This is a default list. Not my choice, but I’m owning up to a bet after the other Greg smoked me three games in a row. Chess is by far my second favorite game behind only connect four. Joking aside, Chess is an absolute measure of intellect that takes practice to understand. These are my Top 10 Chess Scenes/Movies of all time.
10. “The Dark Horse” (2014):
Similar to its title, “The Dark Horse” is a sneaky smart movie. Taking place in New Zealand, a brilliant former chess champion (Cliff Curtis) is, to put it light, going through some issues that has him in the world of on again off again homelessness. His nephew (James Rolleston) is living in the world of poverty with no hope in sight. Coming from a hole with no help down life’s endless pothole, uncle Genesis comes out with a purpose to teach a bunch of punks how to apply your mind on the chess board. “The Dark Horse” is all about never giving up on one another, old or young. All it takes is finding something you can relate to, even chess.
9. “Searching For Bobby Fisher” (1993):
Who is the GOAT of chess? We all know it is Bobby Fischer. Dude was silly good when it came to the board. No surprise he went ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ at a certain point because the rest of us norms were boring him. “Searching for Bobby Fisher” is a fictional story about trying to find the next childhood genius. Ben Kingsley plays Bruce, a ‘meh’ chess coach Bruce runs into the kids mom and son Josh as he’s playing chess in Central Park. The kid wants to play baseball, but clearly his skill is maneuvering black vs. white on the board. What makes “Searching For Bobby Fisher” such a well-renowned 90’s gem is that it highlights how the nerds that get poked at in school are mostly going to beat you in the long run. Be kind to the smart people young men and women…
8. “Fresh” (1994):
Chess is not the centrical part of “Fresh”. This picture is about a 12-year-old living in Brooklyn that also hustles drugs. Your standard gang violence and overdosing clients are all around for this kid named Fresh (Sean Nelson). Best part of his day, playing chess with old homeless people on the way to and from school. His favorite opponent is Sam (Samuel L. Jackson), a stable of a player at the local tables. “Fresh” is all about how the game of chess can teach you mobility as well as fairness in life.
7. “Queen to Play” (2011):
Simply a charmer. Director Caroline Bottaro made a movie about different generations and sexes coming together through deciding who takes queen first. “Queen to Play” is about a chambermaid on the island of Corsica, Helene (Sandrine Bonnaire) is obsessed with chess. Her newest employer Kroger (Kevin Kline, didn’t know he could speak Frech but good on you), The two form a bond on the board that is beyond the typical sexual stuff. “Queen to Play” is about respect. One guy is rich as hell. One girl is a cleaning lady. But when the board comes out, let’s go!
6. “Magnus” (2016):
This guy was and still is an absolute beast, just not physically. Short of Bobby Fisher, although an argument could be made, this Norwegian S.O.B, named “Magnus” Carlsen saw the board better than anyone. And as this documentary chronicles, he did it with class. Of course a few hiccups along the way. This dude was named a grandmaster at age 13 in Europe. That’s boss status. And don’t get me started on the pressure this movie shows he had to handle because it makes Tom Brady look like a sissy. Magnus is an excellent portrayal of a true competitor.
5. “Queen of Katwe” (2018):
Fully agree this is a Disney movie based on some real shit so yes it is Hollywood-ized. It’s not going to change the world, but “Queen of Katwe” is simply one of those movies you root for. Growing up in Uganda is tough, especially if you’re a poor girl like Phiona (Madina Nalwanga). Your family and friends are starving and you must do something even if you are a teen. Boom, I’m smarter than you. I will beat ‘ya at chess and, simply, deal with it. “Queen of Katwe” is not perfect. Very much a commercial picture. But when it comes to inspiration, I’m all in.
4. “The Seventh Seal” (1957):
What is the greatest battle when it comes to chess other than death itself? We’re all fighting it, and we’re all going to lose. “The Seventh Seal” says it straight up. Director Ingmar Bergman tells us straight up. WE GONNA DIE! Such is the truth. The film “The Seventh Seal” is about several more concepts. But in the end dying is a chess game that hopefully we survive tomorrow. I hope you guys survive as long as I know I will. 250 years.
3. “Computer Chess” (2013):
No doubt the strangest one on this list, “Computer Chess” takes the game and literally makes it black & white. We’ve got a 1980’s situation based on the still early days of computers. A collection of nerd culture assemble to create the old game of chess on computers (hence the name if you didn’t get it). The narrative during the tournament does not go according to plan during the tournament when multiple pods malfunction and the front-runners get frustrated. Add in the fact that several of these competitors are being head hunted by the Pentagon and you’ve got yourself quite a journey on the board.
2. “Pawn Sacrifice” (2015):
This is America vs. Russia during the Cold War right here. Only difference, it is a battle of the mind. Bobby Fisher is the clear GOAT when it comes to chess as I said earlier. He was also a weird as hell genius that became a recluse and did his best to disappear from the world. Why? Because being genius does not go well with being famous. Toby Maguire and Liev Schriber are perfectly cast as two opponents on the chess board that was telecast live when the countries hated each other. Soviet grand master Boris Spassky took on the wiz kid Bobby Fisher, and the results had big time complications. “Pawn Sacrifice” is admittedly chalk when it comes to ‘sports’ or ‘gaming’ movies. But it is good chalk. The showdown is thrilling and “Pawn Sacrifice” gives us a great look at perhaps the most integral chess game in history.
1. “Life of a King” (2013):
“Life of a King” is the best version of embodying chess that I have ever seen. Chess is about how it applies to real life, which is why it is such a great game. “Life of a King”, a hidden gem, has got to be my top pick. Based on a true story, Eugene Brown (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is on a mission to teach how the game can help educate inner city kids in Washington, D.C. after being approached as a janitor and ex-con by the administration to teach troubled kids to play chess. Again, this actually happened. Brown’s impact on these kids lives is life-changing. Yeah it’s a bit cheesy, but “Life of a King” shows how a game can inspire one to be better even if you’ve already made mistakes.