The 15 Best Rugby Documentaries (Ranked 2024)

I couldn’t find a comprehensive list of good rugby documentaries — so I created one!

There should be a doc for just about all of you: Rugby Wold Cup, local teams, gay rugby — you name it!

Enjoy!

1) Living with Lions

The above isn’t an official trailer but it’s the best short clip of Living with Lions I could find

It’s the documentary that made people fall in love with rugby: “Living with Lions.”

This doc captures the essence of a rugby tour.

We’re talking about the 1997 British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa, and man, is it a doozy.

From the moment the plane touches down, you can feel the tension and excitement in the air.

But what sets this documentary apart is the way it puts you right in the middle of the action.

You’re not just watching the games either.

I’d estimate that 90% of the footage is behind-the-scenes. Even when the doc is feature a match, the camera crew is often filming the reactions of the players and coaches on the sidelines.

You’re in the huddle with the players, listening to Jim Telfer’s epic speeches.

You’re in the locker room, experiencing the highs and lows of each match.

And, of course, you’re on the pitch too.

“Living with Lions” is a story about friendship, sacrifice, and the bond between teammates.

These guys would take a bullet for each other, and that’s what makes this doc so special.

It’s not just a sports story; it’s a human story.

So if you’re a rugby fan, or even if you’re not, you might just be ready to run through a brick wall by the end of it.

Watch it for free on YouTube (with no ads when I watched it (March 12, 2024) at …or by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35gk6PX1-0U.

ps: I loved “Living with Lions” so much that I created a Web page with my detailed notes on it and some extra links to watch the doc.

Go here if you’re interested https://dailydoc.com/living-with-lions/

2) All or Nothing: New Zealand All Blacks

“All or Nothing: New Zealand All Blacks” is a behind-the-scenes series that follows the All Blacks throughout their 2017 season.

You get to see everything—the intense training, the locker room chats, and even the players’ lives off the field.

I remember visiting New Zealand and running into some All Blacks fans — they taught me how the team is pretty much rugby royalty, the best of the best.

One guy (at a pub) gave me a long sleeve All Blacks shirt 5 minutes after I met him.

This docuseries gives you a peek into what makes the team tick.

You’ll see the pressure they’re under, the way they handle big games, and how they deal with setbacks. It’s not just about the sport; it’s about the people who live it every day.

Taika Waititi, yeah, the director guy, is the narrator.

His voice adds this extra layer of awesome to the whole thing.

Watch “All or Nothing: New Zealand All Blacks” on Amazon Prime at https://www.justwatch.com/us/tv-show/all-or-nothing-new-zealand-all-blacks

Watch it on Amazon’s Prime Video at https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/0NPZU7AWO5Q0IWHZRGGJVYP7D0/

3) Chasing the Sun

This 5 episode docuseries is a ride through the South African rugby team’s journey to the 2019 World Cup.

It goes behind the scenes and into the hearts and minds of the players and coaches.

From the very first episode, you’re hooked. You’re right there with the team, experiencing every triumph and setback. You’re in the locker room, listening to the impassioned speeches. You’re on the training ground, watching the blood, sweat, and tears that go into every practice session.

But what really sets “Chasing the Sun” apart is the way it delves into the personal stories of the players. You get to know them as people, not just as athletes. You see their struggles, their triumphs, and everything in between. And that’s what makes this series so special. It’s not just about rugby; it’s about the human spirit.

Of course, the on-field action is still there, and it’s as thrilling as ever. The series does an excellent job of capturing the intensity and drama of each match. You’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat, cheering for the Springboks every step of the way.

But in the end, “Chasing the Sun” is about more than just rugby. It’s about a team coming together to achieve something great. It’s about the power of sport to unite a nation. And it’s about the incredible resilience of the human spirit.

I don’t see the “Chasing the Sun” series on any major streaming service in the U.S. But I do see 32 clips of it to watch for free here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SSUych6qh0&list=PLtTcBxsfWSx0NOwbpmSHGBPyQMZy93YJQ

I think you can watch it in South Africa through SuperSport.

Note: a Chasing the Sun 2 is due to come out in March 2024.

4) The Rugby Player

“The Rugby Player” from 2013 is one of those docs that sneaks up on you, tackles you with emotion, and doesn’t let go.

