Chess is one of the most interesting sports. The game of Chess has been around for more than 1400 years in various forms. Even though chess sounds like a boring subject, there have been many movies about chess. We are going to discuss some of the best chess movies today.
Chess is purely a strategic game. You need a sharp mind and concentration to win a game of chess. The games can become very tense and thrilling which is why it has been a subject of many movies.
Just like other sports movies, these movies either focus on the player or the fundamentals of Chess itself. So, if you’re fond of chess then we have picked our top 15 best chess movies of all time.
Best Chess Movies
It is quite difficult to translate the feeling and vibe of chess on-screen. However, over the years, many filmmakers have managed to do it quite well. These filmmakers have created some of the best chess movies and we’ve handpicked these movies for you.
Let’s dive right into it.
15. Life of a King (2013)
Life of a King is a biographical drama film. This film tells the true story of Eugene Brown, an ex-convict who creates a Chess Club for inner-city teenagers in Washington, D.C. He aims to give the kids a purpose so they don’t make the same mistakes he did.
Biographical movies are mostly inspirational to watch and Life of a King is no different. The whole concept of “helping inner-city kids” has been done a million times. However, this movie brings a unique twist on that genre and manages to be entertaining as well.
Some movies that are based on similar subject matters often get too cheesy and predictable but this movie is successful in avoiding that. All in all, Life of a King is an easy-to-understand and lighthearted film that celebrates the life of Eugene Brown. It is definitely one of the best chess movies.
14. Knights of the South Bronx (2005)
Knights of the South Bronx is a TV Movie. This movie revolves around A businessman who decides to teach in the inner city and enrolls at a tough school in the South Bronx. He teaches the youngsters how to play chess and, in the process, they learn a lot about life.
Knights of the South Bronx is somewhat similar to our previous movie. However, it is very different in terms of execution. This is a feel-good movie with likable characters and a coherent storyline.
Furthermore, this movie is quite short since it is a TV Movie. So there’s no harm in watching it. It is an overall decent film that will help you learn more about chess.
13. The Tournament (2015)
This next entry on our list of best chess movies comes from France. The Tournament is a sports drama movie. In this movie, the Budapest International Chess Tournament is disrupted by an odd teenage Hungarian opponent.
This entire film is visually very attractive. It is shot brilliantly. The Tournament brings a new flavor to the genre of chess movies. Furthermore, it has an amazing soundtrack and the music fits so perfectly with each scene.
For a film about chess, it is very well-paced. Overall, it is a fantastic movie. I highly recommend you watch this film. It is definitely one of the best chess movies coming from foreign cinema.
12. A Little Game (2014)
A Little Game is an adventure family movie. This film’s story revolves around a ten-year-old girl meeting a resentful chess master who teaches her valuable life lessons through the game of chess.
A Little Game proves that chess is not just a game, it is much more than that. The story was heartwarming, harmless, and entertaining. It teaches you a lot of valuable life lessons. In short, it is an inspiring story. It is one of the most heartwarming and best chess movies.
This entire film has a warm feel to it. It can easily become your comfort film if you’re interested in chess. Moreover, Makenna Ballard plays the lead role and she does a phenomenal job. At such a young age, she had brilliant acting chops. You’ll definitely enjoy this film whenever you watch it.
11. The Coldest Game (2019)
The Coldest Game is a period-thriller movie. This film’s story is set during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. A disturbed math prodigy is recruited to play in a US-Soviet chess match and a deadly game of espionage.
Honestly, this movie took me by surprise. You can mistake it for a typical espionage movie, however, you’ll be proven wrong. The movie may not be historically accurate but it is still mind-blowing.
This movie has a gritty feel to it and it is indescribable. It actually transports you to the 60s when the tension between the US and USSR was rising. The Coldest Game will keep you on the edge of your seat and has many twists and turns throughout the story.
10. The Luzhin Defense (2000)
Coming in on the 10th spot of our list of best chess movies is The Luzhin Defense. This is a drama romance movie. It’s the story of a mentally unwell chess grandmaster who meets a girl in a chess tournament in Italy.
The Luzhin Defense is set in the 1920s and it is beautiful in terms of cinematography. This film is actually based on a book, however, it is not a very faithful adaptation. The filmmaker has definitely captured the essence of the book but you can think of the two as two separate things.
In addition to the beautiful cinematography, the acting performances were also amazing. The lead actors, John Turturro, and Emily Watson are mesmerizing in their roles. Overall this movie has great acting, gorgeous scenery, and an interesting storyline.
9. Dangerous Moves (1984)
Dangerous Movies is one of the best chess movies coming from French filmmaker Richard Dembo. The film is set during the Cold War where the World Chess Championship matched personal and political adversaries against one another.
The film is a fascinating character study of two deeply damaged and difficult to like individuals. Dangerous Moves is a slow-paced movie. This may turn off some people who don’t like slow-paced movies. It is just like a game of chess; slow yet interesting with each move.
However, being slow-paced doesn’t mean that it is boring. In fact, the concept of the film is very unique and enjoyable. Moreover, the film’s ending couldn’t have been any better. It’s poetic and satisfying in a way.
8. The Dark Horse (2014)
The Dark Horse is another biography and drama film. In this movie, A skilled but disturbed New Zealand chess champion finds meaning in educating poor children about chess and life.
The Dark Horse is based on the life of Genesis Potini. He suffered from bipolar disorder but it didn’t let him get that in the way of his success. This film definitely captures his character quite brilliantly.
While this film may have been somewhat limited in terms of production value, it is absolutely mind-blowing when it comes to storytelling. I have a soft spot for inspirational biographies anyways so this needed to be on our list of best chess movies.
