4 Totally Awesome Movies Based On Board Games, And 1 Crappy One

So, in honor of the announcement that Ridley Scott is going to direct a movie based on Monopoly, I’ve compiled a list of the greatest movies based on board games. But until Hasbro releases their spate of movies, there aren’t yet five movies based on board games, so I was forced to take some liberties.

Clue

A movie based on a board game sounds like something uninspired that’ll be aimed squarely at children. But the sole movie based on a modern board game flies squarely in the face of that. Clue is a very funny movie. It takes the basic premise of the the game and translates it into an entertaining little movie. The clever script and great cast (Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Leslie Ann Warren, Martin Mull, Michael McKean) create a slapstick spoof on the whodunit movie.


Searching For Bobby Fischer

How do you make a great movie? You take an accomplished, award-laden cast (Joe Montegna, Joan Allen, Ben Kingsley, Larry Fishburne, William H. Macy, Laura Linney), an award-winning writer/director (Steven Zaillian), a storied cinematographer (Conrad L. Hall), and base it on one of the world’s greatest board games- chess. The true story follows the life of chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin as he begins to learn competitive chess and struggles to maintain his values in the face of corrupting pressure from his father and teacher. Professional chess is an immensely complicated affair, but the story (from the book by Waitzkin’s father) makes the chess elements easily digestible and focuses primarily on the young Waitzkin’s quest to maintain his humanity and not become the maniacal chess machine that was Bobby Fischer. It’s a feel good movie that never has to resort to manipulative tricks to accomplish that feat.


The Seventh Seal

If there’s a list that includes movies about chess, The Seventh Seal must be included by default. The story centers on a knight (Max von Sydow) returning from the crusades. Upon his return, the knight discovers his homeland is ravaged by plague and finds Death waiting for him. But the knight desperately wants to go home and see his wife again, so he challenges Death to an epic game of chess to win a reprieve. The movie’s stark, haunting cinematography, foreign (to most people) language, and ruminations on life and death make this the poster child of “serious” “art house” movies, but the story of a man who has survived the horrors of war only to find himself trying to squirm out of death’s icy grip and return to his home is timeless.


Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey

And if there’s a list that contains The Seventh Seal, then that movie’s greatest parody must be included- Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. After Bill and Ted are killed by their evil robots selves, they initially escape Death by giving him a wedgie and running away. When they later find themselves in Hell, tormented by the Easter Bunny and Granny S. Preston, Esquire, the duo realize their only way out is to challenge Death to a contest. As Bill and Ted repeatedly win the games, Death continuously ups the ante (best 2 of 3, 3 of 5, 4 of 7) until the tandem has beaten him at Battleship, Clue, electric football, and finally, Twister. A defeated Death agrees to take them to the greatest scientist in the universe- a Martian named Station, in Heaven. The movie is totally ridiculous, but infinitely enjoyable.


Dungeons & Dragons

In the world of role-playing games, the story starts and stops with Dungeons & Dragons. Until the year 2000, the immensely popular game and it’s adventures had never made it to the big screen. D&D fans were no doubt beside themselves with joy upon hearing of the movie’s release. They were no doubt disgusted after seeing the end result- a sloppy, poorly made fantasy “adventure” (aren’t adventures supposed to be exciting?) with no real ties to D&D mythology, save the title. Jeremy Irons phones in his performance and Justin Whalin and Marlon Wayans are overmatched by the… well, everything. You could’ve looked at this as being a movie aimed at a narrow niche audience, but the next year The Lord of the Rings proved that fantasy is for everyone. If you ever get an inkling that you should watch Dungeons & Dragons, I’d advise you to just go read the latest copy of the Monster Manual. Learning the subtle differences in various goblinoid races is way, way more interesting.

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