When We Were Kings (1996)

PG  |   |  Documentary, History, Sport  |  14 February 1997 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 11,708 users   Metascore: 83/100
Reviews: 55 user | 62 critic | 21 from Metacritic.com

A documentary of the 1974 heavyweight championship bout in Zaire between champion George Foreman and underdog challenger Muhammad Ali.


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Won 1 Oscar. Another 8 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Mobutu Sese Seko ...
Himself (President of Zaire)
Himself - Writer
Himself - Writer
Thomas Hauser ...
Himself - Artist (as Malik Bowens)
Lloyd Price ...
Himself - Concert Promoter
The Spinners ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Drew Bundini Brown ...
Himself - Ali's Ass't Trainer (as Drew 'Bundini' Brown)


It's 1974, Muhammed Ali is 32 and thought by many to be past his prime. George Forman is ten years younger and the Heavyweight champion of the world. Promoter Don King wants to make a name for himself and offers both fighters five million dollars apiece to fight one another, and when they accept, King has only to come up with the money. He finds a backer in Mobutu Sese Suko, the dictator of Zaire and the "Rumble in the Jungle" is set. A musical festival, featuring the America's top black performers, like James Brown and B.B. King, is also planned. Written by Gary Dickerson <slug@mail.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The untold story of the Rumble in the Jungle

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for images of violence, brief nudity and some language | See all certifications »




Release Date:

14 February 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Amikor királyok voltunk - Muhammad Ali  »

Box Office


$2,666,118 (USA) (6 June 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


When the film won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary, George Foreman and Muhammad Ali came to the stage with the filmmakers to show they had made peace long since the bout shown in the film. To that end, their friendship was warm enough for Foreman to help Ali, by then stricken with Parkinson's Disease, climb the steps to the stage. See more »


Muhammad Ali: I'm young, I'm handsome, I'm fast, I'm pretty and can't possibly be beat.
See more »


Referenced in Bongwater (1998) See more »


Musical Interlude
Written by Tabu Ley Rochereau
Seigneur Rochereau
Performed by L'Orchestre Afrisa International
See more »

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User Reviews

a great documentary
15 October 2003 | by (Germany) – See all my reviews

This film won a slew of critical praise (as well as quite a few awards) and it deserves all of them. Muhammad Ali is the most amazing athelete of the twentieth century and perhaps the most beloved boxer of all time. A public poll once showed that people all over the world recognized him more then the President of the United States. Maybe its because he is such an ill, tragic figure today that this film is so important because it shows him in all his glory when he was not just a magnificent boxer but a ringing voice of social conscience as well. This film shows him again in all his glory when he took on the seemingly invincible giant George Foreman. George is such a beloved figure now that people have forgotten that when he first won the Heavywieght Crown from Joe Frazier in 1973, that he was as dreaded and feared as Sonny Liston was in his heyday. Howard Cosell was one of Ali's most ardent supporters (he was one of the first to call him by that name and support him in his opposition of the draft) and yet even Cosell said that he didn't think that Ali could beat George Foreman. Ali had lost to Joe Frazier and Ken Norton and had barely won rematches with them, and Foreman knocked both of them silly in less then two rounds. Ali was almost 33 years old and considered all washed up and yet he showed no fear against this man. He told the public "You think you were shocked when Nixon resigned, wait till I whip George Foreman's behind!!!" This film brings that time and place in Zaire, Africa to life. Don King is a despicable character and yet he was a genius in promoting this fight in Africa. He said it was like from slaveship to championship. The symbolism was just tremendous. Norman Mailer and the late George Plimpton are two of the writers who most observed Ali and they both offer wonderful insights during the course of this film. They are especially good when they talk about the fight itself and how they both had a ringside seat. George Plimpton saw Bobby Kennedy shot and yet I don't think he was much more astounded when he saw what happened in that ring when Ali pulled off an amazing upset and knocked out Foreman to begin another glorious championship rein. It is almost comical when they show their shocked faces as Ali delivered the knockout blow. The best part of the film is where they play the song "When We Were Kings" at the end and show a montage of Ali's fights during his amazing career. You will look at these and realize how awesome this man truly was!!!

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