This four-part documentary brings to life the iconic heavyweight boxing champion who became an inspiration to people everywhere.
Muhammad Ali, a four-part documentary directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns, airs Thursdays, February 1-22, 2024 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV.
The film follows the life of one of the most consequential men of the 20th century, a three-time heavyweight boxing champion who captivated billions of fans with his combination of speed, agility, and power in the ring, and his charm, wit, and outspokenness outside of it. At the height of his fame, Ali challenged Americans’ racial prejudices, religious biases, and notions about what roles celebrities and athletes play in our society, and inspired people all over the world with his message of pride and self-affirmation.
As with all Florentine Films productions, an accomplished group of historians, writers, and other topic experts provided input on the script and film, including USC professor of media studies Todd Boyd, author Howard Bryant, Washington University history professor Gerald Early, long-time Burns collaborator, and author Geoffrey C. Ward, Rutgers journalism professor Khadijah White, MIT history professor Craig Wilder, and writer David Zirin. Jonathan Eig, a biographer of Ali, was a consulting producer to the film.
Drawing from an extraordinary trove of archival footage and photographs, contemporary music, and the insights and memories of eyewitnesses—including family and friends, journalists, boxers and historians, among others—Burns, Burns and McMahon have created a sweeping portrait of an American icon. The series details the story of the athlete who called himself—and was considered by many to be—”the greatest of all time” and competed in some of the most dramatic and widely viewed sporting events ever, including “The Fight of the Century” and “The Thrilla in Manila,” both against his great rival Joe Frazier, and “The Rumble in the Jungle,” in which he defeated George Foreman to regain the heavyweight title that was stripped from him seven years earlier. Muhammad Alialso captures Ali’s principled resistance to the Vietnam War, his steadfast commitment to his Muslim faith, and his complex relationships with Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, who profoundly shaped his life and worldview.