The history of sports movies can be traced back to one of the legendary figures of early filmmaking. The 1914 film “The Knockout” tells the story of two hoboes pretending to be boxers, and getting mixed up in a prize fight that is then taken over by a real box champion. Hilarity ensues, especially with Charlie Chaplin in a small role in the film.
Since then, sports dramas have become a well-defined and very popular genre, especially among fans. Rugby is not an exception. This amazing sport has a large and dedicated fan, although not as large as some other sports. This doesn’t mean, in turn, that rugby fans have to settle for little more than watching matches and online rugby betting. There are a few sports dramas – and many documentaries – dedicated to their favourite sport.
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Rugby football was invented in England, from where it reached the further corners of the globe. But in its home, it declined, leaving the leadership in the sport to countries like South Africa and especially New Zealand. That was until 20 years ago when the vision and talent of coach Clive Woodward pushed the Red and Whites right to the World Championship title in 2003.
We don’t usually review short films, but this one is worth the attention. “La Partita Lenta” by Paolo Sorrentino tells the story of a father and son playing for the same rugby team. While it’s brief, the film perfectly captures the tension of the preparation for an upcoming match and the beauty of the game once it begins. It is a tribute to rugby that every fan should see.
Below the buff exterior, rugby players can often hide undiscovered values. “The Rugby Player” tells the story of Mark Bingham, a PR executive and rugby player who, en route to New York on September 11, 2001, led the effort to retake the plane and ultimately crash it into a field in Pennsylvania.
Sports may seem like the only thing an athlete needs in life to find fulfilment and meaning. Not for Frank Machin (Richard Harris), a talented and aggressive athlete who became a rugby star in England. He is desperately looking for something to fill the void he feels and finds it in the person of Mrs Hammond, his widower landlady.
The realism of the movie is gripping, depicting the aggression and machismo of rugby as well as the realities of dead-end life in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s.
Rick Penning, an up-and-coming 17-year-old player, lands in a juvenile detention centre because of driving drunk. His father – and rugby coach – leaves him there to teach him a lesson. While detained, he is directed toward a new rugby team and a coach with an unexpected philosophy: train players to be champions in life first, then on the field. As a result, our young protagonist ends up facing his father on the rugby field, in the National Championships.
As opposed to soccer, American football or even baseball, there are very few sports dramas truly about rugby. This makes the movies above all the more interesting and precious to the fans of this amazing sport.