20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

Movies about chess players and near-chess affairs are always a fascinating journey with interesting people or an immersion into the most intellectual fantasies. Slightly forgotten (and for nothing!) by mankind, the game is a great way of self-development and leisure.

Movies about chess and about chess players are not an overly generous genre, preferring inspirational biographical dramas. However, there are other movies – stories in which chess serves as atmosphere, fantasy, structure.

We have tried to collect for you the most interesting examples of both, the most fascinating films of our time.


  • IMDB Rating – 6.8
  • Genre: Drama, Comedy, Biography
  • Production: France / 2019
  • Worldwide box office receipts: $2,135,883
  • Director: Pierre-François Martin-Laval
  • Starring: Assad Ahmed, Gérard Depardieu , Mizanour Rahaman, Isabelle Nanty, Sarah Touffik Othman-Schmitt, Victor Herroux, Thiago Touby, Alexandre Nod, Pierre Gomme, Axel Keravec

It is not difficult to recognize talent if you have a good eye. The French chess coach Sylvain immediately saw a special gift in little Fahim, and under his guidance, the boy became one of the world’s 150 best players in chess under 16. Their relationship develops from dislike to strong friendship.

Except that Faheem and his father are illegal immigrants from the Asian republic of Bangladesh, who have been denied political asylum by Parisian officials. While his father tries to earn money and avoid extradition, Faheem prepares for a French chess competition that will help solve his family’s problems.

The movie is based on the true story of Faheem Mohammad, whose coach was the famous master Xavier Parmentier.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking
  • IMDB Rating – 6.5
  • Genre: Drama, Sports, Crime
  • Production: USA / 2019
  • Worldwide box office receipts: $20,322
  • Director: John Leguizamo
  • Starring: John Leguizamo, Rachel Bay Jones, Michael Kenneth Williams, Corwin S. Tuggles, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Angel Curiel, Jeffrey Batista, Will Hochman, Zora Kasebere, Ramses Jimenez

Another motivating movie about sports, only this time the idea that captured the minds and hearts of troubled teenagers was not a ball game, but a deeply intellectual game of chess. The main characters and their mentor will have a serious struggle for their hobby, which has become the meaning of life.

At the end of the nineties the school in the center of Miami is a real den with drugs and fights. The only one who can unite the hooligans – Mario Martinez, a man passionate about chess.

Contrary to the plans of the school principal, who wants to abolish the chess club and give the funding to the soccer club, Martinez, using his personal funds, enrolls his boys in a prestigious chess tournament.

The movie is based on real events that happened in 1998 at Andrew Jackson High School in Miami.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

Searching for Bobby Fischer

Searching for Bobby Fischer
  • IMDB Rating – 7.4
  • Genre: Drama, Biography, Sports
  • Production: USA / 1993
  • US box office receipts: $7,266,383
  • Director: Steven Zellian
  • Starring: Max Pomerantz, Joe Mantegna, Joan Allen, Ben Kingsley, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Nirenberg, Robert Stevens, David Paymer, Hal Scardino, Vasek Simek.

The second title of the movie in Russian distribution is “In Search of Bobby Fischer”. This is a movie based on real events, telling about the youthful years of the famous chess player Joshua Waitzkin, based on the book by his father Fred.

Seven-year-old Joshua asks his mother to play a game of chess in Washington Square Park. Although he loses the game, the woman is amazed at his understanding of the game. Soon the boy easily defeats his father Fred, who considers himself a tough chess player.

The Weitzkin family hires a famous coach Bruce Pandolfini for their prodigy, hoping to raise their son into a new Bobby Fischer, but they rush things too fast and almost break their child’s psyche.

This movie is the directorial debut of Steven Zellian, and the acting debut of Max Pomerantz, who played Joshua.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

Knights of the South Bronx

Knights of the South Bronx
  • IMDB Rating – 6.7
  • Genre: Drama
  • Production: USA / 2005
  • Director: Allen Hughes
  • Starring: Ted Danson, Malcolm David Kelley, Keke Palmer, Clifton Powell, Devon Bostick, Brian Markinson, Kate Vernon, Alex Harzi, Karen LeBlanc, Philip Akin.

David McEnulty is probably one of the most prominent chess heroes. But he is not known for winning championships. This simple teacher made chess a viable subject in the school curriculum, giving the game a new popularity.

