The brew of violence and anger, combined with the lack of a proper advertising campaign, led to the film's lukewarm box office intake of only $23 million, when compared to its $18 million budget. It only earned $10.1 million in theatrical rentals (about $27 million in 2013 dollars). Scorsese became concerned for his future career and worried that producers and studios might refuse to finance his films. According to Box Office Mojo, the film grossed $23,383,987 in domestic theaters.
Raging Bull first premiered in New York on November 14, 1980 to polarized reviews. Jack Kroll of Newsweek called Raging Bull the "best movie of the year". Vincent Canby of The New York Times said that Scorsese "has made his most ambitious film as well as his finest" and went on to praise Moriarty's debut performance as "either she is one of the film finds of the decade or Mr. Scorsese is Svengali. Perhaps both." Time praised De Niro's performance since "much of Raging Bull exists because of the possibilities it offers De Niro to display his own explosive art". Steven Jenkins from the British Film Institute's (BFI) magazine, Monthly Film Journal, said "Raging Bull may prove to be Scorsese's finest achievement to date".
Raging Bull was nominated for eight Academy Awards (including Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Sound (Donald O. Mitchell, Bill Nicholson, David J. Kimball and Les Lazarowitz), and Editing) at the 1980 Academy Awards. The film won two awards: Best Actor, for De Niro, and Best Film Editing.
The Oscars were held the day after President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr., who did it as an attempt to impress Jodie Foster, who played a child prostitute in another of Scorsese's famous films, Taxi Driver. Out of fear of being attacked, Scorsese went to the ceremony with FBI bodyguards disguised as guests who escorted him out before the announcement of the Academy Award for Best Picture was made (the winner being Ordinary People).
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association voted Raging Bull the best film of 1980 and best actor for De Niro. The National Board of Review also voted best actor for De Niro and best supporting actor to Pesci. The Golden Globes awarded another Best Actor award to De Niro and the National Society of Film Critics gave Best Cinematography to Chapman. The Berlin Film Festival chose Raging Bull to open the festival in 1981.
By the end of the 1980s, Raging Bull had cemented its reputation as a modern classic. It was voted the best film of the 1980s in numerous critics' polls and is regularly pointed to as both Scorsese's best film and one of the finest American films ever made. Several prominent critics, among them Roger Ebert, declared the film to be an instant classic and the consummation of Scorsese's earlier promise. Ebert proclaimed it the best film of the 1980s, and one of the ten greatest films of all time. The film has been deemed "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1990. The film currently holds a 98% "Certified Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 9.1/10. The similarly themed Metacritic rates the movie 92/100 ("universal acclaim").
Raging Bull was listed by Time magazine as one of the All-TIME 100 Movies. Variety magazine ranked the film number 39 on their list of the 50 greatest movies. Raging Bull was fifth on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time. The film tied with The Bicycle Thieves and Vertigo at number 6 on Sight & Sound 's 2002 poll of the greatest movies ever. When Sight & Sound 's directors' and critics' lists are combined, Raging Bull gets the most points of all movies that has been produced since 1974. In 2002, Film4 held a poll of the 100 Greatest Movies, on which Raging Bull was voted in at number 20. Halliwell's Film Guide, a British film guide, placed Raging Bull seventh in a poll naming their selection for the "Top 1,000 Movies". In 2008, Empire magazine held a poll of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time, taking votes from 10,000 readers, 150 film makers and 50 film critics: Raging Bull was placed at number 11. It was also placed on a similar list of 1000 movies by The New York Times. In 2010, Total Film selected the film as one of The 100 Greatest Movies of All Time. FilmSite.org, a subsidiary of American Movie Classics, placed Raging Bull on their list of the 100 greatest movies. Additionally, Films101.com ranked the film as the 15th best movie of all time (a list of the 9,335 most notable).
American Film Institute recognition
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies: #24
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills: #51
- AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition): #4
- AFI's 10 Top 10: #1 Sports