“Chess isn’t always competitive. Chess can also be beautiful. It was the board I noticed first. It’s an entire world of just 64 squares. I feel safe in it. I can control it. I can dominate it. And it’s predictable, so if I get hurt, I only have myself to blame.” – Beth Harmon
Netflix has hit the jackpot yet again with a brilliant show in the name of The Queen’s Gambit, a fictional story set in the mid-1950s and continues to the 1960s. It revolves around an orphaned chess prodigy Beth Garmon who embarks on a quest to become the world’s greatest chess player. However, various obstacles stand in her way including emotional problems and dependency on alcohol and drugs. A riveting watch, The Queen’s Gambit is most definitely one of Netflix’s finest creations and has received rave reviews since its debut.
It is quite a unique show as it is one of the first period pieces centred on a woman chess player (so much for representation!). Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth delivers a stellar performance and has received high praise: “While the moves aren’t always perfect, but between Anya Taylor-Joy’s magnetic performance, incredibly realised period details, and emotionally intelligent writing, The Queen’s Gambit is an absolute win.” It was well-received by the chess community as well as the members were hopeful that it would ignite interest within youngsters to start partaking in the game, especially among young female players.
However, it is a limited series which would mean there is no follow-up season. That is indeed quite disheartening for the fans who were probably hoping to see their favourite Beth return in poise and quietude to win more tournaments. Netflix does not have any other shows related to playing chess. However, there are quite a few similar competitive sports biopics/ strategy series/ period pieces that capture the individual elements of intellectualism, sportsmanship, emotional turmoils as well as the visual aesthetics, all of which lie woven within the acclaimed Netflix series.
Fans of The Queen’s Gambit, cry no more! We have ravaged the genres and categories on Netflix to find shows that will fit your aesthetic. Here are seven shows that you as The Queen’s Gambit fans must watch to find out how many such amazing underdog series go unnoticed on the streaming platform. It’s time to say checkmate and chill.
Play the Queen to the Bishop, and let’s get started!
7 Netflix series all The Queen’s Gambit fans must watch:
Godless (Scott Frank, 2017)
“A town full of ladies… it’s ripe fruit for the wicked.”
Praised vehemently for its ground-breaking and daring breakthrough into a male-dominated genre of Westerns, with a female-driven ensemble, Godless is seven-episode series set in the 1880s. Before working on The Queen’s Gambit, Scott Frank worked on this series. After a mining disaster, La Belle, a town in New Mexico, is inhabited completely by women. Frank Griffin and his band of outlaws pursue Roy Goode a former protege and traitor, relentlessly, driving him to take shelter in the town and he co-habits with the emotionless outcast widow, Alice Fletcher, with leads to rising tension in the town.
What’s better than watching classic Westerns? Watching a townful of powerful women taking up arms against notorious men to protect the integrity of their town. While it is reminiscent of the golden yesteryears, the tone is modern and unapologetic. The multi-faceted villain with an unforgiving rage has an epic duel and showdown with Roy Goode at the end which makes the series finale even more engaging. The women do not wait for men to come to save them; they are vicious and independent and do not fear taking up arms to protect what is theirs. With magnificent cinematography and a satisfying climax, Godless not only sings of women empowerment but also reminisces the classic West.
Peaky Blinders (Steven Knight, 2013-)
“Intelligence is a very valuable thing, innit, my friend? And usually, it comes far too fucking late.”– Thomas Shelby
British crime dramas and documentaries have boasted of sheer class, brilliant police procedurals and epic whodunits. However, one must always resort to American shows for a riveting and nail-biting narrative from the perspective of a criminal (for eg: The Sopranos). However, Steven Knight’s 2013 series, Peaky Blinders, a period piece set in between the Wars, changed the course of British crime dramas. Moody and dark, Peaky Blinders chronicles the escapades of Black Country gang, infamous for their notoriety and tendency to stash dangerous razor blades in their peaked caps. It follows the character of the handsome and eloquent, Thomas Shelby (played by the wonderful Cillian Murphy), who is ambitious, cunning and shrewd.
With its riveting and fast-paced tale of cold-blooded violence and gangsters, Peaky Blinders is set in post-first world war Birmingham and manages to capture viewers’ attention indefinitely. Captivating and gasp-inducing, the series seasons are renewed after consecutive prolonged hiatus which makes fans impatient for their iconic Thomas-fucking-Shelby and his electrifying presence on-screen.
The Crown (Stephen Daldry, 2016-)
“I would ask you to consider your response in light of the respect that my rank and office deserve, not that which my age and gender might suggest.”