7. Fresh (1994)
The next entry on our list of best chess movies is titled Fresh. It is a crime drama movie. This movie revolves around a youngster who is involved with narcotics and criminals. His father was a chess speed champion. Boy was motivated by his father’s chess instruction. These chess lessons helped him in devising a smart plan to free himself and his sister from drugs.
In simple words, Fresh is an incredible movie. It has a star cast that includes the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Giancarlo Esposito, and Sean Nelson. In addition, it has a very interesting and engaging storyline.
The pacing in this movie is also quite decent. Moreover, it has many chilling and thought-provoking moments. Fresh also falls in the sub-genre of ‘hood’ movies. It is, in fact, a breath of fresh air in that genre. I highly recommend this movie.
6. Brooklyn Castle (2012)
Brooklyn Castle is our first documentary on this list of best chess movies. Taking place in the wake of a financial crisis, Brooklyn Castle takes a detailed look at the struggles faced by members of a junior high school champion chess team.
Brooklyn Castle looks at the success of I318 School in Brooklyn, a middle school that has continuously produced chess masters. The film gives us an interesting look into the lives of these young prodigies and what problems they’re facing.
Furthermore, there are moments that are really engrossing. This film inspires and makes us feel that excellent teachers and a good environment may offer youngsters who would otherwise be forgotten a genuine opportunity in life.
5. Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine (2005)
Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine is another documentary on this list. This documentary takes us to 1997 where chess champion Garry Kasparov competes against IBM’s Deep Blue computer.
He blames IBM for cheating its way to victory. Interviews with Kasparov, his management, and Deep Blue team members provide light on the dispute. Anyone familiar with competitive chess knows how iconic this moment was.
The entire premise of this documentary is really interesting. The director has done an incredible job making this documentary highly entertaining. There is a common opinion about this documentary that it doesn’t focus on the game itself but rather the drama surrounding it.
This actually works in favor of the movie. Kasparov is the highlight of this documentary. He is undeniably appealing. Most of the other people on the screen are as well. Apart from the biased opinions found throughout the film, it is a very engaging documentary.
4. Pawn Sacrifice (2014)
Pawn Sacrifice is a period-drama movie. Pawn Sacrifice is A dramatization of Bobby Fischer’s life. While covering his early life and chess career, the film concentrates mostly on Fischer’s 1972 World Chess Championship match against defending champion Boris Spassky.
Even if you don’t watch chess, you know that Bobby Fisher is a big deal. This movie offers us a look at all the drama and politics that went down when he competed against Boris Spassky, another legend in the chess space.
Tobey Macguire plays the role of Fisher and he has done an excellent job. You can not talk about the best chest movies without mentioning this movie. The film is very entertaining and has a very engaging storyline. I highly recommend you to watch this movie.
3. Magnus (2016)
Kicking off the top 3 entries on our list of best chess movies is Magnus. It is a documentary about Magnus Carlsen, a Norwegian chess prodigy, who achieved grandmaster status at the age of 13 and became world champion in 2013.
The movie depicts the life of Magnus Carlsen as he starts out his career and reaches new heights of success. This documentary also touches upon his personal life like his childhood. His life story is presented excellently.
It also depicts his journey to his participation in the World Chess Championship 2013 as well as his personal development. Even explains a little bit about his development after 2013. It also hints at why Magnus is exceptional and why he’s one of the greatest chess players.
Even though this movie is about chess, it is made in such a way that anyone can enjoy it. It’s worth seeing for anyone who wants to watch an inspiring tale of a person reaching new heights in his career.
2. Queen of Katwe (2016)
Queen of Katwe is a biographical movie. This film tells the actual story of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan female chess player. Her world completely changed when she learned to play chess and eventually became Uganda’s first named player.
You might not have heard about Phiona Mutesi. However, after watching this incredible movie, you’ll be impressed by her. As per her own statement, the film is “90% accurate.”
Queen of Katwe is a brilliant movie. It is definitely one of the best chess movies of all time. The film features great performances, beautiful locations, and a very heart-warming storyline. Moreover, the movie is also quite easy to understand even if you don’t know much about chess.
Overall, Queen of Katwe is an inspiring story that can give hope to many kids who are trying to achieve their goals.
1. Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)
The last movie on our list of best chess movies is titled Searching for Bobby Fischer. This biographical movie revolves around 7-year-old Josh Waitzkin, a chess prodigy in the making. He trains with Bruce Pandolfini, a tough tutor who attempts to mold him into chess master Bobby Fischer.
Searching for Bobby Fischer stands tall among all the other best chess movies. This movie perfectly captures the feel and essence of the book it is based upon. It is not only the best chess movie but it is one of the best sports movies.
All the credit for its greatness goes to the director of the film, Steven Zaillian. The movie is also a wonderful combination of emotion, comedy, and serious drama. Moreover, the actors have done a remarkable job in bringing these characters to life.
All in all, Searching for Bobby Fischer will always be among the top best chest choices when it comes to movies about Chess.
The Queen’s Gambit
While The Queen’s Gambit is not a movie. It is a mini-series about chess that you can watch on Netflix. It is a brilliant series.
The Queen’s Gambit is a very well-made show about chess. It is visually beautiful, has a great storyline, and has brilliant acting. I highly recommend this show to anyone who’s interested in chess.
We’ve covered this show more in-depth in our The Queen’s Gambit review.
So we hope you liked the list of our top 15 best chess movies. It is very difficult to portray chess in movies but the entries on this list have managed to do so. You can watch these movies and who knows maybe you’d be the next grandmaster.