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Looking For Rizal In The Movies? Start With These Titles

If you’ve forgotten your history books and have little time to know our National Hero by reading, we recommend reintroducing yourself to Jose Rizal via cinema. As we celebrate the birthday of the most internationally revered Filipino hero, José Protasio Mercado Rizal y Alonzo Realonda (June 19, 1861 – December 30, 1896), we look back at how we’ve commemorated his contribution to our heritage through the eyes of some of our accomplished filmmakers.


Jose Rizal: Ang Buhay Ng Isang Bayani (1996)

Directed by Butch Nolasco, and starring Pen Medina and Joonee Gamboa, Jose Rizal: Ang Buhay Ng Isang Bayani is one of the earlier modern cinematic works that depict the ill-fated hero’s life story. 

The movie focused on two main themes: rebellion and betrayal, emphasizing how Rizal used his powerful writings and connections to publicly air his grievances against the Catholic church. Later, the narrative centers on how his supposedly trusted allies turned out to be catalysts to his downfall in society, and later, his demise.


Rizal Sa Dapitan (1997)

This award-winning movie was directed by Tikoy Aguiluz, with the screenplay written by Jose F. Lacaba, and co-written/produced by Vic Torres, Noel Vera, Lualhati Bautista, Mirana Medina-Bhunjun, and Tikoy Aguiluz. It stars Albert Martinez as Dr. Jose Rizal and Amanda Page as his wife Josephine Bracken.

Rizal Sa Dapitan is a clever take on a ‘what if’ premise, with a more empowered Rizal at the helm. However, the story remains faithful to the main events in the hero’s timeline, which culminates at his departure for his final stop, Dapitan.



Jose Rizal (1998)

Out of late director Marilou Diaz Abaya’s brilliant mind came Jose Rizal, a biographical retelling of Rizal’s plight while imprisoned under Spanish authorities. It follows his internal struggle throughout Andres Bonifacio’s battle of Katipunan, his friendship with Luis Taviel de Andrade, and his final trial, all of which lead to his last fevered attempts to fictional alter ego Crisostomo Ibarra to life in his novel El Filibusterismo.

The story doesn’t stop at Rizal’s execution, but proceeds to the uprising that ensues afterwards, honoring the heroism of Rizal and Bonifacio as equals.

Jose Rizal stars Cesar Montano as Jose Rizal, Jaime Fabregas as Luis Taviel de Andrade, and Gardo Versoza as Andres Bonifacio. 



Bayaning 3rd World (1999)

Directed Mike de Leon and written by De Leon and Clodualdo del Mundo Jr., Bayaning 3rd World recounts Rizal’s life through a different approach, investigating the impact of his controversial views against the Roman Catholic church during the Spanish occupation, and how he retracted them from circulation. The story is told through a series of supposed interviews with his friends, family, and finally Rizal himself.

The film stars Ricky Davao and Cris Villanueva as the investigative reporters conducting the interviews, and Joel Torre as Dr. Jose Rizal. 


Jose Rizal: The First Hero (2012)

Presented as a documentary on Vimeo, Jose Rizal: The First Hero was directed by Paolo Abella, written by Christian Vallez and Jonathan Guillermo, and produced by Jourdan Sebastian. Through a series of discussions with prominent authors, educations, and historians, the film explores Rizal’s revolutionary pursuits, values, and mindset against an oppressive society that has initially lauded him as anything but a hero.

This movie paints a more human version of Rizal, forgoing his usual idealized version and instead, encouraging the audience to look upon him as a multifaceted individual with glaring flaws and virtues, all of which have ultimately made him the man that stands for every Filipino.