Ali

Critics Consensus

Though perhaps no film could fully do justice to the fascinating life and personality of Muhammad Ali, Mann's direction and Smith's performance combine to pack a solid punch.

67%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 153

65%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 107,223
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Movie Info

The life story of heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, following the champ's early days as Cassius Clay and his rise in sports and politics, including his controversial refusal to fight in the Vietnam War and his infamous comeback battles against Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

Cast

Will Smith
as Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali
Jon Voight
as Howard Cosell
Jamie Foxx
as Drew `Bundini' Brown
Ron Silver
as Angelo Dundee
Jeffrey Wright
as Howard Bingham
Nona Gaye
as Belinda
Joe Morton
as Chauncy Eskridge
Paul Rodriguez
as Dr. Ferdie Pacheco
Barry Shabaka Henley
as Herbert Muhammad
Giancarlo Esposito
as Cassius Clay Sr.
Laurence Mason
as Luis Sarria
LeVar Burton
as Martin Luther King Jr.
Lawrence Mason
as Luis Sarria
Albert Hall
as Elijah Muhammad
David Cubitt
as Robert Lipsyte
Ted Levine
as Joe Smiley
David Elliott
as Sam Cooke
Michael Bentt
as Sonny Liston
James Toney
as Joe Frazier
Alfred Cole
as Ernie Terrell
Charles Shufford
as George Foreman
Bruce McGill
as Bradley
Shari Watson
as Woman Singer
Malick Bowens
as Joseph Mobutu
Rufus Dorsey
as Floyd Paterson
Robert Sale
as Jerry Quarry
Vincent Cook
as Jimmy Ellis
David Haines
as Rudy Clay/Rahaman Ali
Victoria Dillard
as Betty Shabazz
Brad Greenquist
as Marlin Thomas
Morgana Van Peebles
as Malcolm X's daughter
Maya Van Peebles
as Malcolm X's daughter
Maestro Harrell
as Young Cassius Clay
William Utay
as The Doctor
Kim Robillard
as Jimmy Cannon
David Purdham
as Madison Square Garden Announcer
Gailard Sartain
as Gordon Davidson
Wade Williams
as Lieutenant Jerome Claridge
Guy Van Swearingen
as Induction FBI man
Doug Hale
as Judge Ingraham
LaDonna Tittle
as Bundini's landlady
Marc Grapey
as Bob Arum
Herb Mitchell
as Boxing Commissioner
Eddie B. Smith
as Malcolm's Bodyguard
Bob Stuart
as Thomas Johnson
Patrick New
as Room Service Guy
Ron OJ Parson
as Death Newsman
Ellis E. Williams
as Family Photo Man
Alexandra Chun
as Asian Cosmetologist
John G. Connolly
as Assistant Director
David Prudham
as Madison Square Garden announcer
Jack Reiss
as Referee Arthur Mercante
Marty Denkin
as Frazier Flight II Announcer
Tamara Lynch
as Flight Attendant
Theron 'Chico' Benymon
as Hampton House Announcer
Bill Plaschke
as Miami Weigh-In Reporter
Steve Springer
as Miami Weigh-In Reporter
John Ortiz
as Madison Square Garden reporter
Robert Byrd
as Willie Reddick
Cedric Wills
as Jersey Joe Walcott, Referee
Moses Hollins
as Man on Train
Daniel E. Gurevitz
as Boxing Commission Reporter
Ray Bokhour
as Reporter
Leonard Termo
as Madison Square Garden Reporter
Johnny Ortiz
as Madison Square Garden Reporter
Mark Salem
as New York Reporter
Sheldon Fogel
as New York Reporter
Jim Gray
as New York Reporter
Billy Melvin Thomas
as Harlem Neighbor
Natalie Carter
as Harlem Neighbor
Poe Poe
as Harlem Reporter
Mel Dick
as Louisville Sponsoring Group
Kim Coleman
as Lana Shabazz
Victor Manni
as Dressing Room Weigh-In Guy
Will Gill Jr.
as Dick Sadler
Sylvaine Strike
as ORTF Interviewer
Denis Luposo
as Kinshasa Reporter
Sharon Wilkinson
as Rose Jennings
Carol Hatchett
as Pointer Sister
Judith Mwale
as Pointer Sister
Keabetswe Motsilanyane
as Pointer Sister
Richard Katanga
as Mobutu Aide/Military Aide
Thomas Kariuki Matheri
as Lieutenant Nsakala
Larry Hazzard Sr.
as Zack Clayton
Derrick Brown
as Larry Holmes
Rommel Hyacinth
as The Pilot
Virgil Graham Hopkins
as London Banker
Daniel Janks
as CIA Man
Bradford E. Lang
as Black Pilot
Michael Dorn
as Black Pilot
Daniel J. Robbertse
as Reporter in Zaire
Graham Clarke
as Reporter in Zaire
Dimitri Cassar
as Reporter in Zaire
Frank Notaro
as Reporter in Zaire
Mark Mulder
as Reporter in Zaire
David Hess
as Reporter in Zaire
Nathaniel Malekane
as Archie Moore
Millard Arnold
as Doc Broadus
Edda Collier
as Blonde French Reporter
Wei Yi Lu
as Chinese Delegate
Lee Cummings
as Hunter Thompson
Zaa Nkweta
as Foreman Fiight Announcer
Themba Gasa
as Idi Amin
Andrew P. Jones
as Don King's Aide
Marc Kulazite Mboli
as Additional Aide to Mobutu
Cimanga Kalambay
as Additional Aide to Mobutu
Jean Bikoi
as Additional Aide to Mobutu
James Gilbert
as Sparring Partner in Africa
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News & Interviews for Ali

