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

Director:

Michael Mann

Writers:

Gregory Allen Howard (story), Stephen J. Rivele (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
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Popularity
4,300 ( 109)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 10 wins & 25 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Will Smith ... Cassius Clay / Cassius X / Muhammad Ali
Jamie Foxx ... Drew 'Bundini' Brown
Jon Voight ... Howard Cosell
Mario Van Peebles ... Malcolm X
Ron Silver ... Angelo Dundee
Jeffrey Wright ... Howard Bingham
Mykelti Williamson ... Don King
Jada Pinkett Smith ... Sonji Roi
Nona Gaye ... Belinda Ali
Michael Michele ... Veronica Porche
Joe Morton ... Chauncey Eskridge
Paul Rodriguez ... Dr. Ferdie Pacheco
Bruce McGill ... Bradley
Barry Shabaka Henley ... Jabir Herbert Muhammad
Giancarlo Esposito ... Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr.
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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 favor 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:

Forget What You Think You Know See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama | Sport

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Sony [DVD] [United States]

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French | Swahili

Release Date:

25 December 2001 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Али See more »

Filming Locations:

Ghana See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$107,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$10,216,625, 23 December 2001, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$58,203,105

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$29,510,720
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Black and White (archive footage)| Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Stephen J. Rivele's and Christopher Wilkinson's first draft sprawled across two hundred pages, taking Ali from childhood up to the present. See more »

Goofs

After Malcolm X is killed he is attended to by several men. As they lift up his head the character blinks though he is supposed to be dead. See more »

Quotes

Reporter: Hey, you think it's about time for a hairpiece?
Drew 'Bundini' Brown: What you talking 'bout a hairpiece for? You already done lost all your hair, you cueball headed motherfucker.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The Columbia Pictures logo rolls backwards. See more »

Alternate Versions

A Director's Cut was released on DVD in North America on June 1st, 2004. The runtime of the film is approximately 8 minutes longer at around 165 minutes, but the changes are more significant than it seems: Director Michael Mann deleted about 5 minutes of footage and put 14 minutes of new material in. See more »

Connections

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

Soundtracks

Final Round Pre-Quel
Written and Produced by Bill Brown
Published by Colpix Music, Inc.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
The Biggest Modern Day Character Challenge I can imagine...
18 February 2007 | by wise49See all my reviews

Some people never liked Ali. He is one of those characters who is so strong, most people are forced to either love him despite his weaknesses or hate him. He was one figure in American history who never really needed anybody.

He was a conscientious objector against the Viet Nam war, yet he is honored by presidents of the nation he refused to capitulate with in crimes against humanity. His story is that vital to America.

When Ali was still a teenager, he tried his best to prove his personal excellence in a society prejudiced against black people. He won the boxing gold medal at the Rome Olympics in 1960, yet he came home to Louisville and still wasn't "good enough" buy a sandwich at a white restaurant, because he was black.

He then decided if the gold medal wasn't good enough for America, then it wasn't good enough for him. At this point in his life, when he had nothing else; he took the gold medal and threw it in the river.

He observed the wrestler, Gorgeous George, and admired the way he used the negative energy generated by those who disapproved of him as fuel to become the top attraction and make fools of all those who were against him. He wanted to make people boo him. He proclaimed himself as more beautiful than any creature on the planet. He told the world he was the greatest who ever lived. The more they booed him, the more energy it gave him.

He didn't have a mentor or a manager. He assembled a group of Louisville investors to bankroll him, all by himself. He knew exactly what he wanted from the world, reached out and took it. He made a crown out of it. Nobody gave him anything, and nobody can ever take that away.

He discarded the name of a great white civil rights leader during the civil war and reasoned that if he was really free to be what HE was, then he should take a name that he thought was a natural black person's name. It didn't make sense for others who came before him to fight and win the rights to do whatever they wanted, if they were then going to do nothing but turn around and say "Thank You". He decided in order to validate the fight for freedom, his role was to be free.

Muhammad Ali is played by the maybe the only person in the universe who would dare to even attempt it and he succeeds marvelously; not just in a marginal way, but in a big, big way.

This film isn't just swagger, or an imitation of Ali. This is a deep, sensitive, poignant, and romantic story about one of the greatest public figures of the twentieth century. This man truly is a poet and he's lived the life of a poet. To a great extent, Muhammad Ali made his life a manifesto of truth about the American experience. Of all the stories of the twentieth century in America, this was one of the most important ones to tell.

This film has characters galore: from Jamie Foxx as Bundini Brown, who keeps chanting "float like a butterfly, sting like a beeee!" when everyone in the world thought Ali was going to die at the hands of Sonny Liston; Jada PinkettSmith as Ali's devoutly religious and adoring first wife; MichaelMichele playing Veronica Porche, a beautiful jet set model with whomAli had an affair, to a strong performance by Mario Van Peebles as Ali's conscience; Malcolm X, who forces Ali to think against himself and his adoring Black Muslim following in the interests of right and wrong.

This film has irony, choreography, conflict, humor, drama; and accurately portrays the highest highs of any public figure I've seen in my lifetime, as well as some of the most bitter defeats.

This is about male psychology. This is about female psychology. This is about a religious movement in America. This is about a culture in America and many cultures in America and their struggles to live together and treat each other right and fairly, while trying to do the right thing as concerns their own conscience.

The most glaring weaknesses of any sports film ever made are in the sport scenes themselves. This is the strongest point of this film and also makes it the greatest sports film ever made.

I've been a boxing fan since I was eleven. I was a part of crowds who gathered around Muhammad Ali before he became champion. I know what he looks like face to face. I've watched his boxing films dozens of times, and I'll tell you that the scenes in this movie are perfect reenactments of what actually happened in the ring. This couldn't have been done in less than dozens of takes per scene. They throw punches exactly like the fighters in the real fights. They're in the same part of the ring when they throw those punches. They react to the punches the same way. They even get knocked down in the correct parts of the ring in exactly the same way as the fighters who were in the original fight.

I'm not going to comment on whether it should have won an Oscar for best picture, best actor, best supporting actor, best direction, best photography, best choreography, or other features in the film. Maybe it's better that it didn't win those awards in that year because this film is bigger than any year.

This is the sports film that all others will be judged by from here on out by anyone with any sense of realism and art in movies.

This is one for the ages.


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