Warrior (2011) -vs- The Fighter (2010)

Warrior -vs- The Fighter

Mark Sanchez, Featured WriterThe Smackdown

From Cain and Abel to King Lear to The Godfather saga, sibling rivalry has fueled many a classic Smackdown.

Psychiatrist Alfred Adler called this competition between brothers and sisters a “striving for significance” within the family. Freud described it as an effort for boys to get mom’s attention, or by girls to get dad’s. Sniping sisters and battling brothers are common to the human experience, at home and on the screen.

Warrior, opening this weekend and featuring two estranged brothers thrown together for a five million dollar payday in the mixed martial arts arena, is no exception. It steps into the ring here against The Fighter, a small, boxing film that took Hollywood by storm, eventually earning seven Academy nominations and wins for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo in supporting roles.

The Fighter is based on a true story; Warrior is fiction pieced together with familiar elements. They each feature a pair of brothers who badly need to work out some old business, and a parent who, consciously or not, has driven a stake between them. If you like your morality plays packing a punch, you’ve come to the right theater.

The Challenger

Warrior is the story of Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) and Tommy Riordan (Tom Hardy), two brothers so distant that they don’t even share a last name. Brendan is a physics teacher in Philadelphia. Tommy goes by his mother’s maiden name and turns up out of the Marines on the Pittsburgh doorstep of his dad, Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte). The boys may have their differences, but they feel the same about Paddy, and it’s not good. A recovering drunk who abused and destroyed his family, the elder Conlon is easy to dislike. His one accomplishment was training Tommy to fight as a boy, and that’s why Tommy returns now, wanting to train for “The War on the Shore” and a giant purse in Atlantic City.


MMA star Gina Carano -vs- Angelina Jolie

in Haywire -vs- Salt.


Brendan, who once competed in mixed martial arts, wants to fight again too. Teaching isn’t paying the bills, and he gets suspended after a tune-up fight at a strip club. Upside down on his mortgage and facing foreclosure, he hooks up with his old trainer, Frank (Frank Grillo, excellent) and begins the unlikely trip to Payday.

The brothers work their way through the tournament and meet in the finals. Along the way, they beat assorted amped-up short fuses who are regulars in these glorified bar fights. Five million dollars goes to the winner. Do Tommy and Brendan square their differences? And what about dad, who’s back on the bottle after a thousand days of sobriety?

The Fighter (2011)

The Defending Champion

A different drug, crack cocaine, figures prominently in The Fighter. It ruins the life of one-time contender Dicky Eklund (Bale). He’s so addled he believes the video crew flitting about for HBO is documenting his comeback, not crack abuse in Lowell, Massachusetts.

That’s only one battle facing the real fighter here, Mark Wahlberg’s Micky Ward. (Yep, these brothers – actually half-brothers – have different last names too.) Micky took up boxing in the shadow of Dicky, a former contender who helps train him when he’s not too blasted to show up at the gym. Micky’s mom/manager Alice (Leo) spends no time worrying about putting him in the ring with a heavier opponent for a paycheck. Predictably, Micky takes a beating and begins to wonder if his mother, brother and multiple, trashy sisters are watching his back or their own. The mutual suspicions deepen when Micky refuses to dump his new girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams) who clashes with the family.

This sets the stage for a change of manager, estrangement and reconciliation punctuated by humiliation. Dicky, in jail now, gets to see exactly what the crew from HBO was producing. It’s an eye-opener for Dicky and Alice, long in denial. Dicky gets clean, resumes training Micky, and mom takes a backseat.

All the while Micky keeps winning. He gains a shot at the actual world light welterweight title against Shea Neary.

The Scorecard

Warrior has a lot in common with Rocky, and that doesn’t always help. As the brothers push toward their big-money smackdown, the comparisons are hard to miss: Nolte is the same garrulous trainer as Burgess Meredith. There are stand-ins for Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago and even Adrian (Jennifer Morrison from House). Director Gavin O’Connor committee-authored the script with Anthony Tambakis and Cliff Dorfman. Perhaps an honorary screen credit belongs to Sylvester Stallone.