Critic Reviews for Ali

All Critics (153) | Top Critics (36) | Fresh (103) | Rotten (50)

  • I respect it enormously, but it feels like an art film in search of a movie. Mann recognizes the importance of Ali as an entertainer, but he's in danger of forgetting how to be one himself.

    Mar 31, 2008 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Newsweek
    Top Critic
  • The film gives Ali his due by refusing to idealize him or to gloss over his failings.

    Oct 3, 2002
  • Mann's compelling account of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali captures the considerable impact and charisma of the man who literally punched his way into the American consciousness.

    Jan 29, 2002 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Danny Graydon

    BBC.com
    Top Critic
  • Ali is a far more complex creature than this movie allows for.

    Jan 22, 2002
  • It is well-intentioned, sketchy, sprawling and unremarkable. At two hours and 38 minutes, it is also long-winded and exhausting.

    Jan 9, 2002 | Full Review…

    Rex Reed

    Observer
    Top Critic
  • This could be the only movie we'll get on the fighter, and it's just not good enough.

    Jan 8, 2002 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Ali

  • Jun 05, 2016
    Leave it to Michael Mann to craft such an audacious, offbeat, and occasionally frustrating portrayal of Muhammad Ali. I get why it has a reputation for mostly disappointing people but I like that the movie defies convention both in narrative and style. In regards to Smith, he's best when playing Ali's charismatic and transgressive public persona while he falls flat in scenes that require more nuance. With stronger central performance, this might have been a masterpiece.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 19, 2014
    This movie is probably Will smiths best movie. Will smith is a brilliant actor. He plays the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. I expected more of a boxing movie but it was more about religion and Alis life outside of boxing. Muhammad Ali was a Muslim and he worshiped Elijah Muhammad. Elijah Muhammad was the leader of nation of Islam, and Muhammad Ali wanted to spread hes message thru boxing. Muhammad Ali was a smart boxer, he made hes opponents angry before the match by teasing them and calling them names. This is a movie you probably have to see, probably one of my favorite movies. "Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee. You're hands cant hit what you're eyes cant see" 4 Stars 4-7-14
    Bruce B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 17, 2013
    Michael Mann's Ali is an average boxing film about the Muhammad Ali, one of the most famous boxers who has ever lived. Unfortunately, I felt that this film wasn't a testament to his career, and though good, it leaves a lot to be desired. Will Smith is pretty goods ion the lead role, and he departs from his usual action films by delivering a dramatic performance. However, this is not a standout feature like Scorsese's classic Raging Bull. Mann is able to craft some terrific films, however this is one of his weaker one. Considering the subject, you'd expect something truly great, but the end result is a film that has plenty of flaws. I liked it, but I felt that it could have been much better than what was filmed. Will Smith is for me, a decent actor, and with this film, was his first real dramatic role, as he was more of an action star in the first place. He would later make better dramatic films, but Ali leaves a lot to be desired, especially considering that the subject is about one of the most famous boxers in the history of the sport. This should have been much better and it is one of those films that never realizes its full potential. The script should have been reworked to make it a much better picture that told a truly engaging story. Ali is an average film that never really satisfies. I feel that the ultimate biopic on Muhammad Ali has yet to be made. Michael Mann has made better films, but as it is Ali is good, but is far from a great picture.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Apr 20, 2012
    Ali-ali-oxen-free! Yeah, I know that was cheesy, but hey, it's no cheesier than Will Smith, who is actually supposed to be believed as one of the greatest, manliest champions in boxing history, and actually pulls it off. It's one of the only times he's ever been totally believable as a black man, so I guess it would seem as though Michael Mann whipped him into shape, which is to be expected, considering that his name is actually "Mann". Of course, he's still got Eric Roth at his back, pulling him back into the cheese zone, which, don't get me wrong, I don't mind too much, just as long as it gives Eric Roth some work, because the boy still knows how to whip up a sceenplay, but boy, does he get admittedly sappy at points. So, this is a Michael Mann film on one of the manliest men ever, but it stars a real cheeseball and is written by a big cheeseball, so I guess the man factor kind of cancels out. It's the most half-manly-half-cheesy film out there, or at least when you look at the components of the film, because when you look at the final product, oh man, is it mantastically manliness, manned by man-y a manly moment... man. Okay, maybe it's not that manly either, but it's still pretty cool, though not quite slick enough for its missteps to just slide off. I know that Eric Roth is "the" long script writer, even if that script is being touch by three other people (That should tell you how much I like him, considering that it's actually "Mann's" script, as well as that of two others), but really, this film wastes