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Checkmate! 10 films and TV shows featuring chess include ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ and ‘Critical Thinking’

For individuals who are finding themselves newly interested in chess since the release of “The Queen’s Gambit” starring Anna Taylor-Joy, here’s a list of other films and TV shows that feature the board game in one way or another.

“Geri’s Game” (1997)

An animated short from Pixar, “Geri’s Game” follows an elderly chess lover named Geri who, finding himself alone and surrounded by a sea of empty chessboards, challenges himself to a game. Glasses Geri starts the match and quickly finds a worthy opponent in no-glasses Geri. The match continues with no clear end in sight until glasses Geri resorts to more extreme measures to end the game in his favor. “Geri’s Game” is available on YouTube.

“The Luzhin Defense” (2000)

Based on Vladimir Nabokov’s 1930 novel “The Defense,” the film follows Aleksandr Ivanovich Luzhin (John Turturro), an eccentric chess grandmaster, as he travels to Italy for a tournament and unexpectedly finds the woman who just might be the love of his life. But before the happy couple can marry, the ghosts of Luzhin’s troubled childhood return to him. “The Luzhin Defense” is available to order on Amazon.

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001)

After learning the truth about his magical heritage and beginning his education at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, 11-year-old Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) comes face to face with the evil that orphaned him. He may have survived the encounter that led to Voldemort’s disappearance all those years ago.

But Harry and his trusty companions, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), will need all the help they can get to make it through the trials – the least of which involves a magical game of chess – ahead of them. Based on the first installment of J.K. Rowling’s international bestselling series, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” is available on iTunes and Peacock.

“Brooklyn Castle” (2012)

Directed by Katie Dellamaggiore, this documentary tells the story of I.S. 318, a New York public school serving primarily minority students from families living below the poverty line who had struggled to achieve for years until the school’s stellar chess team began winning national championships right and left.

The team’s success inspires the players and other students alike to seek academic success, but all of their hard-earned work is threatened when a recession hits and budget cuts begin to undermine the team’s ability to continue competing. “Brooklyn Castle” is available on Amazon Prime Video.

“The Dark Horse” (2014)

Based on a true story, “The Dark Horse” follows New Zealander chess champion Genesis Potini (Cliff Curtis), who finds solace after a nervous breakdown through volunteer work, sharing his chess skills with a group of underprivileged children. “The Dark Horse” is available on Tubi and YouTube.

“Pawn Sacrifice” (2014)

Directed by Edward Zwick, “Pawn Sacrifice” follows chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer as his youthful fascination with the game gradually turns into a pathological obsession. “Pawn Sacrifice” is available on Amazon Prime Video.

“Queen of Katwe” (2016)

Raised in the slum Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, 10-year-old Phiona’s (Madina Nalwanga) life changes forever when Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), a visiting missionary, begins teaching the local children the rules of chess. Phiona’s fascination with the game quickly propels her to the top of the group, and as she begins winning competitions, a vision of a brighter future, free from poverty, starts to form. “Queen of Katwe” is available on Disney+.

“Magnus” (2016)

This 2016 documentary film follows Norwegian chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen, who rocketed to the forefront of the chess world after achieving grandmaster status at just 13 and subsequently winning the title of world champion in 2013. “Magnus” is available on Amazon Prime Video.

“Critical Thinking” (2020)

Based on a true story, “Critical Thinking” follows Mario Martinez, a Cuban-American teacher, as he supports his student chess team – each member with their own burdens holding them down – on their way to becoming the first inner-city team to win the U.S. National Chess Championship. “Critical Thinking” is available on Hulu.

“The Queen’s Gambit” (2021)

If you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for? Based on Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel, “The Queen’s Gambit” follows orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) on her way to becoming the world’s top player. “The Queen’s Gambit” is available on Netflix.

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