David’s experience as a schoolteacher in the South Bronx is the basis for the script of this movie about a remarkable teacher. Here the hero’s name is Richard Mason. At the request of a friend, he takes a job as a temporary teacher in a disadvantaged school, trying to teach something to kids who often can’t even read, but they won’t listen to him. Everything changes when he brings a chessboard into the classroom…

It took producer Diane Nabatoff five years to get this movie made.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

Queen of Katwe

Queen of Katwe
  • IMDB Rating – 7.4
  • Genre: Drama, Biography, Sports
  • Production: USA / 2016
  • Budget: $15,000,000
  • Worldwide box office receipts: $10,367,161
  • Director: Mira Nair
  • Starring: Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Cabanza, Taryn Kyaze, Ivan Jacobo, Nicholas Levesque, Ronald Ssemaganda, Iten Nazario Lubega, Nikita Waligwa

Mira Nair’s warm and uplifting movie is based on the fate of a real girl from Uganda who, thanks to chess, changed her life and today helps many poor children in her homeland.

Fiona Mutezi is a child from the poorest slums of Uganda. She saw nothing but abject poverty, hunger, disease and death until the day she came to the Christian Sports Mission orphanage where she met Roberto Katende, a black volunteer who taught the children how to play chess. This was the beginning of the young talent’s journey into a completely different life, forever saving Fiona’s family from a life of poverty.

The movie’s soundtrack is made up of popular Nigerian songs, and most of the extras are played by ordinary Ugandan youths.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

Pawn Sacrifice

Pawn Sacrifice
  • IMDB Rating – 7.0
  • Genre: Thriller, Drama, Biography, History, Sports
  • Production: USA / 2014
  • Budget: $19,000,000
  • Worldwide Box Office: $5,578,519
  • Director: Edward Zwick
  • Starring: Tobey Maguire, Liev Schreiber, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard, Edward Zinoviev, Alexander Gorchkov, Lily Rabe, Robin Weigert, Seamas Davy-Fitzpatrick, Aidan Lovekamp

Bobby Fischer is, of course, a chess legend. He is the subject of many addictive movies that are impossible to tear yourself away from, and “Pawn Sacrifice” is one of them. Bobby was a scandalous figure, hated both the US and the Soviets, was anti-Semitic (his mother was Jewish), denied the Holocaust, believed in conspiracy theories and suffered from paranoia.

The movie opens with a scene in which Fischer ransacks his hotel room in an attempt to find KGB surveillance tools. Gradually, the whole story of the chess genius unfolds before us, which moves steadily towards the fateful battle in Reykjavik, Iceland, where Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky will decide once and for all where chess is best played – in the socialist camp or in the capitalist world.

Boris Spassky, who is still alive, called the movie “frankly weak.”

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland
  • IMDB Rating – 6.4
  • Genre: Fantasy, Detective, Adventure, Family
  • Production: USA / 2010
  • Budget: $200,000,000
  • Worldwide Box Office: $1,025,467,110
  • Director: Tim Burton
  • Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Michael Sheen, Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Barbara Windsor.

Colorful, addictive and endlessly wonderful movie with wonderful actors is a free adaptation of the famous book in which Alice plays out a bizarre chess game in Wonderland.

Even if you haven’t read the book or seen the film adaptation, you probably know the backstory. Young inquisitive Alice follows the white rabbit and finds herself in a magical land where she experiences unusual adventures. In this movie, Alice is 19 years old and returns to her fairy tale friends to help them defeat the Red Queen. The finale involves a battle on the very real chessboard!

This movie is a fantasy mix of both Alice books, meaning it combines a card game and chess.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

Queen to Play

Queen to Play
  • IMDB Rating – 6.9
  • Genre: Drama
  • Production: France, Germany / 2009
  • Budget: €5,000,000
  • US box office: $478,710
  • Director: Caroline Bottaro
  • Starring: Sandrine Bonnaire, Kevin Kline, Francis Renaud, Jennifer Beals, Valerie Lagrange, Alexandra Gentil, Alice Paul, Elizabeth Vitali, Danielle Martin, Dominique Gould.

A French-German drama about Hélène, an ordinary maid working in a hotel in Corsica. One day she happens to see a chess game between a man and a woman – hotel guests. The sensuality and elegance of the game mesmerized Hélène, and she begins to learn the game herself.

Soon Hélène persuades a rich American, whose house she cleans, and easily beats him. Then she signs up for a tournament in which no one takes her seriously.

The movie is based on Bertina Henrik’s best-selling novel and was the feature debut for female director Carolyn Bottaro.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

Life of a King

Life of a King
  • IMDB Rating – 6.9
  • Genre: Drama
  • Production: USA / 2013
  • US box office receipts: $6,547
  • Director: Jake Goldberger
  • Starring: Cube Gooding Jr, Dennis Haysburt, George Dick, Thurston Hill III, J.D. Walsh, Rache Thomas, Derrick L. McMillon, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Richard T. Jones, Mikil Bell

Another true story that weaves together a clever play and life philosophy that can help you find a way out of a difficult situation. Eugene Brown is from a gangster neighborhood, 17 years in prison for armed robbery.

