Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Raging Bull (1980)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Raging Bull (1980)

In this black and white masterpiece (by cinematographer Michael Chapman) from director Martin Scorsese, adapted from LaMotta's 1970 autobiography, with Robert DeNiro's incredible physical transformation throughout the film as he gained 50 lbs:

  • in the opening credits sequence, boxer Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro), with his face hidden in the monk-like hood of his leopard-skin robe, warmed up alone in the ring in slow-motion by shadow-boxing into the smoky air, to the melancholy, haunting soundtrack of the "Intermezzo" from Cavalleria Rusticana (an opera by Pietro Mascagni)
  • the next scene was set in New York City, in 1964 twenty-three years later; in stark contrast, La Motta was now a paunchy, second-rate stand-up comedian at the Barbizon Plaza Theatre, where a sign advertised his appearance; alone in his dressing room, he was rehearsing for his nightclub appearance reciting bits of Shakespearean tragedy, wearing a tuxedo and open shirt; his fantasy of disrobing in the ring presented the film's recurrent theme of sexual anxiety, fear, and confusion; he recited: "...I know I'm no Olivier But if he fought Sugar Ray He would say That the thing ain't the ring It's the play. So gimme a stage Where this bull here can rage And though I can fight I'd much rather recite That's entertainment! That's entertainment"; the remainder of the film was a flashback - a look back at the middle-aged man's life to try to understand why he was reciting lines in his dressing room
1964: Boxer-Entertainer Jake La Motta: 23 Years later
  • the film's many brutal and graphic boxing sequences (often in slow-motion with the spray onto the audience and the violent sounds of impact) - sweat and blood sprayed out of the ring, devastating blows were seen in close-up, and flashing - actually exploding - camera bulbs popped; in the first sequence set in 1941, Jake was declared the loser (it was a Mafia-fixed fight) against his black boxer opponent Jimmy Reeves (Floyd Anderson) - it was his controversial first defeat; Jake was disheartened that he was being controlled by mobster Tommy Como (Nicholas Colasanto)
  • in the bruised-faced Jake's cramped NYC apartment after the Reeves fight, in the famous "steak" scene that demonstrated his hellish neighborhood life, Jake sat in an undershirt eating while mulling over his latest disastrous fight with his first wife Irma (Lori Anne Flax); after bullying Irma about how she cooked his steak, the outraged Jake upended their table
  • Jake's brother/manager Joey (Joe Pesci) walked in on the couple's heated argument, soon, Joey was goaded into engaging in a sexualized "sparring" match with his contemptuous brother
  • at an open-air Bronx swimming pool, Jake experienced his first view and lustful attraction toward fifteen-year old, blonde "neighborhood girl" Vickie (20 year old Cathy Moriarty); he spoke to her through a fence grating, and then after taking her for a ride in his convertible, they played a game of miniature golf; he pursued her for a relationship even though he was married, and became extremely jealous if she showed interest in any other males
First Views of 15 Year-Old Neighbor Girl Vickie at Pool and Miniature Golf Game
  • In 1943, Jake fought and was victorious over boxer Sugar Ray Robinson (Johnny Barnes), giving his opponent his first loss in the ring - and marking a long rivalry between the two; Jake encouraged sexual passion with now 17 year-old Vickie after his fight with Sugar Ray Robinson, when he encouraged her: "Touch my boo-boos...Give the boo-boo a kiss - make it better," but then resisted sex with her to keep his boxing strength; LaMotta and Sugar Ray engaged in a rematch a few weeks later, and Jake lost due the judges' unanimous decision
  • a series of black and white stills, step-motion and freeze frames of Jake's next six victorious boxing matches (from 1944 to 1947) were intercut and alternated with candid, color "home movies" of Jake's domestic life during the same period shared with his wife Vickie
  • a deal was arranged for Jake to fight Tony Janiro (Kevin Mahon) in 1947, but he had gained weight and was at 168 lbs; his only incentive and interest in fighting Janiro was because Vickie non-chalantly commented that Janiro was "good-lookin'" - and Jake wanted to obliterate his face; he became continually suspicious that Vickie was cheating on him; Jake also had Joey watch over her when he was out of town
