Rugby Movies & Documentaries That Any Fan Must See

Rugby is a sport whose popularity has started to increase in recent years, culminating in 2021 when it ranked 3rd in the most-played sport.

Along with this popularity, rugby movies and documentaries have multiplied in number. From family-friendly movies to hard-hitting rugby flicks, rugby movies offer something for everyone.

Rugby Movies & Documentaries
Image credit: PierreSelim

If you are a rugby fan, you may have already seen some rugby movies or documentaries, but if you are not a fan, you should know that these rugby movies can be an interesting and fun way to spend your time.

They cover so many topics from true stories of rugby players overcoming incredible odds, to hilarious comedies about rugby teams trying to find their way in the world, that you will surely find one that suits you.

1. Rugby Movies

1.1 This Sporting Life (1963)

Next on our list is the movie called This Sporting Life which was based on the novel by David Storey of the same name. A classic British drama, this movie was directed by Lindsay Anderson and released in 1963. Starring Richard Harris and Rachel Roberts, the movie focuses on the main character named Frank Machin, his life journey as a professional rugby player, and his romantic life.

With a perfect professional life, Frank Machin does not have the same luck in the romantic one. The film follows Frank’s struggles as he navigates a world of physical and emotional trauma.

The film is a powerful exploration of human relationships and emotions set in the context of a working-class British community.

Related video – This Sporting Life (1963):

1.2 Old Scores (1991)

The film Old Scores, released in 1991, tells the story of some rugby players and Welsh captain Mervyn Davies. Written by Greg McGee, and Dean Parker and directed by Alan Clayton, this movie is a mix of comedy and drama and was produced and televised in New Zealand and Wales.

The film tells a story that involves the national sport of rugby and the teams of the two countries. Among the film’s actors are some international rugby players from Wales and New Zealand.

Thanks to a deathbed confession of the touch judge, the two teams must meet again 25 years later and play. Players are struggling to play with their aging bodies under the leadership of Mervyn Davies. Davies’ leadership on the field, and often off it, is portrayed with great emotion.

He inspired a nation to be greater than before and showed that determination and hard work can overcome even the greatest obstacles.

1.3 Forever Strong (2008)

Directed by Ryan Little, the movie Forever Strong is inspired by the real-life story of Larry Gelwix and his famous rugby team the Highland Rugby Team, which he coached in 1976. Among the actors is Gary Cole as Larry Gelwix, Neal McDonough as Coach Richard Penning, and Sean Farris as Richard ‘Rick’ Seymour Penning, Jr.

Shot in Salt Lake City, the movie illustrates the story of Richard, a troubled teenager facing certain problems who ends up being part of Larry Gelwix’s team. With the help of Coach Gelwix and his team, Rick turns himself around and works to win back his former rugby team.

The film also captures how coach Larry Gelwix used the principles of rugby to teach all the team members some valuable lessons about friendship, self-discipline, respect, and sportsmanship that will help them not only on the field but also in everyday life.

The name of the film was inspired by the phrase “kia kaha” from the Maori language, which means Stay Strong. The phrase belongs to Gelwix and was often addressed to his team members.

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1.4 Invictus (2009)

Filmed in 2009, Invictus had an impressive cast made of actors such as Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, this movie illustrates the story of how the South African rugby team, the Springboks, united a divided nation during Nelson Mandela’s historic presidency.

The movie’s story is entirely based on John Carlin’s book called Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation.

The movie chronicles how Mandela discovers that the game of rugby can be used as a tactic to unify his people. Returning from England, Mandela makes a plan of action. Convinced that he could unify his people through the universal language of sport, Mandela teams up with the leader of the South African rugby team.

The film culminates with the South African team winning the World Cup against all odds, and the entire nation celebrating together.

Invictus is an extraordinary film that proves that sport has a special power to create unity and even lasting social change. It is a must-watch for all sports lovers.

Related video – Invictus (2009):

1.5 Mercenary (2016)

The Mercenary movie boasts the title of Europa Cinemas Label Award, which was won in 2016 during the Cannes Festival.

Directed and written by Sascha Wolff, this film captures the story of a young rugby player who, despite his father’s opposition, goes to France to play rugby. Unfortunately, he is deceived and fails to obtain a player contract.

Directed and written by Sascha Wolff, this low-budget movie should be missed by rugby lovers because the cast was formed from real-life rugby players such as Toki Pilioko, Mikaele Tuugahala, and Omar Hasan.

Related video- Mercenary (2016):

1.6 The Brighton Miracle (2019)

Described as absolutely brilliant and inspirational, the 2019 Brighton Miracle movie was directed by Max Mannix. This rugby movie story is based on true events around the

Based on true events, this rugby movie captures the tragic moment when the Japanese rugby team was beaten 145-17 by the New Zealand team in the 1995 World Cup. After this defeat, Eddie Jones is named the head coach of the Japan national team in 2012.

The officials hope that under his leadership, the Japanese team will no longer be ridiculed in the world of rugby.

Eddie Jones makes some drastic changes in the team that not everyone was convinced would help, but in 2015, Japan succeeds in beating two-time world champions South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

For sure, you don’t have to be into rugby in order to enjoy this movie.

Related video – The Brighton Miracle (2019):

1.7 The Nomads (2019)

Released in 2019, the Nomads was directed by Brandon Eric Kamin, who was inspired by the idea of this film from a real newspaper article. The article described the journey of a rugby team that was formed after some schools were forced to close.

