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Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight (HBO)

4.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From director Stephen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity, HBO's The Deal) and writer Shawn Slovo (Catch a Fire) comes a behind-the-scenes look at Muhammad Ali's historic Supreme Court battle for Conscientious Objector status to the Vietnam War, and a portrait of the changing tides of this country during that turbulent time. Guided by his principles, Ali refused induction into the Army, enduring a protracted legal battle that saw him convicted of draft evasion, stripped of his boxing title, and banned from the sport. Meanwhile, as anti-war sentiment grows across America, Chief Justice Warren Burger (FRANK LANGELLA) ushers in the dawn of a new conservative era on the Court. At the start of the 1970-71 term, his conservative compatriot, Justice John Harlan II (CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER), interviews left-leaning, anti-war Kevin Kennedy (BENJAMIN WALKER) to serve as his clerk. But for Harlan, a rigorous and fair-minded jurist, politics and personal opinion have no place in the law, and he hires Kennedy for his substantial intellect. When the Court hears Ali's case, the majority votes to deny Ali. Burger assigns Harlan to write the opinion, a task that Harlan passes along to Kennedy. Kennedy struggles with the decision, and in researching Ali's beliefs, Kennedy realizes that Ali does fulfill all the conditions for Conscientious Objector status. But when he presents his findings to Harlan, the Justice rejects his opinion. Unable to support what he feels is an unjust decision, Kennedy writes it as he is told but agonizes over his resignation letter. Harlan, recently diagnosed with cancer and facing the end of his career, is convinced to read the Black Muslims' leader Elijah Muhammad's book Message to the Blackman in America and subsequently reconsiders his passionate young clerk's recommendation. The usually stoic and careful Harlan flips his vote, creating a 4-4 tie. Knowing a tie vote will still result in Ali going to jail, Harlan lobbies the other Justices to find the decisive fifth vote. After Harlan's friend, Justice Potter Stewart, helps form a narrower opinion, the Justices, Warren Burger included, change their votes in order to overturn Ali's conviction. Ali goes on to win the World Champion title for the second time.

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Product Details

  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Warner Archive Collection
  • DVD Release Date: December 10, 2013
  • Run Time: 92 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00EFFW0TK
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,096 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Fine acting, good direction - never apparent nor showy. This is a very good film. A must see so that one can learn about both the issue presented to the court and how the arguments went to get to the final decision. Plummer and Longella at the top of their game.
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This made for TV movie had a great cast and told an even greater story. It provided a behind-the scenes view of the Supreme Court. The cinematography was beautiful and the acting was top notch. It was fascinating to see the scenes play out of the Nixon era 40+ years later. Don't miss this one; it is enjoyable on many levels.
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Seeing Christopher Plummer play my real-life grandfather, Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, is nothing short of a thrill. The movie is a slow burn but builds very effectively and gives insight into why the law is so important in the U.S.
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Excellent movie that really gives you an inside look at how judges and the Supreme Court Justices think, change their minds, write opinions...and even are swayed by public opinion sometimes. Even more so, it shows just how much their law clerks influence their decision-making and voting. I loved that it uses real footage of Ali. Upon refreshing my memory of each of the justices, I think the movie was spot on with casting. An inspiring and excellent movie all the way around.
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Great behind-the-scenes look at the SCOTUS judges and of the legal arguments for this particular case. The editing, including the footage of Ali and of the events taking place during that time period adds to the tone and allows the viewer to become even more vested into the goings-on that influence the judges' decisions. Unfortunate how politics sometimes rears its head into certain judicial decisions. Highly recommend this movie to fans of the law and fans of Ali.
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Wonderfully acted and meticulously costumed and staged. Plummer and Langella are especially good. The use of actual footage of Ali lends a great mood to the film. This is an intimate and insightful look at the inner workings of the Supreme Court during a very explosive and fragmented period in our history. I remember these events well and this movie does justice to them.
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Great reflection on history, the inner workings of the Supreme Court and the courage of a remarkable sports figure of modern times.
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Format: DVD
I'm a Supreme Court buff. I just watched this movie last night, quite a while after its release, because I guess HBO didn't promote it that much. Is this too arcane or difficult for non-lawyers? The answer is definitely "no." They do a good job of handholding the audience to introduce them to the few aspects of court procedure that need to be explained and how things work, etc. If anything, it's a little "dumbed down," but I appreciate that while I didn't need the dumbing down, plenty of other people DO, so I'm fine with it. They did a great job of highlighting the justices' character traits, though they are a bit TOO much of a caricature of the actual men. Sadly, the only one they did a BAD job of representing was Hugo Black, who strove to be every bit as apolitical as Harlan did. He was a lot more clever and charming than they make him out to be here. Many of the justices' signature lines or quirks make it into the script, showing that they did their homework but made it accessible. In the end, they probably picked a bad case to highlight because it didn't make real lasting precedent like so many of the other cases did. The drama of the minority/dissent becoming a unanimous majority opinion happened even more famously in Brown v. Board of Education. That was going to be 5/4 in favor of continuing legal segregation until the chief justice had a stroke, died, was replaced by Earl Warren, and the case was reargued the next year. Many other case (Roe v. Wade among them, which is actually discussed in this movie) were far more important cases. There are a few moments that are just over-the-top corny (clerk: you changed your mind? Harlan: No..no...you changed MY mind.).Read more ›
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