Rising Phoenix

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Rising Phoenix Movie Poster Image
Thoughtful Paralympic Games docu has strong language.
  • PG-13
  • 2020
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

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

Positive Messages

Highlights the history and importance of the Paralympic Games, promotes inclusion and perseverance, particularly for people with disabilities, and how the Paralympic Games are intended to counter stereotypes of people with disabilities.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Features extensive interviews with several athletes who have competed in the Paralympic Games. In addition to discussing their disabilities, they talk of their goals, dreams, and determination to win, as well as the challenges and prejudice they've encountered on the way.


Archival news footage of dead bodies, kids getting beaten during the Burundi civil war. Paralympic athlete talks of how he lost his leg due to four machete blows from soldiers during the war, and how he was forced to watch as his mother was murdered. 


A talk show host asks one of the athletes, in two innuendo-filled questions, if he ever had sex with other athletes at the Paralympic Games. 


Infrequent strong profanity. "F--k off" and "f--king hell." "S--t." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rising Phoenix is a relevant, inspiring documentary about how growing worldwide interest in the Paralympic Games helps counter stereotypes and prejudice. The athletes with disabilities who are interviewed emerge as strong role models who are defined by their drive, perseverance, and competitive spirit rather than their disabilities. The movie explains how the Games' original intent was to show the world the humanity of people with disabilities at a time when many people weren't open-minded enough to think of them as capable human beings, let alone competitive athletes. Expect some profanity, including "f--k." And in archival talk show footage, a talk show host asks a champion Paralympic athlete about sex during the Games. There's violent archival news footage of the Burundi civil war of the 1990s, as well as one of the athletes discussing how, as a very young boy, his leg was hacked off by soldiers and he was forced to watch his mother's murder.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13-year-old Written bychathamsq September 5, 2021
Kid, 12 years old August 29, 2020

Great movie

The movie only had a little swearing in one section where athletes got angry. Although there is some swearing I find it very important for children to learn abo... Continue reading

What's the story?

RISING PHOENIX is a documentary that tells the story of the Paralympic Games. Started by Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, a Jewish doctor who fled the Nazis during World War II, the Games began as a showcase for veterans with disabilities that coincided with the London Olympic Games of 1948. The documentary shows the challenges the Paralympic Games have faced on its journey into becoming the third largest sporting event in the world. Paralympic champions of the past and present discuss their lives and struggles with disabilities, and how sports and the Games gave them an opportunity to display their gifts and competitive drive. Rising Phoenix also shows how bureaucratic and financial mismanagement during the 2016 Rio Olympics nearly derailed that year's Paralympic Games, and how the organizers fought to save it. Notably, the Brazilians, as well as the world watching on television, turned out in droves to support it, despite an unforgivable lack of support from the Rio Olympic organizers. 

Is it any good?

It almost goes without saying that this is an inspiring documentary about the Paralympic Games and those who created, organized, and competed in it. Of course it's inspiring, but what's really special about Rising Phoenix is how seamlessly the documentary reveals the importance and necessity of the Paralympic Games, not only for the individual athletes, but also for the world. At a time when, according to the documentary, hate crimes against people with disabilities are at an all-time high, the Paralympic Games present to the entire planet the boundless capabilities, drive, and humanity of people with disabilities, and the athletes profiled are a testament to this. 

 As Rising Phoenix weaves the Paralympic Games' past and present, highlighting the ups and downs since its inception in 1948, the documentary also shows how, in spite of becoming the third largest sporting event in the world, the Games and the athletes still face dismissive treatment. This is evidenced by what transpired during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, where financial and bureaucratic mismanagement nearly prevented the Paralympic Games from happening. And yet, this unforgivable behavior also serves to reveal the undaunted spirit of the Games, as organizers fought tirelessly to make sure the Paralympic Games happened and were effectively funded and promoted, and as the Brazilian people, despite the lack of promotion, began to fill the stadiums and arenas to enthusiastically support it. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about sports documentaries. How does Rising Phoenix compare to other sports documentaries you've seen?

  • How does the documentary challenge misconceptions about people with disabilities, and how are the Paralympic Games shown to counter stereotypes? 

  • How did this documentary heighten your understanding of people with disabilities? What did you learn? 

  • What character strengths do the featured athletes embody?

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