As martial artists, we tend to always have a role model to look up to or an incredible story to draw inspiration from. And many times, we get our motivation and inspiration to train harder from films! Whether they’re documentaries, based on real-life events, or pure fiction; no one can deny the unique ability films have to move and inspire us.
1) Cinderella Man
About: An incredible story based on the life of James Braddock (Russell Crowe), a supposedly washed-up boxer who came back to become a champion and an inspiration in the 1930s.
Cinderella Man is based on the true story of Irish-American boxer James J. Braddock. In reality, Braddock was a promising light-heavyweight boxer before suffering a chronic hand injury that would force him out of a life of fighting to work on the docks and collect social assistance in order to feed his family during the Great Depression.
The film covers his first career run as a boxer in the 20s, the struggles he faced in retirement due to injury, and the unbelievable comeback that earned him the nick name “Cinderella Man”. The film will no doubt inspire you, regardless of whether you’re a martial artist or not.
2) Facing Ali
About: 10 of Muhammad Ali’s former opponents and legendary heavyweight boxers discuss their lives, careers, and experiences with Ali in and outside the world of boxing.
There have been many documentaries covering the life and career of the great Muhammad Ali, but none like this one. Facing Ali is a documentary about Ali told from the perspectives of some of his most notable opponents in the ring including George Chuvalo, Joe Frazier, Ron Lyle, Leon Spinks, George Foreman and many more. The legendary boxers discuss their own lives, careers, bouts against Ali, how he changed the world, and the touching stories of how he inspired and helped them in life.
About: Rocky Balboa (Slyvester Stallone), a small-time boxer gets a supremely rare chance to fight the heavy-weight champion, Apollo Creed, in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should be familiar with Rocky. Till today, it remains the most popular boxing movie franchise of all time. Familiar with the popular inspirational quote “It’s not about how hard you can hit; it’s about how hard you get hit and keep moving forward”? The Rocky movies are filled with quotes like these! The film is the inspirational story of the underdog rising to the occasion, battling doubts and fears and proving the haters wrong. A must watch for anyone looking to be inspired.
About: From a starving teenager who fought to feed his family, to a Congressman working tirelessly to improve the lives of his people, Manny is a hard hitting feature length documentary film that explores the many triumphs and tribulations of Filipino boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao.
It’s no secret that Manny Pacquiao had to overcome insurmountable odds to become one of the most loved and respected athletes of all time. The documentary takes you through the incredible story of the boxing icon, from his humble beginnings, to becoming a superstar known by millions around the world. Highlighting the battles and struggles Pacquiao had dealing with fame, fortune, and his relationship with God, Manny will inspire you to fight on despite the obstacles you face.
About: An estranged family finds redemption in the unlikeliest of places: the MMA ring. Tommy (Tom Hardy), an ex-Marine with a tragic past, returns home and enlists his father (Nick Nolte), a recovering alcoholic and former wrestling coach, to train him for “Sparta,” the biggest MMA tournament ever held. But when Tommy’s underdog brother, Brendan (Joel Edgerton), fights his way into the tournament, the two brothers must finally confront each other and the forces that pulled them apart.
Warrior is still considered to be perhaps the best Mixed Martial Arts films ever made. The film tackles family problems and daunting pasts to bring you one of the most inspirational “overcoming-adversity” stories ever told on film. The film features notable real-life MMA fighters and the fight scenes are also one of the most accurate MMA action sequences you’ll ever see in a movie.
6) When We Were Kings
About: In historical footage and new interviews, this documentary explores the events of perhaps the most famous heavyweight championship boxing match of all time: the “Rumble in the Jungle” between champion George Foreman and challenger Muhammad Ali.
If you’re not familiar with the legend of Muhammad Ali, When We Were Kings will help you paint a picture of the man many consider to be the greatest boxer to ever live. Covering the events of Ali’s bout against George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle”, this documentary will show you why self-belief is the most powerful arsenal you can ever possess in life.
7) Blessed With Venom
About: A ground breaking documentary that chronicles the life and career of Australian Muay Thai superstar and 7 time World Champion, John Wayne Parr.
A champion, devoted family man and all round nice guy, John Wayne Parr is a genuine hero and an inspirational story of courage. Respected by his opponents, dearly loved by his friends and family, and an idol to his legion of fans, “Blessed with Venom” presents an intimate insight into the incredible life of “The Gunslinger”.
If you’re a Muay Thai fan, then you’ve got to watch this documentary. It features countless Muay Thai legends and also highlights many of the important aspects, traditional practices, and etiquettes that make Muay Thai such a rich and beautiful martial art.
8) Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth
About: A fascinating journey into Mike Tyson’s storied life and career, presented by Tyson himself.
“This is my story, my mistakes, my heartaches, my joy, my sorrow, my gift, my life, my undisputed truth.” This line sums up this incredibly funny, edgy, and first-of-its-kind live one-man show presented by the baddest man on the planet himself, Mike Tyson. This performance will not only keep you thoroughly entertained, it will teach you that life is a never-ending work in progress that should be lived to the fullest even through hardships, failures, and pain.
9) I Am Bruce Lee
About: I Am Bruce Lee is the amazing story of one of the greatest icons ever to enter the public consciousness, the first film to truly tell Bruce Lee’s story in his own words and actions, as well as through the eyes of the international stars from the worlds of film, television, music and sports.
Bruce Lee is without a doubt the most famous martial artist of all time. He elevated martial arts in film to an art form, and this documentary will reveal why Bruce Lee’s flame burns brighter now than the day he died over three decades ago.
I Am Bruce Lee features interviews with some of the greatest martial artists, atheletes, actors, directors and more including UFC President Dana White, NBA Superstar Kobe Bryant, boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, actor Mickey Rourke, legendary martial artist Dan Inosanto, and more. This documentary will inspire you with the definitive story of a man whose legacy will endure forever.
So what are you waiting for? Grab some popcorn and a box of tissues and be ready to be entertained and inspired!