Having rethought a lot of things, he is not going to return to crime, firmly resolved to build his life from scratch in freedom. It is difficult for him, very difficult. His outlet is a dysfunctional school, where he is employed as a simple janitor and gradually begins to communicate with the students, teaching them to play chess and keeping the children from going down a crooked path.

Eugene now lives in North Carolina and is happily married. By the way, there is a cameo of him in the movie – in the final tournament he stands at the registration desk.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

The Knight’s Move

The Knight's Move
  • IMDB Rating – 6.4
  • Genre: Comedy, adventure
  • Production: Armenia, Kazakhstan / 2013
  • Budget: $600,000
  • Director: Gor Kirakosyan
  • Starring: Hovhannes Azoyan, Asel Sagatova, Mkrtych Arzumanyan, Sanjar Madi, Sos Janibekyan, Levon Harutyunyan, Artashes Aleksanyan, Bakhytzhan Alpeisov, Juliette Stepanyan, Luiza Nersisyan

The events of the rousing and funny adventure comedy co-produced by Armenia and Kazakhstan begin in the green city of Almaty, where an international chess tournament is held. The winner is a young Armenian athlete Tigran, who defeats a strong Indian opponent in the final.

Meanwhile, in the local museum, the thief Murad steals Tamerlan’s priceless ruby and hides it in a chocolate chess horse, which Tigran eats, celebrating his triumph. The chess player leaves for his homeland, unaware that he is being pursued by an angry Tigran, who wants his booty back at any cost.

The movie is dedicated to KVN player Mark Sagatelian, who died a few days after filming was completed.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

The Dark Horse

The Dark Horse
  • IMDB Rating – 7.4
  • Genre: Drama, Biography
  • Production: New Zealand / 2014
  • Budget: NZ$3,500,000
  • US box office receipts: $67,533
  • Director: James Napier
  • Starring: Cliff Curtis, James Rolleston, Kirk Torrance, Miriam McDowell, Barry Te Hira, Xavier Horan, Wayne Hapi, Team Liel, Kalae Hignett-Morgan

Genesis Potini was New Zealand’s most famous chess player, who battled a lifelong battle with severe bipolar disorder requiring frequent hospitalizations. After surviving many hardships, he managed to stabilize his life and, along with two friends, started a free chess club for underprivileged children.

“The Dark Horse” is a motivational movie dedicated to this amazing man, created by New Zealand director Jace Nepir Robertson from his own screenplay.

The movie has won many prestigious awards and is listed among the best New Zealand films of all time.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time


  • IMDB Rating – 7.1
  • Genre: Action, Thriller, Drama, Crime, Detective
  • Production: India / 2016
  • US box office receipts: $1,124,045
  • Director: Bejoy Nambiar
  • Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar, Aditi Rao Hydari, Manav Kaul, Neil Nitin Mukesh, John Abraham, Anjum Sharma, Murli Sharma, Nasir Khan

A game of chess becomes a solace and a lesson for two men in the superb Indian crime thriller “Wazir”. Danish Ali is a young spunky cop who loses his daughter because of his job. While trying to commit suicide on her grave, Ali meets a disabled old man, Pandit.

A friendship develops between them, their leisurely chess games are like meditation, in which Ali curbs his feverishness and begins to reflect, skillfully guided by the wise Pandit. Soon it becomes clear that the old man has also lost his daughter, and her killer is still at large….

The movie is based on a short story by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who produced the film.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

The Luzhin Defence

The Luzhin Defence
  • IMDB Rating – 6.8
  • Genre: Drama, melodrama
  • Production: Great Britain, France / 2000
  • Worldwide box office receipts: $1,864,747
  • Director: Marlene Gorris
  • Starring: John Turturro, Emily Watson, Geraldine James, Stuart Wilson, Christopher Thompson, Fabio Sartor, Peter Blythe, Orla Brady, Mark Tandy, Kelly Hunter.

This drama based on Nabokov’s masterpiece tells the story of the fictional grandmaster Luzhin, who arrives in Italy for a chess tournament in the 1920s. There he falls in love with a Russian aristocrat, Natalia, who brings confusion to his honed mind.

