February 11, 2010 17:43

Chess in cinema - the ultimate collection

Chess in filmsChess is often represented in films. Sometimes merely as decoration, often with a deeper, symbolic meaning. In Hollywood the connotation of chess seems to be that of the lonely, disturbed man, seeking pastime and consolation in the royal game. One YouTube user has collected a great number of chess scenes in four videos.

The user FightLuX posted four "Chess Rhapsodies" on YouTube. The music might not be a treat to anyone's ears, but the collection is impressive:

Update June 1, 2011: the videos are not available anymore on YouTube, but they've been cross-posted on Vimeo:

CHESS RHAPSODY 1 - Movies from 1925 to 1968 from Lucius Etruscus on Vimeo.

0:04 - "Shakhmatnaya goryachka" directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin
0:12 - "Monkey Business", with Marx Brothers
0:18 - "The Black Cat" by Edgar G. Ulmer, with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi
0:20 - "The Great Dictator" by Charlie Chaplin
0:21 - "The Thief of Baghdad" by Ludwig Berger
0:22 - "The Mark of Zorro" by Rouben Mamoulian with Tyrone Power
0:23 - "The Sea Hawk" by Michael Curtiz
0:25 - "Casablanca" by Michael Curtiz with Humphrey Bogart
0:27 - "Keeper of the Flame" by George Cukor with Spencer Tracy
0:28 - "To Be or Not to Be" by Ernst Lubitsch
0:29 - "Sherlock Holmes Faces Death" by Roy William Neill
0:33 - "Ivan Groznyj" by Sergej Michajlovic Ejsenštejn
0:35 - "La belle et la b?te" by Jean Cocteau
0:36 - "Knocking on Any Door" by Nicholas Ray with Humphrey Bogart
0:39 - "Quo Vadis" by Mervyn LeRoy with Robert Taylor
0:42 - "Angel Face" by Otto Preminger
0:45 - "Det Sjunde inseglet" by Ingmar Bergman with Max Von Sydow
0:52 - "Ascenseur pour léchafaud" by Louis Malle
0:53 - "The Diary of Anne Frank" by George Stevens
0:54 - "Exodus" by Otto Preminger
0:55 - "Lolita" by Stanley Kubrick with James Mason
0:56 - "From Russia with Love" by Terence Young
0:59 - "Becket" by Peter Glenville
1:03 - "Woman of Straw" by Basil Dearden with Sean Connery
1:07 - "Whats New Pussycat" by Clive Donner with Woody Allen
1:12 - "Zatoichi Jigoku tabi" by Kenji Misumi
1:16 - "Tony Rome" by Gordon Douglas with Frank Sinatra
1:20 - "Dance of the Vampires" by Roman Polanski
1:23 - "The Thomas Crown Affair" by Norman Jewison with Steve McQueen

CHESS RHAPSODY 2 - Movies from 1968 to 1995 from Lucius Etruscus on Vimeo.

