Boxing movies work because they’re so literal: the boxer gets knocked down, he gets back up again, he knocks the other guy down. Everyone doubted him–now they love him.
Of course, the best boxing films aren’t really about boxing. The newest addition to the genre, Bleed for This (Nov. 18), follows Vinny Pazienza’s return to the ring 13 months after a 1991 car wreck that broke his neck and made even walking again a doubtful prospect. But it’s also the story of a community: his mother who prays, her back to the television, every time he fights; his father, who pushed him into a violent profession; and his trainer, who needs a comeback just as badly as the athlete himself.
Stepping into the role of Pazienza, Miles Teller notes that the boxer’s dedication was remarkably steadfast. “Five days after breaking his neck, he was down in his basement,” Teller says. “He always knew he was going to fight again.” Aaron Eckhart, who plays trainer Kevin Rooney, says the ethics of working with Pazienza despite the risk of paralysis never gave Rooney pause. “There was no choice,” Eckhart says. “He was going to do it with or without us, so better to be with him.”
In the film, Pazienza’s resolve is uncomplicated, a potent blend of unsinkable confidence and the rejection of the thought that he might have been born for any other purpose. Boxers like him, says Teller, “fight because they don’t know how to do anything else.”
From Nazi spies to time-traveling assassins
Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden plays a Paris-based pickpocket trapped in a terrorist plot after stealing a bag that, unluckily for him, explodes soon after he discards it. Idris Elba’s rule-bending CIA agent, realizing his target is small fry, teams up with the petty thief on a mission to expose a grand scheme of corruption. Originally scheduled for last February, the film’s release was pushed back after the Paris attacks in November 2015.
In this WW II–era romantic thriller, Marion Cotillard takes on several identities: French Resistance fighter, wife of an American intelligence officer (Brad Pitt), mother to their child and, perhaps, German spy. From director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump), the period piece is an exploration of the bounds of love during wartime, brimming with tension as Pitt’s agent decides whether to kill his wife or face execution for disobeying orders.
A KIND OF MURDER
An adaptation of a 1954 novel by Patricia Highsmith, who also wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley and the novel that inspired last year’s Carol, this noir thriller centers on two men whose wives turn up dead at the same roadside diner. Starring Patrick Wilson, Jessica Biel, Haley Bennett and Vincent Kartheiser, it’s a gripping whodunit replete with smoky rooms, affairs, jealousy and seduction.
Three years after the Boston Marathon bombing that resulted in the deaths of three civilians and a police officer, director Peter Berg tells the story of Bostonians’ resilience and local law enforcement’s manhunt for the perpetrators. Mark Wahlberg, a Boston native, stars as a police sergeant; John Goodman plays police commissioner Edward F. Davis; and Kevin Bacon is an FBI special agent assigned to the case.
Michael Fassbender, Cotillard and director Justin Kurzel, who worked together on last year’s Macbeth, bring prestige to this adaptation of a popular video-game franchise. Fassbender plays a criminal who travels through time to relive his ancestors’ memories, training for an overdue confrontation with his nemesis. With Jeremy Irons, Michael K. Williams and Charlotte Rampling.
LIVE BY NIGHT
In this Prohibition-era crime thriller based on a 2012 novel by Dennis Lehane–author of Mystic River and Shutter Island–Ben Affleck directs and stars as the son of a Boston (where else?) police captain who rejects the lawful life his father exemplified. Instead, he transforms into a gangster, bootlegger and rumrunner in the dark underbelly of Tampa’s Ybor City district. With Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning and Scott Eastwood, the film navigates the layers of the criminal world and the rules that define it.
This appears in the November 28, 2016 issue of TIME.