Chess. An unassuming game at first glance. However, it is one of the most intense sports out there. Don’t believe us? Well, allow us to show you our list of the 14 best chess movies. These films will likely show you the different sides of the sport and change how you view the game.
Without further ado, let us get started with this list!
1. Pawn Sacrifice (2014)
English 1h 55m IMDb
Director: Edward Zwick
Stars: Tobey Maguire, Liev Schreiber, Peter Sarsgaard
Pawn Sacrifice is a biographical film that revolves around Bobby Fischer. It tells of his beginnings up to his 1972 World Chess Championship match. It shows the hardships he faced and their eventual reward.
If you are seriously considering entering this competitive world, Fischer is a person you likely want to know, and this film can help you with that. On the other hand, even if you are not interested at being a pro, this film can be a fun watch if you enjoy the game.
2. Bobby Fischer Against the World (2011)
English 1h 33m IMDb
Director: Liz Garbus
Stars: Bobby Fischer(archive footage), David Edmonds, Anthony Saidy
As you can probably tell by the title, this film is about Bobby Fischer. It is a documentary that revolves around the chess grandmaster. It contains interviews with famous chess players. Additionally, it contains rare footage from one of the most popular chess matches in history – the 1972 World Chess Championship match.
If you are new to the game, want to know more about the grandmaster, or even if you are only interested in the eventful match, this film is one to consider adding to your watchlist.
3. Magnus (2016)
Norwegian 1h 18m IMDb
Director: Benjamin Ree
Stars: Magnus Carlsen, Garry Kasparov, Viswanathan Anand
Magnus explores the life of another chess genius. This film is a documentary film that centers on, you guessed it, Magnus Carlsen.
It shows the grandmaster in his formative years and gives the audience a good grasp of his life then, on and off the chess board. It presents the black and white, not only of the chess board and its pieces, but also of the life of Magnus.
If you want a sweet and relaxed chess film, Magnus is one you might want to consider adding to your watchlist.
4. The Coldest Game (2019)
English 1h 42m IMDb
Director: Lukasz Kosmicki
Stars: Bill Pullman, Lotte Verbeek, James Bloor
This film centers on Joshua Mansky, a chess genius who can see thousands of moves at a time. It follows him as he plays a deadly game of chess where more than pawns and bishops are at stake.
Chess can be intense. However, we doubt you have seen the game like this before. This film takes chess to a whole other level! If you want a chess movie that can have your heart racing and your blood pumping, check this film out.
5. The Luzhin Defence (2000)
English 1h 49m IMDb
Director: Marleen Gorris
Stars: John Turturro, Emily Watson, Geraldine James
This film follows a grandmaster and his lover. On one hand, it shows how the two fall in love. On the other, it tells of the mental torment of the chess player. It is a film that shows the intensity of chess, the ups and downs of love, and the tragedy of a loss on and off the board. It has the action, the romance, and the drama all in one.
If you want your chess film with a dash of drama and romance, The Luzhin Defence could be a great film to consider.
6. Queen of Katwe (2016)
English 2h 4m IMDb
Director: Mira Nair
Stars: Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o
Queen of Katwe is a biographical film that revolves around Phiona Mutesi. It tells of how the renowned player got to know the sport, fell in love with it, and the ups and downs she faced inside and outside of matches.
In this sport ruled by men, seeing a woman dominating the board could be a refreshing change. If you want something that deviates from the norm, this is a chess movie you might want to consider adding to your watchlist.
7. Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)
English 1h 49m IMDb
Director: Steven Zaillian
Stars: Joe Mantegna, Ben Kingsley, Max Pomeranc
This biographical film centers on Joshua Waitzkin. It tells the early life of the chess player, from when he played his first match to one of his greatest games – the National Chess Championship tournament. It shows the hardships the player had to face at an early age, but it also presents the ups the prodigy experienced early on in life.
Chess is a competitive game that can be full of hardness and coldness. If you want a glimpse of the softer side of the game, this film is one you want to consider adding to your list.
