Based on Jake La Motta’s autobiography and directed by Martin Scorsese, a middleweight with help from his brother becomes a champion boxer and marries a beautiful blonde, but he becomes very jealous and quarrels with his brother.
In 1964 in New York City at an evening with Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro) he recites his poetry in his dressing-room.
In 1941 La Motta is boxing Jimmy Reeves in the Cleveland Arena and is behind on points. Joey (Joe Pesci) tells him they did not come there to be defeated. In the tenth round La Motta knocks Reeves down three times. Under the Ohio rules a unanimous decision declares Reeves the winner. This is the first loss for La Motta who claims he won. Fights break out around the ring.
In the Bronx on a street Joey and Salvy (Frank Vincent) talk about what to say to Jake. Salvy says he does not like him.
At home at breakfast Jake tells his wife that he was not fooling around. He asks her if it is cooked and tells her he does not want it overdone. She puts it on his plate, and he overturns the table.
Joey tells Salvy that he is his brother and will talk to him, and they part.
Joey comes in while Jake and his wife are arguing. Jake pushes her into the bedroom, and she closes the door. Jake hears a neighbor calling them crazy, and Jake yells out the window. He threatens to kill her and then asks for a truce. He sits down and talks with Joey who asks him what is wrong. Jake says it is his hands are too small. He says he will never get to fight Joe Louis, but Joey says he is a middleweight, not a heavyweight. Jake tells Joey to hit him in the face, and he refuses. Jake keeps insisting, and Joey says he does not have gloves. Jake has him wrap a towel around his hand, and Joey hits him several times. Jake slaps Joey. Jake says harder, but Joey says his cuts are opening and asks what he is trying to prove.
In a gym Jake in a helmet is sparring with Joey. After a pause Jake hits him many times. Jake tells Joey not to bring his friends up there again. Joey starts hitting Jake who leaves the ring.
Jake orders a coke at a swimming pool. He asks Joey who the blonde girl is, and he says she is Vickie (Cathy Moriarty). Joey says she is 15 years old. Jake objects to Joey’s vulgar language. Jake asks him if he banged her, and Joey says no. He just took her out a couple times. Jake says she knew her reputation would be ruined because Joey is an animal. Joey says Jake is married and tells him to leave the young girls for him.
Jake and Joey are in suits, and Jake tells his wife that they are going out. She yells at Jake at the window when he is in the street.
At a nightclub Joey tells Jake they can sit with Beansy. They say hello to a priest. Jakes sees Vickie at another table with Salvy, and he follows them out. He sees them in a car and goes back in.
At the pool Joey calls over Vickie to the fence and introduces her to his brother Jake. They talk through the wire fence, and he asks her to go for a ride. She asks for a few minutes to change.
Jake is driving and asks Vickie to move closer to him, and she does. He shows her how to play miniature golf. They look for the ball and cannot find it. He says the game is over.
Jake and Vickie come into his apartment, and he offers her something to eat. They sit down at a table and drink water. He asks her to sit closer, and she moves to the other chair. Then he gets her to sit on his lap. He asks if she wants to see the rest of the place. He bought the building for his father. He shows her the dining-room and has her sit on his bed. She stands up to look at a photo of Joey and him. He asks her if she knows how beautiful she is and kisses her several times.
In his second fight La Motto goes against the undefeated Sugar Ray Robinson in Detroit in 1943. La Motta knocks Robinson out of the ring for the first count-down of his career. After ten rounds La Motta wins by the vote.
In his bedroom Jake asks Vickie to come to him in her nightgown. She says she is not to let him touch her before the fight, but he insists. She sits on the bed and kisses him several times. He asks her to take off his pants, and she does. She says she made him promise not to get him excited. He has changed his mind and has her take off her panties. She kisses his stomach and says she likes the gym smell. He tells her that is enough and says he has to fight Robinson again. He puts on his shorts and pours ice water inside them. She kisses him from behind, and he turns his head to kiss her.
