The 10 Best Boxing Films That Aren't Raging Bull

Raging Bull is comfortably the best boxing movie to date, but these 10 contenders aren't far behind.
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Raging Bull is comfortably the best boxing movie to date, but these 10 contenders aren't far behind.
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1) The Set-Up (1949)

This tale of in-ring rigging finds Robert Ryan on wonderfully wiry form as an ageing pro that refuses to quit. Inspired by a poem, this brutal film single-handedly explains why boxing isn’t known as “the beautiful game”.

The Contender: Bill "Stoker" Thompson who’s so far over the hill, he should be declared King Of The Mountains.

2) Fat City (1972)

As an ex-prizefighter, John Huston understood the glory and tragedy that went with life in the squared circle. Featuring career-best work from Stacey Keach and Jeff Bridges, this is an achingly sad film that pulls a killer punch in the closing seconds.

The Contenders: Ernie who has a great future and Tully who has no future at all.

3) Rocky (1977)

Rumoured to have written the script in under the week, Sylvester Stallone fought like a champion to bring his journeyman to life. An unlikely but deserved Oscar winner, Rocky remains the blueprint for underdog sporting dramas.

The Contender: Rocky Balboa who’s nickname - The Italian Stallion - is erroneous since he’s neither Italian nor a horse.

4) Requiem For A Heavyweight (1962)

Scripted by Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, Requiem’s an excellent tale of illicit gambling and the cost of getting the shit kicked out of you. Cameos from Jack Dempsey and Cassius Clay add an air of realism.

The Contender: “Mountain” Rivera who’s an advert for boxing the way Shaun Ryder’s an advert for Ecstasy.

5) Kid Galahad (1937)

Not to be confused with the shocking Elvis Presley remake, Michael Curtiz’s storming story of jealousy and shattered dreams features bona fide Hollywood heavyweights Edward G Robinson and Bette Davis plus a good strong boy called Humphrey Bogart.

The Contender: Ward Guisenberry who fights like you would if you’d been given a name like that.

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6) The Hurricane (1999)

Denzel Washington weighs in with a great performance as the much-wronged Rubin Carter. And although it plays merry hell with the facts, Norman Jewison’s picture explains why Carter has come to enjoy folk hero status in the States.

The Contender: Rubin “Hurricane” Carter whose nickname refers to his destructive force rather than his chronic wind complaint.

7) Body And Soul (1947)

The first of the great boxing movies, Robert Rossen’s Body And Soul could go toe-to-toe with any modern fight flick thanks to it being scripted by blacklisted firebrand Abraham Polonsky and starring boxer turned screen legend John Garfield.

The Contender: Charlie Davis, an amateur who’s too good a person for the professional fight game.

8) Ali (2001)

On its release, people saw Michael Mann’s epic as a missed opportunity. Thirteen years on, the picture can be appreciated for what it really is - a mightily ambitious attempt to essay one of the 20th century’s most important lives.

The Contender: Muhammad Ali, who’d get somewhere in the world if he’d only speak up for himself.

9) Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)

The life and times of criminal-turned-champ Rocky Graziano, Somebody feels like fiction and is therefore all the more remarkable for being based on fact. Featuring a strong cast, the movie also showcases the uncredited debuts of George C Scott and Steve McQueen.

The contender: Rocky Graziano, who looks a lot like Butch Cassidy.

10) Diggstown (1992)

Beat 10 boxers in 24 hours?! That’s the premise of Michael Ritchie’s massively underrated fight comedy. Starring James Woods on wonderfully fast-mouthed form, Diggstown also features one James Caviezel who’d cop a far worse pounding in The Passion.

The contender: “Honey” Roy Palmer who, at 48, has no more business being in the ring than Mickey Rourke.