Spellbound (2002)

G  |   |  Documentary, Comedy, Thriller  |  27 June 2003 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 10,857 users   Metascore: 80/100
Reviews: 104 user | 102 critic | 34 from Metacritic.com

Spellbound follows eight teenagers on their quest to win the 1999 National Spelling Bee.


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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 17 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Angela Arenivar ...
Herself - Spelling Bee Participant
Ubaldo Arenivar ...
Himself - Angela's Father (as Ubaldo)
Jorge Arenivar ...
Himself - Angela's Brother (as Jorge)
Scott McGarraugh ...
Himself - Ranch Owner (as Mr. McGarraugh)
Lindy McGarraugh ...
Herself - Ranch Owner (as Mrs. McGarraugh)
Concepción Arenivar ...
Herself - Angela's Mother (as Concepción)
Mrs. Slaughter ...
Herself - Angela's Teacher
Neelima Marupudi ...
Herself - Potter County Champion (as Neelima)
Nupur Lala ...
Herself - Spelling Bee Participant
Ms. Whitehurst ...
Herself - Nupur's Teacher
Parag Lala ...
Himself - Nupur's Father (as Parag)
Meena Lala ...
Herself - Nupur's Mother (as Meena)
Kuna Lala ...
Himself - Nupur's Brother (as Kuna)
Ted Brigham ...
Himself - Spelling Bee Participant
Ms. Blair ...
Herself - Ted's Teacher


This documentary follows 8 teens and pre-teens as they work their way toward the finals of the Scripps Howard national spelling bee championship in Washington D.C. All work quite hard and practice daily, first having to win their regional championship before they can move on. Interviews include the parents and teachers who are working with them. The competitors not only work hard to get to the finals but face tremendous pressure as the original group of over 250 competitors is whittled down and the words they must spell get ever more difficult. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




G | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

27 June 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Agonisma orthografias  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$17,508 (USA) (2 May 2003)


$5,728,431 (USA) (5 December 2003)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Spellbound won the Emmy for Cultural/Artistic Programming and Jeffrey Blitz was a nominee for directing. See more »


While interviewing Harry in his room the boom mic is deliberately shown after Harry asks "Is that thing edible?" See more »


Former Spelling Bee winner: I don't think it really helped me, in my love live; my nascent love life. I think that having won something like that could be regarded as being a significant liability.
See more »

Crazy Credits

There is no cast list; a cast member is considered credited if a subtitle or an item in the film prints the name (or partial name). See more »


References Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Spell it any way you like...
29 August 2005 | by (Ohio) – See all my reviews

...this film can be found listed under the definition of "winner." Absolutely wonderful work from first-time director/cinematographer Jeffrey Blitz, "Spellbound" is an engrossing documentary that introduces and follows eight regional Spelling Bee winners to the 1999 national championship in Washington, D.C. Of course, it's about far more than the rote spelling of arcane words; it's about setting goals and pursuing them, following your dreams and your heart's desires, and above all, the value of love and cooperation in achieving what you set out to do. Beautifully structured and paced, the story of these eight kids, all of them heartbreakingly appealing and buoyantly inspiring, will keep you on the edge of your seat as if you were involved in the lexicographical competition yourself. Perhaps I am biased, having had a child involved in a local spelling bee (she lost, and of course I just loved her all the more), but I rank this little sleeper right up there with "Hoop Dreams" and "Crumb" as one of my all-time favorite documentaries. If you don't fall in love with these kids (and their families) and share their agonies and ecstasies all the way through the triumph of the final winner, then I would have to say you have no heart and no soul. The DVD includes three other contestants whose arcs had to be cut from the film for time, but who are equally engaging, as well as a "where are they now?" addendum and a DVD-ROM Hangman's spelling game.

Simply put, not to be missed by anyone interested in the positive aspects of humanity.

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