Ever since premiering on October 23rd, Netflix’s new series The Queen’s Gambit is one of the most popular titles currently streaming on the platform. Created by Scott Frank and Allen Scott, the series centers on Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), a dour orphan since the age of nine who becomes a brilliant chess prodigy in America during the 1960s. By age 16, Beth is competing at the highest levels of the game, including the U.S. Open Championship.
Also starring Chloe Pirrie, Bill Camp, Marielle Heller, Harry Meling, and Marcin Dorocinski, The Queen’s Gambit is currently ranked #44 on IMDB’s TV Top 250. If you enjoy the show, check out these titles below.
10 The Coldest Game (2019)
The most recent chess film to make the list includes The Coldest Game, a Cold-War thriller in which the savvy gamesmanship on the chessboard serves as a major metaphor for strategic war games.
The U.S./Polish film follows Joshua Mansky (Bill Pullman), a beleaguered alcoholic math teacher who is drafted by the U.S. government to play a game of chess against a Soviet opponent. Behind the scenes, a parallel plot involving Russian spies, conflict escalation, and military intervention plays out.
9 Knights Of The South Bronx (2005)
Although it was made for television, the true story of Knights of the South Bronx is as uplifting as they come. Jeff Goldblum stars Richard Mason, a character based on the real-life schoolteacher David MacEnulty, who taught underprivileged children in the South Bronx how to play competitive-level chess.
Directed by Allen Hughes, the story traces the way in which Mason (MacEnulty) trained several young children from Elementary School 70 in the New York Borough en route to winning the New York state and city Championship. However, it’s the lessons Mason taught the children away from the chessboard that proves most valuable.
8 Life Of A King (2013)
In yet another inspiring true story, Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as Eugene Brown in Life of a King, a former-felon who completely changes his life around by creating a chess club for urban youths in Washington, D.C.
Brown learns how to play and master chess while in prison from a man known as The Chess Man, who gives Brown a wooden chess piece upon his release. Struggling to find employment as an ex-con, Brown finds his life at a crossroads. He eventually decides to form the Big Chair Chess Club in Washington D.C., where he mentors inner-city teenagers on the tricks of the game.
7 Queen To Play (2009)
In the French/German production Queen to Play, an intimate bond is forged between a French housemaid and an American ex-patriot over their mutual love of chess.
Written and directed by Caroline Bottaro from the Bertina Henrichs novel, the story revolves around Helene (Sandrine Bonnaire), a charming housemaid who takes a sudden interest in the game of chess. When the secluded American Kroger (Kevin Kline) arrives, he begins to teach Helene the advanced moves of the game. The two compete with one another every Tuesday, slowly recognizing how valuable their friendship has become along the way.
6 Magnus (2016)
Magnus Carlsen is currently the world’s top-ranked chess grandmaster. In 2016, a fascinating documentary on the prodigy’s rise to fame is chronicled. Magnus turned pro at age 13 and won the world championship in chess in 2013 at the age of 22.
The Norwegian grandmaster’s early life is documented in the film as he climbs the ranks of international chess to become one of the greatest of all time. If you like The Queen’s Gambit and want to watch another real-life documentary on chess, the 2012 film Brooklyn Castle is a worthy companion piece.
5 The Luzhin Defence (2000)
Adapted from the Vladimir Nabokov novel, The Luzhin Defence tells the complicated story of Luzhin (John Turturro), an ignorant and unkempt chess grandmaster sent to Italy in the 1920s to compete in one of the toughest matches of his life.
Blinded by his obsession with chess, Luzhin’s world is opened up when he falls in love with Natalia (Emily Watson), whom he’s been arranged to wed by her influential family. As Luzhin tries to balance his love of chess with his newfound romance, a complicated series of events unfold.
4 Queen Of Katwe (2016)
Based on the heartwarming true story, Disney’s G-rated Queen of Katwe is a movie the whole family can enjoy. Directed by Mira Nair, the film follows 10-year-old Phiona (Nadina Nalwanga), an impoverished Ugandan girl whose entire outlook on life changes when she discovers the game of chess.
Adapted from an ESPN article written by Tim Crothers, Phiona spends her days selling maize and babysitting her younger brother. But when she participates in a missionary event, her mind is blown after being introduced to chess. Her mentor Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) teaches her the ins and outs of the game and soon she’s the top contender in the Katwe village.
3 Fresh (1994)
In Boaz Yakin’s heartfelt urban coming-of-age tale Fresh, a 12-year-old New York drug pusher forced to grow up fast finds an avenue of escape in the form of competitive chess.
Sean Nelson stars as Fresh, a young dealer who recalls the chess acumen he learned from his drunk father and speed-chess champ, Sam (Samuel L. Jackson). When Fresh’s drug-addled sister brings home the frightening kingpin Esteban (Giancarlo Esposito), Fresh uses his chess techniques to concoct a plan to get him and his sister out of a checkmated jam.
2 Pawn Sacrifice (2014)
In Edward Zwick’s riveting Pawn Sacrifice, Toby Maguire plays notorious chess prodigy Bobby Fischer and Liev Schreiber plays his Russian counterpart, Boris Spassky.
The biographical drama revolves around the 1972 World Chess Championship, which pitted Fischer against Spassky during the pinnacle of the Cold War. Through a series of flashbacks, Fischer’s family ties to communism lead to a lifetime of FBI surveillance, which weighs heavily on his mind as he tries to compete in chess at the highest level.
1 Searching For Bobby Fischer (1993)
The best chess movie to watch if you like The Queen’s Gambit is Searching for Bobby Fischer, Steve Zaillian’s complex tale of a boy growing tired of his preternatural chess mastery.
Max Pomeranc stars as Josh Waitzkin, a typical adolescent American boy interested in sports. When he beats his father Fred (Joe Mantegna) in a game of chess, he demonstrates a level of expertise rarely seen. Josh meets a chess hustler named Vinnie (Laurence Fishburne) who helps hone the boy’s skills en route to dominating matches in Washington Square Park. However, as his skill grows, Josh becomes disinterested in the game and the attention he’s garnered while his parents continue to push for his success.
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