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Movies are not just a figment of someone’s imagination. They are a reflection of society in general. It’s no surprise that they make you laugh, cry and bring out a variety of emotions, each of them tugging at the strings of our heart.

Chess as a game is a niche sport, and over the years there have been many stories told about the game in the form of movies.

You may or may not be an expert at chess, but the movies in the list below are packed with some powerful performances by great artists. They are a treat to watch and are sure to pique your curiosity in this great game.

Here’s a look at the 5 top chess movies you should be watching:

  1. The Coldest Game (2019)

Set up against the backdrop of the Cuban missile crisis during the cold war, this is a thriller of a movie with chess being an integral part of it.

The movie stars Bill Pullman in the leading role. It follows a former chess champion and current alcoholic named Joshua Mansky who is sent to Poland to play against the current Soviet champion.

All of this takes place while behind the scenes, a parallel plot involving Russian spies, conflict escalation, and military intervention plays out. 

  1. Pawn Sacrifice (2014)

In this biographical drama about American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer, Tobey Maguire gives a stellar performance as the tortured chess genius.

It tells the story of Fischer and his 1972 face-off against the Soviet Union’s Boris Spassky. The match was more than a battle of wits, it was also a tense and deeply symbolic competition during the Cold War era. 

Through a series of flashbacks, Fischer’s family ties to communism lead to a lifetime of FBI surveillance, which weighs heavily on his mind as he tries to compete in chess at the highest level.

  1. Queen of Katwe (2016)

This 2016 Disney movie is a brilliant one for chess lovers. Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Queen of Katwe tells the story of Phiona Mutesi, a young girl from the slum who learns chess and overcomes her struggles in order to become the very first Woman Candidate Master from Uganda.

Her mentor Robert Katende played by David Oyelowo teaches her the details of the game and soon she becomes the top contender in her village.

For anybody who thinks that chess is not a Woman’s game, this movie directed by Mira Nair is a perfect counter to that opinion.

  1. Life of a King (2013)

Cuba Gooding Jr. starring Eugene Brown gives another inspiring performance in Life of a King. Brown is a former felon who completely changes his life around by creating a chess club for urban youths in Washington, D.C.

It is a true story about ex-felon Eugene Brown, who becomes a master at the game while playing it in prison for cigarettes. 

When he was released, he had to work as a cleaner in the local school where students had a difficult relationship with their teachers. He started to teach those students chess, which changed their life for the better. 

He starts the Big Chair Chess Club as a way to discourage inner city youth from pursuing the path that landed him behind bars.

  1. Fresh (1994)

This is a story which follows the life of a 12-year-old kid selling drugs on the streets of old New York. A heartfelt and inspiring movie directed by Boaz Yakin, it shows how a seemingly small but positive influence can turn somebody’s life for the better.

Sean Nelson stars as Fresh, a young dealer who recalls the chess acumen he learned from his drunk father and speed-chess champ, Sam played by Samuel Jackson. When Fresh’s drug-addled sister brings home the frightening kingpin Esteban (Giancarlo Esposito), Fresh uses his chess techniques to design a plan to get him and his sister out of the mess.


A weekend binge involving chess movies seems like a great idea. If you plan to do so, make sure to include the movies mentioned in the list above.

The game of chess is so much more than two people sitting across a board. It involves critical thinking, complex calculations and a mix and match of emotions which these movies project very well.

Feeling inspired? Get your own set of e-chess boards from Square Off and start on your own journey. Who knows, maybe one day your story too could become a part of movie folklore.