The best (and worst) rugby movies and documentaries
If you are spending more time at home and self-isolating due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), we have updated our list with some fun, informative and sometimes terrible rugby films and documentaries.
With the RWC 2019 there was a spate of rugby themed movies and documentaries released, not only in Asia but internationally.
We look at the best (and worst) rugby movies and documentaries you can watch while you practice social-distancing, and self-isolating to get through the pandemic.
(We updated this article in March 2020)
Jungle Cry (India)
This film Jungle Cry, released in 2019, tells the true story of a rugby team from India (Jungle Crows) who went to the UK in 2007 and played in a tournament for disadvantaged kids, organised by the UK charity Tour Aid.
The film was shown at the 2019 Cannes film festival – see the trailer here. The movie had a full premiere in Wales in early 2020 and is due in UK cinemas in April 2020.
- Release Date: 2020
Read our interview with Paul Walsh who setup the Jungle Crows.
The Brighton Miracle (Japan)
The Brighton Miracle is the remarkable story of how Japan pulled off one of the greatest rugby and sports upsets, beating two-time Rugby World Cup champions South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Temuera Morrison plays Eddie Jones and Lasarus Ratuere plays Japan captain Michael Leitch.
The film is available on Amazon Prime UK in 2020.
- Release Date: September 2019
Salam Rugby – documentary
- Release Date: 2010
Read our interview with Ridzal Saat, World Rugby Services Manager for Asia and his trip to Iran in 2019 to asses the rugby in the country.
Although we are not entirely sure what this new Thai rugby movie is about, its story centres around a group of school kids who learn to play rugby, in what probably will be comedic but feel good underdog movie. Whether the film helps or hinders rugby in Thailand, where the sport is already quite popular, remains to be seen.
- Release Date: August 2019
Famous rugby movies
This film still has rugby fans split on whether to ridicule it or rejoice in the roles of Matt Damon as Springbok RWC winning captain Francois Pienaar and Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela Invictus (directed by director Clint Eastwood) focusses on a newly democratic South Africa and the now famous 1995 Rugby World Cup win in the ‘rainbow nation’.
- Release Date: 2005
An “oldie but a goodie”, Alive is a harrowing film based on true events as the survivors of a plane crash in the Andes mountains, members of Uruguay’s rugby team, struggle to survive in extreme conditions and must make impossible decisions to survive and, well, stay alive.
- Release Date: 1993
Rugby Mini-Series: TV
This TV mini-series based on another Kiwi legend Jonah Lomu was released in New Zealand in August leading up to the RWC 2019 and “tracks the early beginnings of the legend of the game, from promising young athlete to a devastating international rugby player, and beyond” says RugbyPass.
- Release Date: August 2019 (in NZ)
Best Rugby Documentaries
Dan Carter: A Perfect 10
The documentary on the “greatest 10 in rugby”, Dan Carter: a Perfect 10, has yet to see a full release but should be out before the RWC 2019. Initial reviews are mixed, but if you admire New Zealand’s top points scorer of all time and a 2 time World Cup winner, you might want to indulge.
- Release Date: Across New Zealand from August 29th 2019
Chasing Great – The Richie McCaw Film
This McCaw documentary film is the story of legendary, and sometimes divisive, All Black two-time RWC winning captain Richie McCaw. Watch the Chasing Great trailer here and see if you agree the New Zealander is the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).
- Release Date: 2016
Legacy: The Mark Bingham Story
World Rugby made a documentary about Mark Binghams life, legacy and involvement in rugby and is online for free. Mark Bingham was a gay man and a rugby player and “his heroic actions, together with those of his fellow passengers aboard Flight 93 on 11 September 2001, sparked a movement in the sport that he loved, spawning a tournament that 17 years on still bears his name.” Read more about the Bingham Cup here.
- Release Date: 2019
This Pacific Warriors documentary focusses on the rugby players from the Pacific Islands: Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. The film “explores the backgrounds of a wide variety of players, past and present” as well as other international players appreciation of playing against and with the players from the Pacific.
