In case you haven’t heard yet, Mike Tyson is fighting again. Yes, 51-year-old “Iron” Mike Tyson will return to fight Roy Jones Jr., a fellow boxing legend on November 28th. In the spirit of his return, we look at must-watch films Tyson has been involved in.
Tyson truly was one-of-a-kind: flawed, human, and one hell of a boxer. His movies encapsulate both his best and worst qualities and in going through the list, we selected his best documentaries and splashed in some Hollywood films for some color.
Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth (2013)
Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth is arguably his best film to date. Directed by Spike Lee, this HBO film is biographical as told by the man himself – on stage.
Widely praised by both fans and critics, the film is just as the book of the same title is. Tyson would gain some new fans with this doc for his candidness and self-deprecating portrayal of his life events.
Tyson finally gets the chance to tell his colorful life in vivid detail from his troubled beginnings to his rise as a destructive boxing force to his legal troubles and tragedies.
But as with most captivating stories, Tyson’s story has an arc. And he goes through the story of redemption. Tyson also peels back his layers revealing everything else he’s into. It is the rebirth of Tyson.
Tyson is the B-side to 2013’s Undisputed Truth and is a more serious take on his life. The documentary is captivating, much like Tyson himself who narrates through the story.
Something about Tyson makes his story so gripping. It’s not just the storybook events of his life from his failed marriage to his conviction to his ups-and-downs as a boxer, but how profoundly he narrates his life.
There are levels to Tyson and you get to glimpse each one. His more vulnerable side, his regrets, and his anger all bottled up in one film.
This is the essential Mike Tyson film that needs watching. If you’re a fan, you’ll love him some more. If you’re not, you might just change your mind.
Ip Man 3 (2015)
The last great martial arts film centered on a real-life person featured Tyson in a small but memorable role. He enters the film as Frank, a mysterious but imposing minor villain who Ip has to fight in the middle of the film.
Frank instead tells Ip that he’ll leave them alone if Ip can last three minutes. Although Frank gets the upper hand to start, the craft kung fu master attacks his lower body and evens the odds just as three minutes pass. Frank honors his word.
Tyson’s Frank is in the movie for just over 10 minutes but the three minutes he fights with Ip is one of the most intense moments in the franchise.
The Hangover (2009)
Tyson makes a brief but memorable cameo as himself in the legendary comedy, The Hangover. In the film, the three drugged-out leads invade his private Vegas estate and abduct his pet tiger.
Tyson makes his entrance playing Phil Collins’s In The Air Tonight on the piano before hitting Alan (Zach Galifianakis) with a one-hitter quitter. “He’s still got it!” proclaimed Stu (Ed Helms).
Originally refusing to appear in the film, Tyson changed his mind when discovering Todd Phillips, the director, also directed Old School, one of Tyson’s favorite films. Tyson credits his appearance in this film as a catalyst for a lifestyle change.
Last but not least is this made-for-TV film about Tyson. Starring Michael Jai White as Tyson, the movie is an adaptation of Jose Torres’s book Fire and Fear: The Inside Story of Iron Mike Tyson from 1989.
A docudrama with an emphasis on “drama”, Tyson is more about Tyson’s personal life ranging from his troubled childhood in Brooklyn to his 1992 rape conviction against beauty pageant contestant Desiree Washington.
Tyson aired on HBO in 1995 and received mixed reviews due to trying to be more of a drama than an objective retelling of events. This film could still appeal to Tyson fans and casual movie watchers.
Honorable Mention: The Wait – Mike Tyson’s First Fight Out of Prison (2020), which details behind the scenes as Tyson is set up to fight Peter McNeeley as arranged by Dong King.