27 Oct All-time Hollywood Blockbuster Movies with Chess as the Protagonist
Chess players of the world know that the true hero of their lives is the board game of black and white. The allure of chess has been strong enough to be an inspirational draw for several Hollywood blockbuster movies. Chess as a protagonist has been the plot of many an edge-on-the-seat entertainers.
So, whenever you wish to take a break from your game this holiday season, it would be real fun to binge on some of these best movies and documentaries where our favorite game – Chess, plays a protagonist.
This is certainly a fun way of introducing chess to your children and motivate them to be better at playing the game they love so much!
Here are our top 10 picks.
1. The Queen’s Gambit
The Queen’s Gambit, a must-watch new Netflix series that has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and is about a chess prodigy named Beth Harmon who learns the game from her janitor in the basement of her orphanage.
The season traces her rise and sees her grapple with personal demons, ultimately leading her to perhaps the biggest match of her life, a series of hard-won preliminary games before meeting her opponent, Vasily Borgov, the fiercest player in the world. The film is written and directed by Scott Frank who also wrote Logan. The chess scenes are brilliantly crafted and shot very cinematically.
2. Searching for Bobby Fischer
Contrary to the first impression you get from the title, it’s not a biography of the chess legend Bobby Fischer. Rather, it’s a true story based on a book that explores Joshua Waitzkin’s journey to become a kid prodigy where everyone around him including his parents and coach hardens him to become like Bobby Fischer. But he refuses to conform to the norms and carves his own approach to the beautiful game of chess. chess.
Searching for Bobby Fischer was released in 1993 and yet it is the most loved film of all time by chess fans. It is star loaded by actors like Joe Mantegna, Ben Kingsley, Laurence Fishburne, and Joan Allen.
3. Pawn Sacrifice
The biography of Bobby Fischer, set during the Cold war, Pawn Sacrifice tells the story of Fischer’s rise through the game to become the world champion. Starring Tobey Maguire, a part of the film takes the audience to Fischer’s childhood and explores how he as a young kid got obsessed with chess.
Whereas the other part takes you to the dark side of his life, where he pushed himself to such mental stress that damaged him.
It is the classic of all times to watch.
Magnus, a sensational documentary released in 2016 based on Magnus Carlsen’s journey to becoming the world champion. Magnus Carlsen, a Norwegian chess prodigy, becomes a chess grandmaster at the age of 13 and world champion in 2013, at the age of 22.
The film features Magnus’s family and his childhood footage that shows how the boy at the age of 13 played his best against Kasparov. It also documents the exciting match between Anand and Carlsen, a world championship match in Chennai, 2013.
5. Queen of Katwe
Queen of Katwe, a classic documentary made out of a book with the same name, it is based on the life of Ugandan chess player Phion Mutesi, a girl from the slums of Uganda who learns chess overcomes all the hurdles, and rose through her life all the way up to become the first female master in her country.
Starring Lupita Nyong’o, this inspiring drama is a gem to watch and delivers nuanced performances. It’s unlike other films listed here because of its richness and the balance of both dark and modern filming.
6. Bobby Fischer Against the World
A must watch! “Bobby Fischer Against the World” documents the tragic and bizarre life of this enigmatic champion It’s a collection of all the interviews with personalities such as Garry Kasparov, Susan Polgar, Larry Evans, and many others who knew Fischer or were inspired by him. It showcases rare footage of Fischer’s 1972 world Championship match against Boris Spassky held during the cold war.
Fischer took on the entire Soviet chess empire and won the ultimate chess title.
7. Life of a King
“Life of a King” won’t disappoint you even if you are not a chess lover. It’s an inspiring true story of Eugene Brown who learns and master’s chess in jail. When he’s released, he starts Big Chair Chess Club as a mission to teach kids of Washington this game and give them a better future which Eugene never had. Starring Cuba Gooding Jr., this film is worth a watch.
The famous quote – “Take care of the King, everything else follows” has come from here.
8. Brooklyn Castle
An inspiring documentary which was a hit with a large group of audience in a short period of time. It covers 2 years of the school chess team through the ups and downs of the financial crisis and portrays how they rise up of all the struggles and emerge the best school.
“Brooklyn Castle” won the Audience Award at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival.
9. The Luzhin Defense
“The Luzhin Defense”, A 2000 drama film starring John Turito and Emily Watson. This film is based on the book “The Defense” by author Vladimir Nabokov and reflects the tragic life of a chess player Alexandr Ivanovich Luzhin. He travels to Italy to play in a tournament where he finds his love Natalia Katkov. A tragic incident during a game in the tournament and the trauma lands Luzhin in the hospital where doctors ask him to forbid Chess.
Due to stress and exhaustion, he commits suicide. Later his fiancée, Natalia finds his chess game notes and wins the game against his competitors.
10. The Dark Horse
A truly inspirational and motivational chess movie from New-Zealand, The Dark Horse won’t disappoint you. It tells the story of Genesis Pontini, a chess player from New Zealand who tries to teach kids around the city the discipline and skills necessary to play chess.
The kids learn and implement chess skills not only to master the game but also to master life.
11. Shatranj Ke Khiladi (The Chess Players)
Shatranj Ke Khiladi is an Indian Bollywood drama, directed by Satyajit Ray. Based on the great writer, Munshi Premchand’s short story by the same name, it stars Sanjeev Kumar, Saeed Jaffrey, Shabana Azmi, and Amjad Khan. This epic drama is set around the life of the last independently ruling Nawab (noble) Wajid Ali Shah and is about two best friends, Mirza Ali and Mir Ali who abandon their families over their growing obsession for playing the game of chess.
Bulbul, a Finance professional-turned-content writer, is a content and digital marketing consultant. She is an avid follower of the game of chess, she has developed a life-long affinity towards the game because of its simplicity and uniqueness. In her free time, she loves to read, create graphics, and do Yoga.