no time in wasting time, with the first 10 minutes being a montage set to soul music, and then we follow that up with that overlong slow-dance brawl between Ali and Liston, which, don't get me wrong, I understand is being portrayed like it really was, but come on people, tighten it up a bit. Well, I guess the film heard me when I said that, because after that first Ali/Liston brawl at the beginning, it dropped much of the looseness. However, the problem is that the film also drops much of the oomph that made those dragging moments still engaging in the process, and while the looseness of cut loose enough for you to not fall out of the film, because of the dilution of intrigue, the film just doesn't pack to hard of a punch for the longest time. It's never terribly slow to the point of being boring, but things do dry up awful fast and quite often, further plaguing a story already tainted by some degree of squandered potential in execusion. I'm not going to dwell on judging this film's portrayal of Muhammad Ali as much as other critics very much have, but this is a very worthy, very unique story that, contrary to the consensus' belief, could easily be done as well as you would hope, were in the hands of a great director, yet as things stand, while Michael Mann is perfectly competent, his interpretation of the legend is a smidge dry, a little bit underwhelming and - dare I say it - even rather generic, both as a boxing film and biopic. However, although the film doesn't land the hardest blow in the world, it definately hits just hard enough to hold your attention. It's not stellar, but it is certainly compelling, with resonance and intrigue when it needs it most, while the rest of the film still goes powered by, well, a fair deal of aspects, including style. Now, the film isn't nearly as stylized as other Michael Mann films, nor is its cinematography even all that impressive, but the film is still quite handsome and engaging in its subtle artistry that touches the film with much livliness, particularly during the boxing sequences, some of which do go on longer then they should, but are always engaging, with tension and flare intensified by the style, as well as some brilliant editing and sound design, making for boxing sequences that marry realism with drama in a mostly tight and thoroughly effective fashion. Still, the film's highest points are not at all the boxing sequences, because although the film isn't as consistent as it should be with emotional oomph, with some golden moments in soundtrack and powerfully meditative moments in atmosphere, there are genuine moments of resonance, whether it be during the fall segments of Ali's rise-and-fall story or even a certain event involving Malcolm X, which was treated immensely more respectfully and emotionally with Malcolm X as a come-and-go secondary character than Spike Lee treated it with Malcolm X as the center of an epic. Now, in all fairness, that's not saying much, considering that the way Spike Lee treated that major event at the end of "Malcolm X" was realistic, but pretty ridiculous when it hits you that you just sat through an almost three-and-a-half hour film, only for something that should have been emotional to come off as just plain pretty messed up; but eitherway, the point is that, while this film will laps in engaging resonance, it does pack moments of powerful intrigue and even emotion to break up the underoomph (Yeah, I made that word up, what of it?). Still, even when the film isn't delivering as thoroughly as it should, you're still kept going by, if nothing else, the charm, which may not be terribly faithful to Ali's charisma, but still wins you over, even during the less effective dramatic moments, which still have enough charisma to earn your investment and interest. Really, the film doesn't kill as a docudrama, but it has its moments while still being consistently fascinating, and for that, credit goes out to Eric Roth's charming scr-I mean, Michael Mann's, Steven J. Rivele's, Christopher Wilkinson's "and" Eric Roth's neat screenplay that goes executed decently enough by Mann, as director. Still, the real man that carries this film is, of course, Will Smith, who's recognizably as charming as always, only this time, he throws in a subtle touch that makes all the difference. Don't get me wrong, this is Will Smith, and you never forget that, but immediately, effortlessly and subtley, Smith does the amazing and transforms all but entirely, not necessarily into Muhammad Ali, but another man, all together, and while he isn't given enough material to top off that transformation with awesome slam-bang acting, he glows in certain parts, but never doesn't impress, embodying the unique charm, confidence and personality that made the legendary boxer who he is, as a fighter, an icon and a person, and watching Smith become that is an experience, in it of itself. At the sound of the bell, it's hard to not walk away a touch underwhelmed by a deal of slow spots and lack of oomph, made all the worse by a conventional tone and storytelling, yet the film battles on, powered by handsome style, as well as a fine screenplay and many a golden moment in genuine resonance - both during the action and in the sidelines -, which isn't to say that there's not still plenty of consistent charm, ameliorated by a strong, transformative performance by Will Smith, ultimately leaving "Ali" to stand as a rather improvable, but still thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating portrayal of the boxing legend to end all boxing legends at his lowest and highest. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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