5 Movies About Real-Life Underdogs


Everyone loves an underdog, right? These are the people who manage to make something out of nothing by transforming themselves, and the world, along the way. From chess sensations to saints, it’s the underdogs and their uncompromising internal will that we remember in the history books. Here are seven people whose lives made interesting movies on the screen.

1. Bobby Fischer Against the World
Bobby Fischer was 12-years-old in 1955 when he joined the Manhattan Chess Club. A year later, he was beating the pants off Donald Byrne in what came to be known as the “Game of the Century,” and he kept blazing a trail through the chess community. By 1972, he had the attention of the whole world when he played against Boris Spassky for the world championship. Bobby Fischer played out his own Cold War for the coveted title and catapulted himself into international stardom. Learn more about him in the documentary Bobby Fischer Against the World.

2. Erin Brockovich
Erin Brockovich was just a legal clerk when she went head to head with Pacific Gas and Electric over pollution in Southern California. It was a classic David and Goliath battle, and Brockovich came out on top to the tune of a record-setting $333 million settlement. She became a household name in 2000 when her career became the subject of a eponymous feature film with Julia Roberts in the starring role.

3. Frida
Frida Kahlo was struck by polio at age six and a car accident in her teens, leaving her with lifelong disabilities that included chronic pain and the need for multiple surgeries. But she found the strength within herself to pursue her art, becoming one of the most noted surrealist painters of the 20th century. She was portrayed in an Oscar-nominated performance by Selma Hayek in Frida.

4. The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
What’s a devout French girl to do when she’s seeing visions in 1429? If you’re Joan of Arc, the obvious answer is “become a military leader.” She may have come from peasant roots, but she earned the respect of jaded generals when she led French forces to a series of decisive victories against the English, putting Charles VII back on the throne. She was captured, she was tried for heresy and burned at the stake by her rivals. She has been the subject of many movies, with stars like Jean Seberg and Milla Jovovich taking turns playing the saint.

5. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Nelson Mandela was the first in his family to go to school and spent 27 years in prison before he took down apartheid in South Africa received the Nobel Peace Prize and was South Africa’s first truly democratically elected elected President. Watch the events unfold in the biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

For more people who made it against all odds, read up on these eight great sports movies from the ’80s.