When We Were Kings


Action / Documentary / Sport

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 98% · 51 reviews
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 94% · 5K ratings
IMDb Rating 7.9/10 10 19195 19.2K


Top cast

Spike Lee as Himself
George Foreman as Himself
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
759.78 MB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 28 min
Seeds 1
1.35 GB
English 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 28 min
Seeds 24

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by AlsExGal 9 / 10

A great documentary about an epic battle

If such an event as the Foreman/Ali fight occurred today, this film would probably not be such a big deal. That is because we would have pretty much round the clock cable coverage of the event courtesy ESPN. However, given that this fight occurred in 1974, this is the closest thing you are going to get to the kind of coverage you would see if that event was held today. In spite of the reversal of fortune that this fight gave to both Foreman and Ali's careers, this film really does not focus on either one of these individual fighters that much. Instead, it gives you a real feel for the excitement surrounding the fight overall, with significant commentary by George Plimpton and Norman Mailer, who were both there to cover the event.

Of course there are segments on Foreman and Ali, and at the end, after the segment on the fight itself, there is basically a tribute to Ali both through his words and then through a series of still shots showing highlights of his life and career. However, I also learned quite a bit about Don King, the guy who made the fight happen, and how this event helped him "break out of the pack" when it came to managing fights and fighters. However, there is no romanticizing of the man. They mention both his strong points - his incredible intellect and that he always seemed to have a quotation from Shakespeare for ever occasion - and his weaknesses, mainly that he was "amoral in his handling of the individual fighters' careers". These are the film's words, not mine. Interviews and footage of the fighters and their staff preparing both physically and mentally for the big "rumble in the jungle" are skillfully interspersed with footage of the sportswriters of the 70's marking up copy and working old-fashioned teletypes back in the age before computers were common, along with film of the inhabitants of Zaire going about their daily life often balancing huge baskets on their heads, and also shots of the live entertainment going on including some great footage of B.B. King and James Brown. Also included is a little bit of explanation as to why the people of Zaire found Ali so endearing versus George Foreman. They said they found Ali to come across as "a real person". Apparently the fact that Foreman was so monosyllabic most of the time did not help his image overseas.

The footage of the fight itself is very good considering it was shot in 1974. Mailer and Plimpton do a great job of explaining everything that is going on at each phase of the fight, including trying to get inside Ali's head as to what he might have been thinking as he employed first one strategy and then another against his mountain of an opponent.

The film does mention that losing to Ali threw Foreman into a two year depression, and when he emerged he reinvented himself to the point that, as Norman Mailer says in the film, "you would be hard pressed to find someone more affable than George Foreman is today." The postscript on Ali is interesting too. Mailer mentions that after this fight, Ali went on to fight 22 times, and all of these additional fights ruined his health. Mailer mentions that it is often said that you wind up destroying the thing you love, but in Ali's case it was the thing he loved that ultimately destroyed him, or at least his physical health.

This is a very good and complete portrait of a unique sports event and the very interesting people involved. You don't have to be a boxing fan to enjoy it. If you enjoy a good tale about the triumph of an underdog, the intersection of two very different cultures, and anecdotes about some of the more interesting sports figures of the 20th century, you'll like this film. I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by boblipton 8 / 10

There Can Only Be One King

Leon Gast's documentary about the 1974 "rumble in the jungle" championship fight between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali is...

Well, is it even about that, or is it about Ali? I incline to the view that it is the latter. Foreman is not much seen before the fight, and never speaks. Ali is all over the place, talking about his strategy, his love for Africa. We hear celebrities of the day, and boxing commentators. Foreman remains a brooding, fear-inspiring, mysterious opponent, who plans to corner Ali and beat him to death.

Of course, that's not the way it happened, and when this Oscar-winning film came out, more than two decades after the fight, everyone knew it then. So are the film makers trying to evoke the tension in the Ali camp at the time, that he was going to get himself beaten to death for half the $10,000,000 purse, or just to make the story better? Or a combination of the two? Probably the combination. Whichever it is, it's a well told story, and put together very well with talking heads and clips of the time edited together very well.

Reviewed by lee_eisenberg 10 / 10

Muhammad Ali will ALWAYS be the greatest!

Probably what makes "When We Were Kings" especially effective is the opening: Muhammad Ali, explaining his plan to participate in a boxing match in Zaire, declares "Africa is the home of the black man." I had actually never heard of the Rumble in the Jungle before this documentary came out, but one need only watch it to see just how great Ali was (and always will be). As for the possibility that it meanders too much with the interviews, I say that it's good to get different people's insights into what an important part of our national heritage Ali is.

So anyway, this is a documentary that I wholeheartedly recommend. Also featuring George Foreman (happy birthday, George!), James Brown (RIP), Spike Lee, B.B. King and Mobutu Sese Seko in footage.

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