Theatrical release poster
Directed byClint Eastwood
Screenplay byAnthony Peckham
Produced by
CinematographyTom Stern
Edited by
Music by
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • December 11, 2009 (2009-12-11)
Running time
133 minutes
  • United States United States
  • South Africa South Africa
Budget$50–60 million[1][2]
Box office$122.2 million[1]

Invictus is a 2009 biographical sports drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. The story is based on the John Carlin book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation about the events in South Africa before and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which was hosted in that country following the dismantling of apartheid. Freeman and Damon play, respectively, South African President Nelson Mandela and François Pienaar, the captain of the South Africa rugby union team, the Springboks.[3]

Invictus was released in the United States on December 11, 2009. The title Invictus may be translated from the Latin as "undefeated" or "unconquered", and is the title of a poem by British poet William Ernest Henley (1849–1903).

The film was met with positive critical reviews and earned Academy Award nominations for Freeman (Best Actor) and Damon (Best Supporting Actor).


On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela is released from Victor Verster Prison after having spent 27 years in jail. Four years later, Mandela is elected the first black President of South Africa. His presidency faces enormous challenges in the post-Apartheid era, including rampant poverty and crime, and Mandela is particularly concerned about racial divisions between black and white South Africans, which could lead to violence. The ill will which both groups hold towards each other is seen even in his own security detail where relations between the established white officers, who had guarded Mandela's predecessors, and the black ANC additions to the security detail, are frosty and marked by mutual distrust.

While attending a game between the Springboks, the country's rugby union team, and England, Mandela recognizes that the blacks in the stadium are cheering for England, as the mostly-white Springboks represent prejudice and apartheid in their minds; he remarks that he did the same while imprisoned on Robben Island. Knowing that South Africa is set to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup in one year's time, Mandela persuades a meeting of the newly black-dominated South African Sports Committee to support the Springboks. He then meets with the captain of the Springboks rugby team, François Pienaar, and implies that a Springboks victory in the World Cup will unite and inspire the nation. Mandela also shares with François a British poem, "Invictus", that had inspired him during his time in prison.

François and his teammates train. Many South Africans, both black and white, doubt that rugby will unite a nation torn apart by nearly 50 years of racial tensions, as for many blacks, especially the radicals, the Springboks symbolise white supremacy. Both Mandela and Pienaar, however, stand firmly behind their theory that the game can successfully unite the South African country.

Things begin to change as the players interact with the fans and begin a friendship with them. During the opening games, support for the Springboks begins to grow among the black population. By the second game, the whole country comes together to support the Springboks and Mandela's efforts. Mandela's security team also grows closer as the various officers come to respect their comrades' professionalism and dedication.

The Springboks surpass all expectations and qualify for the final against The All Blacks—South Africa's arch-rivals. New Zealand and South Africa were universally regarded as the two greatest rugby nations, with the Springboks being the only side to have a winning record against the All Blacks up to this point.[4] The first test series between the two countries in 1921 was the beginning of an intense rivalry, with emotions running high whenever the two nations met on the rugby field.

Before the game, the Springbok team visits Robben Island, where Mandela spent the first 18 of his 27 years in jail. There Pienaar is inspired by Mandela's will and his idea of self-mastery in "Invictus". François mentions his amazement that Mandela "could spend thirty years in a tiny cell, and come out ready to forgive the people who put [him] there".

Supported by a large home crowd of all races, Pienaar motivates his team. Mandela's security detail receives a scare when, just before the match, a South African Airways Boeing 747 jetliner flies in low over the stadium. It is not an assassination attempt though, but a demonstration of patriotism, with the message "Good Luck, Bokke" — the Springboks' Afrikaans nickname — painted on the undersides of the plane's wings. The Springboks win the match on an added time long drop-kick from fly-half Joel Stransky, with a score of 15–12. Mandela and Pienaar meet on the field together to celebrate the improbable and unexpected victory. Mandela's car then drives away in the traffic-jammed streets leaving the stadium. As Mandela watches the South Africans celebrating together from the car, his voice is heard reciting.



