9. Robert De Niro in "Raging Bull"
De Niro earned his second Oscar, and his first as best actor, with his performance as real-life boxer Jake LaMotta, who was as destructive in the ring as he was self-destructive in his personal life.
De Niro's character actually quotes from "On the Waterfront" because LaMotta was a big Brando fan and was obsessed with the film.
10. Denzel Washington in "The Hurricane"
As a boxer, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter never won the middleweight boxing crown. As a man who was convicted of murder, faced capital punishment and was then exonerated, he became a poster boy for the movement to abolish the death penalty.
Washington was nominated for best actor, but didn't win that time. But two years later, he took home his second Oscar, for "Training Day."
11. Will Smith in "Ali"
Will Smith had so much to prove when he agreed to portray perhaps the most internationally famous sports figure of the 20th century. Cassius Clay, an Olympic gold medalist and heavyweight champion, became a central figure in the civil rights movement when he converted to Islam, befriended Malcolm X and shed what he called his slave name, becoming Muhammad Ali.
Ali then rallied Vietnam War protesters by refusing to submit to the draft, even though it was widely believed that the U.S. military would have given him an easy assignment. Stripped of his championship belt, Ali fought the law and eventually staged his legendary comeback.
So much was expected from the 2001 film, and many were disappointed. But Smith's uncanny portrayal of the boxing legend did not disappoint and earned him his first Oscar nomination.