The Great White Hope (1970)

The Great White Hope


No Top Critics Tomatometer score yet...


Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

This film, based on the Broadway play, is a fictionalized character study of Jack Johnson, the first black boxer to win the heavyweight championship. Johnson becomes romantically involved with a white woman, and the couple is faced with blistering racism from the sport and society.

Rating: PG-13 (For thematic elements, and for language including racist dialogue.)
Genre: Drama, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Howard Sackler, Howard O. Sackler
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jan 11, 2005



as Jack Jefferson

as Cameron

as Mama Tina

as Cap'n Dan

as Scipio

as Frank Brady

as French Promoter

as Sister Pearl

as The Kid

as English Official
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for The Great White Hope

All Critics (7) | Top Critics (3)

Jones' re-creation of his stage role is an eye-riveting experience. The towering rages and unrestrained joys of which his character was capable are portrayed larger than life.

Full Review… | January 14, 2008
Top Critic

One of those liberal, well-meaning, fervently uncontroversial works that pretend to tackle contemporary problems by finding analogies at a safe remove in history.

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

Provocative but never challenging.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

James Earl Jones commands the screen in what is the peak of his film career.

Full Review… | February 7, 2015
Dial M For Movies

The movie is too theatrical and every idea is spelled out for the audience, but the acting of James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander (both Oscar-nominated) is good.

Full Review… | October 1, 2009

The love story between Alexander and Jones is touchingly portrayed.

Full Review… | January 14, 2008
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Audience Reviews for The Great White Hope

The actual history is quite distorted but both James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander give great performances.

jay nixon

Super Reviewer


a fictionalized account of the fascinating life of jack johnson, the first black world heavyweight champ, 1908-1915, played powerfully by james earl jones. for the incredible true story of perhaps the greatest heavyweight champ of all time, see ken burns' terrific pbs documentary unforgivable blackness: the rise and fall of jack johnson ~5 stars if i could find it in flixster's database!

Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

Howard Sackler's screenplay holds pretty closely to his stage play script, which I read shortly before watching this. The interracial relationship between Jack Jefferson (Jones), who represented real-life heavyweight champ Jack Johnson, and Eleanor (Alexander) is the most interesting feature of the story. Sure the period details provide a unique setting. The sports lingo of the early part of the twentieth century along with the racial slurs show a world that has rarely been presented on the screen. As Jack dodges the charges brought against him under the Mann Act by moving around internationally, the different cultures of the different countries are not so clearly represented, although the fact that the world was racist and not just America comes across well. The final boxing match scene in the play is all from the point of view of spectators outside the stadium. With the cinematic representation, we do get to see the two men slug it out. Though the makeup for this final fight scene is not very natural, James Earl Jones as Jack gives a performance throughout that shows both Jack's defiant energy and his defeated exhaustion.

Byron Brubaker

Super Reviewer

The Great White Hope Quotes

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