Die 10 besten Schachfilme

The 10 best chess films

Films about chess have a special fascination for us chess players. In this article we take a look at the ten best chess films in history.

Films about chess have a special fascination for us chess players. They show the world of chess in different ways - from exciting tournaments to dramatic life stories of grandmasters to profound analyses of human psychology.

In this article we take a look at the ten best chess films in history. The ranking is based on the rating of the international film database IMDb (Internet Movie Database). Only those films in which chess plays a significant role as a motif are included in the rating.

1st place: Fresh (1994) - 7.5 points

To the trailer (English)

Fresh is an American film drama that was shot in New York City. Twelve-year-old Michael, known as Fresh, works for a drug dealer. He only meets his father Sam (played by Samuel L. Jackson) in secret in the park, where he plays chess with him, as Sam has apparently been forbidden from associating with Fresh. Two of Michael's classmates are killed by drug dealer Jake during basketball games. Michael then decides to play the two drug lords he works for off against each other and start a new life with his sister.

2nd place: Searching for Bobby Fischer | German: The King's Game (1993) - 7.4 points

To the trailer (English)

"The King's Game - A Master is Born" is not about Bobby Fischer, but about the chess prodigy Joshua Waitzkin. His father Fred wrote the book that the film is based on. Josh Waitzkin's family discovers that he has a talent for chess . They set up a team with Bruce Pandolfini a strict chess teacher who wants to teach the boy to be as aggressive as chess legend Bobby Fischer. But at some point Josh's father, consumed by ambition, realizes that he has overtaxed his son.

3rd place: Bobby Fischer against the World | German: Ticket to Ride (2011) - 7.4

"Bobby Fischer Against the World" is a documentary film that explores the tragic and bizarre life of the late chess master Bobby Fischer. Fischer's life was one big drama: from his difficult childhood to his rock star status as world champion and Cold War icon to his life on the run. This film explores one of the most notorious and mysterious figures of the 20th century. It includes interviews with Garry Kasparov, Susan Polgar and Lothar Schmidt, the 1972 World Championship referee.


4th place : Queen of Katwe (2016) - 7.4

To the trailer (German)

"Queen of Katwe" is a biographical drama. The film tells the true story of Phiona Mutesi, a girl from the slums of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, who becomes an international champion through chess. The film received praise for its portrayals and authentic depiction of living conditions in the slums of Kampala, as well as several awards. "Queen of Katwe" conveys an inspiring message about education, determination and faith in achieving dreams.

5th place: The Talent of Genesis Potini (2014) - 7.4

To the trailer (German)

The Talent of Genesis Potini is a 2014 New Zealand drama that tells the true story of Genesis Potini, a chess master with bipolar disorder. He advocates for disadvantaged children and uses chess as a tool for change. The film was praised for its sensitive portrayal of mental health and won several awards. It shows the transformative power of chess and the importance of self-acceptance and community.

6th place: Long Live the Queen (1995) - 7.3

To the trailer (German)

"Long Live the Queen" is a Dutch children's film. Eight-year-old Sara lives in a small town in the Netherlands with her single mother and her grandfather. All she knows about her father is that he lives in South Africa. Her school friend Victor teaches her to play chess by reading her the story of how the white queen invents the game of chess to stop the white king from waging war. By winning a tournament, she can play simultaneous chess against grandmaster Bob Hooke, who she suspects is her father. The film captivates with its messages of hope and compassion.

7th place: Brooklyn Castle (2012) - 7.2

To the trailer (English)

"Brooklyn Castle" is a 2012 documentary film that tells the story of the chess team at Intermediate School 318 in Brooklyn, New York. The school's students, who mostly come from disadvantaged families, gain self-confidence through their participation in chess competitions. "Brooklyn Castle" highlights the importance of education, community, and dogged determination in overcoming obstacles. The film shows how chess can serve as a tool for personal growth and the fight against inequality.

8th place: Magnus - the Mozart of Chess (2016) - 7.1

To the trailer (English, German subtitles)

"Magnus - Mozart of Chess" is a 2016 Norwegian documentary film that explores the life and career of chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen. The film shows his extraordinary rise from a child to the youngest world chess champion of all time. The director offers an insight into Carlsen's life, from his childhood in Norway to his triumph as world chess champion. The film shows Carlsen's unconventional training methods and his unique approach to the game.

9th place: Pawn Sacrifice | German: Pawn Sacrifice - Game of Kings (2014) - 7.0

To the trailer (German)

"Pawn Sacrifice" is a 2014 American drama film that tells the true story of Bobby Fischer. The film focuses on Fischer's rise to fame and his legendary chess game against Soviet grandmaster Boris Spassky during the Cold War. Tobey Maguire plays the lead role of Bobby Fischer. The film shows Fischer's passionate devotion to chess, but also his personal and psychological challenges.

10th place: The Chess Player (2009) - 6.9

To the trailer (German)
Watch the whole film (German)

"The Chess Player" is a 2009 French drama film that tells the story of Marianne. Marianne is an introverted woman who develops a passion for chess. The film received praise for its portrayal of the main character and her inner conflicts. "The Chess Player" shows the importance of pursuing one's passions and overcoming societal obstacles.

More movies:

Other chess films that did not make it into the TOP 10 due to their IMDb rating are the following:

  • Chess Novel (film adaptations 1960 and 2021)
  • Luzhin’s defense
  • The Miracle of Marseille-

Additional tips from the Chess Tigers community:

  • The greenstone variant
  • Checkmate the Robot
  • Black and white like days and nights
  • Knight moves
  • Columbo: Checkmate the Murderer
  • Chess fever
  • Glory to the Queen

A detailed list of films in which chess appears can also be found on Wikipedia.

Honorable Mentions 1: Queen’s Gambit

To the trailer (German)

The Queen's Gambit is not a film, but a mini-series. But because of the worldwide attention that the game of chess has received through the series, the Queen's Gambit cannot be left out of an article about chess and film.


ADVERTISING : The official chessboard from the Queen's Gambit series


Honorable Mention 2: Geri´s Game

To the movie

Geri's Game is a four-minute animated short film by Pixar from 1997. It won an Oscar. In a park, an old man named Geri sets up a chessboard. He plays against himself by changing sides of the table and putting his glasses on when it's white and taking them off when it's black. After the white Geri has lost all of his pieces, he fakes a fit in order to turn the game around.


Chess plays an important role in many films. It is a shame that chess is often used as a metaphor for obsession and that many of the title characters in chess films are addicts or psychopaths. The fact that people simply enjoy playing chess without being pathologically obsessed with it is probably not known in Hollywood. Nevertheless, the list shows how deeply rooted chess is in human culture.

It is also interesting that places 2, 3 and 9 on the list have to do with a chess player who is probably the most dazzling but also most controversial figure in chess history: Bobby Fischer.

If a film is missing, please send me an info to schachgefluester@gmail.com