0:03 - "Straw Dogs" directed by Sam Peckinpah with Dustin Hoffman
0:07 - "Vamos a matar, compa?eros" by Sergio Corbucci
0:08 - "Lassie: The Adventures of Neeka" by Jack B. Hively
0:09 - "The Omega Man" by Boris Sagal with Charlton Heston
0:11 - "Blazing Saddles" by Mel Brooks with Gene Wilder
0:13 - "La plus longue nuit du diable" by Jean Brismée
0:16 - "Night Moves" by Arthur Penn with Gene Hackman
0:23 - "Io sono un autarchico" by Nanni Moretti
0:29 - "The Wild Geese" by Andrew V. McLaglen
0:31 - "Il gatto" by Luigi Comencini
0:36 - "The Lady Vanishes" by Anthony Page with Elliott Gould
0:37 - "Fantozzi contro tutti" by Neri Parenti
0:40 - "History of the World: Part I" by Mel Brooks
0:52 - "Aus dem Leben der Marionetten" by Ingmar Bergman
0:55 - "Blade Runner" by Ridley Scott with Rutger Hauer
0:58 - "Fanny och Alexander" by Ingmar Bergman
0:59 - "The Thing" by John Carpenter with Kurt Russell
1:08 - "A Midsummer Nights Sex Comedy" by Woody Allen
1:11 - "Bingo Bongo" by Pasquale Festa Campanile with Adriano Celentano
1:19 - "The Jigsaw Man" by Terence Young
1:22 - "Nineteen Eighty-Four" by Michael Radofrd
1:24 - "Revenge of the Nerds" by Jeff Kanew
1:27 - "La diagonale du fou" by Richard Dembo with Michel Piccoli
1:42 - "Lattrazione" by Mario Gariazzo
1:49 - "Dekalog, jeden" by Krzysztof Kieslowski
1:54 - "Rambo III" by Peter MacDonald
1:56 - "M.A.R.K.-13 - Hardware" by Richard Stanley
1:57 - "Europa" by Lars von Trier
1:58 - "The Silence of the Lambs" by Jonathan Demme
1:59 - "The Addams Family" by Barry Sonnenfield with Raul Julia
2:04 - "Knight Moves" by Carl Schenkel with Christopher Lambert
2:11 - "Caino e Caino" by Alessandro Benvenuti
2:16 - "Searching for Bobby Fischer" by Steven Zaillian
2:26 - "Grumpy Old Men" by Donald Petrie with Jack Lemmon
2:28 - "Botte di Natale" by Terence Hill
2:40 - "Men of War" by Perry Lang with Dolph Lundgren
2:42 - "Sugar Hill" by Leon Ichaso
2:44 - "Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult" by Peter Segal with Leslie Nielsen
2:48 - "Assassins" by Richard Donner with Sylvester Stallone
2:54 - "Canadian Bacon" by Michael Moore
2:57 - "Othello" by Oliver Parker with Kenneth Branagh

CHESS RHAPSODY 3 - Movies from 1995 to 2005 from Lucius Etruscus on Vimeo.

0:04 - "Checkmate" [porno!] by Dyanna Lauren
0:15 - "Ridicule" by Patrice Leconte
0:20 - "Sabotage" by Tibor Takács with Mark Dacascos
0:24 - "Independence Day" by Roland Emmerich with Jeff Goldblum
0:30 - "Shine" by Scott Hicks
0:32 - "Summer of Fear" by Mike Robe
0:37 - "George of the Jungle" by Sam Weisman
0:39 - "Le comte de Monte Cristo" by J. Dayan with Gérard Depardieu
0:43 - "Train de vie" by Radu Mihaileanu
0:48 - "Bicentennial Man" by Chris Columbus with Robin Williams
0:54 - "The Spy Who Shagged Me" by Jay Roach with Mike Myers
1:11 - "Virus" by John Bruno
1:15 - "The Luzhin Defence" by Marleen Gorris with John Turturro
1:29 - "X-Men" by Bryan Singer
1:36 - "Black Hawk Down" by Ridley Scott
1:37 - "Black Knight" by Gil Junger with Martin Lawrence
1:40 - "Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone" by Chris Columbus
1:48 - "The Last Castle" by Rod Lurie
1:50 - "La regina degli scacchi" by Claudia Florio
2:10 - "Scacco alla Regina" [porno!] by Riccardo Schicchi with Eva Henger
2:30 - "The Navigators" by Ken Loach
2:31 - "Zoolander" [extra bonus in DVD!]
2:32 - "Two Weeks Notice" by Marc Lawrence with Hugh Grant
2:33 - "Global Effect" by Terry Cunningham
2:35 - "Moscow Heat" by Jeff Celentano with Michael York
2:42 - "Il Paradiso allimprovviso" by Leonardo Pieraccioni with Alessandro Haber
2:56 - "Out of Reach" by Po-Chih Leong
3:00 - "The Chronicles of Riddick" by David Twohy
3:02 - "In Enemy Hands" by Tony Giglio
3:06 - "A Love Song for Bobby Long" by Shainee Gabel
3:11 - "Five Fingers" by Laurence Malkin
3:16 - "La terza stella" by Alberto Ferrari
3:19 - "Kingdom of Heaven" by Ridley Scott
3:21 - "Oliver Twist" by Roman Polanski
3:22 - "Revolver" by Guy Ritchie with Jason Statham

CHESS RHAPSODY 4 - TV-Movies from 1966 to 2008 from Lucius Etruscus on Vimeo.