La Motta and Robinson fight in Detroit for the third time. Each has won once. Robinson is ahead on points, but La Motta knocks him down for the second time in his career. Robinson wins by a unanimous decision.
In the dressing-room Joey breaks a chair and says they gave him the decision because he is going into the army. Jake says he did bad things that may be coming back to him. Jake says he does not want to talk to anyone. Alone he looks at his cuts in the mirror. He puts his left hand in ice water.
On January 14, 1944 La Motta fights Zivic in Detroit and knocks him down. A film of Jake and Vickie is seen in color. La Motta fights Kochan on September 17, 1945 in New York and wins again. Jake and Vickie play at a pool. On June 12, 1946 La Motta defeats Edgar in Detroit.
They celebrate at a wedding reception for Joey and his bride Lenore (Theresa Saldana). Jake carries Vickie up stairs and in the front door. A film shows the families with children.
La Motta fights Bell in New York on March 14, 1947.
In the Bronx at home Jake is holding a baby and tells Joey that he weighs 168 pounds and cannot get down to 155. He never wanted to do that. Joey says he told him he could make it. Jake says if he does not make the weight, he loses $15,000. Joey says that if he loses because of weight, they will give him fights against the guys who won’t fight him now. If he beats Janiro, they have to give him a shot at the title. Joey tells him to stop eating. Vickie says Joey is right, and Jake tells her to take the baby and get out of there. Joey tells his wife Lenore not to interrupt and to get out of there too. She goes with her baby and joins Vickie. Jake asks Joey if he notices anything funny about Vickie when he is not around. Joey says he is cracking up. Jake says anything is possible. Joey says his weight may give her an excuse to go out. Joey advises him to be nice to her and take her out. Jake agrees. Joey tells him not to let Lenore know because he is not taking her.
Jake goes into the other room and puts his arm around Vickie and kisses her.
At the Copacabana a comedian introduces Jake La Motta, and he stands up to applause. Vickie gets up and kisses Salvy who comes over and shakes hands with Jake and Joey. Vicki lets older men kiss her cheek and comes back to sit next to Jake. He asks her what took so long. She tells him what was said. He asks if she is interested in someone. He tells her to shut up or he will smack her. A waiter brings more drinks. Joey goes over and shakes hands with the older men, one of whom beckons Jake to come over. Tommy Como (Nicholas Colasanto) puts his arm around Jake and praises his fighting. He asks Jake if he gained a few pounds. He says he is betting a lot of money on him, and he asks for his advice. Jake tells him to bet everything on him. Jake says he is a pretty kid. Jake jokes with Salvy.
At home at night Jake sees Vickie sleeping in bed and sits down next to her. He asks if she is awake, and she says no. He asks if she thinks of anyone else while they are in bed. He heard that she said that Janiro has a pretty face. She says she does not even know what he looks like.
In the Janiro fight in 1947 La Motta knocks him out. Tommy says he is not pretty anymore.
In a steam room Jake is jogging in place. Joey comes in and tells him four pounds.
In a restaurant at the bar Joey tells men that Jake knocked his nose across his face. Vickie comes in and sits at a table. Joey goes to Vickie and criticizes her, and she argues with him. Joey says Jake has been a contender too long. She says she will finish her drink, and Joey tries to make her stop. He tells others to shut up, and she leaves. Joey splashes water on Salvy, and a fight starts. Joey leaves and is followed by Salvy.
Joey and Salvy fight on the street, and Joey uses a taxi door.
At the Debonair Social Club men play cards. Tommy tells Joey and bandaged Salvy to forget about the fight. He says having no grudges is the most important thing. They shake hands, and Salvy leaves. Tommy asks Joey what is wrong. Tommy says that Jake is embarrassing people. Tommy would like to make it easy for him, but Jake makes things hard. Joey says he talks with him, but he has a hard head and wants things his own way. Tommy asks if he thinks he can become champion on his own. He does not respect anybody. He asks Joey to talk to him.
