Tyson (2008 film)

Tyson is a 2008 documentary film about the life of former undisputed heavyweight world champion boxer Mike Tyson. It was directed by American filmmaker James Toback and produced by Nicholas Jarecki, Bob Yari, and NBA player Carmelo Anthony.[2]

Promotional film poster
Directed byJames Toback
Produced byCarmelo Anthony
Damon Bingham
James Toback
Mike Tyson
Harlan Werner
Nicholas Jarecki[1][2]
Written byJames Toback
StarringMike Tyson
Edited byAaron Yanes
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics
Release date
  • September 14, 2008 (2008-09-14) (Filmfest Oldenburg)
  • April 24, 2009 (2009-04-24) (United States)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$942,049[3]

The film was publicly screened for the first time at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and won the Regard Knockout Award at the Un Certain Regard event.[4] Tyson was released on April 24, 2009, distributed by Sony Classics.[5]


The documentary is a self-discovery of a matured Mike Tyson, who reflects on his highly controversial and publicly viewed life. It begins with clips of 20-year-old Tyson's convincing World Boxing Council Heavyweight Championship win over Trevor Berbick, then explores the fighter's upbringing and motivation. It is revealed that he had a fractured family life and difficult childhood in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where his crimes led him to Tryon School for Boys in Johnstown, New York. A father-son relationship with his first professional trainer and only father figure in his life, Cus D'Amato, is expressed as Tyson chokes back tears. He reveals his vulnerability when he relates the fear that he felt when D'Amato died in 1985. Tyson was only 19 years old when he lost the one real parental figure in his life.

Tyson eventually unified the WBC, WBA and IBF title championship belts, becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. This turned into a traumatic event that was the root cause of Tyson's many personal issues. Tyson makes it apparent that his great stardom at only the age of 20 was a blessing for him but also a curse. From his great achievements at such a young age to the eventual tangled web of his existence, Tyson is able to expose his contrasting flaws of mental instability, immaturity, lust for women and fear, all of which explain his downfall as a boxer and his controversial life. In the end, having fought a battle with fear in order to fight for his respect, Tyson is shocked by the outcome: a renewed respect for life and family.


The film received high critical praise, scoring an 85% approval rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes from 138 film critics.[6] It has a score of 83% on Metacritic.[7]

A.O. Scott wrote in the New York Times: "Because it restricts itself to Mr. Tyson’s point of view, [it] offers a rare and vivid study in the complexity of a single suffering, raging soul. It is not an entirely trustworthy movie, but it does feel profoundly honest."[8]


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