Study Guide

Million Dollar Baby Genre

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Training montage? Check. Crusty old mentor and plucky young protégé? Check. Blood, sweat, and tears? Check. Adversity? Double—no, triple check.

Million Dollar Baby ticks all of the conventional sports movie boxes, but it's that last part, the misfortune that Maggie comes up against after The Blue Bear's sucker punch paralyzes her from the neck down, that separates Million Dollar Baby from the pack. All sports movies culminate in "the big game" or "the big fight." Maggie's big fight is unlike anything else in the genre, raising tough questions about faith, love, and loss. In other words, Space Jam it is not.


Frankie Dunn is one of the most tragic characters in film history. He's riddled with guilt over his relationship (or lack thereof) with his daughter, not to mention Scrap's AWOL eyeball, and he's more guarded than Buckingham Palace. Then he meets Maggie and he finally opens up. Yes!

Then she gets paralyzed from the neck down in a freak accident and asks Frankie to kill her. Nooo!

Frankie's relationship with Maggie revitalizes the old trainer, but ultimately, he is a tragic character who finds himself in a nightmarish situation, forced to make an unbearable decision.


If Million Dollar Baby were a nightclub, it would have a five hanky minimum. It's more than just a drama; it's a woman-has-a-tragic-accident-that-results-in-irreversible-physical-damage drama. Plot twists and tragic deaths are hallmarks of the tearjerker genre; Million Dollar Baby has both. Big time. By the time Frankie slinks out of the rehab center, exhausted, for destinations unknown, the audience is equally exhausted, and their tear ducts have had a workout more draining than anything Frankie ever put Maggie through in the ring.

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