Joey runs in the rain and joins Jake who says he wants to catch her once. Joey tells him to throw her out or learn to live with her and let her ruin his live. Jake asks what Tommy said. Joey says he will get a shot at the title, but they want him to flip-flop.
Billy Fox weighs 174 pounds, and La Motta weighs 167.
In a tunnel Tommy tells Jake and Joey that rumors have made him an underdog because they think he is going to hit the tank. Jake says he is going to win and will not go down for anyone. Tommy says okay and walks off.
At Madison Square Garden photographers take pictures of Tommy who has a good seat. La Motta starts strong but then does little. After a round his trainer asks what he is doing out there. In the fourth round La Motta lets Fox hit him, and the referee stops the fight and declares Fox the winner by a technical knockout.
Jake is crying in the dressing-room, and the trainer keeps visitors out.
Jake brings home a newspaper with the headline that La Motta is suspended. Joey shows him how to fall down. Jake reads that the purse was withheld pending a D. A.’s probe. They eat and talk.
Two years later La Motta is going to fight Marcel Cerdan. In a motel room Jake says he does not want to wait 24 hours. He looks at a newspaper, and Joey urges him to eat something. Joey says he will order a steak, and he asks Vickie what she wants. At first she wants cake, but she changes her mind and asks for a cheeseburger.
Later Joey tells Jake that Tommy is there to see him. Jake hugs Tommy and Charlie. Jake says he feels all right. Tommy says he came by to wish him luck. Vickie walks over, and Tommy kisses her. They leave, and Jake asks her what that was about. She says she just said goodbye, and he slaps her. Joey tells him to stop that, and Jake angrily yells at him.
In the dressing-room Joey helps Jake warm up by letting him hit his stomach protected by a pad.
Jake wears a leopard robe, and they walk to the ring in the arena. La Motta is fighting Cerdan in Detroit in 1949. La Motta knocks him down. After nine rounds Joey tells him to finish him off. The referee stops the fight and declares La Motta the winner by a technical knockout, and he is the middleweight champion of the world.
In 1950 Jake and Joey are trying to tune in a television. Vickie comes in and kisses Jake and Joey. She says she was shopping and goes upstairs. Jake complains about Joey kissing her on the mouth. Joey says Jake is eating too much and has a big stomach. Jake asks Joey about his fight with Salvy, and Joey tells him how he got his head caught in the door of the taxi. Joey says it did not have anything to do with him, but Jake says he heard things. Joey tells him not to worry about that. He should worry about his title fight next month. Jake asks if Salvy fucked Vickie, and Joey says no. Jake is jealous and continues to argue about it. He warns Joey who says he does not care if he kills people. Joey says he is driving him crazy. He says Jake is letting her ruin his life. Jake asks Joey if he is fucking his wife. Joey says he will not answer that because it is stupid. Jake asks him again, and Joey says he is leaving. He feels sorry for Jake and tells him he is cracking up. Joey goes out. Jake goes upstairs and finds Vickie making the bed. He asks where she was, and she says she was at her sister’s. He pulls her ponytail and asks her why she did not tell him about the Copa. She does not know what is talking about. He slaps her around, and she tells him to leave her alone. She escapes to the bathroom and locks the door. He talks to her through the door and then knocks it down. He grabs her and asks why she fucked them. She says she fucked them all, and she calls him fat and a selfish fool. He stalks out.
Outside she follows him and hits him. He throws her down on the sidewalk.
Joey and his family are eating, and he reprimands his son about his table manners. Jake comes in and starts a fight with Joey, getting him down. Vickie and Lenore try to stop Jake while he is kicking Joey. Jake knocks Vickie down and goes out.
