When We Were Kings


Universal acclaim - based on 21 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 21
  2. Negative: 0 out of 21

Where To Watch

Buy On

Critic Reviews

  1. On a deeper level -- and this is where When We Were Kings exceeds its expectations and becomes a great film -- Gast examines African American pride.
  2. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    Leon Gast's remarkable film -- which is intercut with terrific recent interviews with eyewitnesses Norman Mailer and George Plimpton -- is about much more than one stupendous fight.
  3. It took director-producer Leon Gast 22 years to edit and finance When We Were Kings, his thrilling documentary about the legendary 1974 heavyweight-championship fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire. But the lag time has only deepened the impact of this thrilling documentary: All sad thoughts of Ali as a wounded warrior fall away in the glow of seeing the champ at his best.
  4. Gast does a nice job of building the suspense leading up to the fight, fleshing out the story with some good color commentary by a handful of people (filmed by director Taylor Hackford, who wisely convinced Gast that these reminiscences and remarks would fill in some historical gaps).
  5. 90
    The seemingly total access and seemingly total coverage the film makers enjoy makes us forget at times that this isn't some Hollywood fabrication.
  6. Mr. Gast skillfully blends photographs, celebrity interviews with Norman Mailer and others, and colorful forays into the Zairian countryside, where Ali fostered black brotherhood and became a huge favorite, in a film that ''gazes well beyond the ring and seeks engagement with history''.
  7. 90
    For those who want to relive Ali's glory days, and for those who think Ali was nothing but a prizefighter, this movie, which took the struggling Gast 20 years to get financed, is required viewing.
  8. 90
    The documentary is, in essence, not much more than a record of what happened in Zaire, but it has been assembled with a real feeling for the historical moment. It's literally a blast from the past.
  9. 90
    When We Were Kings is a wonderfully entertaining, at times thrilling, film. Ali is magnificent, Foreman oddly touching, and their fight, which is shown almost in total, makes for superb, nail-biting suspense--even two decades after the fact.
  10. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Tightly made and populated by a uniformly larger-than-life cast of characters , pic is a total delight for every second of its running time.
  11. The stunning vitality and passion of this film arises not only from the high-voltage personalities involved (especially Ali and King) but from the way they galvanized political and ethnic pride among the people of the poor West African nation.
  12. 80
    Though the Oscar-nominated documentary captures the fight and the fighters, it also explores Ali's role in reintroducing black Americans to their African culture.
  13. 75
    It is a new documentary of a past event, recapturing the electricity generated by Muhammad Ali in his prime.
  14. 75
    A wonderfully nostalgic, and occasionally insightful, window into the recent past.
  15. Fascinating footage goes beyond the boxing ring to document Ali's brilliance as a public personality.
  16. 70
    When We Were Kings, which was put together by Taylor Hackford and Leon Gast, is a patchy movie that fails to rise to the grace and articulation of its main attraction. But it has Ali, and when he's on-screen, that's enough.
  17. 70
    When We Were Kings is an energetic, passionate documentary of this event, and a revelation for people who only know Ali as an ex-champ with Parkinson's and Foreman as a Care Bear.
  18. The resulting film does have a makeshift quality to it, with the new footage, old newsreel shots, circa 1974 interviews, film of the fight and the concerts stitched together in a kind of cinematic crazy quilt. But because a classic heavyweight championship fight, especially with these protagonists, epitomizes the drama inherent in sport, When We Were Kings always compels our interest.
  19. Gast doesn't hide his admiration for the charismatic Ali, whose antics provide the film's most enjoyable moments.
  20. The film's title ought to be When We Were King's Pawns. Don King maximized the media circus aspects from the start, as the razzle-dazzle directing of Leon Gast, helped in the editing by Taylor Hackford and others, makes electrically clear.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 16 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 2
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 2
  3. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. BhavikP.
    Jun 14, 2006
    very good movie the best documentary film i have ever watched in my life.