Sport has continuously served a higher purpose, something that goes beyond the playing field and translates across borders, emotions, social causes, and geopolitical situations.
Diplomacy through sports has been a go-to strategy for many nations throughout the 20th century and continues to be so. Amongst other sports, CHESS occupies a very special place in this particular aspect.
Movies with chess as the theme have often shown strong narratives in the background like the Cold War, women’s empowerment, breaking the barriers of poverty, India before independence, and many others.
Here, we bring you our pick of 10 CHESS-based MOVIES that have inspired and fascinated audiences - a must-watch list spanning for all chess lovers as well as movie buffs!
1. SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER (1993)
The movie is based on a 7-year-old boy whose parents discover that their son has the potential to become a chess prodigy. The movie progresses to show how the boy’s parents and the coaches he subsequently works with, help nurture his game and true potential.
2. QUEEN OF KATWE (2016)
Set in Uganda, the protagonist in this movie is a girl who comes from a poor family and gets fascinated with chess when she attends a local missionary program and gets to experience this sport for the first time. The movie showcases how this young girl from a less privileged family progresses and goes on to represent her country at the international Chess Olympiad.
“The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them.” [Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel Peace Prize Winner & President of Liberia]
3. PAWN SACRIFICE (2015)
The movie revolves around American Chess Grandmaster, Bobby Fischer. The plot builds up to that moment in history when the Cold War was at its peak and the World Chess Championship was a high-stakes stage where the chessboard was equivalent to the battlefield – another brilliant example of the role of chess in international relations.
4. KNIGHTS OF THE SOUTH BRONX (2005)
This is a true story of a fourth-grade school teacher who teaches the game of chess to children coming from troubled backgrounds and difficult family situations. Another example of how sport and chess can transform the lives of young children for the better.
5. THE DARK HORSE (2014)
Based on the real-life story of a chess champion from New Zealand who, while going through mental troubles of his own, goes on to teach chess as well as life lessons to a bunch of underprivileged kids who had been led astray.
6. COMPUTER CHESS (2013)
Set in the 1980s, this movie with its documentary-style, black and white feel showcases the emerging competitiveness of computer chess. A group of computer enthusiasts meet to compete and determine whose computer program can beat the other’s at computer chess.
7. THE COLDEST GAME (2019)
Set in the times of the Cuban missile crisis (1962) at the peak of the Cold War – this game features a math genius who is taken on board for a game against the Soviet Union. The game is not only that of chess, but of espionage.
8. LIFE OF A KING (2013)
This is a true story about a former convict who starts a chess club in Washington DC. After he gets reinstated into public life with a job at a local high school, he gets the opportunity to teach chess to the children coming from troubled backgrounds who study in that school.
9. SHATRANJ KE KHILARI (1977)
Set in 1856, well before India achieved its independence, this movie is one of Satyajit Ray’s masterpieces that subtly showcases how the indifference of the Indian ruling class (showcased through their love for chess) allows the British officers to take over the city of Awadh without much of a resistance.
10. GERI’S GAME (1997)
With an innovative story line, this short-animated film was Pixar’s first ever attempt to showcase a human being as the main character. Here, the main character is an old man, who plays an entertaining game of chess against himself at the park.
That rounds up our pick of 10 interesting movies with chess in the center of the plot! Do you have more movies to add to this list? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!