8. Queen to Play (2009)
English 1h 41m IMDb
Director: Caroline Bottaro
Stars: Sandrine Bonnaire, Kevin Kline, Francis Renaud
Queen to Play follows a chambermaid as she develops interest and becomes smitten with chess. It tells how her love for the game grew, how she developed as a player, and how the sport changed her life.
If you want to see more women on your chess-centered watchlist, Queen to Play is a film you want to consider adding to the list. Not only does it center on a female player but it also offers its own unique contribution to women empowerment.
9. Critical Thinking (2020)
English 1h 57m IMDb
Director: John Leguizamo
Stars: John Leguizamo, Rachel Bay Jones, Michael Kenneth Williams
Critical Thinking takes inspiration from a true story. It follows Mr. T, a teacher at Miami Jackson, and his chess club. It shows the ups and downs the team went through before becoming a national chess champion.
Chess is often a game played alone, and camaraderie is a theme often not touched on in chess films. With that, Critical Thinking is a film you want to consider adding to your watchlist if you need a chess-centered movie that deals with brotherhood and kinship. If you have your own chess club, consider showing this film to your team!
10. Fresh (1994)
English 1h 54m IMDb
Director: Boaz Yakin
Stars: Sean Nelson, Giancarlo Esposito, Samuel L. Jackson
This film follows a young boy pushed to a life of crime and shows how he gets out of it. It tells how the sport helps him in his quest and how he brings the game out of the board, outsmarting and putting the bad guys in check.
Fresh is not your ordinary chess film. It deals with the sport, but it also deals with serious themes. Here, it will not only be chess pieces and moves that will get you thinking. Fresh is a film that will likely suit your fancy if you want something with depth.
11. Life of a King (2013)
English 1h 40m IMDb
Director: Jake Goldberger
Stars: Cuba Gooding Jr., Dennis Haysbert, George Dick
Life of a King takes inspiration from a true story. It follows Eugene Brown and his chess club. The film shows the ups and downs Brown faced in setting up the club and tells of the struggles its members faced inside and outside of their matches.
This film tackles multiple serious themes, like life in inner cities, starting over again, and reaching for one’s dreams. With that, whatever you want in a chess film, this one will likely fit right on your watchlist. However, this film might best fit in mentor’s and chess club’s watchlists!
12. Knight Moves (1992)
English 1h 56m IMDb
Director: Carl Schenkel
Stars: Christopher Lambert, Tom Skerritt, Codie Lucas Wilbee
This film introduces a new color to the black and white squares and pieces in a chessboard as a grandmaster becomes entangled in a series of murders.
Blood and its shades of red do not belong to the board, though, and the chess player denies being the killer. However, questions are asked if he is as innocent as he says he is or if the mind of a grandmaster is at work to elude being put in check.
Knight Moves is a film you should check out if you want a mind-boggling chess film that will have your heart racing.
13. Computer Chess (2013)
English 1h 32m IMDb
Director: Andrew Bujalski
Stars: Kriss Schludermann, Tom Fletcher, Wiley Wiggins
Computer Chess follows a bunch of computer geniuses as they compete against each other on who can make the best chess program.
Computer Chess is a film you should check out if you want something different. This film is unique not only in its storyline. For one, it might be a film released in the 2010s, but it is in black-and-white.
For another, it is a comedy film, and there are not many comedic chess films. With this film, you will likely get nothing but pleasant and funny surprises!
14. The Dark Horse (2014)
English 2h 4m IMDb
Director: James Napier Robertson
Stars: Cliff Curtis, James Rolleston, Kirk Torrance
This film takes inspiration from the true story of a speed chess player – Genesis Potini. The film tells of his and the Eastern Knights’ struggles on and off the chessboard.
However, it also shows the many ways and times he and the chess club picked themselves back up again. It is a touching story that can give hope and does so in a realistic matter.
The Dark Horse is one of the most decorated chess films out there. If you want something that will not disappoint, this film is one you want to check out!
Chess may not look like it at first glance, but it is an interesting and intense sport, and we hope our list of the 14 best chess movies got to show just that!
We hope we got to help you with your movie matter today. If you want more sports movies like these, you might want to check out our other lists! Basketball? Baseball? Bowling? Whatever sport it is, we likely have a movie or two for you! That is all from us for now. Until next time! Happy watching!