The film is based on the book Playing the Enemy: Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation by John Carlin.[6] The filmmakers met with Carlin for a week in his Barcelona home, discussing how to transform the book into a screenplay.[7] Morgan Freeman was the first actor to be cast, as Mandela. Matt Damon was then cast as team captain François, despite being significantly smaller than him[8] and much smaller than members of the current Springbok squad.[9] He was given intensive coaching by Carl Cox, another star of the 1995 team, at the Gardens Rugby League Club.[10] Filming began in March 2009 in Cape Town. "In terms of stature and stars, this certainly is one of the biggest films ever to be made in South Africa," said Laurence Mitchell, the head of the Cape Film Commission.[11] On March 18, 2009, Scott Eastwood was cast as flyhalf Joel Stransky (whose drop goal provided the Springboks' winning margin in the 1995 final).[12] Over Christmas 2008, auditions had taken place in London to try to find a well-known British actor to play Pienaar's father, but in March it was decided to cast a lesser-known South African actor instead.[13] The ex–Bath Rugby player Zak Feaunati was cast as New Zealand player Jonah Lomu.[14] Primary filming in South Africa was completed in May 2009.[7] Grant L. Roberts was cast as Ruben Kruger, who was the Springboks' other starting flanker in 1995. Chester Williams was also involved with the project to teach rugby to those of the cast playing players who had not played it before, while Freeman and Williams also became involved with the ESPN 30 For 30 film The 16th Man, the documentary cousin of Invictus.


Invictus opened in 2,125 theaters in North America at #3 with US$8,611,147, the largest opening for a rugby themed film. The film held well and ultimately earned $37,491,364 domestically and $84,742,607 internationally for a total of $122,233,971, above its $60 million budget.[1]

Home media release

The film was released on May 18, 2010 on DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Special features include

The Blu-ray release included a digital copy and additional special features:


The film was met with generally positive reviews. Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reports that 76% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 218 reviews, with an average score of 6.6/10. The critical consensus is: "Delivered with typically stately precision from director Clint Eastwood, Invictus may not be rousing enough for some viewers, but Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman inhabit their real-life characters with admirable conviction."[15]

Critic David Ansen wrote:[16]

Anthony Peckham's sturdy, functional screenplay, based on John Carlin's book Playing the Enemy, can be a bit on the nose (and the message songs Eastwood adds are overkill). Yet the lapses fade in the face of such a soul-stirring story — one that would be hard to believe if it were fiction. The wonder of Invictus is that it actually went down this way.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half stars[17] and wrote:

It is a very good film. It has moments evoking great emotion, as when the black and white members of the presidential security detail (hard-line ANC activists and Afrikaner cops) agree with excruciating difficulty to serve together. And when Damon's character — François Pienaar, as the team captain — is shown the cell where Mandela was held for those long years on Robben Island. My wife, Chaz, and I were taken to the island early one morning by Ahmed Kathrada, one of Mandela's fellow prisoners, and yes, the movie shows his very cell, with the thin blankets on the floor. You regard that cell and you think, here a great man waited in faith for his rendezvous with history.

Shave Magazine's Jake Tomlinson wrote:[18]

Eastwood's film shows how sport can unify people, a straightforward and moving message that leaves audiences cheering. The sports, accurate portrayal and the solid storyline earn this movie a manliness rating of 3/5. However, the entertainment value, historical accuracy and strong message this movie delivers earn it an overall rating of 4.5 stars. Definitely, worth seeing.

Variety's Todd McCarthy wrote:[19]

Inspirational on the face of it, Clint Eastwood's film has a predictable trajectory, but every scene brims with surprising details that accumulate into a rich fabric of history, cultural impressions and emotion.

People involved

Don Beck, who had helped the rugby team succeed in 1995 as a close friend and adviser to coach Kitch Christie and team captain François Pienaar, found the film faithful to the true story. He remarked: “I thought it was steady and balanced.”[20]

Awards and honors

Organization Award Person Result Ref
Academy Awards Best Actor Morgan Freeman Nominated [21]
Best Supporting Actor Matt Damon Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Film Nominated [22]
Best Director Clint Eastwood Nominated
Best Actor Morgan Freeman Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Matt Damon Nominated
Cesar Awards Cesar Award for Best Foreign Film Nominated [23]
ESPY Awards Best Sports Movie Nominated [24]
Golden Globe Awards Best Actor in a Leading Role – Motion Picture Drama Morgan Freeman Nominated [25]
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Matt Damon Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture Clint Eastwood Nominated
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture Morgan Freeman Won [26]
Outstanding Motion Picture Nominated [27]
Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical or Television) Anthony Peckham Nominated
National Board of Review Freedom of Expression Award Won [28]
NBR Award for Best Director Clint Eastwood Won
NBR Award for Best Actor Morgan Freeman Won [notes 1]
Producers Guild of America Award Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Clint Eastwood, Rob Lorenz, Lori McCreary, Mace Neufeld Nominated [29]
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Morgan Freeman Nominated [30]
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Matt Damon Nominated
WAFCA Awards Best Actor Morgan Freeman Nominated [31]
Best Director Clint Eastwood Nominated
  1. ^ tied with George Clooney for Up In The Air