I wish Warrior’s writers resolved a few issues: Tommy suffered a personal loss in the Marines – but couldn’t he evolve even a little from the resentment he felt as a boy? Tom Hardy plays repellent very well, but the act grows tiresome. Joel Edgerton, the actor playing Brendan, looks like a bulked-up Conan O’Brien and enters his cage matches to the strains of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. It’s an accomplishment that Edgerton is able to perform so well in that framework.

The Fighter, meanwhile, has an embarrassment of character riches.  Christian Bale’s Dicky Eklund, is so messed up, so compelling, he might have hijacked the film’s focus, but does not, thanks to Mark Wahlberg’s centered performance and strong work from Leo and Adams. The excellent script from Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, and sure direction by David O. Russell, give balance to this real life story of failure, success and redemption.

The Decision

Warrior will find an audience, and it’s an interesting twist on the old story of sibling rivalry. It just doesn’t finish telling that story. Instead, it runs about a half-hour too long telling different versions of Rocky, all with a predictable outcome. It might have been interesting to develop a hint of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Tommy to flesh out his isolation, but the film doesn’t hint at that critical character element.

By contrast, The Fighter leaves no such lingering threads. Its script is as tight and powerful as a short right to the chin. The film wisely maintains a narrow focus, omitting an important, but not crucial chapter in Micky Ward’s career. He had three bouts with the great Arturo Gatti considered his very best fights, which earned a line in the after-film credits, where it belongs.

In this Smackdown of battling brothers, it’s The Fighter by a knockout.

Ready for another fight? Then you need to see Micky Rourke take on Sylvester Stallone in our Smackdown — The Wrestler -vs- Rocky Balboa.

Looking for More? Click

About Mark Sanchez 81 Articles
Oregon based media and communications consultant Mark Sanchez is on the fifth or sixth step of his recovery program from his career as a television news reporter. And that’s the way it is. Mark has been an Oregonian since the Reagan administration and shows no signs of leaving. He lives in Portland — a city that is famous for its transit system, its rain, its independent film community and, lately, for the TV series Portlandia, which Mark notes is about half-true, but to protect confidential sources he won’t say which half.

34 Comments on Warrior (2011) -vs- The Fighter (2010)


  1. Both are good films…. Warrior to me is a Little better. Based on a true story was the fighter film but it omitted the best part of his career that was his three bouts with Arturo Gatti. Mark Wahlberg said there may be a second film which would be about those classic fights. Some parts of the film to were off like his relationship with his girlfriend & future wife which he was not with during lots of those fights. Thus its loosely off of his life and put in to add more emotional effect. Warrior had that emotional effect already in the plot. And I am a huge Micky Ward fan but warrior tops it by a hair. Oh both movies have flaws but isn’t that what movies are all about. It’s about your view and we all have one I would recommend them to everyone. I have both on Blu-ray. I wish warrior had more backstory about the brothers after the parents separated. What happened with Tommy what age was he when he came back what was the age difference between him and Brendon It couldn’t been more than two years in my view. When did the mother passed away from cancer or things like that I would love to know more about if anyone knows of a book or more about those subjects I would greatly be interested in being it’s a crucial part of the movie already just what I was guessing like what happen with the $5 million purse did they split it which I would like to believe they did. No matter I would say both movies are a must see warrior didn’t get the marketing as much as the fighter did but through word-of-mouth people bought it after it was released on home-video which was how I got it. Again see both movies they both are worth it. After the movies are over hug your siblings hug your family and let them know just what they mean to you because I lost my father recently and I can tell you it’s the little things that we miss these movie helps me with that. Please watch them both.
    I WISH U ALL THE BEST & MAY GOD BLESS.
    -A. J.


  2. Both a good films…. Warrior to me is a Little better. Based on a true story was the fighter film but it omitted the best part of his career that was his three bouts with Arturo Gatti. Mark Wahlberg said there may be a second film which would be about those classic fights. Some parts of the film to wear off like his relationship with his girlfriend which he was not with during lots of those fights. thus its loosely off of his life and put in to add more emotional effect. Warrior had that emotional effect already in the plot. And I am a huge Micky Ward fan but warrior tops it by a hair. Oh movies have flaws but isn’t that what movies are all about. It’s about your view and we all have one I would recommend them to everyone. I have both on Blu-ray. I wish warrior had more backstory about the brothers after the parents separated. What happened with Tommy what age was he when he came back what was the age difference between him and Brandon. It couldn’t been more than two years in my view. When did the mother passed away from cancer or things like that I would love to know more about if anyone knows of a book or more about those subjects I would greatly be interested in being it’s a crucial part of the movie already just what I was guessing like what happen with the $5 million purse did they split it which I would like to believe they did. No matter I would say both movies are a must see warrior didn’t get the marketing as much as the fighter did but through word-of-mouth people bought it after it was released on home-video which was how I got it. Again see both movies they both are worth it. After the movies or older hug your siblings hug your family and let them know just what they mean to you because I lost my father recently and I can tell you it’s the little things that we miss these movie helps me with that. Please watch them both.


