The Greatest (1977)

PG   |    |  Biography, Drama, Sport


The Greatest (1977) Poster

Muhammad Ali stars as himself in this dramatized version of his life story up to the late 1970s. It includes his Olympic triumphs as Cassius Clay, his conversion to Islam, his refusal of ... See full summary »


6/10
1,310


Videos


Photos

  • Muhammad Ali and Annazette Chase in The Greatest (1977)
  • Muhammad Ali in The Greatest (1977)
  • Muhammad Ali in The Greatest (1977)
  • Annazette Chase in The Greatest (1977)
  • The Greatest (1977)
  • The Greatest (1977)

See all photos

Get More From IMDb

For an enhanced browsing experience, get the IMDb app on your smartphone or tablet.

Get the IMDb app

Awards

2 wins.

Reviews & Commentary

Add a Review


User Reviews


23 July 2011 | Bunuel1976
6
| THE GREATEST (Tom Gries and, uncredited, Monte Hellman, 1977) **1/2
The original (and nominal) director here, Tom Gries, died of a heart attack while the film was still in production; somewhat perversely, Monte Hellman (who usually had to struggle to set-up his own personal projects) seemed like the go-to-guy in similar situations – since he would be assigned similar 'doctoring' duties on AVALANCHE EXPRESS (1979), whose own viewing preceded this one! While it was most probably green-lit in the wake of the boxing sleeper hit (and surprise Oscar triumph) ROCKY (1976), earlier in the decade another film on a black champ within this particular sporting field had emerged i.e. THE GREAT WHITE HOPE (1970) – in which James Earl Jones had been Oscar-nominated for his turn as Jack Johnson and who, here, turns up briefly as yet another controversial historical figure, Malcolm X (himself the subject of a 1992 film, where he would be interpreted by Oscar contender Denzel Washington).

Anyway, it was a rarity to have the protagonist of a biopic played by the man himself; legendary Muhammad Ali – formerly known as Cassius Clay – 'performs' adequately enough under the circumstances (though some disparagingly opined that he was unconvincing!), so much so that he would later star in the made-for-TV American Civil War epic FREEDOM ROAD (1979). For the record, his life-story would also be treated in a number of documentaries, such as a.k.a. CASSIUS CLAY (1970) and the Oscar-winning WHEN WE WERE KINGS (1996) – both of which I own but have yet to check out – as well as Michael Mann's more thorough feature ALI (2001; for which star Will Smith would also be up for a Best Actor Oscar). Incidentally, the name-change was from Clay to Ali occurred when he changed his faith from Christianity (rejecting it for being "the white man's religion 'mandating' that the black man suffer while on Earth and reap his rewards in the afterlife"!) to Muslim (the boxer's association with the revolutionary Malcolm X would be frowned upon by his promoters, while Ali's pacifist views would land him in trouble with the authorities when he refused to be drafted in the Vietnam War, whereupon he was stripped of his titles!).

Thankfully, the script (by sports authority Ring Lardner Jr. and an uncredited Bill Gunn, perhaps best-known for his radical take on the vampire theme with GANJA & HESS {1973}) does not whitewash its subjects, depicting Ali as misogynistic (liberally seducing white women and dominating those of his own color) and brash (openly aggravating his opponents in order to throw them off-balance) and Malcolm himself as delusional. The heavyweight bouts themselves are presented briefly via stock footage, with more time allotted to the 1974 "Rumble In The Jungle" with Ali making a spectacular comeback facing George Foreman (actually exclusively dealt with in the afore-mentioned WHEN WE WERE KINGS – by which time the protagonist would have become afflicted with Parkinson's Disease, though he did turn up unannounced at the awards ceremony!) and which ends THE GREATEST itself on a high note. Such powerful moments are intermittently felt throughout, but the end result does not really prove the compelling portrayal that was clearly intended!

In fact, among its deficiencies, one has to include the movie's soundtrack – composed of equal parts sappy songs by George Benson (notably "The Greatest Love Of All") and a pulsating score (during the ROCKY-type training sessions) that are very evocative of its era, that is to say, feel dated at this juncture! Nor is the film helped in any noticeable way by the star-studded supporting cast – highlighting Ernest Borgnine (as Ali's trainer), John Marley (his doctor), Robert Duvall (the afore-mentioned flustered promoter), Ben Johnson (as an early supporter), a thinned-down Paul Winfield (as his defence counsel) and Roger E. Mosley (as Sonny Liston, the heavyweight champ he first lost to and then triumphed over).

Critic Reviews


2020 TV Guide: The Best Shows Coming This Year

Look ahead at which TV shows are still set to premiere in the rest of 2020, including Prime Video series "Utopia" and Season 2 of "The Mandalorian."

Browse our picks

Around The Web

 | 

Powered by ZergNet

More To Explore

Search on Amazon.com