the loss of Muhammad Ali, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 74. But well before this tragedy, Ali’s decades of life as a boxing champ, political activist and religious advocate had already immortalized him in both history and cinema. Below is a collection of the 6 best films that pay homage to the life and career of a legend.
1. Ali The Fighter (1975)
Ali The Fighter is the first full documentary about the iconic boxer. It gives the backstory to his legendary fight with Joe Frazier — the first loss of his career — and even includes all 15 rounds of the fight itself. Somewhat difficult to find, you can order a copy of the DVD from Netflix’s DVD rental system.
2. The Greatest (1977)
Ali plays himself in this biopic, which chronicles his life from the early days of Olympic success as Cassius Clay, through his conversion to Islam. The Greatest also delves into Ali’s status as a political figure, with his refusal to join the draft and the legal battle that ensued when he was stripped of the World Title in 1967. Also featuring James Earl Jones as Malcolm X, The Greatest is required viewing for true Ali fans, or anyone looking to better understand how he became such an important figure in American history. His charismatic personality speaks for itself.
3. When We Were Kings (1996)
This star-studded documentary is widely considered one of the greatest films about boxing ever made, and it took home the Oscar for best feature length documentary that year. It tells the story of the “Rumble In The Jungle,” the famous fight that took place in 1974 between a 32-year-old Ali and a 22-year-old George Foreman. Promoter Don King sought set up the match between the two boxing legends, but needed funding to make it happen. Enter Mobutu Sese Suko, the dictator of Zaire, who put up the cash and provided the setting for the fight. On top of that, there was a corresponding music festival that featured icons James Brown and B.B. King, who perform the soundtrack for the film.
4. Ali (2001)
Another biopic — this time starring Will Smith as Muhammad Ali himself — Ali follows a similar time period of Ali’s life as The Greatest: from 1964, when a trash-talking Cassius Clay captured the World Title from Sonny Liston, but continues all the way through his regaining that title at the “Rumble in the Jungle” ten years later. Although the film itself has earned a lukewarm reception from the critics, Will Smith and Jon Voight both snapped up Oscar noms for their moving performances.
5. Facing Ali (2009)
Unlike other Ali documentaries, Facing Ali is told from the perspective of some of his greatest opponents, including Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, and George Chuvalo. Interspersed with archival footage, some of boxing’s greatest heroes discuss their own careers and that of The Greatest himself.
6. I Am Ali (2014)
I Am Ali tells the same story of Ali’s journey from Cassius Clay to the legend he is today, but with a more personal touch. The first documentary to have access to Ali’s personal audio journals, it supplements the well-known story with interviews from his family and friends, as well as fellow athletes George Foreman and Mike Tyson.
Bonus: I Am The Greatest: The Adventures Of Muhammad Ali
For the Ali fan who’s seen it all, check out this short-lived animated series in which a cartoon Ali (voiced by himself) solved mysteries and went on wild adventures like traveling to the moon.