The Iron Claw parents guide: Zac Efron’s wrestling movie will suplex your heart

The biopic is now streaming on Max.
The Iron Claw
The Iron Claw /

Zac Efron is probably best known for the High School Musical series, or raunchy comedies like the Neighbors flicks, as well the recent Ricky Stanicky on Prime Video. The Iron Claw is not that. At all. Instead, the biopic, which is now streaming on Max (formerly HBO Max) is an out-and-out tragedy.

First released in 2023, the movie is the true-life story of the Von Erich family, a successful wrestling dynasty, though they all believed they were cursed. That stems from the stymied career of their father Fritz Von Erich (Holt McCallany), who trained and bullied his sons into becoming full-time wrestlers. Efron plays Kevin Von Erich, the second oldest son who is always one step away from joining the big leagues. His other brothers are played by The Bear’s Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, and Stanley Simons. Maura Tierney plays their long-suffering mother. Lily James also appears as Kevin’s eventual wife.

Without getting into spoilers, what happens to the brothers one by one is harrowing as they suffer tragedy, loss, and death by suicide. Though some liberties were taken with the story – for example, one brother is missing because his inclusion would have made the movie even harder to watch than it is – for the most part it’s true. So yes, a very rough film to get through, whether you know the Von Erichs' story, or not.

That said, with Efron having ditched his HSM days for insane levels of musculature, it’s possible your kids or teens will want to check it out. Here’s what you need to know, first.

The Iron Claw Parents Guide: Explaining The R Age Rating

The Iron Claw is Rated R for “ language, suicide, some sexuality and drug use.” Definitely take that rating seriously, and we’ll go into why.

Sex & Nudity: There’s no nudity in the movie, but there is at least one – fully clothed – sex scene. There’s also a masturbation scene, though nothing is shown. And there are some make-out scenes. But most of the focus here is on the wrestling ring.

Violence: There’s non-stop wrestling in the movie, and though haters may say that’s fake there is a lot of intense fight choreographer, including a hard-to-watch scene where Kevin gets severely hurt outside the ring. There’s a motorcycle accident that happens off-screen but leaves visible injuries, and the scenes of death by suicide are extremely upsetting as well – including one where one of the brothers shoots himself in the heart.

Last, but certainly not least, one of the brothers vomits up blood in a scene, and it’s pretty awful.

Language: Yeah, they’re adults in the wrestling ring. Lots of “F” bombs, s**t, b***h, etc.

Drinking & Drugs: There’s a lot of drug and alcohol use in here, including steroid use, cocaine, snorting painkillers, and perhaps least alarming, drinking beer.

Overall Verdict: What Age Is The Iron Claw Appropriate For?

The Iron Claw deserves its R-rating, but if you have savvier teens who know you’re available for discussions of the more serious events here, particularly the deaths by suicide, then you should be okay with 13 and up. That said, it is an emotionally hard watch, particularly through Efron’s performance, so be aware this isn’t a fun wrestling movie; it’s a drama about how a family fell apart, and then put themselves back together again.

If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 988.

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