In Case You Missed It: When We Were Kings

alikingIt’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these articles, but glancing at my movie collection, I think now is the time, and this is certainly the place.

For those of you new to the site, ‘In Case You Missed It’ is a series of articles devoted to exposing our audience to some really cool films they might not otherwise have noticed.

This time, we’re talking about the 1996 boxing documentary ‘When We Were Kings’.

Not a boxing fan? That’s okay, you’re going to like this one anyway.

Check inside to see why.

Back in the dark ages of 1974 (yes, I was alive then… I’m old) there was a very BAD MAN named Muhammad Ali, and he went to Africa to fight a great Evil Mountain named George Foreman.

This is their story.

Okay… all jesting aside, this film is only about boxing on the surface, but it is a modern fairy tale.

Here are six reasons you should watch this film, even if you’re not a fight fan.

1. ‘When We Were Kings’ chronicles the race relations and political pressures surrounding one of the greatest boxing matches in history, the ‘Rumble In The Jungle’. Although there is quite a bit concerning the fight, it’s important to recognize the historical importance of Ali, and this fight in particular. When you watch the film, remember that Civil Rights were little more than lip service at this point in American history, the backdrop is the Vietnam war and Nixon’s resignation.

2. It’s fascinating to see Ali at his prime, defiant in every way, brilliant in actions and in words. Inside AND outside the ring. To crib a line from Howard Cosell (who appears in the film): Truly a spectacle to behold.

3. This movie is also a reminder that before he sold Foreman Grills with a smile, George Foreman was a FEARSOME boxer. Today, George looks like a cuddly teddy bear… back then, he scared the sh*t out of me. If you want to see one of the most frightening monsters in movie history, this is your chance.

4. Don King imported American musical artists like James Brown, B.B. King, and The Spinners to perform before the fight, many times incorporating African musicians into the shows. There are some great musical performances.

5. If you ever wondered what the phrase ‘Rope-A-Dope’ means, you’ll get your answer… and it just MIGHT make a boxing fan out of you.

6. Although it was shot in 1974, because of mountains of red tape, the film wasn’t released until 1996… and it won an Academy Award for Best Documentary. Every moment of the 22 years it took to get the film in theaters shows; this is a labor of love that came to full fruition.

It’s an amazing film, about a two of the most fascinating people in U.S. history… and it happens to be framed around a boxing match.

Just see it already.

Here’s the link: When We Were Kings [DVD]



  1. Matt, truly agree my friend, saw this movie in early ’97 after its release and before seeing this movie I knew very little about either Ali or Foreman. After seeing this film, I can say that I am a fan of the sport now, and this movie in particular, and even if you’re not,, still a GREAt damn movie! EXCELLENT choice my friend,,, now when are you going to do “The Usual Suspects” and “The Right Stuff”

    • Well… Usual Suspects I can definitely do… Ok, I admit it: I’ve never seen ‘The Right Stuff’.

      I currently have a stack of 40 fairly obscure films that I’m going to tackle, and Usual Suspects is in the pile. Thinking of throwing that in an upcoming feature I’m working on instead… ‘Matt’s Top Ten Films Of All Time: Screw The AFI’.

  2. An awesome movie. It’s really great.

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