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Movies That Show Viewers the Ropes of Classic Games


Photo Caption: All of these movies bring something different to the table, be it in depth analysis of a game or more of a focus on the personalities that launch such games into the mainstream

Most people watch movies as a form of escapism, allowing a director and their actors to sweep the viewer off into mysterious worlds or never-before-seen lands (check out The Third Day for a bit of escapism). However, there are a growing number of movie buffs who like the motion pictures they indulge in to challenge them or to even go a step further and teach them a thing or two.

In this article we focus on the latter, and the movies which many gaming aficionados turn to again and again, as they go about trying to master a certain classic game.


Classic card games have long been a staple of European and Hollywood cinema. Everyone from James Bond to George Clooney has, at one time or another, been challenged to some form of game by an on-screen friend or foe.

Unfortunately, many of the times that classic card games do appear on the big screen, their depictions tend to be ridiculed by those players who know the games in question intimately, because oft times the basic rules of a game are manipulated in order to fit within a rigid script or plot line.

That was what made Rounders so special when it was released back in 1998. The film managed to build a plausible story but without compromising on being true to the game of poker. This means that anyone hoping to understand Texas Hold’em version of the game better can give themselves a crash course by watching Matt Damon in Rounders, as well as having some easy-to-follow video tutorials to hand at the same time on their mobile or tablet.

According to top poker pros, the movie still holds up today as well as it ever has, so you can be sure you are not being bluffed by Damon and Co as you kick back and watch it with a bucket of popcorn. By the time the end credits roll, and you are done with all the video tutorials, you should be a lot better acquainted with the vagaries of bluffing, raising, and calling.

Word Wars

While poker is certainly a game that has captured the imagination of math buffs and strategists for generations, Scrabble has done precisely the same for wordsmiths.

Word Wars is the cinematic bible that most Scrabble fanatics swear by because it was directed by a true Scrabble expert, Eric Chaikin.

The result was a heartfelt documentary film about the stresses and strains experienced by four Scrabble players competing in the 2002 National Scrabble Championships in the US.

While the movie is adept at showing Scrabble newbies the tricks of the trade when it comes to amassing points with complex words, it also showed just how both humanizing and demanding the game can be. It is this sensitive and nuanced approach that makes Word Wars worthy of anyone’s to-watch list.

Queen of Katwe

Chess has been thrust back into the spotlight in recent times, thanks to young grand masters like Magnus Carlsen and the Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit – which by the way has nothing to do with a royal family and everything to do with a popular chess move.

Queen of Katwe, however, is based on the incredible true story of Ugandan chess player Phiona Nutesi, who managed to use her chess skills to wrench her family out of the crippling poverty they suffered in their home country.

Although the story here is largely focused on the social struggles that face the protagonist, there are still plenty of scenes that will help chess rookies get a better handle of this ancient board game.

Photo Caption: It is worth checking out Queen of Katwe before you tackle The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix


While most of the movies on this list will go about helping players get to grips with classic games, 21 is the only that goes a step further, to show how some players have in the past managed to beat the game itself.

The result is a movie that gives viewers a solid basis as to how the classic game of blackjack functions, as well as the flaws that a team of players from MIT used to bend the rules in their favor.

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