  • before the Janiro fight, on a night out at the Copacabana Club, Jake was introduced to the audience by another comedian as a "special guest" - "the world's leading middle-weight contender, the Bronx bull, the raging bull"; he also got involved in violent altercations with Tommy Como's small-time hood lieutenant Salvy (Frank Vincent) who was seen flirting with Vickie, and he became obsessed over losing her; he also had to acquiese to Como's demands that he throw his next fight with Billy Fox (Ed Gregory) if he wanted a chance at the title (it was the film's fifth fight sequence); Jake obviously took a dive in the Fox fight and felt professionally disgraced
  • then, in 1949, it was arranged for Jake to fight against the French middleweight champion Marcel Cerdan, but simultaneously, he was becoming increasingly jealous of Joey and insanely suspicious of Vickie's infidelity; he believed that Vickie had been sleeping with Salvy, and even turned on his own brother, convinced that he had been betrayed
  • as the tension mounted between the two brothers, the two of them were followed in a lengthy and memorable tracking shot from the locker room on their long walk through the stadium tunnel to the crowd and up into the ring, for the Cerdan fight; Jake won the bout and the title with a TKO
  • afterwards, in a very volatile scene, an ominous-looking Jake confronted his manager-brother Joey - to relentlessly question and browbeat Joey to get him to admit that he 'violated' his wife ("You f--ked my wife?"); Joey's refusal to answer the repulsive, perverse questions intensified Jake's suspicions and made Joey look guilty ("I'm not gonna answer. That's a sick question, you're a sick f--k, and I'm not that sick that I'm gonna answer it. I'm not tellin' ya anything...I'm not stayin' in this nuthouse with ya. You're a sick bastard...")
Jake to Joey: "You f--ked my wife!"
  • then, Jake physically assaulted Vickie in their bedroom - he pulled on her hair, slapped her, and then asked: "Did you f--k my brother?"; she locked herself in the bathroom - and then sarcastically mock-'confessed' to all that he was accusing her of: "I f--ked all of them! What do you want me to say?...I f--ked all of them - Tommy, Salvy, your brother! All of them! I sucked your brother's cock, what do you want me to say?...I sucked his cock and everybody else on the f--king street, too. What do you want? You're nothin' but a fat pig, selfish fool!"
  • the beserk Jake additionally physically attacked Joey in his brother's dining room - where he dragged him from the table and brutalized him; the two wives tried to pull him off, and then he slugged Vickie (the first time!) and knocked her out, and then charged out; later, he was in his living room in front of his television set without a picture; Vickie returned home, went upstairs, and began packing to leave; he came to her and humbly begged for forgiveness: "I'm a bum without you and the kids. Don't go." At her dresser, she embraced him
  • at the same time in his boxing career, Jake fought in a climactic, 5th and final middleweight championship boxing ring battle against Sugar Ray Robinson in 1951; Jake was mangled during his bloody title defense fight against his life-long nemesis; although completely and utterly defeated, Jake still cried out and taunted his victorious black rival in his corner: "Hey, Ray, I never went down, man! You never got me down, Ray! You hear me, you never got me down"
1951 Fight Against Sugar Ray: "You never got me down, Ray!"
  • in 1956 after his professional boxing career ended (and his life was facing a sharp decline), an older and fatter Jake lived in Miami with Vickie and his children - poolside, he was now 50 pounds overweight, and told a reporter that he had retired: "It's over for me. Boxing's over for me. I'm through. I'm tired of worryin' about weight all the time"
  • Jake bought his own seedy Florida nightclub on Collins Avenue that he dubbed "Jake La Motta's"; there, he performed nightly as a stand-up comedian - entertaining the audience with rambling, unfunny one-liners and numerous obscenities - also he offered his crowds self-deprecating, pitiable, and partially hostile humor peppered with sexist rude jokes; he also unfaithfully kissed two under-aged young females at the bar to 'prove' that they were twenty-one so that they could order alcohol: "I know what a twenty-one-year old kisses like."

