Metascore
83

Universal acclaim - based on 21 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 21
  2. Negative: 0 out of 21
  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. 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.
  3. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    100
    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.
  4. Reviewed by: Jimmy Chertkow
    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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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''.
  8. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    90
    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.
  9. Reviewed by: Desson Howe
    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.
  10. 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).
  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.

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