Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight

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Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight
Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight poster.jpg
Television release poster
Written by Shawn Slovo
Directed by Stephen Frears
Starring Christopher Plummer
Frank Langella
Ed Begley, Jr.
Peter Gerety
Barry Levinson
John Bedford Lloyd
Theme music composer George Fenton
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Scott Ferguson
Cinematography Jim Denault
Editor(s) Mick Audsley
Running time 97 minutes
Production company(s) Sakura Films
Rainmark Films
Distributor HBO Films
Original network HBO
Original release
  • October 5, 2013 (2013-10-05)

Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight is a 2013 American television drama film about the late boxer Muhammad Ali's refusal to report for induction into the United States military during the Vietnam War, focusing on how the United States Supreme Court decided to rule in Ali's favor in the 1971 case of Clay v. United States. The film was directed by Stephen Frears, from a screenplay written by Shawn Slovo based on the 2000 book Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight: Cassius Clay vs. the United States of America by Howard Bingham and Max Wallace.[1][2] It premiered on HBO on October 5, 2013.



Hank Steuver of The Washington Post commented that the film, focused as it was on the behind-the-scenes legal discussion of the Supreme Court's justices and law clerks, and depicting one of Harlan's law clerks (a character that was "a fictional composite of several clerks") as playing a central role in the court's decision to free Ali, was at times "too much like a substandard episode of The Paper Chase" and "more Wikipedia entry than story, as characters speak to one another in long paragraphs of legal exposition". The Post did have positive comments about the lead performances of Langella and Plummer.[1] Christopher Howse of The Daily Telegraph said the film "was worth watching in the comfort of the home, but if it had been shown in a cinema, it would hardly have been worth stirring from the fireside for."[3] Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times also commented on the excellent performances of the cast, while concluding that "[t]he legal wrangling of eight old white men behind closed doors simply pales in comparison" to Ali's part of the story.[4]

Ali is not portrayed by an actor in the film, but instead Frears made repeated use of actual television news clips of Ali boxing, giving interviews, and performing. These clips of the actual Ali are mentioned in multiple reviews as among the best elements of the film.[1][3][4]

The film has a rating of 38% in Rotten Tomatoes,


  1. ^ a b c Stuever, Hank (October 3, 2013). "HBO's 'Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight': Interesting legal footwork, but no knockouts". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  2. ^ Bingham, Howard; Wallace, Max (2000). Muhammad Ali's greatest fight: Cassius Clay vs. the United States of America. New York: M. Evans. ISBN 978-0-87131-900-5. 
  3. ^ a b Christopher Howse, "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight, Sky Atlantic, review", The Daily Telegraph, October 29, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Mary McNamara, "TV review: 'Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight' stays out of the ring", Los Angeles Times, October 5, 2013.

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