Murderball (2005)

9.0 Overall Score

Fast paced, intense atheletes

The sex talk doesn't work in the film, Keith seems out of place, Joe Soares' family life seems a bit manipulative

Movie Info

Movie Name: Murderball

Studio: MTV Films

Genre(s): Documentary/Sports

Release Date(s): July 8, 2005

MPAA Rating: R


Oops, my bad!

Welcome to Murderball!  It is the name given to wheelchair rugby (or quad rugby) played by tetraplegic atheletes.  Following the U.S. team, the battle of the players on the court is just as interesting as the challenges they face when the games are over.  With strong, driven athletes, The bitter rivalry takes the court and comes to a head at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece.

Directed by Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro, Murderball is a sports documentary about wheelchair rugby.  The movie won Best Documentary at Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for Best Documentary for the 78th Academy Awards.

A compelling documentary about wheelchair rugby sounds like an odd and unlikely choice.  You would necessarily pick that as your first subject for a documentary, but the movie quickly proves you wrong.


I’m not messing with him

Murderball is pretty amazing.  It was shot on an incredibly low budget and looks great.  The movie follows a number of the individual team members and also a man named Keith just starting with his rehabilitation and re-learning after an accident.  The movie is very kinetic and is aided by fast editing and nice storytelling.

The movie’s “characters” really sell the story also.  All the players are so driven and tough enough that they could be cage fighters.  I know that I wouldn’t want to mess with any of them and if you did decide to tangle with them, you’re probably going to the hospital.  Even Joe Soares who suffers a heart attack during the documentary looks like he’s ready to fight immediately.



There are a couple things in Murderball that don’t work.  While it is interesting and like the players point out is in the back of everyone’s mind, the sex talk kind of feels out of place.  It is good to hear that there lives aren’t impeded by their handicaps but it just feels like a weird change of pace.  The next thing that doesn’t really work is Keith just entering a new world after his motorcycle accident.  Moments like his first trip home seem like they shouldn’t be in this documentary and feel more invasive.  The look at Soares’ life and his relationship with his son also comes into question and a scene put in of him trying to get to his son’s recital feels like it is supposed to balance out earlier scenes where he comes off as a bad father.  Either way it feels like there is more they could have shown about other players since they all seem to have a story.

Murderball is definitely worth seeing.  Even if you don’t like “sports” films or documentaries, the film is compelling and interesting.  If you don’t consider wheelchair sports real sports think again after you see this movie.  I’d challenge a lot of “real” athletes to go head-to-head with these athletes.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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