At the tournament, Luzhin confronts the brilliant chess player Turati, against whose attacks no defense has yet been devised, and grows ever closer to Natalia. In the final game Luzhin postpones the game and obsessively tries to devise a defense, taking notes and unsuccessfully searching for a glass chess piece from his childhood….

The grand finale of the movie was invented by the screenwriters; it is absent from the original novel.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time


  • IMDB Rating – 7.5
  • Genre: Thriller, Drama, Crime
  • Production: USA, France / 1994
  • Budget: $3,500,000
  • US box office: $8,094,616
  • Director: Boaz Yakin
  • Starring: Shawn Nelson, Giancarlo Esposito, Samuel L. Jackson, N’Bush Wright, Ron Bryce, Jean-Claude La Marre, Jose Zúñiga, Luis Lantigua, Yul Vazquez, Cheryl Freeman.

“Fresh” is the story of a black teenager Michael from the ghetto, who works as a dealer for local gangsters. Criminal buddies prophesize a great future in the criminal world, but he himself dreams of breaking out of the vicious circle of drugs and aggression, saving money for his future.

One day dangerous events begin to develop rapidly around him, and Michael realizes that it is necessary to get out of his neighborhood immediately. He imagines the circumstances as a chess game, remembering the lessons of his father, a master of rapid chess, and breaks out of the vicious circle with the flawless precision of a brilliant grandmaster.

The producer of this hit movie was Lawrence Bender, who also produced Pulp Fiction at the same time.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

The World Champion

The World Champion
  • Rating – 6.9
  • Genre: Drama, History, Sports
  • Production: Russia / 2021
  • Budget: ₽ 550,000,000
  • Worldwide Box Office: $8,409,336
  • Director: Alexei Sidorov
  • Starring: Konstantin Khabensky, Ivan Yankovsky, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Viktor Dobronravov, Viktor Sukhorukov, Diana Pozharska, Fyodor Dobronravov, Anatoly Kot, Mikhail Troynik, Alexander Filippenko

Russian historical-sports drama about Anatoly Karpov’s duel with dissident Korchnoi in the Philippines in 1978. In the picture there is quite a lot of fiction to create an exciting plot based on real interesting events and personalities.

The duel of the masters turns into scandals and squabbles. Against the background of this duel, Karpov faces the intrigues of the CIA, almost loses his family, confronts the ideological pressure of the party and tries to find decent moves in response to the genius of his irreconcilable rival.

By the way, Anatoly Karpov liked this movie, which won 5 Golden Eagle awards in early 2023.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

The Chess Game

The Chess Game
  • IMDB Rating – 6.3
  • Genre: Drama
  • Production: Belgium, France, Switzerland / 1994
  • Director: Yves Anchard
  • Starring: Olivier Maes, Pierre Richard, Christian Maillet, Yves Anchard, Harry Kleven, Yves Degen, Jean Gerardi, Alexander von Sievers, James Wilby, Denis Lavan.

A European costume drama, “The Chess Game” is a movie of sublime strangeness, unfolding leisurely from social tragedy to Victorian melodrama. One day, sometime around the 19th century, preacher Ambroise (Pierre Richard) saves young orphan Max (Denis Lavant) from suicide and soon discovers his prodigious chess talent.

A dozen years later, Max, now a grandmaster, must play in a tournament against the reigning world champion, the aristocratic Staunton (James Wilby). The tournament takes place in the castle of the eccentric Marquise (Catherine Deneuve), who offers the winner the hand of her lovely daughter Anne-Lise (Hilde Heynen)…

Switzerland, France and Belgium participated in the making of the movie.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

Knight Moves

Knight Moves
  • IMDB Rating – 6.1
  • Genre: Thriller, Drama, Crime, Detective
  • Production: USA, Germany, Canada / 1991
  • US box office receipts: $923,418
  • Director: Karl Schenkel
  • Starring: Christopher Lambert, Diane Lane, Tom Skerritt, Daniel Baldwin, Cody Lucas Wilby, Josh Murray, Frank C. Turner, Don Thompson, Megan Leitch, Alex Diakun.

“Knight Moves” is a crime drama about a serial killer and chess starring Christopher Lambert. In 1972, chess prodigy Peter Sanderson meets the talented David at the board, who, after losing, attacks his opponent. This leads to terrible consequences for David, whose mother commits suicide and his traces are lost somewhere in the orphanages.