0:04 - Star Trek TOS (1x01)
0:11 - The Prisoner (1x09)
0:17 - Columbo (2x07)
0:19 - Happy Days (1x01)
0:21 - The Bionic Woman (2x07)
0:27 - Three's Company (3x02)
0:32 - Hart to Hart (1x18)
0:36 - Family Ties (4x20)
0:46 - MacGyver (1x21)
0:57 - Murder, She Wrote (2x17)
1:02 - Cheers (5x15)
1:07 - Major Dad (1x08)
1:16 - Cheers (8x19)
1:21 - Twin Peaks (2x14)
1:29 - Hart to Hart (6x04)
1:34 - Frasier (3x18)
1:39 - OZ (1x03)
1:40 - Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (1x18)
1:44 - OZ (2x05)
1:49 - The Pretender (3x19)
1:54 - Profiler (3x19)
1:56 - Stargate SG1 (3x18)
2:04 - Compagni di scuola (1x20)
2:09 - Friends (7x21)
2:20 - That 70s Show (4x01)
2:23 - Judging Amy (3x19)
2:27 - The West Wing (3x14)
2:30 - Joan of Arcadia (1x03)
2:32 - Malcolm in the Middle (4x19)
2:36 - Less Than Perfect (1x20)
2:38 - Coupling (4x03)
2:41 - My Wife and Kids (4x26)
2:43 - CSI: New York (2x04)
2:51 - Law & Order, Criminal Intent (4x11)
2:54 - Numb3rs (2x05)
2:58 - Star Trek Enterprise (4x11)
3:01 - In Justice (1x13)
3:03 - According to Jim (5x17)
3:04 - Smallville (5x19)
3:06 - House, M.D. (3x23)
3:10 - Hannah Montana (2x04)
3:12 - Lost (3x11)
3:17 - Tudors (1x01)
3:22 - Numb3rs (4x14)
3:26 - Don Matteo (6x22)
3:27 - Terminator: The Sarah Connors Chronicles (1x05)

CHESS RHAPSODY 5 - Other movies, from 1916 to 2004 from Lucius Etruscus on Vimeo.

Furthermore, the info of the YouTube user refers to a website (in Italian) with a large collection of chess in films, telefilms, videoclips, TV shows, commercials, animations and cartoons. Is there any other board game that's represented so much in our culture?

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


Arne Moll's picture

@Amnesik: Bergman's movie is in the first one (0:45), but Kubrick is indeed only represented with Lolita.

Ron's picture

2001 is one of the best chess scenes in movies so strange he missed it

Nemozyne's picture

Someone is very patient, and has done a lot of work!

Bonus question: how many of those boards are set up with a dark square in the right-hand corner?

There are a few.


repsacccer's picture

Where's Bladerunner ?

repsacccer's picture

Nvm :) it's there, forgot the space.

moo's picture

Awesome collection and the music was good too despite what the author of the article implied.

Kronos's picture

It is amazing to be reminded to these movies and tv productiones! Thank you for this contribution.
But what a pity to miss "Schachnovelle" ("Chess story "by Stefan Zweig) one of the most impressive movies about chess

Janis Nisii's picture

There's also a #5 ! You should post that one too, it's awesome!
I was impressed at how many Italian movies were included, then I noticed the guy is from Rome. :)

Arne Moll's picture

Wow, that is a pretty impressive list. I guess it's already a bit outdated, since it doesn't include the recent movie 'Righteous Kill' with Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. Otherwise, it looks rather complete.

Bert de Bruut's picture

Hats off for FightLux!

Meppie's picture

And "Lang Leve de Koningin" with Monique vd Ven! (Dutch movie for children).

vaughn's picture

“Checkmate” [porno!] by Dyanna Lauren :))))))))))))))) oh ya!!!!!!!!

Amnesik's picture

I don't see in the list "2001 a space odyssey" from Kubrick, neither "Det Sjunde inseglet" from Bergman…

Amnesik's picture

… but anyway an impressive work

noone's picture

Is anybody else finding youtube to be very slow?

