The Best Chess Movies to Inspire Your Next Move

best Chess movies

Chess is a game of strategy, tactics, and planning. It is also a game of perseverance, resilience, and overcoming setbacks. Just like in chess, life will present you with challenges and obstacles. In the world of the movies, chess serves as a canvas for storytelling, offering a rich tapestry of intellectual battles, personal struggles, and societal reflections. Over the years, it has inspired countless individuals, from grandmasters to amateurs, and has even left its indelible mark on cinema.
In this blog, let’s delve into chess on the big screen, exploring the finest chess-themed movies that have enthralled audiences and inspired many to take up the game.

The Queen’s Gambit – 2020 – TV Show – IMDb Rating 8.5/10

The Queen's Gambit

The modern masterpiece, “The Queen’s Gambit” is based on Walter Tevis’ novel; it follows chess prodigy Beth Harmon as she rises from an orphanage to take on the best players in the world, battling personal demons.

This chess movie makes each chess match riveting through sharp camerawork and editing. The Queen’s Gambit beautifully fleshes out the coming-of-age story of a young woman striving for purpose through chess. From start to finish, it will absorb you into the competitive world of chess and have you itching to practice your openings, combinations, and endgame strategy.

The Queen’s Gambit” not only showcases the intellectual allure of chess but also explores the complex psychology behind the game. It has inspired countless individuals to pick up the pieces and learn the art of chess, demonstrating that this ancient game is as relevant and captivating today as it was in the past.

The key takeaway of the movie

  • Believe in yourself. Beth Harmon believes in her talent and ability to succeed, even when no one else does.
  • Chess is the game of countless practices.
  • It’s okay to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, even geniuses like Beth Harmon. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward.
  • Don’t let your past define you. Beth Harmon has a difficult childhood, but she does not allow it to define her.

Brooklyn Castle – 2012 – Movie – IMDb RATING – 7.2/10

Brooklyn castle chess movie

Katie Dellamaggiore’s inspirational documentary focuses on junior high school chess team members from an underfunded Brooklyn school who compete nationally despite incredible odds. It highlights five of the school’s star players, following their ups and downs on the chessboard depicting their home lives. Brooklyn Castle demonstrates how chess can empower youth to overcome difficulties in their environment and achieve greatness. It undoubtedly will motivate you to bring out your inner chess master.

One of the most moving scenes in the movie is when the students visit a local elementary school to talk about their experiences. The students share their stories of overcoming adversity and achieving success. They encourage elementary school students to follow their dreams and never to give up.

Brooklyn Castle is a must-see movie for anyone who wants to achieve their goals. It is a story of hope, perseverance, and the power of community. It is a movie that will inspire you to believe in yourself and never give up on your dreams.

The Key takeaway of the movie:

  • This chess movie shows how hard work and dedication can overcome any obstacle. The students on the chess team come from challenging backgrounds, but they are committed to their craft, and work tirelessly to improve.
  • This chess movie shows the importance of mentorship and community.
  • The chess movie shows how chess can be a powerful tool for social empowerment

Searching for Bobby Fischer – 1993 – Movie – IMDb RATING – 7.4 /10

movie about chess

Chess is not just about winning; it’s about the journey, the passion, and the ethics of the game. “Searching for Bobby Fischer” embodies these values. Based on the life of chess prodigy Joshua Waitzkin, this chess movie explores the balance between competition and sportsmanship.

Josh’s coach, Bruce Pandolfini, is a wise and patient teacher. He helps Josh to develop his skills and his character. He also teaches Josh the importance of having a balance in his life.

The movie is not just about chess, however. It is also a story about family, friendship, and the importance of following your dreams. Josh’s parents are initially hesitant about his obsession with chess, but they eventually realize it is a gift. Josh’s mentor, Bruce Pandolfini, is a kind and patient teacher who helps Josh develop his skills and his character.

This chess movie emphasizes the importance of ethics and fair play in chess, showcasing the true essence of the game. It encourages viewers to embrace chess as more than just a competitive sport but a medium to develop character and principles.

The key takeaway of the movie:

  • The value of strategic thinking and intellectual development.
  • The importance of finding a balance between competitive drive and enjoyment of an activity.
  • Dealing with pressure and challenges.