  3. bout to watch the fighter, warrior was pretty damn good. I don’t understand whats with the hate on the fighter in these comments lol. chill out, and realize they’re both good films?


  4. As a film warrior was much better. I liked the fighter too, but warrior was so much more emotionally exhausting.


  5. I enjoyed Warrior much more than The Fighter. While Tom Hardy’s character was at times hard to watch and annoying, nearly the whole cast of The Fighter was as hard to watch as Hardy. Wahlberg was the only character that you could sympathize with and the rest of the cast was, though very well acted, hateable. I want a character I can root for and enjoy, Warrior had this, and The Fighter was very much lacking in that department. As far as the acting goes, I’d say they were on par with each other. As far as the fighting, The Fighter’s fights were mostly forgettable and honestly quite boring, they could take a cue from Rocky. Warrior, while the fight scenes weren’t the best, they were still memorable and had much more energy and were fun to watch. I barely made it through one watch of The Fighter, and don’t ever plan on watching it again, no matter the awards, because quite frankly, it’s boring and pretentious and though the acting is well done, the characters are almost all hateable. Warrior, however is one that I have seen multiple times, and though it treads familiar ground, it does it in a way that makes you feel invested in the characters and hope for the best for them. To me Warrior wins, because it has honest feelings, and doesn’t just pander to the film critics like The Fighter did.


  6. A little late to this discussion but I’ll add my two cents here. Warrior, unlike The Fighter, was (no offense) more than just another story about white trash trying to make it in the world. It was, as A.O. Scott rightly mentions in his review, a look at this precise moment in American history, at the toll that recent political wagers have taken on the middle class, and about how complicated histories must be confronted to achieve anything close to transcendence and repair. The Fighter’s thematic significance in comparison is starved, bereft of the kind of resonant ideas that O’Connor’s superior film carries. But then, Warrior lacked Marky Mark and Batman headlining the cast and didn’t have the “based on a true story” label that gets lazy critics and awards folk salivating.


  7. Are you kidding the fighter hands down these comments are obviously overrun with people who just love mma too much to realize how much better of a MOVIE the fighter really is….for one the fighter actually has characters that matter, in warrior you could replace and character and get the same effect its a joke. now warrior is a good movie in its own realm but in respect to the fighter it was a better film more substance to the movie rather than fighting actual had a developed story not just a sibling rivalry and forgivness


  8. Mr. Sanchez this is case and proof that you don’t know a THING about real human emotions. By you saying that Warrior doesn’t hold a match to The Fighter pretty much because it isn’t based a true story is like saying there isn’t anyone out there going through what family in Warrior went through. that’s insane to me. The ending is one of the most beautiful endings to ever be filmed IMO. The act of forgiveness after a lifelong hatred is one of most engrossing thing’s I’ve ever watched. The acting was also incredible. I liked The Fighter, but I LOVED Warrior. I say it was up for best film of 2011 with Shame and Melancholia. My personal favorite “sport” film since Rocky to be honest. That’s saying something. Also, Nick Nolte deserved an Oscar more so than Christian Bale. *BOOM* I said it.


  9. Whoever thinks the fighter is better than the warrior is a dumb ass. Me and my brother watched this movie together and my dad who saw it after us said it brought tears to his eyes just thinking if that was both of us. It was very inspirational and I don’t care if it was a fictional plot, they did a great job of making it look real.


  10. The Warrior was a good film. Nice twist on the Cain vs Able storyline. However, it’s a nice action film. The Fighter, is a true cinematic classic. The story is much stronger and based on a “true story”. As much as I did like Warrior, The Fighter is a cinematic masterpiece. Compare Rembrandt to Bob Ross. The Fighter (Rembrandt) created art while Warrior (Ross) created pretty little trees.


