Game shows and their hosts have often appeared in movies in one form or another. Films can be based on fictional game shows or real ones, and sometimes the connection is tenuous at best. Still, it's fun for fans to watch these movies and see how the Hollywood film industry treats the genre.
The following movies are some of the best that are either based on game shows, or feature them as a major part of the plot.
1. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)
TV Producer and game show host Chuck Barris is best known for hosting The Gong Show, but it's his autobiographical story that has drawn much attention since the cancellation of that show. Barris claims that he was working as a hit man for the CIA during his time on television. The story is an odd one, especially if true, but it makes for compelling viewing in a film format.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind features some big names, including George Clooney who directs and also stars as the CIA operative who scouts Barris to be an assassin. Sam Rockwell stars as Chuck Barris, and the film also includes the acting talents of Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, and Michael Cera. Though Confessions of a Dangerous Mind didn't exactly overwhelm the box office, it was favorably reviewed by critics.
2. Quiz Show (1994)
You may not personally remember the game show scandal back in the 1950s, when Twenty One was discovered to have been rigged, but you've likely heard about it. Quiz Show is based on that scandal, but of course it's been dramatized and reworked to make it fit into a blockbuster movie format. Still, there's plenty of accuracy in this script.
Starring Ralph Fiennes as Charles Van Doren, the "attractive" contestant who was fed answers so he could beat out his less-attractive challenger, the movie provides plenty of suspense and intrigue even if you aren't a game show fan. The cast is rounded out by John Turturro as Herbie Stempel, Rob Morrow as Dick Goodwin, Christopher MacDonald as Jack Barry, Hank Azaria as Albert Freedman, and Paul Scofield as Mark Van Doren.
If you're looking for the movie treatment of a true, verifiable game show scandal, then this is the film to pick.
3. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Slumdog Millionaire became the feel-good hit movie of 2008. The plot follows Jamal (Dev Patel), a poor "slumdog" teenager in Mumbai, who appears on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. As he nails the right answers throughout his game, his difficult life is shown through a series of flashbacks.
Before Jamal can face his final question, he is detained by authorities who are convinced that he must be cheating in order to do so well at his young age and life circumstance. I won't give away how it ends, but have some tissues handy.
This film is the perfect game show movie experience, with great acting from Patel and his co-stars, Freida Pinto, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Tanay Chheda, Madhur Mittal, and many others. The story is complex and compelling.
4. Starter for 10 (1996)
Starter for 10 is a film that you may not have heard about, but it's definitely worth searching out and watching. It's a British film centered around college student Brian Jackson, whose life goal is to be on the (real life) game show University Challenge. Brian ends up on the Bristol University Challenge team, but also struggles with the usual challenges of young romance and university stresses.
Trivia buffs will appreciate Starter for 10 and likely recognize themselves in the character of Brian Jackson, who is played by James McAvoy. Other stars include Alice Eve and Rebecca Hall, and the film was produced by Tom Hanks.