It is hard to find another category of sport that has more critically acclaimed and cult classic films than the variety that combat sports brings to the table. For our first edition of our new “Movie Night” series, we will be looking at the top five combat sports movies to watch during quarantine. This list is a combination of classics and our personal favorites and isn’t a ranked list of said films.
5. “Nacho Libre” (2006)
“Nacho Libre” has earned mixed reviews from critics since its release in 2006, but this treatment is unfair. “Nacho Libre” is a cult classic, as it was directed by Josh Hess, the same man that brought the world the fantastic “Napoleon Dynamite” (2004). The humor in “Nacho Libre” isn’t for everyone but if you appreciate the general greatness of Jack Black, then this film is for you.
The quotes and moments in this movie will stick around with you for a lifetime and it never fails to spark laughter while building great underdog characters to root for along the way.
If you’ve seen this movie, admit it...Hombre Religioso (Religious Man) by Mr. Loco has been playing in your head since you saw this entry on the list.
“Nacho Libre” is available to stream on Netflix via subscription.
4. “Million Dollar Baby” (2004)
Starring Hillary Swank, Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood, who directed the film, this 2004 sports drama received seven nominations at the Academy Awards, taking home Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress for Swank and Best Supporting Actor for Freeman.
The film features Swank as she trains under Eastwood as an amateur boxer as she aspires to be a professional and at the top of her game one day. “Million Dollar Baby” holds a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and is beloved by critics and fans of the genre alike.
“Million Dollar Baby” is available to stream on HBO Max with a subscription.
3. “Raging Bull” (1980)
Robert De Niro stars as Jake LaMotta in this 1980 Martin Scorcese film, a tale that goes far above and beyond the realm of boxing. This movie is painful to watch from start to finish as the audience watches LaMotta’s relationships and mental wellbeing deteriorate on top of him endlessly getting the soul beaten out of him.
The cinematography in this movie is ahead of its time and the way the shots are composed is striking. This stands out in particular in the fight scenes between LaMotta and Sugar Ray Robinson, which are unforgettable.
“Raging Bull” is available for free on Vudu.
2. “The Karate Kid” (1984)
“The Karate Kid”, released in 1984, is one of the most influential movies of the ‘80s and of all time. The film is the ultimate underdog story, and Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best” montage is just one of many inspiring moments in the film.
What separates “The Karate Kid” from other combat sports movies are the themes of training the spirit and perseverance through everyday life. Pat Morita was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards for his role as Mr. Miyagi, one of the most legendary movie mentors of all time.
John G. Avildsen directed the first film and its first two sequels, generating his second successful franchise of combat sports movies after sparking the “Rocky” franchise, more on that later.
“The Karate Kid” is available to stream on SlingTV via subscription.
1. “Creed” (2015)/”Rocky” (1976)
Yes, two films occupy our top spot on this list because it is impossible to exclude either from the list. “Rocky” is one of the most iconic movies ever and a thrilling ride from start to finish. Sylvester Stallone is synonymous with the notorious Rocky Balboa, the greatest fictional fighter of all time.
The iconic film also landed the Best Picture award at the Academy Awards and received nine other nominations in the same year.
The fact that this franchise has two films in the same list that are worth mentioning says something, and honestly other installments in the franchise are also noteworthy such as “Creed II” (2018) and “Rocky IV” (1985).
I personally prefer “Creed” to any other film in the franchise, but it is all about personal taste. The way director Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan can come together as also seen in “Fruitvale Station” (2013) and “Black Panther” (2018) is fantastic, and Coogler successfully transitioned the franchise to a more modern and serious era.
What separates “Creed” from the pack are the unforgettable long takes, as seen in the titular character’s first fight under Balboa’s watch and his walk-in scene set to Tupac Shakur’s “Hail Mary”. Also unforgettable is the chills-inducing final training montage of the film accompanied by Meek Mill’s “Lord Knows”.
“Creed” and “Rocky” are the epitome of everything a sports movie should be about, rags to riches stories that are capable of inspiring thousands across the nation.
“Rocky” and “Creed” can both be rented or bought on Amazon Prime Video as well as other streaming services.
Be on the lookout for future entries in the “Movie Night” series as our writers look at the best movies about different sports.