Our view of the top 10 classic pugilistic pictures over the past century

Top Ten

It’s open to debate which is the best – and boxing doesn’t always transfer well to the silver screen – but there have been some classic pugilistic pictures over the past century.

Here’s our top ten, as voted for by the KnockedOut crew – feel free to pass on your thoughts about our rankings and let us know if we have missed a potential champion.

1 – Raging Bull
Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci weave their trademark magic in the biopic of Jake La Motta, the Bronx Bull, in this rags-to-riches-and-back again blockbuster. He rose to fame, stardom and wealth but this gritty black and white stunner paints a harsh tone as it all unravels.

2 – The Harder They Fall
Humphrey Bogart stars in his final film as a journalist sucked into the murky world of boxing and gangsters. A glass-jawed foreigner is blissfully unaware his climb to the top is based on fights with a series of patsies. The mob creams off a fortune from his purses and he faces an uncertain future as it all goes horribly wrong. The film was reputedly based on Italian heavyweight Primo Carnera.

3 – Rocky
Sylvester Stallone was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2011 for his portrayal of Rocky Balboa. It is not an understatement to say the film has inspired millions of youngsters, and although some of the sequels did not meet the high standards of the original there is no denying the Philadelphia fighter is one of the most iconic figures in Hollywood history.

4 – The Fighter
Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale portray brothers Micky Ward and Dickie Eckland in the story of the former’s rise to the top while the latter spirals out of control because of his addiction to drink and drugs. Eckland was a former high level pro who trained Boston brawler Ward to become world champion but sadly this falls a couple of places in our rankings because it doesn’t include the trilogy with Arturo Gatti.

5 – Million Dollar Baby
Clint Eastwod directed and starred in one of his best movies with Hilary Swank outstanding as Frankie, who is determined to become a top boxer. Surely an inspiration for Irish world champion Katie Taylor, Nicola Adams and Natasha Jonas who are rapidly becoming huge stars. Most boxing fans consider themselves to be tough guys but be honest – this made you weep at the end, didn’t it?

6 – Somebody Up There Likes Me
What’s not to like with a boxing film featuring the legendary Paul Newman? This depicts the roughneck, delinquent tale of Rocky Graziano as he struggles to climb out of the New York slums by joining the army before eventually finding salvation inside the ring.

7 – 24/7
Shane Meadows, best known for This Is England, directed this little belter which starred the late, great Bob Hoskins. Set in Nottingham, it depicts the struggle to defeat excess drink and drugs by learning discipline and respect in the gym and scores heavily on all fronts.

8 – Southpaw

Deeply sad yet ultimately uplifting in its conclusion, this stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker and Rachel McAdams in a tale about a boxer who sets out to get his life back on track after losing his wife in an accident and his daughter to social services.

9  – Creed
Rocky Balboa passes the baton to Adonis, the son of Apollo Creed, and thus features Tony Bellew in a decent film debut. Instead of starting off at the bottom, Michael B Jordan’s titular character is from a more privileged background and the tone is in stark contrast to many boxing films

10 – Champion
This no-holds barred film, starring Kirk Douglas, scores a points win over the similarly named The Champ for its depiction of a boxer from a humble background who refuses to go back to the poverty which blighted his early days.

About the Author

Danny Griffiths
A freelance journalist who has worked for local and national newspapers, he has covered boxing across the spectrum including the 1990 Commonwealth Games in New Zealand and the 2012 London Olympics. His favourite interviews were lengthy, early morning calls from New York with Paulie Malignaggi... and Mike Tyson.