A Look at the Top-Grossing Movies on Boxing

Much of cinemas’ popularity is due to the ability of a movie to transport us into action-filled sequences without the threat of physical harm. Boxing and wrestling movies are a perfect example, with ticket stubs to prove it. Let’s take a look at the top-grossing movies on boxing to understand this marriage between Hollywood and The Sweet Science.

The “Rocky” Franchise

Glancing at the IMDB rankings places six movies from this franchise into the top ten, so to prevent this from becoming a list of Rocky and its sequels, we will list them together at #1.

Gross totals put Rocky IV (1985) first at $127,873,716, Rocky III (1982) is second at $125,049,125, and Rocky (1976) is third with $117,235,147. What makes the franchise so special?

Stallone’s character deals with struggles outside the ring that everyone faces. His opponents appear larger-than-life (recall the builds of actors Carl Weathers and Dolph Lundgren, or wrestlers Mr. T and Hulk Hogan). Now, make a movie with him facing all these things with blood, sweat, and tears.

The formula has brought audiences back over and over again.

Million Dollar Baby (2004) Gross $100,492,203

The fourth highest-grossing boxing film makes a case that guys should not have all the fun. Margaret “Maggie” Fitzgerald offers the audience a chance to cheer, and her developing relationship with trainer Frankie Dunn breaks down more than gender stereotypes.

What makes this movie so popular among watchers is the literal sucker punch out of the blue. It leaves Fitzgerald paralyzed and forces the fighter/trainer dynamic into uncharted territory as she asks for help dying.

Reviewers give it high ratings, Hollywood gave it four Oscars, and audiences made Million Dollar Baby worth far more than Maggie’s purse.

The Fighter (2010) Gross $93,617,009

What is better than creating a boxing character that people can relate to for a movie? Basing the main character on an actual boxer, like this number six on the highest-grossing lists did.

While Hollywood took some liberties with the facts in certain parts of the film, the story of “Irish” Micky Ward and his half-brother Dicky Eklund told here drew interest from New England sports fans, boxing enthusiasts, and general audiences. In all fairness, the family turmoil and redemption is the real story, with the action in the ring punctuating the highs and lows.

Real Steel (2011) Gross $85,468,508

When real is not enough, toss in some science fiction. Or, as in the case of the seventh highest-grossing boxing film, put robots into the ring.

The story first appeared in a 1956 sci-fi periodical before being adapted into an episode of the Twilight Zone in 1963. By 2010, Hollywood felt it had a potential winner, and they were right.

The familiar “washed up” theme plays out with a father trying to turn a discarded robot into the robot boxing champ.

Cinderella Man (2005) Gross $61,649,911

Past heroes often make for great cinema, as the number ten highest-grossing boxing movie demonstrates. Using Hollywood A-listers in front of and behind the camera does not hurt.

Inspired by the life story of world heavyweight boxing champion James J. Braddock, the movie centers on the Depression-Era pugilist with a second chance, who pulled off one of the greatest boxing upsets of all time and made this one of IMDb‘s top-grossing movies on boxing.