Top 10 Wrestling Movies

2. The Iron Claw (2023)

The Iron Claw Review

The tragic real-life story of the famous Von Erich wrestling family of Texas became immortalised via celluloid in The Iron Claw, Sean Durkin’s emotionally resonant tale of trauma, injuries and death.

There hasn’t been another movie about professional wrestling that has become such a cultural phenomenon as The Iron Claw. People recorded themselves before and after seeing the film, often to emphasise how upset they had become whilst seeing it – the real-life family behind the tragedies portrayed on screen became new figures of American folklore, the subjects of a tragic tale about the pain that can come with pursuing the so-called American Dream.

Made in conjunction with a number of famous professional wrestlers, such as executive producer Maxwell Friedman (widely known as MJF) and wrestling choreographer Chavo Guerrero Jr (‘GLOW’), the quality of the professional wrestling at the core of this heart-wrenching drama was arguably the best ever realised on film, lead actor Zac Efron even earning praise from Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s “2023 Wrestler of the Year” Will Ospreay.

With an original song – “Live That Way Forever” – to rival even the great Bruce Springsteen’s work on the film that places number one on this list, some phenomenal performances, and one of the great scripts of 2023, The Iron Claw is widely believed to have been wrongly snubbed by the Academy Awards in multiple categories, a point illustrative of the film’s overall quality and crossover appeal.

1. The Wrestler (2008)

Top 10 Wrestling Movies

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 almost all the competition and remains the ultimate movie about professional wrestling.

Starring Mickey Rourke in an almost true-to-life story of redemption through suffering, 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 is a universally identifiable tale of moving beyond that which you were born to do, or time running out on your perceived usefulness.

The Wrestler does this whilst remaining poignantly accurate to many stories within professional wrestling, and particularly its many washed up, down-on-their-luck former superstars whose lives are seemingly echoed in The Ram’s on-screen journey.

Some exceptional cinematography and impactful editing really drive home the physicality, whilst moving performances light up an inspired script, each ensuring that The Wrestler moves you, perhaps even changes you.

This is one one of the must-watch dramas of the 2000s and the best wrestling movie ever made.

Recommended for you: 10 Best Wrestlers Turned Actors

Professional wrestling has grown from its roots as local entertainment toured around like a circus into an international sensation that speaks of good and evil in a language that appears to be universal. Its popularity as a form of entertainment that can fill sporting venues and sell television rights for billions of dollars, reflect decades of tragedy, abuse and controversy that exist beneath the surface, and will always provide mineable materials for cinema to interpret and repurpose.

But which professional wrestling film do you like the most? Did any film other than The Wrestler deserve Oscars recognition? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to follow @thefilmagazine on Facebook and across social media for updates on more insightful movie lists.

Updated 6th April 2024. Originally published 13th May 2019.

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