In The Queen’s Gambit, now streaming on Netflix, the orphaned Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) struggles with a drug and alcohol dependency while simultaneously honing her chess skills as she steadily climbs towards the rank of world champion. Here are four films that also depict a sport in a thrilling manner and/or feature female protagonists:
I, Tonya (2018)
In 1993, the ex-husband of figure skater Tonya Harding, who was vying for a spot on the US Olympic team, hired a man to attack her rival, Nancy Kerrigan. The ensuing attack made headlines, with the jury still out on how much Harding knew. Margot Robbie plays the troubled athlete with empathy in this Craig Gillespie biopic, which weaves together stories of an unkind mother and an abusive husband to illustrate how, or despite which, she got to where she did.
The Ron Howard film traces the fierce rivalry between Formula One racing drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). Despite their wildly contrasting personalities — Hunt is abrasive, Lauda is calm and collected — the two inadvertently spur on each other to do their best work. The races are fast and furious, and by depicting a gruesome accident early on, the film wastes no time defining its life-and-death stakes.
Hoop Dreams (1994)
Shot over five years, the documentary follows two African-American teenagers from poor suburbs in inner-city Chicago, who are discovered by a talent scout at a predominantly white high school with a basketball programme in Illinois. The film, directed by Steve James, not only explores their long commute, hard practice sessions and difficulty adjusting to a new environment, it frames these as a microcosm of the larger issues in American society today.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-winning film, based on a book by fight manager Jerry Boyd, has the classic elements of an underdog sports story — a spunky young woman (Hilary Swank) seeking a mentor in a grizzled veteran (Clint Eastwood), who trains her how to box. The fight scenes are brutal, and the injuries hard to stomach, but at the heart of the film are memorable characters and the actors who make them their own with knockout performances.