Murderball (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byHenry Alex Rubin
Dana Adam Shapiro
Produced byJeffrey V. Mandel
Dana Adam Shapiro
Jeff Sackman
(Executive Producer)
StarringKeith Cavill
Andy Cohn
Scott Hogsett
Christopher Igoe
Mark Zupan
Bob Lujano
Joe Soares
Brent Poppen
CinematographyHenry Alex Rubin
Edited byConor O'Neill
Geoffrey Richman
Music byJamie Saft
Distributed byTHINKFilm
Release dates
  • July 8, 2005 (2005-07-08) (Limited)
  • July 22, 2005 (2005-07-22)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,750,211[2]

Murderball is a 2005 American documentary film about athletes who are physically disabled[3] who play wheelchair rugby. It centers on the rivalry between the Canadian and U.S. teams leading up to the 2004 Paralympic Games. It was directed by Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro, and produced by Jeffrey V. Mandel and Shapiro. It was nominated for Best Documentary Feature for the 78th Academy Awards.[4] Murderball was the first and only MTV film released through THINKFilm as well as Participant Media.


Murderball was shot on a low budget. The main camera used was a Panasonic AG-DVX100; a Sony PD150 was used to shoot some of the early interviews. The crew rigged a Sennheiser shotgun microphone to use as a boom, and relied heavily on Lavaliere wireless microphones as well. Available lighting was used almost exclusively. Additional light was provided using an inexpensive china ball. In one example of on-the-spot lighting, a flashlight was diffused using only a napkin.[5]


Murderball garnered almost universally positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has an approval rating of 98% based on reviews from 141 critics, and an average rating of 8.37/10.[6] This film also appears on the Rotten Tomatoes countdown of the top sports movies in 14th place as of 2023.[7] Metacritic gives an aggregated score of 87 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[8] Murderball also received positive reviews from[9] and Roger Ebert, who said "This is one of those rare docs, like Hoop Dreams, where life provides a better ending than the filmmakers could have hoped for."[10]

In December 2005, as part of the United Nations' International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs screened the film at the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium in its New York City headquarters. The movie was particularly celebrated for examining sexuality after spinal cord injuries.[11]

In April 2024 it was selected by Britain's The Observer newspaper as one of their "20 best sports movies".[12]


Award Category Recipient Result
Sundance Film Festival Audience Award Best Documentary Feature Won
78th Academy Awards Best Documentary Feature Nominated
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Audience Award Best Feature Won
Indianapolis International Film Festival Audience Award Best Feature Film Won
Best Non-Fiction Film Won

Musical score and soundtrack[edit]

Music from the Film Murderball
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJune 28, 2005
GenreFilm score
ProducerDana Adam Shapiro, Tracy McKnight, Jeff Mandel, Walter Yetnikoff
Jamie Saft chronology
Astaroth: Book of Angels Volume 1
Music from the Film Murderball
Trouble: The Jamie Saft Trio Plays Bob Dylan

The film score was composed and performed by Jamie Saft and the soundtrack album, which featured selections from Saft's score along with previously released tracks by Ministry, Ween, The Polyphonic Spree, Sam Prekop, The Moldy Peaches, The Whiles, Chessie and Scratch Massive used in the documentary, was released on the Commotion label in 2005.[13] Additional music composed for the film was released on Saft's A Bag of Shells (Tzadik, 2010).

Professional ratings
Review scores

Allmusic's James Christopher Monger said "Hearing Ministry's Alaine Jourgensen screaming "thieves, thieves & liars, murderers" over the clash of metal on metal during a wheelchair rugby match dutifully amplifies the primal nature of competition, especially when all of the players involved have overcome near-death physical (and psychological) injuries. ... The film's producers have compiled a rousing soundtrack that reflects the sport's brutality while maintaining an undercurrent of regretful stoicism. Keyboard player/composer Jamie Saft provides Murderball's backbone, laying down an original score that boasts atmospherics which are both tender and visceral. Other highlights include the engaging "Something" from the Sea and Cake's Sam Prekop, a trippy instrumental from Ween and the Moldy Peaches "Anyone Else But You."".[14]

Track listing

All compositions by Jamie Saft except where noted

  1. Ministry: "Thieves" (Paul Barker, Al Jourgensen) – 4:59
  2. Jamie Saft: "Murderball Remix" – 4:44
  3. Ween: "The F**ked Jam" (Aaron Freeman, Michael Melchiondo) – 2:55
  4. The Polyphonic Spree: "Light & Day" (Tim DeLaughter) – 3:24
  5. Sam Prekop: "Something" (Sam Prekop) – 3:47
  6. Jamie Saft: "Robert's Theme" – 2:27
  7. "The Moldy Peaches: "Anyone Else but You" (Kimya Dawson) – 2:57
  8. "The Whiles: "Song for Jerry" (The Whiles) – 1:31
  9. Chessie: "Follow Me Home" (Chessie) – 6:51
  10. Jamie Saft: "Penultimatum" – 3:21
  11. Scratch Massive: "Keep on Workin'" (Sebastien Chenut, Maud Geffray) – 5:12
  12. Jamie Saft: "Dungeonous Warfare" – 1:27
  13. Ministry: "Waiting" (Jourgensen, Mike Scaccia, Max Brody) – 5:04


  1. ^ Lemire, Jonathan (March 2006). "Young Lions of Cinema". Retrieved October 29, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Murderball (2005) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  3. ^ "A layperson's guide to wheelchair rugby classification" (PDF). International Wheelchair Rugby Federation. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 10, 2012. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  4. ^ "NY Times: Murderball". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2009. Archived from the original on February 11, 2009. Retrieved November 23, 2008.
  5. ^ "Murderball + Monster Man". Double Feature. June 4, 2009. Archived from the original on March 7, 2016.
  6. ^ Murderball at Rotten Tomatoes
  7. ^ "Best Sports Movies of All Time". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 14, 2023.
  8. ^ "Murderball: Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  9. ^ "Murderball (2005)". Archived from the original on January 25, 2013.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 21, 2005). "Mobile jocks smash clichés".
  11. ^ Bellando, Edoardo (November 29, 2005). "'Murderball', Award-Winning Documentary on Athletes with Disability, to be Shown at the United Nations on 1 December". United Nations. Retrieved April 23, 2022.
  12. ^ Lodge, Guy (April 28, 2024). "Game, set and match: the 20 best sports movies". The Observer. Retrieved April 29, 2024.
  13. ^ "Murderball (2005)". Soundtrack Collector. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  14. ^ a b Monger, James Christopher. Murderball – Review at AllMusic. Retrieved February 22, 2018.

External links[edit]