What are the most popular wrestling movies ever made? If you’re trying to think about all of the movies out there associated with wrestling, you probably didn’t come up with too much. You might even be thinking that there really aren’t that many movies about the subject out there to begin with. The truth of the matter is that there are actually several movies that have been made about the subject of wrestling, as well as subjects closely related to the sport. For the most part, they don’t seem to be as popular as other mainstream Hollywood movies. With that being said, there are some that have managed to break through that mold in order to enjoy a high level of success in their own right.
It might be difficult for create a full list, especially considering 20 movies, if you don’t look at all types of movies that involve wrestling. In other words, it really isn’t enough to just include movies that are strictly about either high school or college wrestling, as well as professional wrestling, and little else. However, if you look at movies that contain that type of subject matter as well as movies that are associated with the subject of wrestling, such as boxing movies, the list grows exponentially. In addition, it gives you, as a fan of the cinema, an opportunity to start thinking about movies that have been released which enjoyed a high level of success. It would also be a mistake if documentaries about wrestling were not included here.
In reality, wrestling has always been somewhat controversial. Typically, you don’t see quite as much controversy at the high school or college level as you do when it comes to professional wrestling. Since it was in the dawn of its infancy, there has been controversy surrounding professional wrestling for a number of reasons. Much of it centers around the admission that wrestling matches were staged events and that the athletes were just as much performers as anything else. Of course, there has been controversy since that time, usually about people that didn’t follow the script, so to speak, not to mention controversies about drugs and the way some wrestling stars live their lives outside the ring. Without a doubt, you can find controversy in practically anything but you shouldn’t get the idea that wrestling is only about controversy.
There are also people involved in wrestling, at all levels, that are truly remarkable athletes. Many of these individuals also act as leaders within their communities. For the most part, a lot of these individuals have a tendency to lead by example. They want to make their corner of the world a better place for everybody to live and they try as best they can to do exactly that. In reality, when you take a good, hard look at wrestling, you realize that you are looking at something that is representative of people in general. It contains some good things and some bad things. In addition, there are a lot of grey areas in between. Much of it depends on your personal stance on the subject and how you feel about it to begin with.
Below are 20 movies that have led the way when it comes to the subject of wrestling. You might be surprised at the number of movies made about the subject, but more importantly, there is a better-than-average chance that you will find at least one or two on this list that could become one of your go-to favorites. Whether you are a devoted fan of wrestling or you could take it or leave it, a lot of the movies on this list are definitely worth checking out. After all, they are the top movies about the subject that have ever been made.
1. Beyond the Mat (1999)
This is easily one of the most interesting movies about the subject that has ever been made. It actually serves as a documentary, delving deeper into the lives of professional wrestlers. The movie focuses on their lives outside of the ring, giving you as the viewer an opportunity to see what their lives are like when they are not performing. The first thing you are likely to notice is that the same individuals that are standing up there screaming at the top of their lungs during a wrestling match are usually very soft spoken and kind for the most part. This particular documentary also features Vince McMahon, a person that a lot of wrestling fans love to hate. If for nothing else, it’s worth watching just to see what he is like away from the wrestling ring.
2. The True Story of WrestleMania (2011)
This is another documentary. As you might have already guessed, it too features McMahon and his group of wrestlers that typically perform for his organization. Over the years, WrestleMania has become one of the most sought-after events in modern-day wrestling, and this story takes you behind the scenes so you can see what it is all really about. One thing is certain, you’re not likely to look at wrestling the same way again after you see this documentary. Therefore, it is well worth seeing, whether you are a dedicated fan or just a casual observer.
3. Foxcatcher (2014)
This movie made a lot of headlines when it was first released a few years ago. Starring Channing Tatum, it recounts the recruitment of Olympic gold medalists who were practically experts in wrestling. The movie takes a rather harsh look at some of the things that these individuals were put through. It’s a rather dark movie, but it’s also an interesting take on the subject. If you haven’t seen it, you don’t know what you’re missing.
4. The Resurrection of Jake The Snake (2015)
If you follow wrestling, even a little bit, you’re likely to remember Jake the Snake Roberts. Like most individuals involved in the sport, this documentary talks about his larger-than-life persona and also discusses his life outside of the ring. This film gives you a glimpse of his life on a day to day basis, including the ups and the downs. If you’re a fan of his, or even if you just enjoy good documentaries about the subject of wrestling, this one is for you.
