Some of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood right now are professional wrestlers. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, John Cena, and Dave Bautista have had massive mainstream success in film and television in recent history. Even before they made the jump from the squared circle to the silver screen, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant, and Jesse Ventura were blazing the trail and appearing in a number of memorable roles.
However, it seems like the road has been going both ways more and more as the years go on in terms of storytelling. GLOW, Heels, Nacho Libre and Total Divas are just a few examples of the stories taken from pro wrestling and shown through the entertainment industry’s lens. Now, the lucha libre biopic Cassandro is streaming on Prime Video to tell the story of one of the most prolific luchadors in the history of Mexican wrestling.
After watching the tale of the renowned Cassandro el Exotico’s life and career unfold in this critically acclaimed film from filmmaker Roger Ross Williams, there’s a good chance that you would want more stories like this. If you’re not ready to tune into WWE or AEW just yet, we have some suggestions for wrestling movies to stream online.
While Darren Aronofsky’s award-winning film The Wrestler is about the fictional Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke), it tells the story of many wrestlers from back in the day. The 2008 movie follows Randy as he tries to find his place in the world after his heyday in wrestling is very far in his rearview mirror. When the opportunity arises to relive his glory days with one of his old rivals, he works harder than ever before to get back to his peak physical condition.
But due to his failing health, he’s sidelined with an injury and advised to never wrestle again or it could kill him. As his professional and personal lives begin to crumble around him, this broken man has to decide between the dregs of the real world and the love and respect he’d get in the ring as “The Ram,” even if it’s the last thing he does.
It’s really a tragic tale that was unfortunately commonplace for veterans of the wrestling business. Both Aronofsky and Rourke captured this in such a heart-wrenching and poignant way that’s accessible to both fans and non-fans alike.
Fighting With My Family
On the brighter side of the spectrum, Fighting With My Family is a much more inspiring and uplifting story. Featuring a star-studded cast that includes Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Vince Vaughn and an up-and-coming Florence Pugh in the lead role, the film is based on the lives of former WWE Superstar Paige (aka reigning AEW Women’s World Champion Saraya) and her family as they prepare the next generation to enter the family business of professional wrestling. As Paige finds success and a clear path to WWE, her brother Zak is met with a much more difficult journey through the Indies.
As a joint production between WWE Studios, The Rock, and filmmaker Stephen Merchant, many assumed that the wrestling promotion would use this opportunity as a glorified commercial. And like many biopics (or essentially any movie that’s based on a true story), Fighting With My Family takes a few liberties with real life events and makes some adjustments to better serve the storytelling. For example, Vaughn’s character is really an amalgamation of a few different people and Paige didn’t meet The Rock until much later in her career. But the film still contains a solid amount of heart that leaves you feeling good about pursuing your dreams no matter how difficult that might be.
Beyond The Mat
Back in the day, the people in the professional wrestling business worked very hard to maintain the illusion that their art form was more of a sporting contest. In other words, the fans didn’t know that the strikes weren’t legitimate and that the holds didn’t really knock anyone out. This was called “keeping kayfabe.” While it’s still frowned upon to call wrestling “fake,” the idea of keeping kayfabe is largely an outdated way of thinking. The majority of the audience knows that it’s more like a choreographed performance than a fight. Although, before the crowd was smartened up to the business, it was pretty mind-blowing to see the curtain pulled back in the documentary Beyond The Mat.
For many wrestling fans today, this movie from Barry W. Blaustein was the thing that essentially revealed the truth about Santa Claus. It set out to get into the mind of a wrestler and learn why they would get into wrestling by profiling three wrestlers at different stages of their careers: Mick Foley, Terry Funk, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Throughout the doc, the people behind the personas are revealed and the audience learns how professional wrestling could affect all aspects of someone’s life.
Advertised as “The Film Vince McMahon Doesn’t Want You To See,” this documentary gave fans unprecedented access to this world that love but aren’t supposed to see how it’s done. It's still lauded as one of the best wrestling documentaries ever made.
Man on the Moon
Though it’s not exclusively about wrestling, the 1999 biopic Man On The Moon starring Jim Carrey tells the life story of revolutionary performer and WWE Hall of Famer Andy Kaufman. The prolific comedian is probably best known as Latka Graves from the classic sitcom Taxi for his work on Saturday Night Live, but he was also instrumental in putting the entertainment in “sports entertainment.”
As the film depicts, Kaufman decided to enter the world of professional wrestling after being a lifelong fan. He was fascinated by the theatricality and kayfabe, two concepts he constantly played with in his own art. But when he went down to Memphis, Tennessee to work with Jerry “The King” Lawler (after Vince McMahon Sr. and WWE passed on the pitch), the actor brought more mainstream eyes to professional wrestling than ever before as he challenged women to matches and ended up on the business end of The King’s signature pile-driver. And the pair’s appearance on Late Night With David Letterman is still talked about as one of the most memorable moments in television history.
Despite wrestling being only a small part of his story, it is a very important part of Andy Kaufman’s legacy. That’s why the Miloš Forman film certainly deserves a spot on the list.
You Cannot Kill David Arquette
Aside from Andy Kaufman, the most prominent figure to make their way from Hollywood to a wrestling ring might be David Arquette. The star of Scream, Never Been Kissed and Eight Legged Freaks was thrust into the world of professional wrestling thanks to his role in the 2000 film Ready To Rumble (which is also a must-watch). However, the creative forces behind WCW decided to take their promotion of the movie to the next level by giving the actor a run with the World Heavyweight Championship. This decision was so reviled by fans that they actively hated it for years afterward and made Arquette a joke in the industry for generations.
But in reality, Arquette is a wrestling fan and he was against the title run from the start. And years after his first foray into wrestling, he was determined to prove that he did in fact respect and honor the art form. The way he did this was by properly training as a wrestler and paying his dues. His journey to redemption was chronicled in the documentary titled You Cannot Kill David Arquette.
On his way to earning the respect of fans and the wrestling industry, Arquette studied all forms of wrestling and appeared on a variety of independent shows while maintaining his regular career as an actor. He even dabbled in hardcore wrestling and nearly died in the ring during a match. But through all the ups and downs, he goes from punchline to powerhouse and even becomes a fan-favorite competitor The doc is incredibly endearing and it’s hard not to root for David Arquette by the end. Hopefully he’ll join Kaufman and other wrestling legends in the WWE Hall of Fame one day.
Stream on Hulu