  11. You people are insane. Once you’re done crying because two brothers said “I love you” while bearing the crap out of each other, put your panties back on and realize Warrior was dung. For starters, if Sparta is the best MMA tournament of all time then why are they letting two bozos who haven’t fought in years be two of only SIXTEEN competitors from around the entire WORLD?? You mean to tell me that one Conan looking dork could train for one freaking month and suddenly win that tournament?! Please. It’s a disgrace to the sport. Actually, it’s a disgrace to all sports. At least Warrior could have pretended to be believable. Not to mention – guess what – Nolte has the same last name as Conana looking dork. You don’t think anybody would have picked up on that at Sparta?? Maybe made the connection before the last fight? The whole set up is a joke and there’s a reason more than HALF of the movie takes place at Sparta Farta (yes, half – I double checked it): it’s because there’s nothing else to this story except the fights. The story is thinner than some of your pee streams.

    The Fighter is vastly, grossly superior. The Fighter is real. Go back to your Xbox. I’m sure there’s an MMA game that’s just as good as Warrior and doesn’t take two plus hours to play it.

    And oh yeah, ripped the door off a tank?? Ha! You sinkholes will buy anything!


    • yeah fuck face, the movie was a FICTIONAL movie…not every damn thing was suppose to be real, so i would think you could let someone ripping a door off a tank slide by…but nope, you also had to look like a dumbass wondering why they let them in, It tells you that tommy got in because he fucking dominated the NUMBER 1 middleweight in the world. and Brendan got in FROM HIS COACH who has STRONG CONNECTIONS TO THE PEOPLE HOSTING SPARTA. and i can see where you’re coming from with the last names, but it would’ve made it a bit clearer if they actually talked to eachother while they were there. brendan was avoiding him the whole time… i’m not taking anything away from the fighter, i might even say its better..but dont bash on a perfectly good movie just because you didn’t pay attention to it. oh and im sorry you don’t have a brother so you wouldnt understand how it feels.


  12. I disagree with the article. Warrior had some excellent acting. I felt that they did a great job of telling a story that made me more interested in the characters and what happened after the credits started rolling. I think it was agood thing that they left story open. The fact that someone would compare this to rocky is agood thing. Rocky is won of the greatest sports movies of all time. Can’t argue with winning an oscar.


  13. I’ve seen both films. I just got done watching Warrior for the 2nd time actually, and it is FAR superior to The Fighter. I’m not tryin to take anything away from The Fighter it’s a great fighting movie..but a decent film overall…Also I have no interest in seeing that twice to be completely honest. But Warrior, the acting alone in that movie were oscar winning performances..nick nolte’s acting was impeccable, im going to have to agree on one thing, hardy’s performance was incredible yes, but the character got a little tiresome, like someone needs to tell that kid that the past is the past, my dad used to beat the shit outta me growing up, started when i was 2 years old…I hold no grudges at all..if anything I’m tougher… and Ironically I was in the service as well..so it hit me personally…i loved the movie, and the end just left you wanting more..as where The fighter is one of those movies that you get up and leave before the credits even roll..Mark Sanchez, you have no idea what you are talking about! Oh and another thing..Boxing and MMA ..COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SPORTS! Boxing is more mathematical to where MMA is more strategic..Boxing you calculate shoulder and foot movement, MMA is ground and pound take him out as quick as you can…these shouldn’t even be the same category..ok i’m done with my rant now


  14. I have to disagree with this article. Even the poll on the side says “Warrior” was a better movie. Leaving it open at the end was a good plan, it let people fill in the details themselves which most movies lack. Giving the viewer the opportunity to talk with friends / coworkers about what could have and what should have been will just allow the film to be that much better to each individual. I thought it was a well written story.

    Warrior (2011) 74.41% (413 votes)
    The Fighter (2010) 25.59% (142 votes)
    Total Votes: 555


  15. These movies aren’t even in the same league. I thought it was a joke when I saw your article. Why are you even writing about something that’s not even been brought up as an arguement? I love MMA as some of your takes are ridiculous on that but “The Fighter” is a top notch award winning movie that is both dramatic and funny with one of the best acting performances in years. “The Warrior” is one long action scene of fighting. Still a decent movie but come on dude. Actually reminded me of the last 45 min of Karate Kid if I’m being honest.


