Since the year of Covid-19, there has been a surge in searches about chess on the internet. The pandemic gave people all across the planet a reason to take a step back from their daily schedule outside their homes and spend more quality time indoors.
For many families, it was a time to reconnect with loved ones, and this allowed many to clean the dust off their old chess boards and take a renewed interest in the classic strategy game.
The Influence of ‘The Queen’s Gambit’
On top of that, the release of the hugely popular Netflix drama series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ in October 2020 opened a new chapter in chess’s long and winding story. This show, revolving around a fictional female chess prodigy, broke streaming records in a host of countries around the world and made playing chess glamorous again.
Around the same time, the phenomenon of cinema lovers watching chess movies increased rapidly. And by ‘chess movies’, we mean to say any film with chess as its central theme.
Given these recent developments, it will be apt for us to talk about a bunch of movies, the so-called ‘chess movies’, which every chess fan would most likely want to watch.
After covering these, we won’t be surprised if you open your streaming device and look for the same the moment you get a chance!
Recommended Read: Chess Books That Every Chess Lover Should Read
Pawn Sacrifice (2015)
An Edward Zwick film, ‘Pawn Sacrifice’ is our first pick in the list of chess movies we have compiled for our readers. This biopic is a take on the life of chess genius Bobby Fischer and shows in detail the rivalry between Fischer and the Soviet chess grandmaster Boris Spassky.
Our first documentary feature in the list comes from the 2016 Benjamin Ree work titled ‘Magnus’. As can be understood from the name, this docu-feature captures the early part of the current undisputed world chess champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway.
The director follows the life of a young Carlsen from a very young age until he becomes a grandmaster (GM) at the age of 13.
Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)
Also going by the name ‘Innocent Moves’, ‘Searching for Bobby Fischer’ is a Steven Zaillian film. The movie’s main character is seven-year-old chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin, played by Max Pomeranc. After he defeats his father in a chess game, he begins to get noticed by talent scouts.
He gradually gets hooked on speed chess and learns the tricks of the trade with the help of a hustler, played by screen legend Lawrence Fishburne. However, Josh’s parents, much to the boy’s chagrin, take him to Bruce, a famous chess instructor.
The rest of the movie deals with the consequences the boy has to face following his parents’ wish to turn him into a top chess player.
The Chess Players (1977)
A Satyajit Ray classic, ‘The Chess Players’ is a multilingual film set during the final days of Company rule in India. Known as ‘Shatranj Ke Khiladi’ in its original Hindi version, the movie is an adaptation of a short story of the same name by the great Indian author Munshi Premchand.
The backdrop to this film is the political situation in the erstwhile Indian princely state of Awadh. There the ruler and his coterie of powerful ministers and advisors are more interested in doing other things, such as playing chess, than trying to stop the conniving Britishers from taking over their kingdom.
The Luzhin Defence (2000)
Next in our list of chess movies is the Marleen Gorris directed ‘The Luzhin Defence’. This 2000-released film was adapted from Vladimir Nabokov’s novel ‘The Defence’.
The central plot of this movie is set in the 1920s when a naive and shy chess grandmaster makes his way to the Italian Lakes to participate in the most important match of his life. While competing in the high-level chess tournament, he stumbles upon a young woman he considers the love of his life.
The rest of the movie deals with Luzhin’s personal issues and how he manages to overcome them to emerge as a true victor.
Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine (2003)
The second documentary in this compilation, ‘Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine’, was released in 2003 and is the brainchild of director Vikram Jayanti. The plot of this feature is the much-publicised encounter between former world chess champion Garry Kasparov and the IBM computer ‘Deep Blue’.
Life of a King (2013)
Our list of best chess movies brings us to the 2013 film ‘Life of a King’, a project by director Jake Goldberger. The film shows how an ex-con (played by Cuba Gooding Jr. of ‘Jerry Maguire’ fame) is hell-bent on trying to work with at-risk African-American kids from dangerous neighbourhoods and give them a purposeful life.
The character of Cuba Gooding Jr. has made some serious mistakes early on in his life. So he has made it his life’s mission to rescue kids from gang wars and other criminal activities. To that end, he opens a chess club and names it Big Chair Chess Club of Washington D.C.
Watch the movie to know how he manages to transform the lives of several young kids from a life at risk to a more meaningful one.
Queen of Katwe (2016)
A Mira Nair film, ‘Queen of Katwe’ is the film adaptation of Tim Crothers’s novel of the same name. Counted as one of the best chess movies of recent times and a definite henry in our list of chess movies, the movie follows the journey taken by the ten-year-old Phiona, who lives in an impoverished slum in Kampala, Uganda, Africa.
Having been born into great poverty, Phiona struggles daily to survive, along with his family members. Astonishingly, her life changes when a missionary introduces her and other children of the slum to the game of chess.
Phiona takes a great interest in chess and soon becomes the best player in her area. Through chess, the young Phiona dreams of a life outside the place of her birth.
The Dark Horse (2014)
Our next pick for the top chess movies every chess enthusiast should watch is the 2014-made film ‘The Dark Horse’. Another biopic, with James Napier Robertson on the director’s chair this time, this movie charts the life and times of the outstanding chess player from New Zealand – Genesis Potini.
Mr. Potini was diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder, making it very difficult to stay on course with his chess career. By watching this film, you will witness how despite his troubles, Mr. Potini emerges victorious in his life at the end.
Watch More Chess Movies While Playing the Game
So, that is our take on the best chess movies in circulation right now. If you want more information about existing chess movies, type in commands such as ‘best chess movies on Netflix’, ‘best chess movies IMDb’, or ‘chess movies on Amazon Prime’, and find out more movie names.
Also, to channel your interest in the game, get into some serious gameplay using SquareOff’s premium collection of AI-powered automated chess boards. Click on this link to find out more.