Is there anything in film quite as dramatic as watching two gladiator-quality athletes throw a truly epic beatdown on each other in the ring, especially when the stakes—professional, emotional, even existential—are sky high? A powerfully choreographed and tightly edited screen fight has worked durably through the history of cinema, from 1931’s The Champ right up to the modern-day Creed films.
We’re leaning hard into classic movie confrontations in the ring and beyond here, featuring all-too-mortal combatants (no soaring wuxia warriors, superheroes, or spies on this list). Whether these brawlers are pummeling a competitor with brutal jabs, hooks and uppercuts, leveling opponents with roundhouse kicks or grappling a foe to the mat, they’ve all made us feel their triumphs and their tragedies. Here then, in alphabetical order, are some of the screen’s most brilliant and bruising matches.