10 Chess Films and Series Like Queen's Gambit Worth Your Time
Whether you're a chess enthusiast or just someone looking for a checkmate-level movie night, we've got you covered.
Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)
Searching for Bobby Fischer is not only a film about chess, but a film about the struggle between a child's innocence and the ruthless pursuit of success. Josh Waitzkin (Max Pomeranc), a young chess prodigy, is caught between his well-meaning father (Joe Mantegna) and his demanding coach (Ben Kingsley).
The film beautifully captures the spirit of the game and the human drama that unfolds on and off the 64 squares. Just a fun fact, this movie is based on the life of real chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin, who later distanced himself from competitive chess to study martial arts.
Pawn Sacrifice (2014)
Pawn Sacrifice takes us into the mind of one of the greatest chess players in history, Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire), and his iconic 1972 match against Soviet Grandmaster Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber). This film delves deep into Fischer's eccentric genius, his paranoia, and the psychological warfare that marked the game dubbed as "Match of the Century".
Tobey Maguire turns in a fantastic performance as Fischer, bringing to life the grandmaster's quirks and brilliance. The movie was directed by Edward Zwick, who also directed The Last Samurai.
The Luzhin Defence (2000)
In The Luzhin Defence, the world of chess meets the world of romance. John Turturro plays Alexander Luzhin, a chess grandmaster whose obsession with the game intersects with his growing affection for Natalia (Emily Watson). As the tension of a major chess tournament mounts, so too does Luzhin's infatuation, leading to a captivating narrative. This film is based on a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita. The Luzhin Defence showcases a good 69% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Brooklyn Castle (2012)
Documentaries can sometimes be the most gripping depictions of real life, and Brooklyn Castle is no exception. The film tells the true story of a group of kids from an inner-city junior high school that becomes the most winning junior high school chess team in the nation. It's a tale of triumph, resilience, and how chess can be a game-changer in the most unlikely of places. Michelle Obama even invited the team to the White House after seeing the film. The documentary stands strong on Rotten Tomatoes with a rating of 96%.
Endgame is a compelling story about a young boy who uses his budding chess skills to navigate through life's difficulties. Rico (Rico Rodriguez) uses chess to deal with the problems at home and school, all the while dreaming of becoming a chess champion like his late grandfather. Akin to The Queen's Gambit, this film demonstrates how chess can be an escape, a coping mechanism, and a path to self-discovery. A pleasant surprise, Endgame scores 50% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Knight Moves (1992)
Knight Moves is an intriguing blend of chess and thriller, where Grandmaster Peter Sanderson (Christopher Lambert) finds himself in the middle of a serial killer's deadly game. The film hinges on the metaphor of chess as a battle of wits. Peter must outmaneuver a killer who leaves him gruesome clues that mimic chess moves, while he's simultaneously a suspect in the very murders he's trying to solve.
The stakes couldn't be higher in this psychological game of cat and mouse. Although the movie didn't hit the jackpot at the box office, its unique concept still holds its charm.
Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine (2003)
This fascinating documentary delves into the 1997 chess match between world champion Garry Kasparov and IBM's supercomputer, Deep Blue. The film recounts Kasparov's loss to Deep Blue, and his claim that IBM cheated in the match to make sure its computer won. It's a riveting exploration of man versus machine, the limits of human intellect, and our enduring fascination with AI, so the movie actually hits a bit differently in 2023, the "official" AI era.
Fun fact, the match was widely considered a major milestone in the development of artificial intelligence.
The Dark Horse (2014)
The Dark Horse tells the real-life story of Genesis Potini, a Maori speed-chess champion grappling with bipolar disorder, who finds purpose by teaching underprivileged children the game of chess. It's an underdog tale that tugs at the heartstrings and reminds us of the transformative power of chess.
The film received widespread critical acclaim, with lead actor Cliff Curtis earning praises for his heartfelt performance, and also was a major success in its home country, New Zealand, where it won several awards. The Dark Horse has an impressive 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Queen to Play (2009)
Set in the picturesque landscape of Corsica, Queen to Play is a French film about a middle-aged housekeeper, Hélène (Sandrine Bonnaire), who develops a fascination for chess. After observing a couple playing chess, she seeks the help of a reclusive American doctor (Kevin Kline) to teach her the game.
The film beautifully interweaves chess with themes of self-discovery and empowerment. Sandrine Bonnaire and Kevin Kline deliver strong performances, making this a must-watch for chess enthusiasts. On Rotten Tomatoes, Queen to Play holds a respectable 86% rating.
Computer Chess (2013)
Computer Chess takes us back to the dawn of computer programming in the 1980s. It's a surreal, mockumentary-style film about a weekend tournament for chess software programmers. The film cleverly uses chess as a backdrop to explore the quirky world of early computer nerds and their creations.
What's interesting about this film is that it was shot in black and white with vintage Sony AVC-3260 video cameras to capture the essence of the early '80s. Computer Chess managed to secure an 88% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.