A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Themes of teamwork, overcoming adversity, and keeping a positive outlook, which doesn't always happen. But eventually it becomes clear that the movie is really about surviving abuse, which not every character manages to do.
Positive Role Models
As athletes who are dedicated to their training and performance, the characters can be seen as role models -- but they're also definitely flawed, troubled human beings who are dealing with tragedies (often not very well). The brothers demonstrate teamwork when they band together to support one another.
All of the main characters in this story set in 1970s and '80s Texas are White men. The two main women characters, Doris and Pam, are wives who are generally there to support their husbands and families, though they do get a few small, key scenes in which they show their agency. A few characters of color can be seen in supporting or background roles.
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Violence & Scariness
Wrestling violence includes stomping, slamming, tackling, head-twists, punching, flying kicks, head-butting, clotheslining, slapping, shoving, hand shoved in face, scratching, pulling hair, etc. Character is thrown out of the ring and lands hard on a concrete floor. Character kicked in ribs. Knee to jaw, kicking in face. Bloody wounds, injuries, scratches. Blood in hair. Guns and shooting. Characters die by suicide. Bloody corpse. Character vomits blood. Character loses lower part of leg in traffic accident. Fighting, attempted choking. A character who suffers a painful dislocated shoulder while wrestling goes into a coma from toxic shock syndrome. Dialogue about death.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Passionate kissing. A couple prepares to have sex in a car; nothing sensitive is seen. A man masturbates in the shower; the camera stays above his waist. Joke about a "shotgun wedding."
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Sporadic use of words including "f--k," "s--t," "goddamn," "son of a bitch," "bastard," "ass," "hell," "Christ."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters snort cocaine, take pills, and inject something (steroids?) with a needle. A character drives while intoxicated, and people are drunk in a bar. There's also casual drinking throughout: whiskeys, beers at the dinner table, drinks at wedding. Characters hold red drink cups at a college party (alcohol is implied). Cigarette smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Iron Claw is a mature sports drama about a real-life team of wrestling brothers, the Von Erichs, who became champions in the 1980s but also suffered many family tragedies. Some of the wrestling-related violence gets pretty intense: There's stomping, slamming, tackling, head-twists, punching, flying kicks, head-butting, clotheslining, slapping, shoving, a hand shoved in a face, scratching, pulling hair, hard landings, kicking in the ribs and face, bloody wounds, injuries, and more. Characters also shoot guns, and there are deaths by suicide, vomiting blood, dead bodies, and more. Strong language includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," "goddamn," "son of a bitch," etc. Characters kiss passionately, sex is suggested, and a man masturbates (the action is below the camera). People also use cocaine, inject drugs (possibly steroids), take pills, drink and sometimes get drunk, and smoke cigarettes. But there are clear themes of teamwork, and the film is movingly directed with an introspective, emotional touch by Sean Durkin. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Writer/director Sean Durkin tells this incredible true story with welcome introspection and a soft touch that takes its time and finds an undercurrent of emotion. Biographical movies that take place over a span of time often get lost in the blocky, chapter-like telling of what happened, forgetting to imagine what it felt like. The Iron Claw, even with its unwieldy (and somewhat truncated) story, avoids that flat, chunky approach and gets it just right. So many moments that could have become clichéd are instead given unexpected depth. For example, Tierney's character could have been lost in the shuffle among the men, but she gets a couple of small scenes that open an entire inner world for her.
And even while Durkin provides plenty of wrestling action, he never passes up a chance to show character depth amongst the pummeling; whether it's a look or a small exchange, these moments contain volumes. Viewers get a strong sense of the family's bond, too, expressed by strong performances from both the newcomers and Efron, who has become a genuine pro. Even the plot, which relies somewhat on random misfortunes, starts to feel organic; indeed, it takes on greater and greater significance, raising questions of destiny and control. How much can we really direct the flow of our lives? But as tragic as it is, The Iron Claw finally reaches out to find hints of forgiveness and compassion. It's an unforgettable movie.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.