'Rising Phoenix' review roundup: What the critics are saying  

Beatrice Vio of Italy looks on during the Women's foil fencing rounds during the 2017 IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Championships in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
Beatrice Vio of Italy looks on during the Women's foil fencing rounds during the 2017 IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Championships in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)

The reviews are in for Netflix's 'Rising Phoenix' documentary, as critics from around the world react to Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui's Paralympic-themed movie that released on 26 August. 

'Heart-tugging', 'fiercely inspiring' and an 'extraordinary tale' - reviewers from across the globe have had their say on the new documentary 'Rising Phoenix' that launched on Netflix on 26 August. The movie, which charts the rise of the Paralympic movement while telling the inspirational personal stories of nine Paralympians, has been a social media hit, with everyone from David Beckham to French President Emmanuel Macron singing its praises. Now the news outlets have had their say, and the critical response has been overwhelmingly positive. Check out our roundup of the latest reviews below:


Telegraph , UK, Gerard O'Donovan

In the end though, it isn’t the politics but the emotional heft of the individual athlete’s stories, married to the exquisitely physical visuals of directors Peter Ettedgui and Ian Bonhôte and a terrific soundtrack by British composer Daniel Pemberton, that win the day. The Paralympics may have been postponed for a year, but their flame burns brightly on in this wonderful, fiercely inspiring documentary.

GQ Italy , Italy, Furi Zara

Rising Phoenix: The story of the Paralympics is an extraordinary tale, full of rare and precious stories that accompany us along the human and sporting path of athletes who survived illness, pain and war. It is an epic and moving story, sincere and painful, which speaks about the lives of men and women who have transformed disability into the pedestal of a new life.

The energy, the strength to believe in one's dreams, the passion for sport, the fatigue of living, the sacrifices, the courage, the fear of not making it.

Fall, get up.

Telerama, France, Assia Hamdi

[The protagonists] highlight the precariousness of Paralympism and the emergency to give it the resources to exist at the highest level. With the Olympic and Paralympic Games postponed until 2021, Rising Phoenix is a welcome exhibition of the Paralympic movement. The film showcases athletes and leaders of the Paralympic movement, which began over 60 years ago. Many champions or athletes, from various disciplines and countries, talk about the loss of a leg, how a life can collapse, but also what sport has brought them and their most beautiful medals.

Digital Spy, UK, Chloe Timms

From the outset, RisingPhoenix subverts the idea of disability as weakness. Opening with a voiceover from runner Jean-Baptiste Alaize, the film draws comparisons between Paralympian athletes and Marvel's Avengers. But here, reality is more impressive than fiction.


IndieWire , USA, Ryan Lattanzio

It’s moving stuff, but never tragic. When the tears do flow in “Rising Phoenix” they’re never out of pity but out of an overwhelming marvel at — as cheesy as this sounds — the triumph of the human spirit, and over the human body. It’s hard not to talk about “Rising Phoenix” in sappy, saccharine terms. It’s all so heart-tugging, you’d have to be a stone to not get at least a little bit verklempt and that might be difficult for disabled viewers to take in.

Radio Times , UK, Grace Henry

It’s this dedication and faith that will really move viewers. In the face of adversity, we have these incredibly, talented Paralympians pushing through.

And it does pay off, although never without struggle – something that will leave many battling with their emotions throughout the film.

CNN , USA, Celine Ramseyer

It's a documentary that makes you want to cry, then laugh, then cry again.

Evening Standard, UK, Alex Brooker

I cried several times during the documentary because hearing those athletes talk of their struggles reminded me of my own; of the times I’ve been afraid of being disabled. I had those tears at London 2012 and again in Rio in 2016 when I talked on Last Leg about how the Italian hand-cyclist Alex Zanardi had inspired me with his positive attitude toward his disability.

At the time, my wife was pregnant with our first child and all I could think about was failing as a father because of my disability. How would I hold a child? How could I be the dad I wanted to be with my restrictions? But Zanardi, who lost both his legs in a motor-racing accident and went on to win gold in London and Rio, talked about his life being a never-ending privilege. It reminded me that life should be about what you can do, not what you can’t.

Quality filmmaking

Los Angeles Times , USA, Kevin Crust

Rising Phoenix is bursting with a glossy visual style courtesy of director of photography Will Pugh, casting the athletes as gods whose speed, strength and finesse shatter preconceptions the world sometimes foists upon them. Composer Daniel Pemberton’s frenetic rock opera-like score embodies their swagger and grit.

For though they face a range of challenges and come from different continents, they share a fierce determination to prove their athleticism. Being disabled is usually the furthest thing from their minds.

Paralympics.co.uk , UK, Tanni Grey-Thompson

They’ve clearly spent a lot of money on it as it’s such a beautiful film. It’s really high quality: the music, the camera work, the production and everything else that has gone in to making it. The quality of the film made me feel the Paralympic Games is really valued and important that they deemed it worthy of this level of investment and craft.

Rogerebert.com , USA, Nell Minow

It is all assembled with great skill by directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui and cinematographer Will Pugh, whose most recent documentary was "McQueen." The editing and camera placement bring us into the competitive events so vividly we can almost feel the heartbeats of the athletes.

Salon.com, USA, Ashlie D Stevens

Netflix's stunning new Paralympics doc "Rising Phoenix" erases stigma through visual elegance