'Raging Bull': Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro's Iconic Boxing Movie Turns 40

One of the most iconic sports films of all-time is 40 years old. Raging Bull was released nationwide on Dec. 19, 1980, and starred Robert De Niro as boxing star Jake LaMotta who was a former middleweight champion. The film is directed by Martin Scorsese and based on LaMotta's memoir Raging Bull: My Story. It was well-received by critics and moviegoers, leading to multiple awards including two Oscars and One Golden Globe. Raging Bull was the first film to be selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in its first year of eligibility in 1990.

The film took a look at LaMotta's life as a boxer during the 1950s. However, it also took a very close look at his obsessive rage and sexual jealousy, which led to him destroying his relationship with his wife and family. Due to the storytelling and action in the ring, Raging Bull is considered the best film of the 1980s. In June 2008, the American Film Institute ranked the 10 best sports movies of all-time, and Raging Bull came in at No. 1 ahead of Rocky, The Pride of the Yankees and Hoosiers.

The interesting thing is Scorsese had no interest in directing the film at first, "I didn't know anything about boxing," Scorsese said in a 2010 interview with Vanity Fair. "It was always one angle on TV or in the movie theaters, where they'd show the fights on the weekend. I didn't know what the hell was going on. It was sports, which took me out of the picture." Scorsese eventually agreed to direct the film after starting to relate to LaMotta's story. It turned out to be a good move as Raging Bull is considered by many as the best film he has ever made.

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"My picture's really about that process, not boxing," Scorsese said in a 1981 interview with Derek Malcolm. "The idea was a kind of rebirth, the possibility of redemption. It's about guilt, sin and trying to find some sort of salvation so that you can be at peace with yourself, so that you don't either kill yourself or other people." De Niro's performance as LaMotta was praised, which led to him winning the Oscar for Best Actor. It was the second Oscar win for De Niro, winning his first in 1974 as Best Supporting Actor in The Godfather Part II.