The 10 Best Fight Films of All Time

by Ben Travers

13 September 2011


3 - 1

#3 - The Fighter

You think this might be too high a ranking for a film released less than a year ago? I think it might be too low. David O. Russell and his movie were robbed blind by the Academy last year. Sure, Bale and Leo got their deserved awards, but The Fighter deserved a sweep instead of a few nods of recognition. Years from now, I hope we, the film buffs of the world, look back at 2010 and say, “How did we make such a mistake?”

I’m not going to make another mistake by listing it too high now. The story of two brothers, both fighters from Massachusetts, had the heart of Rocky and the mouth of The Departed. “Yawh nawt fightin’, yawh nawt fightin’, and yawh nawt fightin’! I’m the one fightin’ heah!” and “Where’d you pahk the fahkin’ cah, Boo Boo?” will forever be a part of my vocabulary, just as “I’m nawt a fahkin’ cawp” will be uttered every trip to Bahston and Rocky will be watched every day.

Yet, there’s more than just personal bias swaying my ranking. The Fighter was a visceral rush and an undeniably well-crafted one to boot. I doubt anyone who had seen I Heart Huckabees was expecting this kind of heart from a film by the same director (not that I’m insulting Huckabees, just arguing it was a more of a head trip), even if they saw the brilliant integration of shots coming a mile off. No one could have predicted Amy Adams’ bold transformation, either, nor could they have known Wahlberg would so passionately adhere to his character and his film.

#2 - The Wrestler

Oh, Mickey Rourke. It was almost unfair of Darren Aronofsky to have given you this role. What was hailed as the greatest acting comeback of the century at the time of its release has transformed into something almost as tragic as the film itself. Rourke, a fine thespian who lost his prime years to boxing (yes! A real boxer is on the list!), booze, and other boisterous activities, will never get another role as good as Randy “The Ram” Robinson.

It’s a good thing he nailed it. Another film denied its rightful dues by the Academy, Aronofsky’s The Wrestler is a harrowing tale of what athletes give up for their sport. Ok, so Randy didn’t exactly choose wrestling over raising his daughter, but my point is still valid for those familiar with the traumatic final scene. Shot in a grainy haze befitting of its New Jersey setting, The Wrestler doesn’t shy away from the dark corners of the sport many people refuse to call a sport. Real blood. Real pain. Real scars. It’s all here, along with some hefty emotional baggage carried through to the distressing end by an exceptional trio of actors.

The Wrestler also takes the trophy for most gruesome fight scenes. Though #1 on the list gives it a run for its money, those who have seen Randy deliver his signature move need hear only two words to cringe from the memory: staple gun. Anyone who dared say professional wrestlers aren’t athletes will shut up right quick after witnessing the world they inhabit here. They’re fighters, too, and Aronofsky proves it indisputably.

Oh, and in case you forgot – The Wrestler not only failed to score a Best Picture, Director, or Screenplay Oscar nomination, but Bruce Springsteen’s Golden Globe-winning song was also neglected by the Academy. After writing this list, I’m starting to think they may not like fighting movies as much as we thought (after Rocky). This does not bode well for Warrior.

#1 - Raging Bull

De Niro.

“You didn’t get me down, Ray.”


“I heard things.”


“I’m da boss. I’m da boss, I’m da boss, I’m da boss.”

And it’s the champ. There’s really nothing else to say here.

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