The trailer for A24’s The Iron Claw, out on December 22, just came out, and it looks great. The Oscar-bait biopic stars Zac Efron and Jeremy Allen White as Kevin and Kerry Von Erich, the real-life brothers in the most important family in Texas wrestling history.
The Iron Claw is going to be super good — and it’s likely to figure prominently in the pantheon of Texas sports films and TV shows. As you can imagine, there are a lot of them. Below, you’ll find the 10 best in this crucial category, as of right now. Based on how good that trailer looks, there will most likely be a new addition come late December.
Before we begin, we should acknowledge the Nolan Ryan and Dirk Nowitzki docs. Both are fine if you want to spend time with Nolan and Dirk, but they’re more personal brand infomercials than documentaries.
Also, if you’d like a better understanding of the Von Erichs, we highly recommend the Dark Side of the Ring episode The Last of the Von Erichs, framed around Kevin Von Erich, the Tales From the Territories episode about the WCCW (the promotion run by Von Erich patriarch Fritz Von Erich) and Beyond the Mat, specifically for the parts about Terry Funk, another Texas wrestling legend.
Finally, Necessary Roughness and North Dallas Forty just missed the cut. We did not forget about Texas football. We could never forget Texas football.
10. Cassandro (2023)
The newest entry on the list is a celebration of the life of El Paso’s most famous flamboyant lucha libre. It’s an uneven film, buoyed by fantastic performances from Gael García Bernal and Bad Bunny (a massive wrestling fan and a surprisingly good wrestler IRL). If you enjoy this new film, you’ll want to watch the 2018 documentary Cassandro the Exotico!
9. Whip It (2009)
Remember when roller derby was going to be the next big thing? That was fun. Drew Barrymore captures that vibe in this, her directorial debut. It’s also got some Linklater vibes. More on that later.
8. Dancing Queen (2018)
I played all the major sports — football, baseball, basketball, soccer and hockey — and all of them seem remarkably easier than competitive dance. I did not expect this Netflix docuseries, focused on RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Alyssa Edwards, to shine a light on a world of sports I did not know. I’m glad it did.
7. Friday Night Lights (2004)
This movie needed to exist so the greatest network television show of the last 25 years could exist. Shoutout to a quality Tim McGraw performance.
6. The Rookie (2002)
A feel-good Disney film that feels even better as you get older.
5. Varsity Blues (1999)
Camp that knows it’s camp. It’s not a better film than Friday Night Lights, but it’s an easier rewatch, so it’s in our top five.
4. The Resurrection of Jake the Snake (2015)
Professional wrestling is the absolute best subject for sports documentaries. The stories of these performers are rarely boring, while the highers are higher — and the lows lower — than for more traditional athletes. If you grew up watching the WWF and saw the aforementioned Beyond the Mat when it was released in 1999, this 2015 documentary was a shocking and positive piece of art. It’s also a sports doc for people who couldn’t care less about sports.
3. Hands on a Hardbody (1997)
What makes something a sport? Training? Sacrifice? Taking your body to its limits? Pushing your mind to its brink? This documentary about Texans attempting to win a truck has all of that, and some laughs.
2. Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
Why isn’t this Richard Linklater love letter to Texas baseball on the same level as Dazed and Confused? The performances are very realistic (thanks probably at least in part to Linklater’s time playing baseball at Sam Houston State University), both on field and just on screen. I blame baseball’s massive dip in popularity. If this had been released in 1993, it’d be considered a cult classic.
1. Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)
Obviously. Omit the Landry murder storyline in season two, and you have the best TV show of the last 25 years. Even with that misstep, it’s the best network show of the last 25 years. Extremely rewatchable, with realistic football and the only fictional married couple anyone should aspire to, Friday Night Lights was lightning in a bottle, and it seemed like everyone involved in the show knew it. Fingers crossed it’s never remade, and we’re allowed to remember Coach Taylor and Principal Taylor as they were.
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
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