and I'm more than happy to watch. Best Quote: I guess what I'm trying to say is, if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change.