3. Beyond the Mat (1999)
Sold on the back of footage showing former WWF Champion Mick Foley having his head battered by over 10 steel chair shots from The Rock while his wife and small children cried in the front row, Beyond the Mat (1999) looked to authenticate the pain and sacrifice of wrestling while maintaining a strong respect for the industry.
With a plethora of backstage footage, some of it so honest it got the superstars of the time in real-life backstage trouble, Beyond the Mat is perhaps the most unflinching and raw portrayal of the ludicrous wrestling circus that there is, yet it somehow never loses touch of the magic that brings fans back to it over and over again, walking a very fine line with all the grace of one of the industry’s most practised veterans.
2. Fighting With My Family (2019)
You may have noticed that up until this point there have been only a few wrestling dramas on this list, the inclusions of comedies Nacho Libre and Ready to Rumble hardly having the insight of the harder hitting documentaries that have outranked them, but with Stephen Merchant’s 2019 uplifting Rocky-like story Fighting With My Family, it seems that drama can indeed have a place at the top of the wrestling movie mountain.
This film, co-produced by former WWE Champion Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and co-financed by WWE Studios, Film4 and MGM, truly captured the energy and passion that is the bedrock of professional wrestling, its grass-roots approach to potential superstardom managing to capture the very essence of what the sport means to so many, whether they’re from New York or Norwich. The cast, including rising stars Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth) and Jack Lowden (Dunkirk) as well as established names Lena Headey, Nick Frost and Vince Vaughn, pushed the film along while Merchant’s direction kept the journey honest and relateable, making for perhaps the most uplifting wrestling film to date.
Whether you’re a fan of wrestling or not, Fighting With My Family has something for you.
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1. The Wrestler (2008)
Still the only wrestling film to ever be nominated for Oscars (Actor In A Leading Role – Mickey Rourke & Actress In A Supporting Role – Marisa Tomei), Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler is head and shoulders above all the competition when it comes to movies about professional wrestling.
Starring Mickey Rourke in an almost true-to-life story of redemption through suffering (something the actor himself knows lots about), The Wrestler is a phenomenal insight into the after-life of men and women who batter their bodies for decades at a time only to eventually be kicked to the curb when they can no longer contribute, Aronofsky’s focus on the fictional Randy “The Ram” Robinson being a universally identifiable tale of moving beyond that which you were born to do. What’s more is that The Wrestler does this while remaining particularly relevant to wrestling, the lives of its many washed up, down-on-their-luck former superstars seemingly echoed in The Ram’s on-screen journey, the sad reality of the carny lifestyle making for one of the most pressing dramas of the 2000s and a must-watch film for any fan of cinema, whether they’re a wrestling aficionado or not.
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