At home Jake is looking at a television that is not tuned in. Vickie comes in and begins packing a suitcase in the bedroom. Jake comes in and gently touches her as she walks around the room. He says he is a bum without her and the kids. She looks at him, and he hugs her.
In the championship fight La Motta is losing to Dauthuille at Detroit in 1950. In the fifteenth round La Motta comes to life and knocks out Dauthuille in the last half minute of the fight.
Jake and Vickie are walking by lockers, and she says he has to talk to his brother some time. She urges him to say he missed him and that he is sorry. Jake listens to her and gives her money to use the phone. A reporter tries to ask him questions, and Jake tells him to go away. She gives the phone to Jake, and he sits in the phone booth with the door closed. Joey insults him and hangs up.
Jake has water being poured on him during the fight. La Motta is fighting Sugar Ray Robinson again, and in round 13 Robinson beats up La Motta who leans on the ropes and tells him to hit him. Robinson moves in and hits him many times. Finally the referee stops the fight. Jake walks over and tells Ray that he never got him down. Robinson is the new champion by a technical knockout.
At Miami in 1956 Jake sits by a pool and says all he used to think about was weight. He says he has a beautiful wife and kids, and a photographer take pictures. A reporter asks Vickie how she feels about Jake’s retiring. She agrees it is great.
At Jake La Motta’s bar Jake uses a microphone that he rubs on a sexy woman. He takes a drink and talks to the people. He says he and Vickie are celebrating their eleventh wedding anniversary. He tells a joke about a married guy and a single guy. He tells how his wife gives him a bath, makes love to him, and gives him a nice dinner. He makes a joke about someone else wanting to have the same with her. He recites poetry about the raging bull. He meets District Attorney Bronson and his wife, and he kisses her, spilling her drink. He orders another drink for her. At the bar Jake asks a pretty girl to prove to him that she is 21 by kissing him. Then he does the same with another woman. He says he is convinced. Jake pours into a stack of champagne glasses. Then he lifts them off one at a time.
Jake comes out of his bar in the daytime and walks to a car. Vickie in the car tells him that she is leaving him. He asks her to let him in the car, but she says she will call the cops if he does not leave her alone and drives off.
Jake is lying in bed, and a man from the D. A. wakes him up. Two men are there to take him in. He is shown a picture of the young girl, and they ask him if he knows her. The man says she is fourteen. Jake asks him if he thinks she looks fourteen.
Jake knocks on a door and tells Vickie he just needs to get something. He comes in and gets his championship belt so that he can raise $10,000. He uses a hammer to take it apart. He says he is up on a vice rap. She asks if he can get money from his friends. She says he is going to wake up the kids, and she tells him to get out.
A jeweler tells Jake that the belt is worth more than the jewels from the belt. Jakes asks for $2,000, but he is only offered $1,500. Jake makes a call from a phone booth and says he can’t raise the money.
In 1957 Jake is in the Dade County Stockade, and two men force him into a cell. He sits on springs with no mattress. He gets up and pounds his head against the wall. Then he starts punching the wall repeatedly while he asks, “Why?” Exhausted, he cries and sits down. He sobs that he is not so bad.
In 1958 Jake is telling jokes in a bar in New York City. He insults his critics. He introduces Emma 48s. She starts dancing and doing a strip tease.
Outside Jake tells Emma that he is going to take a walk and will be home later. She gets into a cab. Jake sees Joey come out of a store and follows him, asking him to turn around. Joey walks to his car, and Jake closes the door and tries to hug him. Joey lets him hug and kiss him. Joey says he will call him and gets in the car.
At Barbizon-Plaza in his dressing-room Jake practices dialog from On the Waterfront in front of the mirror. He talks about when he took a dive against Wilson. He says he could have won, but he got a one-way ticket to Palookaville. He blames Charlie and says he should have taken care of him. He asks if a lot of people are out there. He tells himself to go get them and punches the air.
This biopic portrays a tough fighter who was successful but struggled with his anger and jealousy.