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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.


Leon Gast
Won 1 Oscar. Another 11 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Muhammad Ali ... Himself
George Foreman ... Himself
Don King ... Himself
James Brown ... Himself
B.B. King ... Himself
Mobutu Sese Seko Mobutu Sese Seko ... Himself (President of Zaire)
Spike Lee ... Himself
Norman Mailer ... Himself - Writer
George Plimpton ... Himself - Writer
Thomas Hauser Thomas Hauser ... Himself
Malick Bowens ... Himself - Artist (as Malik Bowens)
Lloyd Price Lloyd Price ... Himself - Concert Promoter
The Spinners ... Themselves
Miriam Makeba ... Herself
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Drew Bundini Brown 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 »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

14 February 1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Amikor királyok voltunk - Muhammad Ali See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

$2,666,118, 8 June 1997
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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 »


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


Referenced in The Life Coach (2005) See more »


Am Am Pondo
Written by Miriam Makeba
Miriam Makeba Music (ASCAP)
Performed by Miriam Makeba
See more »

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User Reviews

I'm young, I'm handsome, I'm fast, I'm pretty and can't possibly be beat.
25 May 2007 | by lastliberalSee all my reviews

Leon Gast created the best documentary of 1997. Of course, he had the greatest fighter of all time as his subject, so it wasn't too difficult.

I could not watch this film without significant reminiscing. I was in the seminary in 1964 when Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston. I vividly remember all of us gathered around to listen to the fight. Of course, those in the know predicted a Liston victory. No one knew what to make of the brash young fighter that said what he felt and refused to bow to the establishment.

I was in Vietnam when he was in jail. I did not feel one bit of animosity towards him. I was doing what I felt was expected of me, and he was doing what he believed was right. If he had been anyone else, he would not have lost five of the best years of his life. I can only admire him for having the courage to stand tall in the face of hatred.

After Vietnam in the years leading up to the "Rumble in the Jungle," I was very much into boxing. I was living in Tampa at the time and would catch the fights at the National Guard Armory, both amateur and closed-circuit. I would also be there to see acts like James Brown.

By the time he was ready to retake his crown, I was out of the country again; this time in a remote section of Iceland. I was overjoyed to see him on top again. It was something of a vindication of his decision. He was always a classy individual and was concerned about those who were not leading lives that were in their best interests. He gave back more than he ever got from his country.

After he retired, I lost interest in boxing. Those who followed him as Heavyweight Champions did not have the class he had and it was hard to get excited about them. Mohammed Ali stands alone in the sports world. Sure there were greats like Babe Ruth and Willie Mays, and I remember great pitchers like Warren Spahn, Don Drysdale, and Whitey Ford, but the were replaced by even better players. I played basketball for a while, so I watched Bob Cousy, The Bird, and Abdul Kareem Jabbar, but they were replaced by Michael Jordon and others who were better. We forget Nicklaus and Palmer as we now have Tiger Woods. It is the same in any sport except boxing. I was there from the beginning to end of the career of the greatest boxer of all time, and there is no need to look at anyone ever again.

He was The Greatest, and i am grateful to Leon Gast for bringing this story to the screen and giving me another opportunity to see him, as well as relive the music of the late James Brown.

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