Nightclub Jokes

At Dawn: Jake's Divorce from Vickie

Jake's Return to His House To Retrieve His Championship Belt
(with Jewels)
  • meanwhile, at dawn while sitting outside the club in a Cadillac with the window only slightly cracked open, Vickie announced her divorce to Jake: "Look, Jake, I got a lawyer, we're gettin' a divorce. I'm gettin' custody of the kids...I already made up my mind. I'm leavin'. That's it. The kids are gonna be with me. And if you show your face around, I'm gonna call the cops on you, all right?"; now separated from his wife, he was awakened in the next scene by deputies from the DA's office, and arrested on a morals charge for soliciting male clients with prostitutes in his nightclub
  • out on bail after his arrest, Jake returned to his home to "pick up one thing" - his championship belt (with embedded jewels) from the mantle (propped up in front of the picture of the two brothers 'playing' at boxing), to pawn it for bail (or bribe) money after being arrested on a morals charge for soliciting a client for a young underaged 14 year-old female in his nightclub (one of the females he had kissed); Jake also lost his club's license
  • in 1957, Jake was wrestled like a bull as he was being put into a jail cell in a stockade in Dade County; he slammed his head, fists, and then his arms into the cinder-block cell wall ("Why? Why? Why?...Why'd you do it? Why? You're so stupid") - his shadow-boxing with his own self brought pain and suffering and a new self-awareness
  • in 1958, Jake took a job introducing strippers in a seedy NY bar; after a chance encounter with his brother Joey, he made a failed attempt on the street to reconcile with him: ("C'mon, be friends. C'mon. You're my brother. Be friends....Kiss me. Give me a kiss...Just kiss me. C'mon, c'mon, c'mon") - but Joey ignored him
  • Jake's pitiful end was as an overweight and bloated night-club emcee at the Barbizon Plaza Theatre (a return to the film's beginning in 1964) - including his recitation in front of his backstage dressing room mirror, while wearing a tuxedo and shirt (unbuttoned at the top) and brandishing a cigar; he recited Brando's famous On the Waterfront "I coulda been a contender" speech in the taxi-cab scene; when alerted that he had five minutes, Jake sent himself off with shadow-boxing into the entertainment arena: "Go get 'em, champ"; off-screen, he mumbled to himself: "I'm the boss, I'm the boss, I'm the boss, I'm the boss, I'm the boss...(I'm the) boss, boss, boss, boss, boss, boss"
  • the film's final title:
    "So, for the second time, [the Pharisees]
    summoned the man who had been blind and said:
    "Speak the truth before God.
    We know this fellow is a sinner."
    "Whether or not he is a sinner, I do not know,"
    the man replied.
    "All I know is this:
    once I was blind and now I can see."
    John IX. 24-26
    the New English Bible

"Steak" and Sparring Scene with Brother Joey (Joe Pesci)

Picture of the Two Brothers Between Jake and Vickie

Love-Making with 17 Year-Old Vickie

'Home' Movies (1944-1947)

At the Copacabana Club - Jake Was Introduced as "Raging Bull"

Tracking Shot: Tunnel Walk to the Ring with Joey - From Two Angles - For His Fight Against the French Middleweight Champion Marcel Cerdan

Jake's Increasing Jealousy and Abuse Toward Vickie

Vickie's Mock-Confession: "I f--ked all of 'em. What do you want me to say?"

Jake's Brutalization of Joey

Asking for Forgiveness From Vickie

50 Pounds Overweight - Miami in 1956

Kissing Underaged Female in Club

Jake Arrested on Morals Charges in 1957

Wrestled and Imprisoned in Dade County Stockade

"Why? Why? Why?"

Jake's Failed Reconciliation with His Brother in NY

Return to the Opening Scene: Jake's Recitation of: "I coulda been a contender"

Jake Shadow-boxing: "Go get 'em champ!"


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