The Luzhin Defence – 2000 – Movie – IMDb RATING – 6.8 /10

the luzhin defence

Based on Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, “The Luzhin Defence” is a poignant exploration of the relationship between genius and madness. This chess movie tells the story of Alexander Luzhin, a reclusive chess grandmaster, portrayed brilliantly by John Turturro, who becomes entangled in a passionate and tumultuous romance with a woman who changes the course of his life.

This movie highlights the sacrifices made by individuals in pursuit of excellence and the sometimes tragic consequences of single-minded dedication. It draws parallels between chess and life, encouraging viewers to contemplate the choices they make and the passions they pursue.

With its psychological depth and emphasis on strategy, The Luzhin Defence underscores how chess competition can take immense mental stamina. Watching Luzhin’s battles with inner turmoil shows how mentally demanding the game can be at the highest levels.

The key takeaway of the movie:

  • Genius and madness are often two sides of the same coin. Luzhin is a brilliant chess player, but he is also troubled. His obsession with chess leads him to withdraw from reality and lose touch with his sanity.
  • Art can be a powerful force for good, but it can also be dangerous if it is not used wisely. Luzhin sees chess as a form of art and believes it allows him to express himself in a way he cannot in the real world. However, his obsession with chess also leads him to sacrifice his sanity.
  • Finding a balance between your work and your personal life is essential.

Pawn Sacrifice – 2014 – Movie – IMDb RATING – 7/10

Pawn Sacrifice

When discussing chess movies, it’s impossible to ignore the enigmatic figure of Bobby Fischer, one of the greatest chess players ever. “Pawn Sacrifice” chronicles Fischer’s life, struggles, and epic showdown against Soviet champion Boris Spassky during the height of the Cold War. Fischer was a complex and troubled individual, and his obsession with chess eventually led to his downfall.

This chess movie provides a glimpse into the intense world of professional chess and showcases the immense pressure and psychological toll that comes with it. “Pawn Sacrifice” serves as a reminder that chess is not merely about moving pieces on a board; it’s a battle of minds, wills, and ideologies.

The key takeaway of the movie:

  • Genius requires nurturing. Fischer had an immense natural talent for chess but also studied extensively, trained rigorously, and was mentored by top players to develop his abilities fully.
  • Mental health matters. The movie depicts Fischer’s struggles with paranoia and obsession, suggesting his psychological issues and eccentricities were intertwined with his brilliance.
  • Passion can become poisonous. Fischer’s obsessive love, while fueling his success, also contributed to his eventual downfall.


Why should I watch a chess movie?

There are many reasons to watch a chess movie. Chess movies can be:

  • Entertaining: Chess movies can be as exciting and suspenseful as any other type of movie, with high-stakes matches and nail-biting finishes.
  • Educational: Chess movies can teach us about chess, its history, and its culture.
  • Inspirational: Chess movies can show us the power of perseverance, hard work, and dedication.

Are chess movies only for chess enthusiasts?

No, chess movies are not exclusively for chess enthusiasts. While they often feature chess as a central theme, these films are designed to appeal to a broader audience by combining elements of drama, suspense, and character development.

Are there any educational benefits to watching chess movies?

Yes, watching chess movies can offer educational benefits, even for those who are not chess players.

What are the different genres of chess movies?

Chess movies have several genres, including:

  • Biographical: These movies tell the true stories of chess players, such as Bobby Fischer in Pawn Sacrifice.
  • Fictional: These movies tell fictional stories about chess players, such as The Queen’s Gambit” (2020).
  • Documentary: These movies explore the world of chess through interviews with players, experts, and fans, such as Magnus and Brooklyn Castle.
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Chess is a canvas for storytelling in movie houses, offering a rich tapestry of intellectual battles, personal struggles, and societal reflections.

Our curated list of the best chess movies:

  • The Queen’s Gambit (2020)
  • Brooklyn Castle (2012)
  • Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)
  • The Luzhin Defence (2000)
  • Pawn Sacrifice (2014)

These chess movies entertain and inspire viewers to explore the world of chess, whether as a casual player or a dedicated enthusiast.

So, why not take up the challenge? Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned player, these movies will ignite your passion for chess and inspire you to make your next move on the board. After all, in the world of chess, as in life, it’s not about winning or losing; it’s about the beauty of the game and the journey it takes you on.

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