Watch Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight
- 1 hr 37 min
Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight is a 2013 biographical drama film that depicts the story behind the United States Supreme Court case, Muhammad Ali vs. the United States of America. The film stars award-winning actors Christopher Plummer, Frank Langella, and Ed Begley Jr. The movie is directed by Stephen Frears with Shawn Slovo serving as the screenwriter. The film takes place in 1971, seven years after Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight champion title and boxing license as a result of his refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam War. Ali, who had famously proclaimed, "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong," was a vocal opponent of the war and refused induction citing his religious beliefs as a Muslim. Ali was subsequently convicted of draft evasion, barred from the professional ring, and sentenced to five years in prison. The movie begins with a recap of Ali's career, highlighting his many victories, and his rise to fame as one of the greatest boxers of all time. The film portrays the larger context of the 1960s civil rights movement and the anti-war protests, in which Ali was a significant figure. It is within this critical backdrop that the movie presents the Supreme Court Case, Muhammad Ali vs. the United States of America. Viewing the movie, viewers are presented with a brief history of the Supreme Court and how it operates when the case is presented before the justices. The movie then introduces the nine Supreme Court Justices who will be hearing the case: Arthur Goldberg (Frank Langella), William Brennan (Peter Gerety), Potter Stewart (Barry Levinson), Thurgood Marshall (Danny Glover), Byron White (Donald Moffat), Warren Burger (Fritz Weaver), Lewis Powell (Harris Yulin), William Rehnquist (John Bedford Lloyd), and Harry Blackmun (Benjamin Walker). The latter two Justices, Rehnquist and Blackmun, are the newest members of the court, while Goldberg was a former Secretary of Labor under President John F. Kennedy. The Supreme Court case centered around the question of whether Ali's refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam War was grounds for rejecting him a boxing license by the New York State Athletic Commission. The Commission had suspended Ali's license, arguing that his refusal to join the military contradicted the principles of public service, which were requirements for having a license in the state of New York. During oral arguments, Goldberg, a former labor secretary, represented Ali, arguing that denying Ali a boxing license due to his refusal to join the military was an "unreasonable" restriction on his rights to employment. Frank Langella, playing Goldberg, delivers a nuanced performance, conveying the determination and passion that the late Supreme Court Justice had for civil rights and labor law. As the other justices participate in Goldberg's arguments, they not only deliberate on Ali's case but also dissect the broader political and ethical implications of the Vietnam War and the draft. The justices are seen struggling and parsing through the legal, constitutional and ethical challenges of the case. They tackle tough questions like what it means to be patriotic, whether a denial of service based on religious belief violates equal protection under the law, and can the government regulate an individual's involvement in war. Also, the film retraces events that led to the Supreme Court's decision. It shows how the justices agonized over their decision and how they were eventually able to put their political and ideological differences aside and rule in favor of Ali. Overall, Muhammad Ali's Greatest fight is a compelling and thought-provoking drama that touches on the broader issues of civil rights, patriotism, and dissent in a democratic society. It tells the story of an athlete whose courage and convictions outside the ring were put on trial, and how his case helped to redefine the role of sports figures in the larger social and political issues of their time. Even though the film is nearly a decade old, it remains a relevant piece of cinema with a poignant message that remains valid today.