It’s an exploration of love, loss, and legacy, all seen through the lens of one incredibly inspiring individual, Mark Bingham.

Mark Bingham wasn’t just a rugby player; he was a force of nature, on and off the field.

If you’re thinking this is going to be just another sports doc, think again.

Bingham’s life story is the centerpiece, but the film’s heart beats with themes of courage, activism, and the power of sports to unite.

Directed by Scott Gracheff, “The Rugby Player” smartly uses a mix of home videos, interviews, and on-the-field action to paint a vivid picture of Bingham’s life.

It’s personal, it’s intimate, and yes, it’ll probably make you cry.

But it will also make you laugh and, perhaps, inspire you to think about the impact one person can have on the world.

Bingham, who tragically lost his life on United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, is remembered not just for how he died, but for how he lived: boldly, openly, and with a fierce commitment to his community.

The doc doesn’t just eulogize; it celebrates, reminding us of the joy Bingham brought to life and the indelible mark he left on the rugby field and beyond.

You can stream “The Rugby Player” in the U.S. right now at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/therugbyplayerfilm for $3.99

The doc has also been available outside the U.S. at times on Amazon Prime Video here: https://www.amazon.com/Rugby-Player-Mark-Bingham/dp/B01DWO2K76

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

Okay, folks, buckle up because we’re diving into the murky waters of Pacific Island rugby with “Oceans Apart: Greed, Betrayal & Pacific Rugby.”

This documentary is a no-holds-barred exposé of the dark underbelly of the sport we love.

And let me tell you, it’s not pretty.

The film follows former Samoa rugby player Dan Leo as he takes on the powers that be in his quest for justice.

And boy, does he have his work cut out for him.

We’re talking about corruption, exploitation, and greed on a scale that will make your head spin.

But what makes this documentary so compelling is the human stories at its core.

We meet players who have given everything to the sport, only to be cast aside when they’re no longer useful.

We see the devastating impact that this betrayal has on their lives and their families.

But “Oceans Apart” isn’t just a downer. It’s also a rallying cry for change.

Dan Leo is a hero in every sense of the word, and his tireless efforts to bring about reform are nothing short of inspiring.

You can’t help but cheer him on as he takes on the big wigs and fights for what’s right.

Of course, this being a rugby documentary, there’s plenty of on-field action to keep you entertained.

The film does a great job of capturing the raw physicality and passion of the sport.

But it’s the human stories that will stay with you long after the final whistle.

It’s a doc that will make you angry, but will also make you proud to be a part of the rugby community.

You can watch “Oceans Apart” on Amazon Prime for $3.99 at https://www.justwatch.com/us/tv-show/chasing-the-sun

6) Stranded

“Stranded” (original title was “Stranded: I’ve Come from a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains”) is a 2007 documentary about the 1972 Andes plane crash flown by the Uruguayan rugby team. .

I give “Stranded” the edge over the 2010 doc called “I Am Alive: Surviving the Andes Plane Crash” which is on the same subject.

Stranded unfolds slowly, like a quiet dawn before a storm, then descends into one of the most harrowing survival stories ever told.

It’s a tale of human endurance that stretches the limits of belief.

It’s a gut-wrenching narrative, not just of the crash but of the aftermath – 16 of the 45 passengers miraculously survived after enduring 72 days in the mountains.

The search and rescue efforts were called off, leaving them stranded and invisible to the outside world.

In the face of dwindling supplies and no hope of rescue, the survivors faced an unimaginable decision: cannibalism.

You can watch the full doc (with English subtitles) for free on YouTube by clicking the embed video above or this link: Stranded: I’ve Come from a Plane that Crashed on the Mountains.

7) Should to Shoulder

“Shoulder to Shoulder” takes you through the history of Irish rugby.

This is a good underdog story.

The doc kicks off in the early days of Irish rugby, way back in 1875 when the first official match was played against England.

From there, we’re taken on a whirlwind tour of the sport’s evolution in Ireland, from the amateur era to the professional age.

We meet legends like Willie John McBride, the man who captained the British and Irish Lions on their unbeaten tour of South Africa in 1974.

