Movie Reviews

The Iron Claw Is The Best Wrestling Movie Ever Made (It's Not Even A Close Contest)

Summary

  • The Iron Claw
    boasts powerful performances led by Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich and excels in realistic in-ring wrestling action.
  • Despite the tragedy, the film celebrates the passion and respect for professional wrestling, setting it apart from other wrestling movies.
  • The emotional impact and dedication of the cast elevate
    The Iron Claw
    above other wrestling films, showcasing a love for the sport.



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The Iron Claw was a hit with critics and moviegoers alike, but some crucial elements of the biographical sports drama elevate it above all other wrestling movies. The award-winning hit from A24 chronicles the true story of the Von Erichs, one of the most prominent families in the history of professional wrestling, as they navigate the wrestling industry while being plagued by tragedy at every turn. Starring Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Lily James, Holt McCallany and a talented ensemble cast, The Iron Claw is both a profoundly sad drama and a love letter to professional wrestling.


The movie’s powerful performances, highlighted by Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich, drove much of the critical acclaim. However, The Iron Claw stands head-and-shoulders above other wrestling movies for more reasons than just the caliber of its cast. While there have been plenty of wrestling-centric movies across a number of different genres, The Iron Claw is the best wrestling drama of all time thanks to its reverence for the sport.

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The Iron Claw Nails Its In-Ring Action (& That Wrestling IS Real)

The cast trained hard to make it realistic


One of the keys to any good wrestling movie is the actual in-ring wrestling itself. While there is a general understanding that wrestling is largely choreographed, that choreography still needs to be executed near-flawlessly to ensure that performers don’t get hurt and, more importantly, the moves appear impactful. It requires careful coordination between each performer to ensure that the match feels authentic by not only executing the drops, kicks, and chops, but to “sell” the effects of each move to make sure it seems painful.

The actors of The Iron Claw clearly put the work in to make sure that the wrestling throughout the movie felt as real as possible. They worked closely with actual professional wrestlers to learn how to properly execute each move, and were trained to endure the actual pain involved with some of the moves to ensure realism. That level of commitment from its cast is rare, particularly for sports movies. That shines through in the movie; each chop, drop-kick and dive off the top rope feels real because it IS real.


The Iron Claw Celebrates & Loves Wrestling Even Amid Its Tragedies

The movie respects the wrestling business and why it inspires passion

Zac Efron's Kevin, Jeremy Allen White's Kerry, and Harris Dickinson's David talking to a host in The Iron Claw

As bleak and devastating as the plot of The Iron Claw is, the movie does an excellent job of making sure that it remains a celebration of wrestling at its core. The Von Erichs’ passion for the technical side of wrestling may have originally been driven by their father, but it’s clear that they enjoy it and want to achieve success for their own reasons. They take the business very seriously, and the respect that The Iron Claw shows for the professional wrestling industry elevates it above the majority of other wrestling movies.

There were actually six Von Erich brothers; their brother Chris, who also tragically committed suicide, was omitted from the movie entirely in a controversial move from the film’s creators.


The movie immerses the audience in the culture of pro wrestling in the 80s, which helps explain the highs of the sport while juxtaposing it against the lows that the Von Erichs endured. The roar of the crowd, the level of recognition a wrestler receives as champion, and the thrill of executing the perfect move all serve to explain why the Von Erich brothers are passionate and work hard at their craft. The Iron Claw fully explains why professional wrestling has such a massive global following in 2024; the groundwork was laid by wrestlers like the Von Erichs decades ago.

The Iron Claw Is About More Than Wrestling (But Never Loses Sight Of It)

Wrestling is an integral part of the family drama

Doris and Fritz Von Erich in The Iron Claw with their kids


The main conflict at the heart of The Iron Claw is born out of the family drama surrounding the Von Erichs. How the brothers deal with not only the pressure from their father, but the self-inflicted pressure to succeed in the ring is what drives the story, and ultimately results in the brothers’ untimely deaths. The profound sadness of the plot is what creates much of the movie’s emotional impact. However, through all the tragedy and despair that the family experiences, wrestling is woven into the fabric of the narrative of The Iron Claw.

The Iron Claw
is now streaming on Max after a $45 million run at the box office.

Despite dealing with perhaps the heaviest and saddest story in the long and storied history of professional wrestling, The Iron Claw never loses sight of the sport. In many cases, wrestling itself takes a back seat to the drama or comedy of the story. A perfect example is Paradise Valley, which stars Sylvester Stallone and Armand Assante as con men who try to escape poverty by turning their brother into a professional wrestler. The crime drama of the movie is the driving force, while the wrestling is more of a plot accent.


There Have Only Been A Few Other Truly Great Wresting Movies

Wrestling movies are often played for laughs

The Iron Claw can be considered the best wrestling movie of all time largely because there isn’t much other sincere competition for the title. The public perception of wrestling as “fake” leads to it being treated casually or as a joke on many occasions. Jack Black’s silly comedy Nacho Libre is a good example; while wrestling is a foundational part of the plot, it’s a mediocre quality movie at best, and it doesn’t take the industry seriously at all. While there is a place for that kind of wrestling movie, it isn’t in the same stratosphere as The Iron Claw.

The Iron Claw
currently holds a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer, and a 94% rating from fans.


There are plenty of good wrestling movies, to be clear. 2019’s Fighting With My Family, the biographical comedy-drama about the life of wrestler Paige (Florence Pugh), received near-universal acclaim from critics and fans alike. The comedy-drama The Peanut Butter Falcon, which stars Zack Gottsagen, Shia LaBeouf, and Dakota Johnson, was considered one of the best movies of the year, and also came out in 2019. Both movies feature terrific performances and are inspiring, but neither carries the emotional impact of The Iron Claw.

The main competition for the title of “best wrestling movie ever” is the Academy-Award-nominated Darren Aronofsky drama The Wrestler. Featuring Mickey Rourke as Randy “The Ram” Robinson, The Wrestler has received universal acclaim since its release in 2008, and prior to The Iron Claw was widely considered the best wrestling movie ever. However, The Iron Claw matches The Wrestler on the emotional impact of its story and the power of the performances that drive it. The Iron Claw‘s reverence for real wrestling and the in-ring work done by its cast is what elevates it above The Wrestler.


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