Put your boxing gloves on, readers! Written and directed by Ryan Coogler, ‘Creed’ is a 2015 sports drama film starring Michael B. Jordan as boxer Adonis Johnson Creed, with Sylvester Stallone reprising the role of Rocky Balboa. Both a spin-off and sequel in the ‘Rocky’ film series, ‘Creed’ follows the story of Adonis ‘Donnie’ Johnson, son of an extramarital lover of former heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed. For the uninitiated, Apollo Creed is a recurring character in the ‘Rocky’ film franchise. Played by Carl Weathers, Creed is loosely based on a combination of Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Joe Louis and Jack Johnson. In ‘Rocky’, Creed essentially cleans out his division of serious challengers and magnanimously decides to fight journeyman Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) for the fan spectacle. Evenly matched in the ring, they go head-to-head with each other in the first ‘Rocky’ movie and its sequel, eventually ending up befriending each other by the third.
The fourth installment of the franchise witnesses the death of Apollo Creed at the hands of Russian boxer Ivan Drogo during a fight. Therefore, when Adonis expresses his ambition to become a boxer like his father, Mary Anne, the widow of Creed, vehemently opposes it. Following his refusal to be admitted into Los Angeles’ elite Delphi Boxing Academy, Adonis travels to Philadelphia in hopes of getting in touch with his father’s old friend and rival, former world heavyweight champion, Rocky Balboa. Donnie meets Rocky at Rocky’s Italian restaurant, ‘Adrian’s’, named after his deceased wife and asks him to become his trainer. Though initially reluctant to return to the world of boxing, Rocky eventually agrees to take Donnie under his wing. What follows is Donnie’s attempt with the help of Rocky to go toe to toe with the world light heavyweight champion ‘Pretty’ Rick Conlan, who is being forced into retirement by an impending prison term.
The final fight between Donnie and Conlan at Goodison Park, Liverpool forms the crescendo of the film. Drawing parallels with the fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed forty years back, the fight sees Donnie knocking down Conlan for the first time in his career. In-spite of Donnie going the distance of all twelve rounds to everyone’s surprise, he eventually loses to Conlan on a split decision, which serves reminiscent of Apollo’s victory over Rocky by a similar split decision. Produced by MGM ‘Creed’ marks the second collaboration between director Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan after the 2013 biographical drama film ‘Fruitvale Station’. Marking the seventh film in the ‘Rocky’ franchise, principal photography of the film began on January 19, 2015 on location at Goodison Park, with the first scene taking place during a Barclays Premier League match between Everton and West Bromwich Albion. Parts of the filming also took place in the Philadelphia, the original location of the franchise.
The film ends with Donnie and a frail but improving Rocky climbing the iconic 72 steps (also known as the Rocky steps) outside the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. On February 3, 2015, Warner Bros. slated the film to be released on November 2015, which also happens to be the 40th anniversary of the opening scene in the original film, where Rocky fights Spider Rico. Upon its release, the film became a massive box office success earning a total of 173.6 million dollars to its production budget of 35 million. Additionally, the film was well received by the critics, and currently holds an approval rating of 95% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 284 reviews. While ‘Creed’ is an incredible film, there are several other movies in the same style and tone, exploring similar themes. Here’s the list of best movies similar to ‘Creed’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these movies like ‘Creed’ on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
10. Rocky (1976)
Let’s begin the list by addressing the elephant in the room! Well, if you love ‘Creed’ and haven’t seen the original ‘Rocky’, you are bound for boxing hell. This 1976 sports drama film is the single most famous representation of boxing on the silver screen. Made on a meager budget of just over 1 million dollars, ‘Rocky’ went on to gross a whopping 225 million dollars globally, becoming the highest grossing film of 1976. Following the rags to riches American dream story of Rocky Balboa, an uneducated but kind-hearted working class Italian-American boxer working as a debt collector for a loan shark in the slums of Philadelphia, the film solidified Sylvester Stallone’s career in show business, while simultaneously commencing his rise to prominence as a major movie star. In 2006, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, deeming it “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.
9. Cinderella Man (2005)
Directed by Ron Howard, the undisputed king of commercially viable Hollywood biopics, ‘Cinderella Man’ tells the story of former world heavyweight boxing champion James J. Braddock. Packing powerhouse performances by Russell Crowe and Paul Giamatti, the film received three Academy Award nominations, including best supporting actor for Giamatti. The title of the film is taken from the widely known nickname of Braddock, and follows his struggles as the United States enters the Great Depression. A powerful underdog story, ‘Cinderella Man’ was a commercial and critical success at the time of its release and remains a must watch sports biopic for fans.
8. Fruitvale Station (2013)
‘Fruitvale Station’ marks the first collaboration between ‘Creed’ director duo Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan, and might help the film’s fans to better trace the pair’s artistic journeys. Marking Coogler’s first feature film, ‘Fruitvale Station’ is based on the events leading to the death of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, a young man who was killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale district station in Oakland. ‘Fruitvale Station’ premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival under its original title ‘Fruitvale’, and went on to win the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film. Subsequently, the film appeared in the Un Certain Regard section at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, where it ended up winning the award for the Best First Film.
