Invictus Movie Reflection: A Story of Hope and Triumph

Reflecting on the powerful themes of courage, unity, and resilience, "Invictus" offers a poignant commentary on the importance of leadership and its potential to unite people in times of great hardship. Through the use of rugby as a common ground, the movie showcases the ways in which sports can be a catalyst for social change and break down barriers between different communities. In the Invictus movie reflection essay, we will delve deeper into the film's themes and explore how the story of Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar's collaboration can inspire us to be better leaders, more compassionate individuals, and advocates for positive change.

‘Invictus” is an uplifting and inspiring movie starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as François Pienaar. After serving twenty-six years in prison, Mandela wins the election and is the first black president after apartheid. He takes office and vows to unite the separated country. This movie shows how Mandela used compassion, integrity, and kindness to help South Africa heal from the apartheid and the drastic divide between the races. Using rugby as a common ground, Mandela and Francois worked together to bond all races and become a united nation. The central theme of this film is maintaining courage and resilience during hard times.

When Nelson Mandela was elected, he promised to end the racial divide that was happening in his country. The black population was joyous, however, the white population was more hesitant as they were afraid they would lose their civil liberties. Mandela realized that something simple, like sports, could be the one thing that could help unite his country. Mandela devoted all of his time to help motivate the team, however, this ended up hurting his relationships with family members. He was a compassionate, strong and generous man, however, family members felt that his politics came into their family household and they resented him for changing their lives. In one scene of the movie, one of Mandela’s bodyguards asked him about his family. Mandela was quiet and withdrawn and we learned that his family resented him and viewed his forgiveness as foolish. They did not support him. Mandela, however, took the negative from his family and turned it into a positive. He viewed the country as his family and felt accountable for each of the citizens.

Mandela was a great leader. He was humble, open-minded, polite, informed and a visionary. When Mandela first took office, his staff was afraid that they were going to be fired. Mandela quickly ended the rumors and fears by calling them into a meeting and let the staff know that he did not intend to fire anyone. Instead, he wanted everyone to work together as one. His leadership was inspiring as he expected his followers to follow his example. Charisma is a leader's special magnetic charm and appeal. Mandela had charisma as he was able to appeal to the nation and inspire all to unify.

Forgiveness is a major leadership trait shown in this movie. After serving a twenty-seven-year sentence in prison, Mandela easily forgave those who wronged him. He was compassionate and believed that the key to ending the racial divide was to forgive others. 'Forgiveness starts here too. Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.' (Eastwood, 'Invictus'). In this scene, Mandella was talking to Jason about forgiveness and that it is best to practice forgiveness repeatedly.

Unity was another strong trait of Mandela’s and Francois’ in this film. The first thing Mandela addressed as president was the unity of the people. There were large racial divisions that took place during apartheid and he was determined to unify the people. Both Mandela and Francois worked hard together to unify the team and the country while creating solidarity among the people.

Mandela was a strong leader as he was cautious and ethical. He saw his leadership as being essential to the unity of the nation and he took his position as President very seriously. He motivated his people as well as Francois and the rugby team. Mandela showed integrity as he adhered to a strong set of principles and took responsibility for his actions. He was able to inspire others as they had confidence in him as a leader and he was trustworthy.

According to President Mandela, the essence of leadership was “allowing me to expect more of myself” (Eastwood, 'Invictus'). Mandela worked hard to inspire those around him, his country and the rugby team. He inspired all to try to become better versions of themselves, even better than they thought they could ever achieve.

Francois’s main leadership style was leading by example. He was a good listener, respectful, and team-focused. He was the captain of the South African Springboks and with the help of Mandela, he wanted to help unite the country through rugby. He saw a lot of resistance from his peers, and although it was hard, he stood by Mandela’s side and continued to work hard and fight for what was right. Francois was a follower of Mandela's but ended up showing great leadership skills on his own as he was not discouraged and continued pressing on.

'Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole. I thank whatever gods may be, for my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of fate, my head is bloody but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears, looms but the horror of the shade and yet, the menace of the years finds and shall find me, unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll. I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.'

“Invictus” is a poem by William Ernest Henley that is about resilience and courage in the face of difficulties. Mandela's love of the poem 'Invictus” started when he was in prison. This poem held to his heart and meant a lot to him as it taught him how to embrace his inner strength, overcome obstacles and exceed his expectations. When reading 'I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul' (Henley), he was inspired and ended up giving a handwritten copy of the poem to Francois. Invictus means unconquered in Latin and Mandela knew that it would help motivate Francois to learn how to pull himself back up and to unify the team. This theory of resilience rang true throughout the country as it has gone through some very horrible times and the people of the nation were wounded. They needed a strong, ethical leader who would persevere and inspire them, and to help raise them out of the darkness.

In one scene, Mandella saw children playing rugby on the side of the road. On one side were black children and the white children were on the other side. The black people of South Africa viewed the professional sport of rugby as a symbol of racism. They cheered for the opposite team and did not want anything to do with the predominantly white team, lead by Pienaar. The Rugby team, the Springboks, were not very good and lost the majority of their games. This was something that was not inspiring or uplifting to the community. Mandela ended up using rugby as a way to unite all races. Mandela and Pienaar found a common ground and worked together to inspire the union through rugby. As the Springboks started to win, the people of South Africa began to take notice. Shortly after, all races were in the stands, cheering on their home team together. After a victory, South Africans were seen dancing in the street together in celebration. This sport helped to unify a divided nation. They saw common ground in cheering for the Springboks and they desired a common goal of being triumphant.

When watching this movie, I was inspired to be more courageous and strong. Mandela had a hard life and could’ve decided to become discouraged, angry and bitter. Instead, he became motivated to help others, to improve the lives of his people, to end anger and racial discrimination, and to unite everyone as one. As viewers, we can learn from this movie to lead by example, to be resilient and to have compassion for all. In the textbook, Mandela’s legacy is described by former U.S. president Bill Clinton who wrote, “Under a burden of oppression he saw through difference, discrimination, and destruction to embrace our common humanity.”


  • Northouse, P. G. (2018). Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice (4th ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE.
  • Warner Bros. (2009). Invictus.
  • Henley, W. E. (n.d.). Invictus by William Ernest Henley - Poems | Academy of American Poets. Retrieved April 13, 2020, from
16 December 2021
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