Based on Peter Morgan’s award-winning play The Audience, The Crown is a lavish Netflix original that provides an insight into the life of Queen Elizabeth II from the 1940s when she first ascended the throne at the age of 25 after the demise of her father King George VI to the modern times. The series delves deep into the Queen’s political and romantic pursuits as well as the events that led to major developments in the late 20th century.
One of the best period dramas o Netflix, The Crown deserves all the high praise and accolades it has received ever since its inception. Although the series can keep fans waiting for an awfully long time, the episodes that are enriched by great narratives, exquisite aesthetics and stellar acting from the talented ensemble, are worth binging. The series provides an intimate insight into the Queen’s life and humanises the concept of her. Claire Foy, as Queen Elizabeth II, deserves a special mention due to her expressive eyes which can emote truckloads of feelings without uttering a word. Hans Zimmer’s theme adds an extra garnish to this already delectable visual delicacy.
Call the Midwife (Heidi Thomas, 2012-)
“The longest nights are seldom seen approaching. Storms may not be heard until they break. Like life itself, challenges and change are there to be confronted and we must weather them, alone or together.”
Created by Heidi Thomas and based originally on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, the series focuses on the lives of a group of midwives working in London in the late 1950s and ’60s. With realism embedded in its core, the show is one of BBC’s finest, and one could not thank Netflix enough for taking it up.
The series is informative and gathers a lot of evidence from historical events. It includes various important socio-cultural issues and taboo topics. Themes of the baby boom, poverty and immigration issues, various diseases, abortions, contraceptives, teen pregnancies, epidemics, prostitution, birth fatalities and defects etc. are dealt with immense sensitivity and maturity. It is a show about the raw human emotions and the trials and tribulations of the midwives while they battle social issues as well as stigma, oppression, prejudice and adversities. It is an awe-inspiring tale of hope with superb characters that have immense depth. It is a wholesome watch peppered with intense sadness yet pleasantly funny moments aided by a splendid narrative and ensemble.
Alias Grace (Mary Harron, 2017)
“Gone mad is what they say, and sometimes Run mad, as if mad is a different direction, like west; as if mad is a different house you could step into, or a separate country entirely.”
Adapted from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the miniseries revolves around the life of Grace Marks, an Irish immigrant who is convicted of murder. The story begins in 19th century Canada and unravels in a litany of flashbacks.
A hard-hitting and poignant social commentary, the script is poetic and uncompromising. Sarah Gadon delivers a marvellous performance as the mistreated and abused woman hushed by society. One of the most underrated yet best period dramas on Netflix, it is a scorching commentary on the condition of women in the mid-1800s, especially the trials and tribulations Grace herself had to face. The constant interrogations coupled with the debates regarding pardoning a criminal on grounds of insanity have been handled with poise and finesse. The ambiguous ending might leave the viewers frustrated, hankering for answers, but this magnificent, heartbreaking series is a must-watch for all.
Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker (Kasi Lemmons, 2020)
“The good Lord don’t want us to just sit around and wait for things to happen.”
This limited series is adapted from A’Lelia Bundles’ biography On Her Ground based on the life of Madam C.J. Walker, who went from being an African American washerwoman to the first black haircare mogul. She battles various obstacles, rocky marriages, malicious competitors, rampant sexism and hostile environments to become “America’s first Black, self-made female millionaire”.
Criticised for being factually incorrect at certain points especially where Addie Monroe, intended to portray Walker’s mentor, Annie Malone, is portrayed as a villain. However, Octavia Spencer’s incredible performance has drawn high praise from critics and fans. She even received an Emmy nomination for her performance. “Self Made doesn’t always live up to its namesake, but there’s no denying that Octavia Spencer’s spectacular embodiment of the singular Madam C.J. Walker is a sight to be seen.” It is awe-inspiring to see Walker’s never-give-up attitude and relentless fight to achieve success and is a must-watch for young girls and women to understand that nothing is impossible if you dare to dream.
The English Game (Julian Fellowes, 2020)
Julian Fellowes, the creator of brilliant shows such as Downtown Abbey and Gosford Park, presents a sports biopic which traces the origin of playing competitive football in England. Football used to be a wealthy man’s game, the notion of which was shattered once Etonian scholars and Northern factory workers started laying together transcending the class prejudices imposed on them.
The English Game is a favourable watch for non-football fans as well as it is an engaging and interesting chronicling of how the class barriers were shattered owing to a game. The competitive atmosphere of the miniseries is exhilarating. The tension between the wealthy and the working class is palpable, but it is endearing to watch the unification based on a competitive sport. Supported by brilliant performances, and a good balance of melodrama, romance and light-hearted fun, The English Game is a recommended watch for anyone looking to binge on a short and enjoyable series.