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Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee (1969)

Muhammad Ali, the Greatest (original title)
He's the greatest fighter of all time. A sports icon that is loved throughout the world. A man driven by his ambition to be the best. Muhammad Ali is a name that to this day puts fear in ... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Muhammad Ali ... Himself
Sonny Liston ... Himself
Angelo Dundee ... Himself
Jack Nilon Jack Nilon ... Himself
Chris Dundee Chris Dundee ... Himself
Finlay Campbell Finlay Campbell ... Himself
James X James X ... Himself
Malcolm X ... Himself (archive footage)
Jersey Joe Walcott Jersey Joe Walcott ... Himself
Jimmy Braddock Jimmy Braddock ... Himself (as James J. Braddock)
Floyd Patterson Floyd Patterson ... Himself
Norman Mailer ... Himself - In Crowd
Stepin Fetchit ... Himself
Sam X Sam X ... Himself
George Foreman ... Himself


He's the greatest fighter of all time. A sports icon that is loved throughout the world. A man driven by his ambition to be the best. Muhammad Ali is a name that to this day puts fear in the strongest of men. Hear from the people who knew him best, from experts of the world of boxing, relive the legendary fights and explore the life of boxing's greatest symbol, Ali. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Not Rated | See all certifications »





French | English

Release Date:

9 April 1974 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$488, 2 May 2003, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$20,073, 10 August 2003
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Delpire Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Includes rare footage of The Beatles cavorting in a training-camp gym with publicity-savvy young Muhammad Ali (then called Cassius Clay) in 1964. See more »

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User Reviews

25 April 2003 | by sferberSee all my reviews

I just happened to see this film last night at NYC's great movie revival house, Film Forum, where a brand-new 35mm print has been unreeling for the past few weeks. Although I DID learn a great deal about this legendary sports figure from watching the film, I must say that I walked out of the theatre feeling extremely disappointed. Before explaining why, let me first say that the film is divided into two sections. The first was filmed in 1964 and '65 and is in black and white. It deals with the buildup and followup to Ali's (then Cassius Clay's) title bouts with Sonny Liston; the first in Florida, the second in Maine. We see all the hullabaloo surrounding the bouts, we see the weigh-ins and the trash talking that Clay used to be famous for; we see Clay goofin' around with the Fab 4, we are shown a drama class talking about Clay in a Harlem school, and on and on. It all builds suspensefully toward the big fights. But when it comes to the main events...nada! This is a documentary about one of the world's most legendary living boxers...and contains not a single moment of actual boxing! Not one!

Part two of the film takes place 10 years later, after Ali had been stripped of his title for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. This second part of the film is in beautiful color, and takes place in Zaire, right before Ali's comeback fight with George Foreman; the legendary "Rumble in the Jungle." Again, we see all the hoopla and buildup; we see the fighters meeting the Zairean president, Seko; we see the people of Zaire dancing and singing and discussing their favorites. Then it's fight time, and again--despite the fact that we see actual footage of the guys going into and leaving the ring--not a single frame of actual boxing! Only a few stills of the fight. I can't tell you how disappointed I was at this. I suppose that the rights to the actual boxing footage are tied up in legal disputes or would have required the filmmakers to shell out big bucks for their use, but the result is an incomplete portrait of this great athlete, at best. In addition to this glaring lack of actual boxing footage, we learn nothing of Clay's early life, what led him to become a boxer, and so on. Yes, it is interesting, in a time-capsulelike way, to look at the old film clips from the '60s, and to see Zaire as it was 30 years ago, but this doesn't help the viewer to understand Ali the man or Ali the athlete. We hear the expressions "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" and "Ali, bumba yay" over and over throughout the film, and still don't know why he was such a great fighter. This is certainly NOT the documentary that I was hoping for, and I can't imagine anyone walking out of this film feeling 100% satisfied.

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