The day after Christmas, known as Boxing Day, does not refer to disappointed kids fueled by candy canes and sugar cookies wanting to slug it out! It was the day when many British service workers received their “Christmas Boxes” of gifts or gratuities and were allowed the day off to visit friends and family.
But the sport of boxing does fuel great movies—the drama and pathos that surround two combatants fighting in the ring is mesmerizing to watch. Whether you spend the holiday visiting or staying home, these films are knockouts.
Raging Bull (1980): Considered one of the best films ever made by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro, it captures the self-destructive slide of Jake LaMotta from successful middle-weight champion to a washed-up has-been. Fans of this one should go back and watch On the Waterfront.
Rocky (1976): A sleeper hit about Rocky Balboa, a small-time fighter from the mean streets of Philadelphia, Rocky spawned an epic 40-year franchise and made Sylvester Stallone a star. Fans looking for a comeback story should also try Bleed for This, The Fighter or Southpaw.
Million Dollar Baby (2004): Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Hilary Swank, this award-winning film follows the fortunes of Maggie Fitzgerald and her reluctant coach Frankie Dunn. For more on females in boxing, try the documentary Buffalo Girls.
Ali (2001): Will Smith stars as world-renowned boxer Mohammad Ali. Depicting the tumultuous period before Ali's fight in South Africa with George Foreman, this biopic covers his heavyweight title win, his conversion to Islam and his political awakening. People wanting more Ali should watch When We Were Kings.
Cinderella Man (2005): Set during the 1930s, this film stars Russell Crowe as an injured boxer making a spectacular comeback that gives hope to Depression-era America. Fans of this one might want to try The Champ, another tearjerker, about a washed-up boxer trying to reignite his career for the sake of his son.