Are you a chess enthusiast and are you looking for good shows to binge-watch on your next free day? The good news is that there’s a wealth of great chess series and movies available on various streaming services online, from Netflix to Disney+. To help you narrow down your list or at least know which ones you should prioritize, here’s a list of some of the best shows and movies that revolve around the world of chess.
8 Must-Watch Shows and Movies About Chess
1. Critical Thinking
Released in 2020, Critical Thinking revolves around the story of Mario Martinez, a Cuban American teacher who trained and supported the first inner-city chess team, who won the 1998 U.S. National Chess Championship in 1998. If you’re looking for a heartfelt and inspirational movie about chess with a solid cast, Critical Thinking should be at the top of your list.
2. The Queen’s Gambit
Considered as one of the best series about chess, The Queen’s Gambit was a wildly popular Netflix series in 2021. With a primary focus on Beth Harmon, a young chess prodigy, this series tackles some of the most relevant issues in society: sexism, addiction, and just general pursuit of greatness. With Anya Taylor-Joy’s impressive portrayal of Beth Harmon’s rise to success through her unquestionable talent, The Queen’s Gambit offers seven episodes of excellent storytelling. If you’re planning on watching The Queen’s Gambit, you can do so on Netflix.
3. Life of a King
A 2013 drama film that tells the real story of Eugene Brown, Life of a King chronicles Eugene’s transformation as an ex-convict to the Big Chair Chess Club founder. In the movie, Eugene Brown aims to promote the game of chess as an alternative to joining street gangs.
If you regularly follow the world of chess, you’re probably familiar with the name of Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian five-time World Chess Champion and grandmaster. Magnus is a 2016 documentary film that follows Magnus’ rise to the top spot in competitive chess, from his early life in Norway to his becoming a Grandmaster at the young age of 13. This documentary film can be considered as one of the greatest movies about chess, giving you an inside look at the impressive life of the best chess player in the world.
5. Pawn Sacrifice
Considered as one of the most underrated chess movies ever released, Pawn Sacrifice tells the story of Bobby Fischer in his pursuit of the World Chess Championship. With Toby Maguire’s excellent performance as the troubled chess player, the striking story will feed your love of chess as well as be pulled into the life of Bobby Fischer and the lead up to the “Match of the Century.”
6. The Dark Horse
The Dark Horse is a New Zealand film that revolves around the life of Genesis Potini, a chess prodigy who established The Eastern Knights, a chess club that gives underprivileged children shelter and the chance to learn chess. With a heavily affecting and powerful plot, The Dark Horse delivers powerful stories and lessons that many people can apply to their lives. You can watch this powerful movie on Apple TV, Flix Fling, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video.
7. Queen of Katwe
Looking for an inspiring and emotional movie about chess? Queen of Katwe offers a fascinating story about Phiona, a 10-year-old chess player who used chess to propel herself from a life of poverty in Katwe, Uganda. With Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwanga’s stellar performance, this chess movie gives you a magnificent and tear-jerking plot about offering opportunities to people who are often left in the peripheries. If you’re planning on adding Queen of Katwe to your watchlist, you can stream it on Disney+ or on Apple TV.
8. Brooklyn Castle
A documentary film that follows the Intermediate School 318’s public school chess team, Brooklyn castle is a chess movie that chronicles the motivation and ceaseless effort of the students and their trainers to support their pursuit of the United States Chess Federation’s national high school championship in the midst of budget cuts and other challenges. You can watch Brooklyn Castle on Amazon Prime Video or you can purchase the movie from your Google Play.
9. Bobby Fischer Against the World
If you want to be pulled into the world of Bobby Fischer’s life and character, Bobby Fischer Against the World is a great chess movie choice for you. As a documentary that delves into the tragic life of Bobby Fischer, this movie is able to examine and provide viewers a perspective that paints this chess genius with a nuanced image that is not only strong and intimate but is also conflicted. If you want to watch this excellent documentary, you can head over to Amazon Prime Video, and stream it online.
10. The Luzhin Defence
A highly dramatic and striking film, The Luzhin Defence tells the story of a chess Grandmaster who travels abroad for the match of his life. While chess figures largely in the plot as his identity is so closely attached to the game, Luzhin’s life story and his struggles are just as striking as his game style. If you’re planning on watching this movie, get ready to be affected by the movie’s fragile emotions and psychological rollercoaster. You can watch The Luzhin Defence on Amazon Prime.
Enjoy the Game in the Background of Heart-Rending Plots and Stories
Are you looking for expertly told stories about chess with heart-rending plots that will either inspire you or leave long-lasting impressions? Some of the movies and shows on this list will surely be great fits for these goals. As a chess enthusiast, I specifically loved how these chess movies transformed the game of chess into a transformative medium that can change the life of individuals despite differing backgrounds and training. And isn’t this what chess is? A game that does not only provide opportunities but also gives players and aspiring Grandmasters a chance to learn unparalleled lessons and strategies both in-game and in life.