100 Movies You Need to See Before You Die

Raging Bull (1980)

Country: USA
Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenwriters: Paul Schrader, Mardik Martin
Stars: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci, Nicholas Colasanto, Theresa Saldana, Frank Vincent

Go ahead and make a list of the Best Sports Movies and place Raging Bull at the top. It's the easy decision, because most sports movies suck, largely because they can't their heads out of the game.

Martin Scorsese's best film is about the headspace of the athlete, in this case boxer Jake LaMotta. For a sports movie, there's little time spent in the ring, and when the cameras do move between the ropes, it's into a ring that's shaped formally by LaMotta's ferocious and roiling interiority. Go back and watch the fights again—you'll see that Scorsese distorts the canvas, shrinks it or makes it vast, depending on LaMotta's mood. During one bout, he filmed the fight with fire burning beneath the lens, and the waves of heat distort the images.

Get out of here with the sports nonsense. Raging Bull is about the inherent ugliness of masculinity as its been conceived of for generations. Being a man in Raging Bull means being warped by jealousy, inferiority, self-loathing. It's maleness as monsterousness. No wonder the Academy gave the 1980 Best Picture award to Ordinary People, a living room drama. The truth wasn't pretty enough. —RS

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