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When We Were Kings (1996)

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


Won 1 Oscar. Another 9 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, Muhammad Ali is 32 and thought by many to be past his prime. George Foreman 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 Seko, 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


Documentary | Sport

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
See  »

Did You Know?


Almost all of the footage was shot in 1974. The film took 23 years to complete because the negatives and rights were caught up in civil suits involving the Liberians who financed it. See more »


Malik Bowens: Muhammad Ali, he was like a sleeping elephant. You can do whatever you want around a sleeping elephant; whatever you want. But when he wakes up, he tramples everything.
See more »


References The Mummy (1932) See more »


African Chant
Written by Franco Luongo
Performed by OK Jazz
See more »

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User Reviews

Ignore the anti-"liberal" criticisms of this film
2 February 2000 | by (NYC) – See all my reviews

This is one of the most inspirational films I have seen in quite some time. I remember when this film was given the Academy award for best documentary, and hearing criticisms from some in the so-called "liberal" press (a reason to knock down this straw-man theory) that the film as undeserving of this title. Well after just seeing the film on video and reading some other comments from IMDb users claiming the same thing, I will have to outright disagree.

The point of this film was not about the fight itself or George Forman, (yes he played a role) as some have argued it should have. It was about the symbolism that this fight possessed, especially revolving around Muhammad Ali' and the causes he fought for. Recently ESPN selected the top 100 Athletes of all time (well they should have said American Athletes, but that's our American arrogance for you) and Ali was picked third behind Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan. The definition of "greatest athlete" is ambiguous, but in my mind Ali, through this film and my recent is truly, "The greatest" as he so claimed.

The film did an excellent job of getting as much footage as possible of all that occurred during the preparation that led to the fight and how it symbolized the joining of black people in America and Africa for a common cause in defeating their oppressors (US - white supremacy, and in Africa - European Colonialism). (which was clearly the main focus of the film) Yes, their were flaws in the film, and it was carried by the narration, Ali's unbelievably charismatic personality, and the numerous intelligent quotes that were made by him.

But those that wish to criticize the "music" as they call it, clearly have NO UNDERSTANDING OF BLACK CULTURE. This film was a celebration of it, focusing on GREAT MUSICIANS such as James Brown and B.B. King. These artists represent a significant part of black American culture, and knowing how important it probably was to all of those black Americans to go to Africa to spite the white American culture (which wanted the fight there), which they felt used them, was something that was revolutionary.

Before seeing this film I knew little about the "Rumble in the Jungle," and little about Ali, but after seeing this film, I have come to realize that he really was "the greatest."


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