- Release Date: 2015
The Unknown – Collegiate All American 7s rugby
This is the first of a series of documentaries planned from Rugby 7s Magazine. The Unknown is the story of rugby “told through the incredible fight of the USA Rugby Collegiate All American 7s team.” The documentary can be watched in its entirety for free online.
More for English rugby fans, but also for anyone who appreciated the hard-working endeavour of players like Johnny Wilkinson. Building Jerusalem tells the story of the Rugby World Cup Final in 2003 in which England prevailed over hosts Australia. From producer Victoria Gregory of Oscar-winning ‘Man on Wire’ and ‘Senna’, and Emmy-nominated Director, James Erskine.
- Release Date: 2015
Life After Rugby: Andy Powell
The RugbyPass Documentary was released late in 2019 and is only 28 minutes long but it is an enjoyable watch of one of modern rugby’s favourite anti-hero’s of the modern era (depending on where you are from). It also frankly discussed his problems and highs in rugby.
The documentary Murderball brought wheelchair rugby into many peoples homes for the first time, and follows the US team as they “discuss the sport, their lives, and how they ended up in their chairs, to begin with.” The journey takes them to the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece. Find out more here on Murderball.
- Release Date: 2005
Beyond the Pitch – A Women’s Eagles Miniseries
- Release Date: 2019
Home Field Advantage
Home Field Advantage is a rugby documentary produced by Societe Generale, featuring legendary rugby players who were sent around the world to show what the sport has to offer on a personal and social level. There are several episodes that take place in Asia.
There are three seasons of the series by 2020 and season 3 is on Youtube for free.
- British and Irish Lions: Every tour is usually backed up with a sensational behind the scenes documentary. With the next Lions tour in South Africa in 2022, our favourite tour doc is still the one from 1997, “Living with the Lions”. RugbyDump has made the documentary from the 2009 B&I Lions tour to SA available online for free – Lions: Living with the pride.
- Anger Within: Another Jonah Lomu documentary, however, this was filmed while the great man was still with us.
- Mercenary: This is a French film which “guides the audience, through the eyes of rising rugby talent from the Pacific Islands, on the darker habits of being a “work for hire” player in the sport of rugby.” See the trailer for Mercenary here.
- Forever Strong: This film is based on a rugby player in a juvenile detention centre in the US, where he plays against his father’s team in the National Championships.
- School Wars is a Japanese TV series (the 1980s) and film (School Wars: Hero – 2004). The synopsis is that in the mid-1970s, Yoshiharu Yamaguchi, a teacher and former Japanese international rugby union player, who turns around a failing high school in Kyoto, giving special attention to the rugby team, which included the most disruptive students among its members. There is a YouTube clip here of the 2004 film.
- RugbyPass have been producing more rugby documentaries and short series with rugby from around the globe. These include The Season (NZ base Hamilton High Rugby 1st XV), Rugby Explorer, Going Pro, and more.
- The Nomads was released in 2019 and the film is supposed to be based on a true story with the plot described as: “Amidst the chaos of massive budget cuts and school closures, a young female teacher introduces men’s rugby to an inner-city North Philadelphia high school.”
The Ugly: rugby scenes
These two rugby scenes have scarred us all, but still, they get put to good use for a giggle:
Sye: Bollywood Rugby Film
The hilarious but incredibly poor depiction of rugby in this Indian film did the social media rounds many times. We still don’t have any idea what the film is meant to be about, and it probably didn’t help Rugby India’s cause.
Friends TV Series
Ross playing rugby badly in this infamous rugby scene in Friends S04E15 of Friends gets annual viral repeats on rugby sites and social media. Painful, but hilarious, there is a Red Ross in every rugby team.
Let us know if you think there is a rugby film or documentary worth watching?
Other rugby news
- How has Coronavirus affected rugby in Asia in 2020?
- Rhino has signed a deal with Asia Rugby until 2024.
- The RWC 2021 venues and dates confirmed.
- Some of our favourite rugby stories from 2019.