We’ve all seen the high-action adventures or the classic romantic comedy—they’re a staple of every movie night. However, every once in a while, directors and producers bring us something a little different and showcase a new side of the human experience we might not be familiar with. To add a little variety to your viewing queue, here are ten films and TV shows that feature unique or obscure hobbies:
1. Chess: The Queen’s Gambit
“…[The Queen’s Gambit] is satisfying not just as a compelling period drama, a character study, and a feast for the eyes. It’s also, at its heart, a sports movie wrapped up in the vestments of a prestige TV series. Ask yourself this: When is the last time you fist-pumped the air over chess? Isn’t that something you deserve?” (Allison Shoemaker, Roger Ebert Reviews)
Checkmate! Follow the journey of Beth Harmon as she learns the complexities of chess and competes against nationally-ranked counter-parts while navigating her adolescence and transition into adulthood. Don’t worry if you’re not a chess aficionado; this film is for everyone who loves a good thrill and compelling story.
2. Blackjack: 21
“It’s an involving tale about the risks (and rewards) of deception, unbridled greed and promise of easy cash lining the Vegas strip. It draws us in with its handsome, likable cast and leaves us with a somewhat satisfying if predictable, conclusion.” (Bob Hoose, PluggedIn Reviews)
Everyone wants to win big in Vegas, and our hero, Ben Campbell cracks to the code to do it. Based on a true story, Campbell leverages his MIT education to build an unbeatable system to win big money. Does he pull it off? Well, you’ll have to watch the movie for that answer.
3. Wine Tasting: Sideways
“The specter of a disappointing life hangs over Alexander Payne’s new film “Sideways,” casting shadows so deep and so dark it’s a wonder that the story’s nearly broken hero hasn’t drowned in them…And therein lies the great cosmic joke of this heart-piercing film: without struggle and pain, Miles wouldn’t be half the good and decent man he is, though he certainly might complain a little less, venture a little more.” (Manohla Dargis, The New York Times)
Coupling human insight with wine excellence, Sideways is a captivating story of connection, redemption, and hope. Miles, along with the company of his long-time friend, takes off to the country for one last weekend before meeting with the reality of his personal life.
4. Dungeons and Dragons: Stranger Things
“Once thought uncool, and derided as strictly for the nerds, D&D – as gamers call it – is back, and it’s big business. Helped by its depiction in TV shows such as Stranger Things…sales of D&D material have grown in double-digit percentages in each of the past five years. With more than 40 million players, the game is now more popular than it has ever been since its invention in 1974.” (Neil Armstrong, The Guardian)
With a fantastic blend of fantasy and reality, Stranger Things follows the adventures of a young friend group as they battle demons both on a D&D board and outside their homes, unmasking a dark history in their hometown. If you haven’t started the series yet, no worries. Netflix currently has three seasons available with a fourth on its way. There’s time to catch up before the next release!
5. Poker: Rounders
“Rounders is widely credited as helping introduce poker to a new generation of players, and was one of the sparks that eventually saw the onset of the poker boom a few years later.” (Global Poker)
Thanks to a remarkable performance from Matt Damon as Mike McDermott, we get an inside look into the high-stakes poker world with some of the most accurate gameplay seen in cinematic history.
6. Snowboarding: The Art of Flight
“Whether it’s the helicopter-mounted Cineflex chasing Rice down an Alaskan face or the Phantom capturing the dilation of his pupil when footage like that is paired with such a soul-rattling audio backdrop, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve set foot on the snow. It’s impossible to be unmoved.” (Melissa Larsen, ESPN)
From the talented Travis Rice and Curt Morgan comes a new look into the epic world of snowboarding. Beyond the boards and tricks comes a story of defying what was thought possible and exploring the world through the slopes.
7. Street Art: Exit Through the Gift Shop
“At some point, Banksy took over the camera and Thierry became the subject. How that flip-flop happened and what happened next is the story of the film. And it’s a wonderful, often hilarious film, even if doubts about its authenticity linger. The acid narration is by Welsh actor Rhys Ifans, who explains how unemployed sad-sack Thierry became obsessed with videotaping street artists at their clandestine, illegal labors.” (David Edelstein, NPR)
Directed by the famous—and mysterious—artist Banksy, Exit Through the Gift Shop tells the story of Thierry Guetta and his love of street art. A document of everything from morning to night, we see the rise of the artist through the eyes of a famous artist himself. If you’ve become accustomed to the unexpected from Banksy, this film will be no surprise (because it’s full of surprises).
8. Sewing: The Dressmaker
“‘The best revenge is massive success.’ Those famous, biting words, from the golden lips of Frank Sinatra, one of the foremost fashion icons in the mid-20th century, summed up quite nicely the crux of The Dressmaker, a bloody tale of small-town murder, madness, and mayhem revolving around a ‘50s seamstress extraordinaire.” (Bernard Boo, Pop Matters)
If you watch The Dressmaker, prepare yourself for a suspenseful, dramatic, and sometimes campy film that features remarkable fashion and a compelling story. Kate Winslet delivers an interesting, yet zany, performance as the dressmaker who rises to fame above the town that once banished her.