Muhammad Ali: The Greatest

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  • Documentaries
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This flawed but fascinating 1975 documentary adds yet another layer of insight and context to the world's greatest heavyweight champion. Focusing on the same events that top and tail Mann's Ali, it parallels the young Cassius Clay's shock 1964 triumphs over Sonny Liston, and the equally shocking Ali victory over George Foreman in Zaire in 1974. Klein's evocative b/w imagery and jumpy juxtapositions are sly and striking, giving revolutionary weight to our hero as Ali clowns, savages white supremacy and meets the Beatles, and everyone from drama students to Malcolm X has their say about the meaning of the phenomenon in their midst. Sadly, the film should have stopped right there. It suddenly jumps clumsily from '64 to '74, Maine to Kinshasa, b/w to colour, and moves through interminable tribal travelogue cut with some standard Ali media manipulation. In comparison to When We Were Kings, the footage is dull and undramatic, and Klein understandably struggles to shed light on Zaire with the same confidence and empathy he brings to American race relations.

Release details

Duration: 116 mins

Cast and crew

Director: William Klein
Cast: Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali
The Beatles
Sonny Liston
Angelo Dundee
Jack Nilon
Chris Dundee
Finlay Campbell
James X
Malcolm X
'Jersey Joe' Walcott
James J Braddock
Floyd Patterson
Norman Mailer
Stepin Fetchit
Sam X
George Foreman
Don King
Mobutu Sese Seko
Joe Frazier
John Daly
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