Raging Bull is the greatest film ever made. It’s not the first great movie I’ve seen and it won’t be my last, but I don’t think that anything will displace it at the top of my “Pyramid of Cinematic Greatness.”
I think it will stay at the top because I have never seen a film be so good in so many aspects. The acting is terrific, with Robert DeNiro delivering the best performance in a lifetime of great performances. The supporting cast is also great, with Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty providing foils to DeNiro’s degenerate middleweight champion protagonist, Jake LaMotta.
The B&W cinematography is extremely well done. Rarely will you see such pristine black and white footage as you will in this film. The editing in the boxing scenes is highly impressionistic, with all sorts of quick cuts and zooms, which contrasts with the general stillness of the rest of the film.
The story is perhaps the most polarizing part of the film. It is a great story, of the rise and fall of one of boxing’s toughest legends. What makes the story difficult for some viewers is how unlikeable Jake La Motta is. His jealousy and short temper ensure a film full of tirades and beatdowns against, fellow boxers, his brother, his wife and anyone who comes in his path.
To me, this film is made so well that despite LaMotta’s antagonistic behaviour, Raging Bull is still one of the most powerful and heartbreaking films ever made. The masterful execution by director Martin Scorsese and his crew is so perfect, that I felt great sorrow and pity for Jake and the people he turned against him.
Below is a highlight in a film that is full of highlights.