5. When We Were Kings (1996)
This is the first movie on the list that isn’t dedicated solely to wrestling. As you might have guessed by now, this is the movie that chronicles the life of Muhammad Ali, one of the most prolific boxers to have ever existed. Some people might argue with the inclusion of this movie on the list, but the truth is, wrestling and boxing movies are often included together. Because of the popularity of this particular movie, it would have been a mistake not to include it. If you keep reading, you’ll also find one or two more like this on the list. Rest assured, the movies have earned their place in this or virtually any other top 20 list.
6. Paradise Alley (1978)
This is a movie that not only stars Sylvester Stallone, but was also written and directed by him as well. It focuses on the lives of three brothers that grew up in a rough neighborhood in 1940s New York City. The movie chronicles their lives as they begin to come up through the ranks as wrestlers, thereby making a way for themselves where many people thought that no way existed. This is a Stallone movie that a lot of people don’t even know about. It’s astonishing to think that a lot of his fans have never heard of this movie, as it tells a good story that is based in reality. It’s definitely worth watching, whether you consider yourself a fan of Stallone or not.
7. The Wrestler (1974)
This one focuses more on the promotion of individuals in the sport of wrestling as opposed to focusing on the athletes themselves. You might be surprised to learn that the lead character is Ed Asner, the same person that many people grew up watching on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. In this movie, he plays the promoter and he does an excellent job, as you might expect. This is definitely a classic that should be on everybody’s bucket list.
8. Ready to Rumble (2000)
You might not think about a comedy when you think about movies associated with wrestling, but that’s exactly what this one is. Before you discount it as something that you would rather not see, stop and consider the possibility that it might be worth watching after all. The movie really is quite funny, and while it stars Rose McGowan, a popular actress, it also stars Randy Savage. If you’ve followed wrestling in any capacity throughout the years, you’ll know who this is.
9. Creed (2015)
How could this movie not be put on the list? As you might have guessed by the name, this movie explores the Rocky storyline more in-depth. More specifically, it explores the relationship between Rocky and Apollo Creed, and it also talks more about the life of Apollo Creed in general. It’s a great movie and if you loves movies about wrestling or boxing, you’re bound to love this one.
10. Rocky (1976)
You had to know when you saw Creed on this list that Rocky would be on it as well. It would practically be a sin not to include this movie on here. Chances are, you’ve seen this movie more than once in your lifetime and if you haven’t, you’re missing out on a movie that many people consider to be a truly remarkable classic. If you haven’t watched it just because you don’t like movies about wrestling or boxing, you’re missing the point. This movie is really about being down and out and then finding a way to succeed on your own, without anybody else around to help you. It’s a perfect example of what can happen in real life when you have a dream and you don’t give up on that dream or on yourself. It also serves as an excellent metaphor about what can happen when you stay dedicated to things and you don’t let people or your circumstances deter you. It proves that everyone has an opportunity at success, no matter how unlikely those chances might be. All you have to do is keep searching for your niche and then go for it with everything you’ve got, no matter what happens. Because of that, this is easily one of the most inspiring movies that has ever been made.
11. Warrior (2011)
This is a Nick Nolte film that features two brothers who really aren’t very close. As a matter of fact, they can hardly stand each other. However, all of that changes when they end up competing in the same competition. The hardships they face there will force them to take an honest look at themselves and their relationship. In the end, these hardships have the capability to bring them closer than they have ever been.
12. Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows (1998)
This is a documentary film about Owen Hart, one of the most prolific wrestlers of his time. The documentary chronicles his rise to fame, as well as the demons that plagued him for most of his life. In the end, it is really a documentary about both his life and his death. It talks about the struggles that he dealt with on a daily basis, both those related to his success and those that had nothing to do with wrestling.
13. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
This particular movie is directed by Clint Eastwood. That should tell you right off the bat that it’s going to be a good one. The movie stars Hilary Swank as an up-and-coming boxer who convinces Eastwood’s character to train her. If you think the movie is only about boxing, think again. It’s about overcoming obstacles, even those that seem insurmountable at the time. It’s also about developing a relationship with those around you, even when that relationship is as unlikely as anything else you might encounter.