The film also captures the closing of 20 schools in the Philadelphia school district and the story of an English teacher Cassey “Mac” McNamara who has to take a new job as a history teacher at another school. There she meets Mark Nolin, the math teacher, with whom she shares the same passion for rugby.

The two manage to organize the troubled students and form a rugby team. The new rugby team travels across the country and battles through difficult times to earn a chance at playing in the National Championship.

The Nomads is an uplifting story about the power of team spirit and the strength of friendship.

Related video – The Nomads (2019):

1.8 Jungle Cry (2022)

Jungle Cry is an inspiring sports drama based on a true story about 12 underprivileged boys from Odisha, India. Directed by Sagar Ballary, the movie tells the story of the rugby coach Dr. Achyuta Samanta and how he manages to transform a group of tribal children into top-notch rugby players.

Dr. Achyuta Samanta puts all his dedication into training these children, which will later win an international tournament in England.

This rugby movie is a great story of survival and shows an important life lesson: through positive energy and real dedication, you can achieve great things.

If you are not a sports fan, you will become one after watching this rugby movie.

Related video – Jungle Cry (2022):

2. Rugby Documentaries

2.1 Murderball (2005)

The Murderball is an American documentary film that was released in 2004. The film tells the story of quadriplegic athletes who play wheelchair rugby.

It captures the determination, passion, and hard work of these athletes, which despite their disabilities, they give everything they got to win. Moreover, their routine is presented, as how they train and use their wheelchairs to play rugby.

Despite their physical adversity, these athletes overcome their disabilities and push themselves to their limits.

2.2 The Ground We Won (2015)

The rugby movie and documentary, The Ground We Won, tells the story of a small group of farmers from a rural area of New Zealand called Reporoa. The documentary directed by Christopher Pryor focuses on how rugby influences the entire culture of men in that rural area.

The farmers of this small town are using rugby to prepare the boys to become real men. Besides farming, farmers also play the role of rugby coaches.

Filmed in black and white, the documentary shows the beauty of the area but also how the traditional game of rugby shapes a young nation’s identity.

Related video – The Ground We Won (2015):

2.3 Building Jerusalem (2015)

This documentary tells the story via match action and interviews with coaches and players of England’s victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. This event, which had a significant impact on English culture, was captured by director James Erskine.

The film follows England’s journey throughout the tournament, from their first match against Georgia to the moment Jonny Wilkinson kicked the winning drop goal in the final against Australia. Moreover, the magic of rugby to bring people together and unify nations is also captured by the director.

Related video – Building Jerusalem (2015):

2.4 Pacific Warriors (2015)

The documentary Pacific Warrior was released in 2015 and follows the story of rugby players from the Pacific Islands, i.e. Western Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji.

The documentary captures the struggle of these underprivileged players with the big professional teams that have an organization and a budget to match.

Through interviews and various scenes captured during training and matches, this documentary shows the fact that the best rugby players in the world come from the Pacific islands.

Related video – Pacific Warriors (2015):

2.5 The Story of Rugby (2019)

The documentary The Story of Rugby was released in 2019 and tells the entire history of this exciting sport. It begins with the first years of the sport when England’s first national governing body for the game was formed in 1871, and goes over two centuries of history and culture, highlighting the key moments.

Through interviews with coaches, players and experts, viewers can experience a unique insight into what makes this an incredibly rewarding game for all involved. The Story Of Rugby is a great start to dive into all the insights of the world’s oldest team sport.

2.6 Dan Carter: A Perfect 10 (2019)

One of the best rugby players in the world, Dan Carter, decided to open up about his private life and professional career in a documentary titled The Dan Carter: A Perfect 10.

He narrates the difficult road he had to face to become the best. The film explores how he rose from humble beginnings in Southbridge, New Zealand to become one of the most accomplished rugby players.

The documentary contains interviews with Dani’s family, his colleagues, and coaches.

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2.7 Steelers: The World’s First Gay Rugby Club (2020)

The Steelers, The World’s First Gay Rugby Club exposes the difficulties faced by members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the world of rugby. The documentary focuses on several topics such as themes of inclusion, acceptance, the players’ demons, and struggles, but also their successes.

It also follows step by step the formation of a team ready to face any difficulty in their career.

Through personal interviews and engaging imagery, the documentary captures the spirit of this inspiring group of people as they demonstrate how courage and determination can overcome any obstacle.

Related video – Steelers: The World’s First Gay Rugby Club (2020):

2.8 Everybody’s Game (2020)

Another brilliant documentary that reveals deep insights from the rugby world is Everybody’s Game, which was released in 2020. What is amazing about this documentary is that it was directed by British-Nigerian professional rugby player Beno Obano.

The story reveals the journey of rugby as a sport, from obscurity to one of the most played and popular sports in the world. Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, and Eddie Jones are some of the best world rugby players starring in it.

Related video – Everybody’s Game (2020):

2.9 Oceans Apart: Greed, Betrayal and Pacific Island Rugby (2020)

Oceans Apart: Greed, Betrayal and Pacific Island Rugby documentary is a story told through the eyes of a former Samoan rugby player named Dan Leo. Dan Leo is one of the players who appreciate justice and who decided to fight the corruption of this sport even though it meant sacrificing his professional career. Throughout the documentary, he reveals all the negative points in the rugby industry.

Related video – Oceans Apart: Greed, Betrayal and Pacific Island Rugby (2020):

Have you seen all the rugby movies and documentaries from our list? Which one did you miss and which one do you plan to watch?

About the author: Danny Francesco

Danny is a professional when it comes to rugby.

He graduated from the Faculty of Physical Education and played rugby in Italy in amateur competitions. Keep reading...

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