We relive iconic moments like the 1982 Triple Crown-winning season and the 2009 Grand Slam triumph.

But it’s not just about the big wins and the famous faces.

We meet the volunteers who keep the sport alive at the local level, and we see the impact that rugby has on the lives of ordinary people.

One powerful moment in the film comes when it tackles the issue of sectarianism in Irish society.

Rugby has long been a unifying force in a country divided by religion and politics, and “Shoulder to Shoulder” doesn’t shy away from this important topic.

As the old saying goes, “We’re all in this together, shoulder to shoulder.”

Watch “it on:”Shoulder to Shoulder” for free on YouTube by clicking the video embed above or going here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EhWoUXeBtY

8) The 16th Man (30 for 30)

I watched “The 16th Man” (2010) from ESPN’s 30-for-30 series because I thought it might be a fun way to learn about Nelson Mandela and South African history.

The doc (52 min. directed by Cliff Bestall) delivers.

It’s a 52-minute journey into how the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa became a beacon of hope.

This story showcases Mandela’s genius in using rugby as a tool for unity in a post-apartheid era.

Mandela, along with Francois Pienaar, the captain of the South African team, shows us what real leadership looks like.

You get interviews from Mandela’s bodyguard, Rory Steyn who shares his take on why Mandela supported the Springboks, once a symbol of apartheid.

The Springboks defied the odds and beat the heavily favored All Blacks 15-12 in the final (watched by 65,000 spectators at Ellis Park and millions more on TV).

The match marked a defining moment in South Africa’s history.

Morgan Freeman narrates and he delivers (as usual)

You can watch “The 16th Man” on ESPN+ here: https://www.espn.com/watch/film/e46765ec-3efd-4904-aa92-822c7acdcd03/the-16th-man; or on YouTube (for $1.99 to $2.99) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvZeSffzYls.

9) Six Nations: Full Contact (2024)

Netflix’s “Six Nations: Full Contact” gives you the raw energy of rugby packed it into an eight-episode series.

The series (which kicked off January 24, 2024) gives you the ins and outs of the 2023 Six Nations Rugby Union Championship.

For the uninitiated, that championship featured the big guns: England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, and France.

The brains behind “Six Nations” is James Gay-Rees, the producer who gave us “Drive to Survive.”

It’s tough to match Drive to Survive’s quality, but this comes close.

You’ve got profiles of Jonny Sexton, Finn Russell, and the legendary coach Warren Gatland among others.

These aren’t just interviews; it’s like you’re there with them, in their homes, understanding their fears, their motivations, and what drives them to push beyond their limits.

Ellis Genge, for instance, opens up about imposter syndrome.

The series aims to break down rugby for those who might not know their scrum from their lineout.

Though, I’ve heard some die-hard fans aren’t too thrilled about the simplification and the dramatic slow-mo shots.

Either way, the series did well that Netflix confirmed they’re doing a Season 2 in 2025 (I’ll add the release date here when I find it).

You can watch “Six Nations” in only one place: on Netflix at https://www.netflix.com/title/81647358

10) Building Jerusalem

Flashback to 22nd November 2003 – a day that’s etched in the minds of rugby fans worldwide.

Picture this: England and Australia, two titans, locked in a titanic struggle for the Rugby World Cup Final.

Fast forward to eighty nail-biting minutes in, and nobody’s inching ahead.

The drama peaks as we’re thrown into extra time, with just two minutes on the clock.

Then, there’s Jonny Wilkinson – England’s golden boy, rugby’s rockstar.

We’re 40 yards out. The air’s electric.

The ball finds Wilkinson, and in a heartbeat, he’s drop-kicking his way towards sporting legend.

“Building Jerusalem’s” got heart-stopping match action along with candid chats with legends like Jonny Wilkinson OBE, Sir Clive Woodward, Martin Johnson CBE, and Matt Dawson MBE.

The doc is put on by an allstar team: You’ve got Victoria Gregory, who’s been behind the Oscar-winning heavyweights “Man on Wire” and “Senna,” teaming up with James Erskine, a wizard with a camera, known for “Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist” and “One Night in Turin.”

In the U.K., you can watch “Building Jerusalem” on Prime Video, Pex and Icon (see here for full details: https://www.justwatch.com/uk/movie/building-jerusalem).

11) The Ground We Won (2015)

Christopher Pryor and Miriam Smith’s 2015 documentary, “The Ground We Won,” takes you deep into the heart of rural New Zealand.

It’s the Reporoa Rugby Club, a team of farmers, truckers, and tough guys, who pour their blood, sweat, and tears into the game they love.

Pryor and Smith capture the raw emotion, camaraderie, and sometimes shocking rituals that define this tight-knit community.

From pre-game pig hunting to post-game revelry, “The Ground We Won” (91-minutes) offers a gritty, unvarnished look at the game.

You can watch “The Ground We Won” on DocPlay at https://www.docplay.com/shows/the-ground-we-won (requires subscription but has a 14 day trial)

12) Pacific Warriors (2015)

“Pacific Warrior” (93 minutes) takes you on a journey across the Pacific Islands, where rugby isn’t just a sport—it’s a ticket to a better life.

The doc follows the underdog stories of young men from Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji as they chase their dreams of playing pro rugby.

One fan of the doc (Elie Dix) describes the Pacific Islanders in this way:

Tongans as “Heavy Artillery.”

Somoans as “Ground Forces.”

And Fijians as “Special Forces” (going in with controlled aggression).

They certainly are big boys!

And James Marquand (Director) doesn’t shy away from the tough realities these players face.

You see the players deal with pressure from their families and having to adapt to life in a foreign country)

You can watch “Pacific Warriors” for free on Peacock, Plex and Freevee (all with ads) or on Fubo (with subscription) or rent it on YouTube or Google Play.

Check here for the latest streaming options: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/pacific-warriors

13) Dan Carter: A Perfect 10

One of rugby’s all-time greats, Dan Carter, gets featured in the 2019 documentary, “Dan Carter: A Perfect 10.”

This 90-minute doc takes you on a wild ride through the life and career of the legendary All Blacks fly-half.

Directors Luke Mellows and Simon Coldrick take you behind the scenes, through exclusive interviews and never-before-seen footage.

You’ll discover what makes Carter tick, from his humble beginnings in Southbridge to his rise to the top of the rugby world.

The doc doesn’t shy away from the challenges Carter faced along the way, including a devastating injury that nearly ended his career.

But like the champion he is, Carter fought back, proving that he’s not just a perfect 10 on the field, but off it as well.

You can watch “Dan Carter: A Perfect 10” for $rental on Amazon and Apple TV. Check here for the latest streaming options: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/dan-carter-a-perfect-10

14) Chasing Great (2016)

“Chasing Great” profiles the life of rugby god Richie McCaw.

Directed by the dynamic duo, Justin Pemberton and Michelle Walshe, this doc takes you from Richie the kid from a tiny town dreaming big.

Then you see him smashing records to become the All Blacks’ most celebrated player.

Pemberton and Walshe mix it up with home videos and nail-biting game footage.

The interviews are the highlight. McCaw, a man who keeps his cards close, lays it all out, talking fears, dreams, and what it takes to be the best.

And it’s not just Richie spilling the beans.

His crew, family, and pals all chip in, show sides of the man you thought you knew.

In the U.K., you can watch it on Prime Video (with subscription). Check here for the UK streaming options: https://www.justwatch.com/uk/movie/chasing-great

I don’t see it streaming anywhere in the U.S.

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

“Steelers: The World’s First Gay Rugby Club” (2020) covers the lives, loves, and scrums of the Kings Cross Steelers.

Set against the backdrop of the Bingham Cup in Amsterdam, you get deeply personal, soul-stirring tales from players like Simon Jones, Andrew McDowell, and Nic Evans.

These guys aren’t just teammates; they’re warriors battling not just their opponents on the pitch but the “unrelenting” bullying and stereotyping.

And some might be flagrant at the clubs, but they’ll “kick your ass” on the pitch.

The doc is directed by Eammon Ashton-Atkinson, an Australian journalist and a member of the club himself.

You can watch “Steelers: The World’s First Gay Rugby Team” for $rent on Apple TV, YouTube, and Google Play. Check here for the latest streaming options: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/steelers-the-worlds-first-gay-rugby-club

Thanks for reading!

-Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac, Daily Doc