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18. 'The Wrestler' (2008)

For those who don’t think pro wrestlers are athletes, take a look at Mickey Rourke’s Randy "The Ram" Robinson: an ex-superstar who gets beat to hell whenever he entertains. Director Darren Aronofsky's film lingers over the sport's lurid details (performers using blades to make their shows more visceral), and contrasts the Ram's colorful costumes with the bleak existence of his life offstage, spent between the crumbling trailer where he lives and his minimum-wage job in a wintry New Jersey suburb. This is what happens to people, the movie tells us, who abuse their bodies professionally until they become shells of their former selves. Even that blaze of glory at the end can't dispel the bleakness. NM