Pacific Warriors

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Pacific Warriors Movie Poster Image
Docu about Pacific Islander rugby team has mild profanity.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 93 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Illustrates joy and satisfaction that comes from experiencing sport in its purest form. Promotes friendship, determination, teamwork, power of the spirit. Delivers clear picture of individuals working for the good of their team.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The "Warriors" here are unselfish, fun-loving, and committed to excellence and they focus on bringing pride to their families and their country. The players profiled find satisfaction based on love, pride and receive no financial compensation, other than expenses incurred for travel and equipment. The film lauds Pacific Islanders, in general, for their devotion to their families and their religion despite the relative poverty of their nations.

Violence

Many scenes show the hard-hitting, physical nature of world-class rugby. Historical footage refers to tribal warfare and mentions cannibalism.

Sex

Historical footage of tribes shows bare-breasted women. One mention of a gay man, cross-dressing.

Language

A few swear words: "s--t," "pissed," "hell."

Consumerism

Team members love Kentucky Fried Chicken. Men wear identifiable active wear and uniforms with company logos: KooGa, Serious Stuff. Banners are seen in backgrounds of sports arenas: Peugeot, Visa, Coca-Cola, Heineken.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An interviewee drinks a beer. A reference is made to getting drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Pacific Warriors is a documentary highlighting the rugby teams from the Pacific Islands, specifically Tonga and Western Samoa, with mention of Fiji as well. Not a mainstream sport in the U.S., rugby is a popular international phenomenon, similar to American football, but without the padding and helmets. As a result, the exuberant matches shown in this film are hard-hitting, all-out physical contests. In addition to interviews, game films, and a solid narration that provides an overview of the sport, there is newsreel footage of the history of the Pacific Islands (aka Polynesia), including tribal customs. This material shows some bare-breasted tribal women and painted tribesmen and briefly mentions cannibalism. A sprinkling of swearing ("hell," "pissed," "s--t") is heard. An interesting, fun documentary for older kids who love sports, the movie provides an eye-opening glimpse of a sports-loving people who live far from an athletic world often driven by money, business interests, and endorsements.

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What's the story?

PACIFIC WARRIORS tells the tale of the rough-and-tumble Pacific Island (Western Samoa, Tonga, Fiji) rugby players as they take on organized, well-paid professional teams from around the world. Personal interviews of both players and their opponents, footage of matches and practices, as well as enlightening scenes of family, team camaraderie, and spiritual devotion lead the way to the section that covers several explosive years of the Rugby World Cup finals. Among the topics explored are physical and cultural phenomena that are at the root of the Islanders' abilities and drive, plus differences in resources between the Islanders and their well-funded competition. Also spotlighted is the migration of some of the best players -- the island treasures -- to nearby New Zealand and Australia, as well as to Europe, all of which offer professional contracts, money, and great resources for training, medical assistance, and so on. It's clear from start to finish that these big, brawny, hard-hitting "warriors" are admired, respected, and loved by rugby fans throughout the international rugby community.

Is it any good?

Admirable true-life characters, a unique culture, and fierce competition keep this film lively and engaging. David-vs.-Goliath stories are always fun; it's in our DNA to root for the underdog, and this movie provides plenty of opportunity for that -- not to mention the fun of discovering the enthusiasm, competitiveness, and fun in a sport relegated to minor status in America until recently (professional rugby came to the U.S. only in 2015). In spite of an untidy first-half structure that darts from interview to historical newsreels to match footage without a cohesive through line, the spirited players and their culture come vividly to life. The second half, which focuses on specific, linear years of Rugby World Competition, boosts the ragtag team of men with few resources and no pay to world-class status. Best of all, the movie is a living testament to the old saying, "It isn't whether you win or lose but how you play the game."  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes the Pacific Islanders such remarkable players. How much do you think can be attributed to their physical stature, and how much comes from their emotional makeup? What about these young athletes is most impressive?

  • It's clear that the rugby teams portrayed have very little in the way of resources (money, equipment, special staff) when compared to the players from other countries. What keeps them competitive? What satisfies them if it's not material gain? 

  • How does enjoyment of this kind of film encourage learning about another culture or activity? Before you saw this film, how much did you know about Western Samoa and Tonga? How did your feelings about or interest in those far-off places change after watching it?

  • Before you saw this film, were you familiar with the sport of rugby? Did you come away wanting to know more about the game?

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