7. The Fighter (2010)
To begin with, you should watch anything with Christian Bale in it! A funnily, dark character study, ‘The Fighter’ centers on the lives of professional boxer Micky Ward and his older half brother Dicky Edlund. Directed by David. O. Russell, and starring Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo, ‘The Fighter’ distances itself from being a typical sports biopic through its gritty, bordering on the macabre portrayal of its title characters. Issues such as substance abuse, and consequential human guilt find honest representation in the film accentuated by the powerhouse performances of its cast. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, winning the awards for Best Supporting Actor (Bale) and Best Supporting Actress (Leo). This makes ‘The Fighter’ the first film to win both awards since Woody Allen’s ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ in 1986.
6. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Directed, co-produced and scored by Clint Eastwood, the film tells the story of an underappreciated boxing trainer, the mistakes that haunt him from his past, and his quest for atonement by helping an underdog amateur boxer achieve her dream of becoming a professional. Starring Eastwood himself, and Morgan Freeman and Hillary Swank in Academy Award winning roles, the film was deemed “a masterpiece, pure and simple” by Pulitzer Prize winning film critic Roger Ebert. Its screenplay was written by Paul Haggis, based on short stories by F.X. Toole, the pen name of fight manager and cut-man Jerry Boyd. Winning four Academy Awards including the coveted Best Picture, ‘Million Dollar Baby’ has since regularly sprouted up on critics’ lists of best sports dramas.
5. Fat City (1972)
Directed by legendary American director John Huston, ‘Fat City’ is a neo-noir boxing tragedy film starring Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges and Susan Tyrell. Like Creed, ‘Fat City’ also has the guru-protege relationship as its central premise. The film follows the life and struggles of washed out, former boxer Tully who takes the young and talented Ernie (Jeff Bridges) under his wing. It is a sobering and realistic portrayal of the toils of pugilism: the psychological, the physical and the emotional. While describing the archetypal boxing drama, writer and director Huston poetically explains, “Unlike the gambler who throws his money onto the table, the fighter throws himself in.” Upon its release the film was a critical success, eventually being nominated for an Academy Award under the category Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Susan Tyrell’s fantastic, moving portrayal of the alcoholic, world weary Oma.
4. Killer’s Kiss (1955)
Co-written, shot, edited and directed by Stanley Kubrick, ‘Killer’s Kiss’ would help the then young and unknown Kubrick burst into the movie industry. His second feature following ‘Fear and Desire’ (1953), the film is about Davey Gordon (Jamie Smith), a 29-year-old welterweight New York boxer at the end of his career and his relationship with his neighbor, taxi dancer Gloria Price (Irene Kane) and her violent employer Vincent Rapallo (Frank Silvera). Upon its release, critics noted Kubrick’s promising camera work, and control over the cinematic medium. A particular highlight of the film is the fight sequences shot by Kubrick in the cinema-verite style. Other notable elements in the film include location shots in the old Penn Station, which was demolished in 1963, as well as Times Square, and the run down streets of the Brooklyn waterfront and Soho loft areas.
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3. Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)
‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’ is a 1956 American drama film based on the life of middleweight boxing legend Rocky Graziano. Starring Pier Angeli, Everett Stone, and the young and vibrant Paul Newman, the film follows the bittersweet, tumultuous life of Rocky, which takes him through a street gang, prison time, the U.S Army, love, and his eventual title win. The role of Rocky Graziano was originally to be played by James Dean, but eventually went to Paul Newman due to Dean’s untimely, tragic death. A major milestone in the world of boxing biopics, ‘Somebody Up There Like Me’ remains a must watch for fans of the genre.
2. When We Were Kings (1996)
Directed by Leon Gast, ‘When We Were Kings’ is an Academy Award winning documentary film about the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ heavyweight championship match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Marking the only non-film to be included in the list, this documentary is an essential, poignant representation of the African-American politics post the Vietnam War. Ali is shown talking about his beliefs regarding Africans and African-Americans, speaking of the inherent dignity of the native Africans, and his hopes for the race in the future. His relationship with the people of Zaire (where the match was held) is shown, with the mutual love between Ali and the people of the nation contrasted with Foreman’s awkward and unsuccessful efforts to build his own popularity. The film also emphasizes the questionable ethics of locating the fight in Zaire, as it was funded by the brutal dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko.
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1. Raging Bull (1980)
In-spite of constant brainstorming, I was unable to come up with an alternative more deserving of the top spot on this list. If you do, let me know in the comments. What can I write about the film that already hasn’t been written? A milestone in the world of sports biopics, ‘Raging Bull’ stars Robert De Niro, as Jake La Motta, an Italian American middleweight boxer whose self destructive and obsessive rage, sexual jealousy, and animalistic appetite destroyed his relationship with his wife and family. Directed by filmmaker extraordinaire Martin Scorsese, the film is considered a modern classic and one of the finest representations of the ‘New Hollywood’ brand of film-making. Celebrated film critic Roger Ebert named ‘Raging Bull’ as the finest film of 1980, and one of his all time favorite films. The movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning two — Best Actor for De Niro, and Best Editing for Thelma Schoonmaker.
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