Amnesik's picture

Sorry, I missed it, too speed ;-)

amazing "prise en passant" by Woody Allen !

Eric's picture

Don't miss the movie, Fresh (1994) with Sean Nelson, Giancarlo Esposito and Samuel L. Jackson. Written and directed by Boaz Yakin.


The streetwise drug-pushing boy, Fresh (Nelson), bonds with his chess-hustling father, Sam (Jackson), through meetings at an outdoor chess table in a park (similar to Washington Square in New York). Any serious chessplayer will be intrigued by the following unique subplot: Mid-way through the movie, Fresh plays through a game of chess on an ordinary chess set at home. White and Black represent the two gangs in the movie, each piece a specific gang member (for example, each King represents a gangleader). Each move Fresh makes with his set represents and foreshadows behavior by one of the gang members in the next segment of the film.

Arne Moll's picture

Actually the accompanying music is not so bad either, a modern version of Rachmaninoff's famous Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

CAL|Daniel's picture

I didn't see Lucky Number Slevin in the list either (but still extremely impressive list!).

Nemozyne's picture

The best filmed depiction of a chess player is missing, though:

Schwarz und Weiß wie Tage und Nächte, with Bruno Ganz.


Amnesik's picture

We may also mention "Ghost dog" from Jim Jarmusch with an ice-cream seller playing chess (Isaac de Bankolé) with a samuraï (Forest Withaker), no ?

test's picture

Lol, a list like that will never be complete.
Where is the movie "Joueuse" (2009), which is ABOUT chess...

unknown's picture

@Amnesik - There's Bergman's movie "Seventh seal" (“Det Sjunde inseglet” ) in Rhapsody 1 about 45 sec.

unknown's picture

I also recommend:

"Luzhin Defence" with John Torturro and Emily Watson: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0211492/

and Oscar prize's winner "La diagonale du fou": http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087144/

Carl's picture

Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players), by Satyajit Ray. An Indian masterpiece. They invented the game, they should be represented...

Antichrist's picture


Actually, it was proven about 6-8 months ago that chess first originated in China. An archaeologist did an extensive study on this subject, unfortunately I forgot his name.

test's picture

I often notice a chess board in movies, recent ones too. I have always regretted not making a list and now it is too late to start having missed and forgotten the name of so many already.

There are some series on the list but Seinfeld is missing. There are several episodes that feature chess prominently:
George Costanza playing chess
Seinfeld - Chess Game (Penis vs Brain) HQ
Seinfeld On Chess

Nemozyne's picture

Torturro did make some tortured (sorry) moves in one of the compilations!

Zee's picture

I think Chess (at least recognizably modern form) was invented in India, but not to argue. Here are some nice chess movies from the orient:

Zatoichi and the Chess Expert
Ninja Checkmate
Chess Boxing (various movies with this phrase in the title)

computer's picture

I couldn't resist commenting. Perfectly written!

Zee's picture

Strange, the original list is far from complete: Here are a few more movies that came up in a Wikipedia search:

Crazy as hell
Swept from the Sea
Chess nuts
Queen of Hearts
Magnificent butcher

Radical Caveman's picture

The first three were great...the T.V. one was less interesting. I suspect the 2001 chess bit doesn't go over as well without the sound (i.e., HAL9000 telling Dave he's missed it); maybe that's why it was omitted.

Rob Brown's picture

Lose the crappy disco music track. Yuck!

Jagdish Dube.'s picture

Dear Peter Doggers,This article is posted to facebook a few minutes back as I liked it very much.Please feel Happy.

theun de groot's picture

Exactly FRESH, 1 of the most underestimated movies ever

Arne Moll's picture

@Antichrist. Please first provide us the source of the 'proof' for the fact that chess originated in China, and then start correcting others, otherwise you run the risk of making an extremely silly impression.

SXL's picture

Who knows where chess was invented, it certainly spread out fast enough.

We should pay more attention to where we're going, and less on claiming everything originated on home turf. :-)

Guillaume's picture

Do you guys know the website whatthemovie.com? The purpose of the game is to guess from which movie a screenshot is taken. The solution is disclosed a month after a screenshot has been accepted; and guessing the movie before that happens gives one point. It is really quite funny, and everybody is welcome to submit screenshots.

