Invictus Quotes and Analysis

"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."

Nelson Mandela

Mandela recites William Ernest Henley's poem, "Invictus." This poem was important to Mandela during his 27 years of imprisonment in South Africa. It discusses the importance of self-belief through hard times, and encourages the reader to muster courage and self-reliance through difficulty.

"Forgiveness starts here too. Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon."

Nelson Mandela

Mandela tells Jason what forgiveness means to him and what it can mean if it is practiced over and over and over again. Mandela sets an example for his head of security by outlining his goals around uniting people and showing grace and forgiveness even towards his enemies.

"How do we inspire ourselves to greatness when nothing less will do? How do we inspire everyone around us? I sometimes think it is by using the work of others."

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela says this to Francois Pienaar when they meet. He is discussing how the Springboks can become true inspiration for South Africa. Mandela knows he cannot build a bridge of unity in a country divided by racism and hatred without the help of others. He wants to enlist Francois to help him in his mission.

"I think he wants us to win the World Cup."

Francois Pienaar

When Francois is asked why President Mandela wanted to have tea with him, this is Francois' answer. While Mandela did not say it outright, Francois has surmised Mandela's plan: to bring the country together with rugby.

"You criticize without understanding. You seek only to address your own personal feelings. That is selfish thinking."

Nelson Mandela

When Mandela's daughter tells him that she cannot understand how he could possibly forgive those who imprisoned him and ruined his family members' lives, he suggests that she is thinking selfishly. He suggests that she is projecting her personal concerns into the political sphere and mistaking this for a belief system, when in reality she is not taking into account the big picture.

"Brothers, sisters, comrades, I am here because I believe you have made a decision with insufficient information and foresight. I am aware of your earlier vote. I am aware that it was unanimous. Nonetheless, I believe we should restore the Springboks. Restore their name, their emblem and their colors, immediately. Let me tell you why. On Robben Island, in Pollsmoor Prison, all of my jailers were Afrikaners. For 27 years, I studied them. I learned their language, read their books, their poetry. I had to know my enemy before I could prevail against him. And we did prevail, did we not? All of us here—we prevailed. Our enemy is no longer the Afrikaner. They are our fellow South Africans, our partners in democracy. And they treasure Springbok rugby. If we take that away, we lose them. We prove that we are what they feared we would be. We have to be better than that. We have to surprise them with compassion, with restraint, and generosity. I know. All of the things they denied us. But this is no time to celebrate petty revenge. This is the time to build our nation using every single brick available to us—even if that brick comes wrapped in green and gold. You elected me your leader. Let me lead you now."

Nelson Mandela

Mandela says this to the National Sports Council when he hears that they are trying to completely revamp the rugby team. He knows that if they do so, it will sow resentment among the Afrikaners, and his chief aim is unity. He makes an impassioned speech to convince the council to reconsider their choice.

"Well, you know what they say about soccer. It's a gentleman's game played by hooligans. On the other hand, rugby is a hooligan's game played by gentlemen."


Etienne, one of Mandela's white bodyguards, says this to Linga, one of Mandela's black bodyguards. In South Africa, soccer is popular among black South Africans, while Afrikaners generally prefer rugby. In this moment, Etienne is making a racist comment to his fellow bodyguard, which he means lightly, but which does not go over very well.

"I have a very large family. 42 million. I don't think I'll walk today."

Nelson Mandela

When Hendrick the bodyguard asks Mandela about his family, he gives this reply, suggesting that he thinks of his country as his family. He then decides to skip his usual walk, an indication that he is upset. Hendrick does not know it, but Mandela does not like to talk about his family, as his relationship with them is strained.

"You're risking your political capital, you're risking your future as our leader."


Brenda becomes frustrated with her boss at several points throughout the film, and sees his project of caring about rugby instead of foreign policy as antithetical to good leadership. Here, she implores him to take his commitment to rugby less seriously.

"According to the experts, you and I should still be in jail."

Nelson Mandela

At one point, Mandela asks a trusted friend whether the Springboks have a chance of qualifying for the World Cup, and the friend tells him that the experts think it look doubtful. This is Mandela's response, testament to the fact that he believes in the impossible when others have doubts.