14. No Holds Barred (1989)
This is a good action movie so if you like that particular genre, this might be the one for you. It stars one of wrestling’s most animated individuals, Hulk Hogan. It really is a good movie about the subject of wrestling and it doesn’t hurt that it has one of the best-known names in the business as its central character. If you haven’t seen it, give it a try.
15. The Fighter (2010)
This is another movie about overcoming obstacles but it has a twist. This is a movie that is based on real individuals starring Mark Wahlberg. In the movie, the central character is a hard-working, hard knocking young man that wants to make it in the world of boxing. Most people discount him as someone that doesn’t have the talent or the background to make it. Refusing to give up, he does exactly that. However, his success also brings its own unique set of challenges as he and his family try to adapt to having a great deal of fame and fortune. This movie could potentially serve as something of a cautionary tale about not letting popularity go to your head.
16. Reversal (2001)
This is a good movie about popular high school wrestler Leo Leone. The movie chronicles his life as he comes up through the ranks as a wrestler, first in high school and then later on in college. It’s a solid movie that has some really good points and is worth watching even if you don’t really consider yourself a fan of wrestling.
17. Win Win (2011)
This is another movie that some might consider a comedy. Technically, it’s more of a comedy drama starring Paul Giamatti. This is a movie that a lot of people seem to be on the fence about, yet it has managed to remain quite popular since its release. Maybe it has something to do with trying to combine drama and comedy in a wrestling film, but you are likely to either love it or hate it. There doesn’t seem to be very many people that have a grey area when it comes to this one. With that being said, it made this list for a reason so it is worth checking out.
18. Over the Top (1987)
This is another movie starring Sylvester Stallone. In this one, he is fighting for custody of his child. As a truck driver that is up against a very rich family, his back is certainly against the wall. As such, he makes the decision to enter an arm wrestling competition so he can win enough money to get his child back. You might be thinking that the movie doesn’t really sound all that interesting, but it is truly one of the most entertaining and most touching movies of the 1980s. If you haven’t seen it, give it a try. You’re likely to find yourself enjoying it quite a lot.
19. Vision Quest (1985)
This Matthew Modine movie is really more about the challenges involved in growing up than it is about wrestling. Granted, the main character wrestles, but he wrestles with a lot more than just his opponents. As someone that is coming of age, he struggles with a lot of the same challenges in life that everyone else that age struggles with. The movie does a good job of combining the wrestling scenes with the rest of the movie and weaving it all into the story seamlessly.
20. Nacho Libre (2006)
How could any top 20 list of movies in wrestling be complete without including this enormously popular Jack black comedy? This movie is truly funny from beginning to end. Jack Black turned in a commanding performance, as is usually the case. If you’re in the mood for a pick-me-up, this is definitely a movie that can get the job done.
Well, there you have it. Whether you enjoy wrestling or you don’t really care for it at all, there are bound to be several movies on this list that you can enjoy anyway. A lot of people that have a tendency to avoid these types of movies because they don’t like the subject of wrestling eventually find that wrestling is just the first layer when it comes to these types of films. As is usually the case, the films are really about so much more and they are not limited to one topic alone. Some of these films talk about overcoming obstacles and some chronicle the lives of individuals that were ultimately unable to overcome the obstacles that faced them. In any case, the movies serve as a way of telling a story that has many layers to it. Wrestling is the subject matter that appears on the surface, but even if you don’t like the idea of wrestling, you’re bound to fall in love with some of the characters in these movies. It’s just impossible not to.
In many cases, these movies have stood the test of time. While there are several on the list that were made in more recent years, you undoubtedly noticed that a lot of them were made in the 70s and early 80s. Their popularity is not by accident, but instead because the movies have enough substance to carry them and keep them in the hearts of individuals throughout the decades. This is practically the hallmark of a good movie, regardless of the subject matter at hand. That is why these movies have made the top 20 list in the first place.
Whether you like comedy or drama, or even if you prefer to watch a documentary, there is something on this list for everybody. You might love wrestling and you want to watch practically every one of the movies listed here. On the other hand, you might not really be that big of a fan, yet there is something about one or two of these films that has caught your interest. Whatever the case might be, if you’re looking for something to do for the evening or over the weekend, this is a great place to start.