The 4 Best Documentaries on “The Rumble in the Jungle”

“The Rumble in the Jungle”, the legendary boxing showdown in 1974, was more than just a fight.

It was like the Super Bowl, World Series, and Oscars rolled into one sweaty, electrifying night in Kinshasa, Zaire.

First off, you’ve got Muhammad Ali, the poet laureate of punch, the guy who could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

He’s up against undefeated George Foreman, a human wrecking ball.

It’s like pitting an aging Batman (Ali) against a young-in-his-prime Incredible Hulk.

Ali entered with an impressive record of 42-2, with 31 knockouts.

However, he was coming off a loss to Joe Frazier in 1971 as well as a split decision win over Ken Norton in 1973 after originally losing to Norton the year before.

Meanwhile, Foreman entered as an undefeated fighter with a staggering 40-0 record featuring 37 knockouts.

He had destroyed Frazier and Norton in dominating fashion prior to the Rumble in the Jungle bout.

In short, Foreman was slaying giants…and Ali (now an underdog) was up next.

People were worried Ali might not just lose, but get hurt. Bad. Howard Cosell said so much.

“Rumble in the Jungle” is the debut of Ali’s legendary “Rope-a-Dope” move.

He lets Foreman hammer away while he chills on the ropes. It’s like letting the other team run up the score, knowing you’ve got a secret playbook.

“The Rumble in the Jungle” wasn’t just important; it was mythical.

Here are the best documentaries about the Rumble in the Jungle!

The first 2 are so good that they made my Best Boxing Documentaries list (which currently ranks 15 docs).


1) Rumble in the Jungle (BBC)

I give this BBC doc the edge over “When We Were Kings” (also amazing). It’s half the length and feels more like you’re watching the actual “Rumble in the Jungle” match.

Plus it’s free on YouTube.

BBC jumps right in.

Picture this: Ali, the underdog, the poet-warrior, walking into a sweltering Kinshasa arena.

It’s Ali vs. Foreman, but it’s more than a fight; it’s a chess match in boxing gloves.

The venue’s backstory is wild – tickets sold for an arena with no seats. Foreman, arriving with police dogs, unwittingly turns the crowd pro-Ali.

It’s like showing up to a Celtics game in a Lakers jersey.

Ali, using his charm offensive, wins over the locals faster than a Steph Curry three-pointer.

The doc, with a production team of Will Bryant, Neil Davies, and Victoria Madson, and research by Matthew Bowers, makes it feel like you’ve got a ring side seat to history.

The first 21 minutes? All about the hype, the build-up, the mind games.

Foreman’s pre-fight injury almost derails the whole show. Ali, ever the showman, makes sure Foreman doesn’t bail. The fight gets pushed back, but the anticipation only builds.

Then, it’s eight rounds of strategic warfare.

Ali, a 5 to 1 underdog, is like Rocky going against Drago, but smarter. He flips the script with his Rope-a-Dope strategy, absorbing Foreman’s best shots while chilling on the ropes. It’s like watching a master tactician baiting his opponent into a trap.

In the ring, Ali defies his team’s advice, going toe-to-toe with Foreman.

It’s not just a fight; it’s Ali composing a symphony of punches, psychology, and sheer guts.

His “Rope-a-Dope”? It’s a revelation, like unveiling the three-point line mid-game.

Post-fight, Ali’s in-ring poetry and Foreman’s devastation are laid bare. Foreman, crushed, takes a year to recover from the loss.

Ali, ever the king of trash talk, cements his legacy not just as a boxer, but as a strategic genius.

“Rumble in the Jungle” is a study in psychology, strategy, and the art of war, played out in a boxing ring.

Watch it for free on YouTube at

2) When We Were Kings

“When We Were Kings” is the flashier Oscar-winning (1996) doc on the Rumble in the Jungle match.

It’s directed by Leon Gast and he uses 88 minutes to go deeper than the BBC “Rumble in the Jungle”.

This isn’t just the Ali-Foreman fight; it’s a cultural phenomenon.

Gast doesn’t just replay the punches; he sets the stage – Zaire, 1974, a time capsule of politics, music, and sports.

It showcases the 1970’s as a timie where boxing matches were seismic events, shaking up more than just the sports world.

What makes “When We Were Kings” unique is the literary and music flaire.

Gast brings in voices like Norman Mailer and George Plimpton for the literary touch.

It’s like having a super-articulate New Yorker do play-by-play.

And the music? It’s a festival – James Brown, B.B. King. They turn the film into a foot-tapping, soul-stirring experience.

Ali’s charisma is front and center, but it’s more than his bravado.

The film delves into his political and cultural impact. He’s not just a boxer; he’s a symbol, a hero larger than life.

It’s like watching Muhammad Ali, the cultural icon, not just the world champion.

“When We Were Kings” stands out because it’s not just about a fight; it’s about an era.

Watch “When We Were Kings” on:

3) The “Rumble in the Jungle” part of of Ken Burns “Muhammad Ali” Miniseries

Ken Burns covers the Rumble in the Jungle in part 4 (“Round Four: The Spell Remains” ) of the “Muhammad Ali” docuseries.

“Round Four” covers the entire 1974 to 2016 period but Rumble in the Jungle is of course the star of that episode.

The rest of “Round Four” includes the ‘Thrilla in Manila” fight against Joe Frazier, his battle with Parkinson’s and his humanitarian efforts around the world.

IMDB gives “Round Four” a rating of 8.7/10 (90 votes).

You can watch “Round Four” (and the entire Ken Burns series) for free on Hoopla (with library card) at

Watch the entire “Round Four: The Spell Remains” on PBS (with subscription (requires donation)) at

Or, you can watch the 4 minutes of it for free on YouTube by clicking the embed video above or going to

Other streaming options are at

4) George Foreman vs Muhammad Ali Entire fight – Rounds 1 – 8 & Interview

It’s unclear where this video footage (65 minutes) is from but it’s authentic and another great watch!

One theory is that the video is from HBO’s World Championship Boxing that aired the fight roughly live in Season 2, Episode 1.

IMDB has a page for that episode entitled “The Rumble in the Jungle: Ali vs. Foreman here: /.

IMDB users rank the episode 9.1 out of 10 (though onlhy 16 people voted).

This video focuses mainly on the 8 rounds of the fight and the post-fight interview.

You can watch Foreman vs Ali for free on YouTube by clicking the embed above or going here:

Thanks for reading!

-Rob Kelly