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Generation Iron (2013), interesting, inspiring, even soulful with Mickey Rourke’s narration, this film brings a modern day Pumping Iron to today’s generation of bodybuilders

June 2, 2014


MY CALL: Interesting, inspiring, and even soulful with Mickey Rourke’s narration, this film brings a modern day Pumping Iron to today’s generation. MOVIES LIKE Generation Iron: Well, of course Pumping Iron (1977). I’d also suggest the Jay Cutler Living Large series on Youtube. There are about eight 10-15 minute episodes. Rich Piana also has a lot of good Youtube webisodes. These Youtube videos take you deep into the lives of these pros.

Generation Iron follows a group of professional bodybuilders from pro-qualifier competitions to the 2012 Mr. Olympia. Some make that journey rather stress free, others find it more tolling. The presentation of these men is appropriately down to Earth and humanizing. You forget that they are in the top 0.0001% in their sport and appreciate them for their flaws and struggles in the microcosm of this single competition in their career. When we see them fail, we understand the realities and that there can only be one winner. But when they triumph, we get lost in the moment and feel happy for them. By the end (when they named the 2012 Mr. Olympia) I was at the edge of my seat…even though I already knew who won!  LOL

Mickey Rourke’s soulful and wizened narration breathes life into this work and allows the audience, who may have once viewed these athletes as steroid-abusing sideshow spectacles, to understand the level of determination and struggle of these men.


Pumping Iron (1977) introduced the world to bodybuilding which, at the time of its release, was just as unknown and fantastic to the general public as Harry Potter‘s wizarding world and Hogwarts. In need of a protagonist, they depicted the arrogant veteran and current champion Arnold Schwarzenegger as the hero while essentially vilifying the kind-hearted newcomer Lou Ferrignou. Here, we find Phil Heath filling the role of the arrogant champion and Kai Greene as his humble opponent. The dynamic, however, is rather different since Kai Greene is a veteran who never won a Sandow (the trophy) and Heath is a young champion. So it comes with little surprise that Heath finds comfort in his arrogance. He expects to win whereas Kai Greene expects only to bring his best. That said, there is no clear protagonist in this story. In a way, that may be the documentary’s greatest fault. But I still thought it was great!


Phil Heath (above) and the artistic Kai Greene (below)


All of the competitors presented have found their way to the Olympia in different ways. Branch Warren thrives on his instinct and almost reckless work ethic whereas Ben Paluski relies on science to track his progress and hone his training program. Kai Greene protests that his devoted training will earn him Mr. Olympia, but Phil Heath suggests that his natural talent provides a powerful edge. We get a taste of many bodybuilder philosophies, but we delve very shallowly into supplements, training programs or steroids. Although, they do make some strong statements about steroid use in general with respect to competitive professional sports and bodybuilding, especially the fact that steroids don’t make their jobs at all “easy.” Their development is wrought with pain and sacrifice.


Branch Warren

These powerful athletes, often considered dumb meathead hunks of chemically-developed muscle, reveal their vulnerabilities and what they can and cannot control. For some, their career is everything, for others it’s just a chapter in their life, and bodybuilding saved Kai Greene from a youth of delinquency and a likely troubled adulthood.


This is a fun ride for any fan of the sport. You’ll see the likes of Lou Ferrigno, Michael Jai White, Busta Rhymes, Phil Heath, Kai Greene, Dennis Wolf, Jay Cutler, Ronnie Coleman, Ben Pakulski, Roelly Winklaar, Bob Cicherillo, Branch Warren, Hidetada Yamagishi, Sibil Peeters, Victor Martinez, Dennis James and Jim Stoppani. Stick around to the end of the credits for a Mike Katz cameo paying homage to when he was pranked by Ken Waller in Pumping Iron almost 40 years ago.


As a weightlifter myself, I found this film inspirational and I’d beg anyone with waning dedication, discipline or interest to give this a watch. You’ll be re-invigorated!

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