They have recently implemented tags for screenshot. Here is the tag search for "chess".


The last four movies have yet to be disclosed. One of them is quite easy, but what about the other three?

Jens Kristiansen's picture

These are for sure some fine videos by this mysterious "FightLux". A joy and a pleasure to watch - many times!
But it is not an "Ultimate" collection, and quite likely it does not pretend to be that.
I remind you of Bob Basalla´s book "Chess in the Movies" from 2005. It has about 2000 entries, but still some reviewers mentioned titles that were missing.

ChessGirl's picture

I love "The Luzhin Defence"! The book by Nabokov is actually very beautifully written.

And I love Phoebe Bufet's chess style, I bet she and I could be pretty even oponents ^^

Turm's picture

Where's "Sleuth"

name's picture

Nice compilation!

Good to see my favorite, the McQueen-Dunaway chess scene / romance prelude in The Thomas Crown Affair

To add one I didn't see ...
an episode of the 60's television show, Lost In Space, had the "superior alien" challenge the crew to a game of chess. They had the "boy" face off against the alien.


voyteck's picture

"Cube Zero", "Bad company"...

Eric's picture

Here is another example I found by running The Fugitive, Season 2 Volume 1 DVD backward and forward a few times:

Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0584039

The Fugitive (TV, original series, 1963-1967). Episode: "Tug of War", written by Daniel B. Ullman,
Original Air Date: 27 October 1964 (Season 2, Episode 7, Act III)

David Janssen is in the role of Doctor Richard Kimble.
Veteran character actor Arthur O'Connell is in the role of retired Sheriff Samuel Cole.
In the background, actor Don Gordon appears as Sheriff Morgan Fallon.

They've been traveling in the Idaho (USA) wilderness, and they stop for a rest. Cole pulls out his magnetic pocket chess set, which has the position of a game in progress. (Think of the classic 1960s set that had icons of chess pieces mounted on button-sized discs: black piece icons on white discs and white piece icons on red discs, with the vinyl board folding in half into a purse that holds the chess pieces, similar to today's "checkbook" sets.)

There's one small mistake: We see the board from Black's point of view, yet the algebraic markings on the board show that the man playing Black has the A1 square (not H8 -- yes, the printed letters are capitalized) to his near left. The board is reversed 180 degrees, and it's not a case of the film being reversed. If we were to assume that the board was in its correct position, the following position would occur, and the game would end as played:

(Samuel Cole, captor) White: Kh1, Qf1, Rf3, Pa3, Pa4, Ph2

(Kimble, captive) Black: Ke8, Qe4, Ne5, Ph3, Pa5

Kimble: (mellow theme music playing) I've been thinking about this move all day.

(moves 1. ... Qe4xf3+)


Cole: (looks at board, puts hand to chin, takes hand away from chin, starts to move 2. Kh1-g1, but moves the white K back to h1.) [Rybka3: 2. Kg1?? Qe3+! (-16.21)]

Well, I could fool around, but I'd eventually get to making this move. I might just as well make it now.

(moves 2. Qf1xf3)

Kimble: (smiles in recognition of what's in store in the game) You didn't buy it, did you?

Cole: (smiles in recognition of what's in store in the game) I came close.

Kimble: (nods)

(moves 2. ... Ne5xf3 = stalemate)

Looks like a stalemate.

Cole: Stalemate. It's a long time, very long time since that happened to me, Doctor.

(They look each other in the eyes out of mutual respect)

Kimble: I was lucky. You're a very fine player.

Cole: You know better than that. It was a good match. Thank you.

Kimble: My pleasure.

Castro's picture


(By now, you have already everything to know I'm not a vicious guy, and so pls don't take it as agression or superiority mania)

«@Antichrist. Please first provide us the source of the ‘proof’ for the fact that chess originated in China, and then start correcting others, otherwise you run the risk of making an extremely silly impression»

Sorry, you're wrong on this.
Well, any of us is always "in risk", because considering something silly can be subjective (and so, sometimes unfair), but I think here he does not increase his "share" of that risk.
He is saying what he says he knows. He also says he doesn't recall the source.
In short, he puts himself "in our hands".
We can 1. