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Editor’s Choice: Forever Strong (2008)

Until the movie, “Invictus” came out, Forever Strong may have been the one rugby themed movie that everyone talked about in the rugby community. While many people may have grown tired of seeing it, it hasn’t changed from being one of the most consistent, and pure rugby movies ever made.

Forever strong movie poster
Forever Strong movie poster

Based around the stories of the famously known Highland Rugby team of Salt Lake City, Utah, the movie follows a troubled rugby star who plays high school rugby for his father.

Coming off a loss in the national championship games to the rival team, Highland rugby, he finds himself in trouble after a night of drinking and drugs.

Rick Penning (Sean Faris) is the captain of his high school rugby team whose coach Richard Penning (Neal McDonough) is his father, and whose players indulge in drugs and alcohol.

Rick is sentenced to a boys’ Juvenile Detention Center in Salt Lake City. The manager of the center, Marcus (Sean Astin) puts him on the Highland rugby team coached by Larry Gelwix (Gary Cole).

Forever Strong official trailer

He struggles to adapt to this new team’s ways. A friend sends him a rugby ball with drugs hidden in the stitching. He works hard and finds the strength to become a member of the widely admired Highland team.

Each day when he arrives at team practice he criticizes the coach for sitting around chatting with different team members and not doing any real coaching.

Then it is his turn to sit with the coach and finds himself confessing to the drugs hidden in the rugby ball. The coach deals with it and tells him that his teammates want him to be a coach. He is influenced by brotherhood and can cope with his homesickness.

Rick is released and returns to live with his parents. His father wants him to tell about the Highland team’s moves and plays but Rick resists and they argue. His father makes it up by lending Rick the keys to his sports car, and Rick drives to meet up with Tammy (Tyler Kain) and his old friends.

They too become angry that Rick won’t reveal the Highland team’s secrets and a fight breaks out. They plant drugs and alcohol in the sports car and Rick is arrested when the police show up.

Tammy tells the police what really happened and Rick is released. Rick finds himself again in the national championship, this time against the former friends on his old team coached by his estranged father.

The game is hard fought. Players from his old team try to hurt Rick through cheap shots to collect the bounty on his head. Coach Penning tells Rick if he stays down Rick will end up like him. Rick gets back up and, in the final seconds, scores the winning try for Highland. As the film ends it is shown that in real life, under Coach Gelwix, Highland has been winning almost every year.

The movie takes us on a journey of self-discovery for the rugby player, as he has to learn what it means to be a good teammate, a good leader, and most importantly, a good human being. 

This movie has an amazing cast of actors and a very positive message that will make anyone smile. When you talk about a movie that looks to place a spotlight on what rugby culture is truly supposed to be based on, this is one movie that is a must-watch. 

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