Richard Conte in The Fighter Buster Crabbe in the Contender
Boxing is explained as two people fighting of similar weight, however rarely of similar backgrounds. On the big screen boxing movies have become more successful than any other sports related film. Boxing movies such as Rocky and Million Dollar Baby are the only sports related films to win Academy Awards for Best Picture.
Directors of boxing movies have the great ability of creating characters with so much in common with the audience. Characters who come from disadvantage backgrounds that are used to scrapping for food and money to support families and loved ones, thus when it comes to fighting for survival in a boxing ring they have what it takes to win.
In any sport no matter what it is people will be drawn naturally to the underdog and cheer for them. People don't like favorites winning unless of course they have the favorite backed! This is where directors create another character one that the audience dislikes, rude, arrogant, cocky etc.. Who is at the top of the sport.
These two rivals are finally pitted against each other, in one corner you have a fighter that everyone hates and in the other corner a fighter whom everyone has come to love and admire.
Audiences like happy endings. They want to exit the cinema happier than they entered. They want the underdog to win because they know how it feels to be an underdog.
The audience admires a character with pride strength and courage. Great Directors are aware of this knowing what the audience desires and gives it to them.
Boxing movies work because everyone loves a good underdog story! [Written by Jason Forthofer]
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1a. They Never Come Back (1932) – Regis Toomey:
Prizefighter Jimmy Nolan (Regis Toomey), facing an opportunity to get a championship fight, is knocked out when he sustains what is apparently a permanent injury to his arm. From there, Nolan's path leads downhill. He is drawn into a romance with a nightclub entertainer, then is framed on a theft charge by a jealous suitor. After his prison term, Nolan makes a spectacular comeback in a fight which proves his courage and integrity, while disproving the fallacy about the old sports adage that "they never come back."
1b. The Big Chance (1933) - John Darrow & Mickey Rooney
Frankie (John Darrow), a young prizefighter, wins a fixed boxing match as part of a crime boss's (Matthew Betz) plan to have him build up a following and then have him throw a championship fight. Later, while training, Frankie meets Mary (Merna Kennedy) as she is going to church with her family, and he begins a romance with her. The crime boss orders Frankie to stay away from Mary, while continuing to arrange for Frankie to win more fights. Just before Frankie's fight with the champion, he and the boss have an argument. Their plans to fix the fight are overheard by Mary's young brother (Mickey Rooney), which soon leads to a tense situation.
2. Prison Shadows (1936) – Ed Nugent:
A boxer (Ed Nugent) is framed for murder after an opponent dies in the ring.
3. Crime Patrol (1936) – Ray Walker:
Prizefighter Bob Neal (Ray Walker) is in debt to gangster Vic Santell (Hooper Atchley) for training expenses. Santell orders Bob to take a dive in the fourth round so Santell can recoup prior gambling losses. Taunted by his ring opponent, Bob wins the fight.
4. Flying Fists (1937) - Herman Brix (Bruce Bennett):
A lumberjack (Bruce Bennett) knocks out a champion boxer in a brawl, gets drawn into the boxing world where he is unknowingly set up for a fixed fight.
5. They Made Me a Criminal (1939) – John Garfield:
Boxer Johnny Bradfield (John Garfield) knocks out a rival in a post- fight brawl. Thinking he committed murder, he flees to an Arizona ranch run by hard-as-nails Goldie (Ann Sheridan) and her feisty mother (May Robson) and staffed by Leo Gorcey and the Dead End Kids. Though Johnny is relentlessly dogged by Detective Monty Phelan (Claude Rains), the Kids convince him to finance their future gas station by training for and winning a high stakes prizefight. But just as things seem to going "swell" for both Johnny and the Kids, Phelan shows up ready to take Johnny back east in handcuffs? Or is he?
6. Pride of the Bowery (1940) – The East Side Kids:
Danny, managing boxer Mugs (Leo Gorcey), books him into a Civilian Conservation Corps camp for training. Mugs' arrogant manner soon alienates him from the other boys. When one boy, Willie, announces that he needs money for his ill mother, Mugs enters a boxing tournament in town. When Mugs loses, the boy resorts to robbing the camp safe. Mugs is accused, but Danny clears him by capturing Willie.
7. Bowery Blitzkrieg (1941) – The East Side Kids:
East Side Kids get into boxing. When Danny shows signs of heading down a criminal path with small time hood Monk Martin and gets disqualified from a boxing tournament, Muggs (Leo Gorcey) takes Danny's place in the Golden Gloves. Things go from bad to worse, when Monk and his "colleagues" make the public believe that Muggs is going to take a dive in tournament, when it becomes clear that Muggs has the chops to win. Danny must decide where his loyalty lies and team up with Muggs to vindicate both of them.
8. Miracle Kid, The (1941) – Tom Neal
A third-rate boxer (Tom Neal) who loses most of his fights suddenly finds himself knocking out almost every one of his opponents. His sleazy manager spreads the word that the fighter has "the evil eye" and casts a spell on the men he's fighting. A female reporter sets out to find the truth.
9. Kid Dynamite (1943) – Bowery Boys:
Mugs (Leo Gorcey) is all set to become the amateur boxing champion. When a mafia fix of the event makes him miss the fight, Danny (Bobby Jordan) takes his place, and much to the disgust of the Mafioso, wins! This puts Mugs in a bit of a jealous fix as he thinks Danny fixed the fight so that Mugs would be not able to compete just so he could win it.
10. Contender, The (1944) – Buster Crabbe:
In order to get some extra money to send his son to military school, a truck driver (Buster Crabbe) turns amateur boxer. His success in that field convinces him take up the sport full-time, and he soon fights his way up to where he becomes a contender for the Heavyweight Championship. However, his chance at the title is endangered when he starts squiring around a flashy blonde and begins tasting the "good life" of nightclubs, partying and booze.
11. The Fighter, The (1952) – Richard Conte:
In Mexico, a young boxer uses his winnings to buy guns to avenge his family's murder.
This film has one of the most ferocious boxing matches ever put on film.
12. The Joe Louis Story (1953) – Coley Wallace
The life and career of Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis, who held the title for 12 years--longer than any other boxer in history--and who had to not only battle opponents inside the ring and racism outside it.
Another Location for the -->Joe Louis Story
13. The Wrestler (1974) (Color) - Ed Asner and Verne Gagne - Promoting the world of professional wrestling at the expense of the plot itself, Frank Bass (Ed Asner) takes a stand and defends what he thinks is right. Gamblers, mobsters, unscrupulous wrestlers, money-grubbing promoters, and fixers conspire to corrupt the industry, but Frank tries to make the game as honest and fair as it is his idealized vision. Frank's efforts climax as he promotes an over-the-hill champion in the final matches of his career. Many American Wrestling Association performers appear in the movie. Among them are "Superstar" Billy Graham, "Rick Flair", Dusty Rhodes, Dick Murdoch, Dick the Bruiser, Dory Funk, Jr., Ray Stevens, Pedro Morales, Ken Patera, Nick Bockwinkel, Dan Gable, Eddie Graham, Jim Brunzell, and more. Some of the said wrestlers are simply featured in clips from wrestling shows without adding to the actual plot or having them on the set of the film in actual roles.