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5 Amazing Chess Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen

(Queen of Katwe (2016) Image courtesy of IMDb)

Since The Queen’s Gambit graced our screens back in 2020 (was it really so long ago?!) our appetites have been whetted for more chess movies and TV series. Luckily, there are plenty of fantastic ones to choose from including ‘Searching for Bobby Fischer’ and Ingmar Bergman’s fantasy classic ‘The Seventh Seal’.

But, you’ve probably already seen these, right? So, let’s look at some amazing chess movies you may have slept on – and should definitely not!

1. Brooklyn Castle (2012)

This uplifting documentary follows the chess prodigies of an inner-city school as budget cuts threaten to undermine their hard-won success.

More than 65 percent of students from New York’s I.S. 318 are from homes with incomes below the federal poverty level but despite the disadvantages, I.S. 318 has the best chess team in the country. The team’s biggest challenge comes when recession-driven budget cuts risk preventing them from travelling to competitions.

Brooklyn Castle is a warm and inspiring movie that was extremely well-received at its World Premiere at Austin’s SXSW Film Festival. Make sure this one is added to your to-watch list!

2. The Dark Horse (2014)

This New Zealand drama is based on the true story of Genesis Potini, a Maori speed chess champion who struggled with bipolar disorder. Potini, played by Maori actor Cliff Curtis, returns to his hometown after spending time in a psychiatric institution and takes a job as a chess coach for a group of disadvantaged children.

Potini’s passion for chess and ability to connect with the children help him find his purpose and overcome his demons.

Among many other awards and nominations, this powerful tale won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Score at the 2014 New Zealand Film Awards.

Go seek it out!

(Image courtesy of IMDb)

3. Queen to Play (2009)

Set in the gorgeous village of Calvi, on the island of Corsica, this French drama (also known as Joueuse) follows the story of Hélène, a timid chambermaid who discovers chess while working at a hotel.

She becomes obsessed with the game, but her husband’s disapproval forces her to study in secret and to take lessons from Dr. Kröger, an American expat dealing with his own issues.

As she improves and her confidence grows, Hélène competes in tournaments until her growing obsession starts to put a strain on her home life.

If you slept on this one, make it right!

4. Fresh (1994)

Going back to the 90s with this one. Fresh is a crime drama about a 12-year-old drug runner called Michael (nicknamed ‘Fresh’) who’s trapped in a web of poverty and crime. Recalling the chess lessons he received from his alcoholic father (played by Samuel L. Jackson), Fresh devises a genius plan to free himself and his drug-addicted sister from their seemingly hopeless predicament.

Scored by Sting from The Police, the movie won several awards including the Filmmaker’s Trophy at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival and is a must-see for any chess fan.

5. Queen Of Katwe (2016)

Based on the true story of a Ugandan girl living in the slums who, with the help of a missionary and chess coach, becomes a top chess player with the opportunity to escape a life of poverty.

Despite not being a commercial success, this feel-good, intelligent story received positive reviews from critics as well as several awards and nominations.

If you like chess, you’ll love this inspiring and real-life tale.

Did I miss any other not-so-well-known chess movies? Let us know your recommendations in the comments below!

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