A biography of sports legend Muhammad Ali, focusing on his triumphs and controversies between 1964 and 1974.

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(story), (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 10 wins & 25 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Cassius Clay / Cassius X / Muhammad Ali
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Storyline

In 1964, a brash new pro boxer, fresh from his olympic gold medal victory, explodes on to the scene, Cassius Clay. Bold and outspoken, he cuts an entirely new image for African Americans in sport with his proud public self confidence with his unapologetic belief that he is the greatest boxer of all time. To his credit, he sets out to prove that with his highly agile and forceful style soon making him a formidable boxer who soon claims the heavyweight championship. His personal life is no less noteworthy with his allegiance to the Nation of Islam, his friendship with the controversial Malcolm X and his abandonment of his slave name in favour of Muhammad Ali stirring up controversy. Yet, at the top of his game, both Ali's personal and professional lives face the ultimate test with the military draft rules are changed, making him eligible for military induction during the Vietnam War. Despite the fact that he could easily agree to a sweetheart deal that would have meant an easy tour of ... Written by Kenneth Chisholm <kchishol@rogers.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Champ is here! See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama | Sport

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some language and brief violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

25 December 2001 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Али  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$107,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$10,216,625 (USA) (21 December 2001)

Gross:

$58,183,966 (USA) (8 February 2002)
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Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:

| |

Color:

(archive footage)|

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Chicago's Northwest Armory, at 1551 North Kedzie Avenue, doubled as both New York's Audubon Ballroom backstage and Houston's induction center. The wall to the left as Malcolm X walks down the hallway moments before his death is the opposite side of the wall on the viewer's right when seeing Ali on the drill floor refusing induction. The wall at the end of the hallway and the door through which X walks were constructed for the film, as was the trim around the supply room doors along the side. Unusual for films, the travel through the induction sequence accurately depicts the same building's exterior and interior; the cars pull up in front of the armory on the Kedzie side, the actors walk through the Kedzie foyer, and onto the drill floor, consistent with the building's actual layout. The drill floor was also featured in the video for R. Kelly's 'I Believe I Can Fly'. See more »

Goofs

The officer at the induction center wears the belt of an Army officer (black), indicating that he is an Army captain, yet he wears his rank like a Naval or Coast Guard lieutenant (with the bars' center line bisecting the collar angle, and lacking branch insignia on his left collar). See more »

Quotes

Muhammad Ali: [to Joe Frazier] You look like the heavyweight champion of pimps.
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Crazy Credits

In the opening credits, as the main title fades away the A of Ali lasts a little longer than the other two letters. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Half in the Bag: Red Tails (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

Somebody Have Mercy
(Sam Cooke Medley)
Written by Sam Cooke
Produced by Trevor Horn and Michael Mann
Performed by David Elliott
Published by Abkco Music, Inc.
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Meet the man behind the gloves and the poetry
18 July 2005 | by (Vulcan) – See all my reviews

Muhammad Ali is a heroic character with legendary wit, humanity, and boxing skill. Always a fighter and always a lover, Ali's life is a subtle and clever story of dignity, strength, and compassion. And Ali himself wrote that story. This film profoundly reminds me of an autobiography Ali wrote several years ago with the help of a friend. Never afraid to do what needed to be done to get where he wanted to go, Ali was never a stranger to controversy, flambuoyance, acid wit, and an outspoken promotion of truth - even when most of his own fans couldn't see it. This film captures the champ's many battles, not the least of which are the internal battles he wages with himself over politics, his ego, money and his own destructive patterns in relationships with women. But thankfully, it does so in a respectful way which does not compromise the man's heroism, nor does it spare the audience of the laughter, mischief and joy Ali became so well known for.

Michael Mann's film has relatively little boxing in it, and is in no way a chronicle of Ali's career. A better choice for that subject is "The Greatest" - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076111/combined starring Ali himself, or one of the many documentaries on Ali. This film is about how and why Ali is who he is, and how he drove himself and everybody around him to reach phenomenal heights. It features the beginnings of Ali's career and follows him through the most difficult part of his career, when he fought the US government over the Viet Nam war, fought his own religious establishment over his outspokenness, and even fought against hypocritical promoters he relied on who were bent on exploiting the third world. Too intelligent to just be a prize fighter, too passionate to just shut up, and too faithful to give up his religion when it gave up on him, Ali just kept on driving. The film ends after Ali's fight against George Foreman in 1977, so it does not cover his entire career, and does not discuss his more recent activities. His life since retiring from boxing is equally interesting, in my opinion, but since Mann wanted to depict the most dramatic and challenging aspects of the Ali legend, I can't blame him for his choice of time frame.

The cast is very strong. Will Smith gives a fine performance wonderfully recasting Ali's wonderful facial expressions, gestures, physical style and speech pattern, Jamie Foxx, Ron Silver and Mario Van Peebles are all excellent in their supporting roles. And the boxers are all very believable. They even look like the people they play. Smith doesn't really look anything like Ali, and you are occasionally aware (mainly through Smith's imitation of the greatest's very unique speech) that you are watching an imitation, but this does not in any way detract from the film.

Highly recommended for those interested in real-life drama and heroism, the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and the intelligent and political side of American sports. NOT recommended for fans of boxing movies and action films. This is a slow moving, intense drama and neither a feel-good film nor a slug-fest.


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