While we are all killing time at home, we wonder whether there has ever been a truly great film with rugby union in it
What Is The Best Rugby Movie?
These days we all have a lot of time on our hands. And there’s no live rugby on the tube. In times like this so many of us turn to movies. But what if we could combine the two…
During the Rugby World Cup in Japan we heard a lot about ‘The Brighton Miracle’ – a movie about Japan’s triumph over south Africa in 2015, starring Once Were Warriors and Star Wars actor Temuera Morrison as Eddie Jones.
There have been rumours of rugby films in the past, with an option taken out on RW contributor Tom English’s book The Grudge a few years back. In the past there were stories of Mickey Rourke’s scheme to make a biopic about Gareth Thomas, while we also heard of the desire to see a movie about Ben Ryan and Fiji’s Olympic champions.
But has there ever been a truly excellent movie about rugby?
Here are some of the most notable films to feature a bit of rugby union. We’ll let you decide if they are great or not.
The Departed (2006)
Okay, so there’s barely two minutes of action in this but you see Matt Damon’s character, Colin Sullivan, packing down at flanker in a match between Boston police and local firefighters.
It’s used as part of a sequence of getting-to-know-you scenes before Damon gets down to the nitty gritty of spying on his colleagues on the force, for the mob. Of course, this wasn’t the last time Damon would portray a flanker on the silver screen…
In this tale of the 1995 World Cup, the Springboks’ victory, and the role Nelson Mandela played in uniting a nation, Damon played… um… well, the A-lister was Francois Pienaar.
While Clint Eastwood applied some Holywood gloss to this, the rugby action displayed has drawn criticism ever since its release and there were some parts of the story of the final not covered (we never seen any All Blacks running for the bogs).
However, Bath fans may have noticed their former No 8 Zak Feaunati trucking up the wing as Jonah Lomu.
This movie, which was celebrated at Cannes, tells the tale of a young Wallisian man who is ‘scouted’ in New Caledonia and brought to France to play prop for an elite club. When he is cut loose for not being big enough, the young man must make his way playing further down the leagues.
Star Toki Pilioko, who does play professionally in France, was injured at the time of filming, so you never see any colossal collisions, but his performance is captivating… particularly considering he is not a trained actor.
Forever Strong (2008)
Never heard of it? We don’t blame you. This movie follows a predictably cheesy path with a wayward young man turning his life around through the sport, there are a lot of shots of Americans doing hakas and the rugby action is full of huge clotheslines and flipping bodies.
What is more perplexing though is that Lord of the Rings star Sean Astin is in the cast alongside reasonably recognisable faces like Gary Cole and Neal McDonough.
A Bollywood movie involving rugby? That sounds like fun, right? A lot of people have seen the hilarious take on the sport, but it cannot hurt to watch it all again. Enjoy this masterpiece!
Grand Slam (1978) is a TV movie about a group of Welsh fans who head to Paris for the final match of the Five Nations. Oh, and for one to chase down an old flame too.
The waster comedy classic Tommy Boy (1995) began with Chris Farley’s eponymous hero toasting his rugby mates at Marquette University – Farley’s college in real life, where he did play on the rugby team. He is seen wearing a Marquette Rugby jacket in the movie.
Alive (1993) is the tale of the Uruguayan rugby team that crashed in the Andes in the 70s. But it’s not one to watch if you want to see any action, as it’s all about the human tragedy and the strength it takes to survive.
The Third Half (2013) is an Italian drama with rugby at it’s core. Stop us if you’ve heard this before the protagonist is a wayward young man who turns his life around playing for a rag-tag rugby team…
Blood and Glory (2016) is a South African movie about a group of prisoners of war, from the Anglo-Boer War, who take on their captors in a game of rugby. Yep, it’s The Mean Machine, but with less Burt Reynolds and more military uniforms from 1901.
If you’re looking for rugby-related documentaries, there are actually a decent selection of options. Murderball (2005) is a look at wheelchair rugby and a heated rivalry between Canada and the USA.
The Rugby Player (2013) tells the story rugby player Mark Bingham – for whom the Bingham Cup is named – who was a passenger on United flight 93 which was hijacked on 9/11.
Building Jerusalem (2015) runs through the build-up to, and moments of, Jonny Wilkinson’s historic drop-goal that saw England win the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Pacific Warriors (2015) takes a look at Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, their rugby heritage and what the current reality is for those rugby-playing nations.
Oh yeah, and there’s the All Or Nothing: New Zealand All Blacks (2018) series on Amazon, which is a slick, if a little guarded, look at a Test season with the Kiwis.
Do you rate any of these?
Let us know if we missed out any crackers!
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