  16. ALSO , you have no idea what is the difference between MMA & boxing . Just saying


  17. I’ve seen the movie fighter and it was a good movie . But it has more Rocky scenes into it b/c they both are about boxing and the movies are more similar . Warrior is the BEST movie ! I could watch it over and over again , the movie has nothing with Rocky b/c Rocky is boxing and Warrior is about MMA , they both have nothing to do with eachother ! There are no scenes that relate to Rocky .
    I think Warrior should have won , not the fighter .


  18. Mark,

    You are clueless about movies as you are clueless about MMA, “glorified bar fights” and Rocky.


  19. Wow, The Fighter is clearly a better movie, at least the characters develop a little bit. Everything but the fight scenes in warrior are good, and Nick Nolte, but the Fighter is clearly the better film. Warrior will not even be mentioned around an award period.


  20. Warrior is a better film than The Fighter. The latter is rather boring and the fighting between the girls was such a loud brouhaba, I nearly walked out of the theater. I probably see more similarities between Rocky and The Fighter than the former and Warrior. Hardy, Nolte, Edgerton, and even Grillo put in some of the better acting performances in a while. While I agree that Hardy’s act grows a bit tiresome, he plays the part well and his isolation and “me against the world” attitude speaks to the trust issues he struggles with as a result of growing up in a broken family. His character seems to embody Nolte’s betrayal as a father. The ending is a bitter sweet one. And while I was left wondering what happened next, it is essentially an open ending.


    • * brouhaha


  21. The Fighter was depressing and Gross, hard to watch, not enjoyable. i loved the Warrior. Most awesome movie I have seen.


  22. All these posts with one common theme. Mark Sanchez is the only one that believes that The Fighter was a better film. Mark you mention this “I wish Warrior’s writers resolved a few issues”. It’s nice to have wishes but in real life things don’t always come wrapped up in a bow at the end. The fact is, that I believe the writer is trying to say these guys both have a lot of “unfinished business”. As is normally the case with fighting siblings and estranged families. Is the struggle ever over? The lack of answers is what makes us want to have resolution in real life. In this movie it left us wondering “what happens to them next?”


  23. I have seen both now…I saw the Fighter in the theater and loved it! I just finished watching the Warrior OnDemand… LOVE LOVE LOVED it! I can’t believe how many twists the movie has and it just pulls at your heart strings in ways that can make anyone cry… Nick Nolte should win an award for his performance..This is one of those movies I could/will watch over and over again…Can’t forget to mention the Hot men in this movie! I have to say the Warrior really moved me I give it a 10…The Fighter an 8 and that is a damn good movie, I mean Mark Walberg can make any film great:)


  24. The Warrior via 2nd Round KO!


  25. I thought the original piece my mark Sanchez suggests he has never seen either rocky or warrior! It seems more like he has heard about both through various other people! The similarity is that both brothers are under dogs… That’s about it! The fighter is an outstanding movie also, but with a very different feel and story to tell, rather Eklunds fight with drugs than wards battles in the ring. Both are compelling but in very different ways.


    • Nothing of the sort, Paul. I saw both films. Nothing I wrote suggests otherwise. I view all films I ‘Smack.

      Of course these are different films, far beyond being tales about battling brothers.

      Let’s discuss this in ten years. I know which movie will be regarded as a compelling story well-told, and which will be
      remembered — if at all — as a derivative bar fight set to film.


  26. Two great films, The Fighter was Epic throughout!! But I have to say the last fighting scene after Tommys arm gets broke blew me away!! I was in tears, best acting in a long time!!


  27. Are you serious??? Warrior by rear naked choke!!!!


  28. Loved The Fighter but Warrior is far superior, a much better flick. Agree with Carol when she says its boring in comparison. To me, The Fighter was more of a drama.


  29. The Fighter was boring in comparison to Warrior, perhaps real life is less fun to watch. I found the portrayal by Nolte excellent. Mark Wahlberg is a capable actor, but again, I was tempted to stop watching the movie more than once.


  30. The action scenes in Warrior really kick ass!!


  31. Excellent comparison. I have seen neither of these films and am intrigued now to see the Fighter. Nice literary allusions and beautifully written.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*