  1. "9000 days" – Overtone with Yollandi Nortjie
  2. "Invictus Theme" – Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens
  3. "Colorblind" – Overtone
  4. "Siyalinda" – Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens
  5. "World in Union 95" – Overtone with Yollande Nortjie
  6. "Madiba's theme" – Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens
  7. "Hamba Nathi" – Overtone with Yollande Nortjie
  8. "Thanda" – Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens
  9. "Shosholoza" – Overtone with Yollande Nortjie
  10. "Inkathi" – Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens
  11. "Ole Ole Ole—We Are The Champions" – Overtone with Yollandi Nortjie
  12. "Enqena (Anxious)" – Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens
  13. The South African National Anthem – Overtone
  14. "Ukunqoba (To Conquer)" – Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens
  15. "Victory" – Soweto String Quartet
  16. "Xolela (Forgiveness)" – Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens
  17. "The Crossing (Osiyeza)" – Overtone with Yollandi Nortjie
  18. "9,000 days (acoustic)" – Emile Welman

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Invictus". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  2. ^ Thompson, Anne (June 10, 2009). "Produced By Conference: Are Boomers Abandoning Movies?". Variety. Archived from the original on June 14, 2009. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  3. ^ Stephensen, Hunter (March 14, 2009). "First Look: Clint Eastwood's The Human Factor with Matt Damon". Slash Film. Retrieved March 31, 2009.
  4. ^ "Men's International Rugby Union statistics for South Africa vs New Zealand games played". Retrieved June 24, 2013.
  5. ^ Turner, Robin (March 22, 2009). "Life on the set with Clint Eastwood, by Welsh actor". Wales on Sunday. Retrieved May 6, 2009.
  6. ^ Leyes, Nick (March 15, 2009). "François Pienaar takes rugby union to Hollywood. Somanth as François Pienaar' brother". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved March 31, 2009.
  7. ^ a b Interview with Carlin, BBC Radio 5, May 21, 2009
  8. ^ "Photo showing Freeman and Damon at premiere". Retrieved May 30, 2011.
  9. ^ "Photo". Retrieved December 19, 2010.
  10. ^ Rappe, Elisabeth (March 16, 2009). "Matt Damon Goes Blond For 'The Human Factor'". Retrieved March 31, 2009.
  11. ^ [dead link]"Matt Damon injured at rugby union training". The Times (South Africa). March 8, 2009. Retrieved March 31, 2009.
  12. ^ White, James (March 18, 2009). "Scott Eastwood joins the Mandela pic: Clint casts his son..." Retrieved March 31, 2009.
  13. ^ Jones, Alice-Azania (March 16, 2009). "Pandora: An accent beyond the best of British". The Independent. Retrieved March 31, 2009.
  14. ^ (March 25, 2009). Zak Feaunati to play Jonah Lomu in film, BBC News. Retrieved on May 6, 2009.
  15. ^ "Invictus". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 27, 2009.
  16. ^ David Ansen (November 25, 2009). "'Invictus': A Whole New Ballgame". Newsweek. Retrieved December 7, 2009.
  17. ^ Roger Ebert (December 9, 2009). "Invictus". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 13, 2009.
  18. ^ Jake Tomlinson (December 10, 2009). "Review: Invictus". Shave. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
  19. ^ Todd McCarthy (November 27, 2009). "Invictus". Variety. Retrieved December 9, 2009.
  20. ^ [dead link]The story behind ‘Invictus’: Man aided team now onscreen. Denton Record-Chronicle, December 24, 2009
  21. ^ "Academy Award nominations". Variety. February 2, 2010. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  22. ^ Levine, Stuart (December 14, 2009). "BFCA announces its nominees". Variety. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  23. ^ Keslassy, Elsa (February 25, 2011). "'Of Gods and Men' tops Cesar Awards". Variety. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  24. ^ "Brees nominated for several ESPYS". ESPN. July 14, 2010. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  25. ^ "67th Annual Golden Globes winners list". Variety. January 17, 2010. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  26. ^ Engelbrektson, Lisa (February 26, 2010). "'Precious' tops NAACP Awards". Variety. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  27. ^ Engelbrektson, Lisa (January 6, 2010). "'Precious' tops NAACP nominations". Variety. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  28. ^ Thielman, Sam (December 3, 2009). "NBR's best: 'Up in the Air'". Variety. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  29. ^ McNary, Dave (January 5, 2010). "PGA unveils nominations". Variety. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  30. ^ Barraclough, Leo (December 17, 2009). "SAG nominations list". Variety. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  31. ^ Knegt, Peter (December 6, 2009). ""Up In The Air" Leads D.C. Critics Nods". Indiewire. Retrieved February 13, 2015.