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7 Movies to Get You in the Fighting Spirit!

Spring is here in the Northern Hemisphere, which means if you’ve been going through the motions the last few weeks of winter, it’s time to step it up! Nothing gets us in the mood to train like some of our favorite martial arts and combat sport movies. 

This list was going to be “7 Best Movies to Get You in the Fighting Spirit,” but it’s actually more because we couldn’t help but include franchises that have stellar sequels. Let’s jump in!

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Here are the Movies to Get You in the Fighting Spirit


warrior tom hardy

What happens when what you’re fighting is suddenly what you have been fighting for? This is answered as two brothers go head-to-head in the octagon. Warrior is a gripping sports drama that delves into the intense and emotionally charged world of mixed martial arts (MMA). Directed by Gavin O'Connor, the film follows the Conlon family, whose lives intersect in unexpected ways through the brutal arena of MMA fighting. Tommy Riordan, played by Tom Hardy, is a troubled war veteran seeking redemption and closure by entering the high-stakes world of MMA. His estranged brother, Brendan, portrayed by Joel Edgerton, is a former fighter turned physics teacher struggling to support his family. As the brothers navigate their own personal demons and complex family dynamics, they find themselves on a collision course leading to a climactic showdown in the ring. Fueled by powerful performances, visceral fight sequences, and profound emotional depth, Warrior explores themes of forgiveness, redemption, and the unbreakable bonds of family, leaving a lasting impact on audiences.

Creed (or II or III)

creed michael b johnson

By seamlessly blending past and present, Creed secures its own legacy while paying homage to its predecessors. Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the son of legendary boxer Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), follows in his father's footsteps, seeking guidance from former heavyweight champion Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Adonis embarks on a journey reminiscent of Rocky's, portraying a young contender determined to prove himself in the ring.

What sets this spinoff apart is its focus on Adonis rather than Rocky, allowing the spotlight to shine on the new protagonist. Directed with finesse by Ryan Coogler, Creed stands out as one of the finest follow-ups in the boxing franchise genre, showcasing a compelling narrative and stellar performances.

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Karate Kid (1984)

karate kid 1984

It seems almost silly to do a synopsis of Karate Kid for Black Belt readers, but here we are. Consider it a refresher! Fewer films bring us this type of  nostalgia along with a renewed desire train and fight like the original Karate Kid.

Daniel (Ralph Macchio) relocates to Southern California alongside his mother, Lucille (Randee Heller), only to encounter harassment from a clique of bullies affiliated with the Cobra Kai dojo, where they study karate. Fortunately, Daniel forms a bond with Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki "Pat" Morita), a modest repairman with an unexpected mastery of martial arts. Miyagi becomes Daniel's mentor, imparting teachings in a compassionate style of karate and equipping him to confront the ruthless adversaries from Cobra Kai.

Ip Man  (Ip 2, 3, 4)

ip man

Like the Creed series, we have included the original and its sequels of Ip Man because they are that good. The Ip Man franchise accomplishes the nearly impossible, having multiple sequels that are commercially and critically successful.  Ip Man is a gripping martial arts film that chronicles the life of the legendary Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, famously known as the mentor of Bruce Lee. Set during the tumultuous period of the Sino-Japanese War in 1930s Foshan, China, the movie follows Ip Man, portrayed by Donnie Yen, as he navigates through challenges posed by the invading Japanese forces. Renowned for his impeccable skills in martial arts, Ip Man becomes a symbol of hope and resilience for his community as he stands up against oppression and defends his homeland. The film showcases exhilarating fight sequences choreographed with precision, highlighting Ip Man's mastery of Wing Chun and his unwavering commitment to honor and justice. 

Ip Man 2 continues the saga of the Wing Chun master as he relocates to Hong Kong after the Second Sino-Japanese War. Set in the 1950s, the film sees Ip Man, portrayed by Donnie Yen, facing new challenges as he struggles to establish a martial arts school and earn respect in a city dominated by British colonialism and corruption. Through a series of intense confrontations, Ip Man defends the honor of Chinese martial arts against rival schools and prejudice, culminating in a climactic showdown with a formidable British boxer. In Ip Man 3,  the legendary martial artist finds himself facing off against a powerful underworld kingpin while also contending with personal challenges, including his wife's illness. As Ip Man squares off against various adversaries, including a ruthless gangster played by Mike Tyson, he must draw upon all his skill and wisdom to protect his loved ones and uphold the values of honor and integrity. In Ip Man 4: The Finale,  the story comes full circle as Ip Man travels to the United States to fulfill his late master's dying wish and confronts racial discrimination in 1960s America. Alongside his loyal disciple, Bruce Lee, Ip Man battles prejudice and hostility in his quest to preserve the legacy of Wing Chun and unite martial artists across cultures. Each installment in the series offers exhilarating action sequences, compelling storytelling, and poignant reflections on courage, resilience, and the enduring power of martial arts.

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Rocky and Rocky II (actually, any of the Rocky films!)


Yes, we know we already have Creed on this list, but it would be a poor list if it didn’t at least include Rocky and (at least) its first sequel. Rocky has earned its status as an icon for numerous reasons. From Sylvester Stallone's ingenious writing to his unwavering determination to both produce and star in the film, Rocky stands out as a boxing movie that has permeated popular culture. Stallone portrays the titular character, Rocky Balboa, a humble Philadelphia boxer who seizes the opportunity to challenge the world heavyweight champion.

The film's immense success and enduring popularity spawned multiple sequels and a contemporary spinoff series. Stallone embodies Rocky with charm, portraying him as a genuine and kind-hearted athlete striving to earn the respect he rightfully deserves. Rocky clinched three of its ten Oscar nominations, including the coveted Best Picture award, solidifying its status as a timeless classic in the genre and a must-watch for cinephiles.

In our view, Rocky II holds its own just as admirably. The sequel delivers a gripping rematch between Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) and Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), as both fighters grapple with their pride in distinct ways. While the second installment may not have garnered the same critical acclaim and accolades as its predecessor, it nevertheless achieved success at the box office.

Stallone continued to produce and star in four additional films as Balboa: Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky V, and Rocky Balboa. These boxing features received mixed reviews from dedicated fans as Rocky's journey unfolded over a span of 30 years. However, among the franchise's entries, Rocky II stands out as a solid installment, primarily due to Stallone's remarkable performance as he confronts Weathers' formidable character once again.

Everything, Everywhere, All At Once


This Oscar-winning film does a spectacular job at showcasing what it means to fight and when to stop fighting. This over-the-top martial arts, fantasy, drama stars Michelle Yeoh as she fights off actual villains and the inner demons of her multi-universal daughter. Winning the Academy Award for Best Picture, the fight scenes are often hilarious and surprising, but the way Yeoh’s character fights for her daughter is the true power of the film. 

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Million Dollar Baby

million dollar baby clint eastwood

While this might not have the happiest ending, it’s a powerful tale about fighting for your chance despite age, gender, class, or even environment! This Oscar-winning Best Picture serves as the cornerstone of female boxing films, showcasing the resilience and determination of a formidable woman in a demanding sport. Hilary Swank takes the lead as Maggie, a struggling waitress with aspirations of becoming a champion boxer, who persuades seasoned boxing trainer Frankie (portrayed by Clint Eastwood) to mentor her. With Morgan Freeman serving as both narrator and supporting character, "Million Dollar Baby" clinched four out of its seven Oscar nominations. This woman-driven boxing film serves as a poignant reminder that the sport demands unwavering fortitude, standing out among its iconic counterparts for its remarkable ability to inspire audiences with its compelling narrative.

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