Years later, someone starts killing the former mistresses of Peter, now a successful and wealthy grandmaster. He becomes the main suspect in these murders, and even his psychologist Kathy Sheppard, who has feelings for Peter, doubts his innocence…

Actress Diane Lane (Kathy Sheppard in the movie) and Christopher Lambert got married during filming.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

Computer Chess

Computer Chess
  • IMDB Rating – 6.2
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Production: USA / 2013
  • US box office receipts: $102,041
  • Director: Andrew Bujalski
  • Starring: Chris Schluderman, Tom Fletcher, Wiley Wiggins, Patrick Rister, Kevin Buersdorf, Gene Williams, Jim Lewis, Cole Noppenberg, Miles Paige, Gerald Peary

Andrew Bujalski’s independent indie film is a black-and-white journey back to the ’80s, at the very beginning of the computer age. The annual gathering of digital adherents at a run-down California hotel is chaos in a setting of bad haircuts, screaming accessories and dire prophecies about the future possibilities of artificial intelligence.

Retro-itisers compete to see which of their programs will beat the others in a computer chess game. This gathering of geeks is actively interested in the Pentagon, and in the neighboring rooms are the clerics of the “Movement for Human Potential”, constantly in conflict with computer scientists….

Andrew Bujalski is considered the father of the “mumblecore” genre, in which this movie was made. The genre is characterized by a small budget, amateur actors and almost entirely improvised dialogues.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time


  • IMDB Rating – 5.7
  • Genre: Thriller, Detective
  • Production: UK, Spain, France / 1994
  • Director: Jim McBride
  • Starring: Kate Beckinsale, John Wood, Sinead Cusack, Podge Behan, Peter Wingfield, Helen McCrory, Michael Gough, Art Malick, Anthony Milner, James Villers.

In front of you is a puzzle movie in which painting, chess, ancient mystery and modern murder mystery are skillfully intertwined. The main character of the story is Julia, an experienced restorer, carefully restoring the XV century painting “Game of Chess”.

She discovers a mysterious inscription on the canvas in garbled Latin and cannot contain her curiosity, trying to find out what the phrase means. While investigating, Julia’s friend dies, and she realizes that nothing is over, and a new chain of murders is connected to the arrangement of pieces on the painted board …

The movie was filmed entirely in Barcelona and the historical sites of the city.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

Hatley High

Hatley High
  • IMDB Rating – 6.2
  • Genre: Melodrama, Comedy
  • Production: Canada / 2003
  • Director: Phil Price
  • Starring: Nicholas Wright, Rachelle Lefebvre, Nwamiko Madden, James A. Woods, Paul Van Dyke, Robert Jada, Malcolm Travis, Anatoly Zinoviev, Ivan Vukov, Ilona Elkin.

A light-hearted satire on teen comedies from Phil Price, about a boy named Tommy Linklater. After his mother dies, he moves to her hometown of North Hatley with his father, a physics scientist. The action takes place at the height of the Cold War.

Everyone in the town is obsessed with chess. Tommy is recruited to the local tough team, the Knights, because of his mother’s chess skills, which have become legendary here. Soon a team from the Soviet Union flies into town to play a match against the local chess players. Due to Russian intrigue, the captain of the local team disappears, which could turn into a technical defeat for the Knights.

Phil Price won the award for best director at the American Comedy Arts Festival.

The Coldest Game

The Coldest Game
  • IMDB Rating – 6.2
  • Genre: Thriller, History, Sports
  • Production: Poland, USA / 2019
  • Director: Lukasz Kosmicki
  • Starring: Bill Pullman, Lotta Verbeek, James Bloor, Robert Venckiewicz, Alexei Serebryakov, Corey Johnson, Nicholas Farrell, Evgeny Sidikhin, Cesari Kosinski, Alexander Lobanov

The events of the Polish spy thriller “The Coldest Game” are a combination of fiction and reality. A sharp chess game in the center of the plot is fictional, and world events, against the background of which the action unfolds – quite real.

In the 60’s, at the height of the Cuban crisis, a brilliant American chess player, now a drunken alcoholic Joshua Mansky, is kidnapped by his native secret services. He comes to his senses already in Warsaw, where he is explained that he is obliged to play in a duel with the Soviet grandmaster Gavrilov at the World Chess Championship, and the previous candidate for this duel was killed. This chess match may be decisive in defusing the political situation.

Shortly before the premiere, producer Peter Wozniak-Starak died, and William Hurt, who had been chosen for the lead role, broke his leg as work began and was replaced by Bill Pullman.

20 Best Chess Movies Of All Time

Other Movies About Chess Players

  • Endgame (2015)
  • Capablanca (1986)
  • Dangerous Moves (1984)
  • The Chess Players (1977)
  • Grossmeyster (1972)
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Анна Румянцева
Anna Rumyantseva

Author, editor and filmmaker.

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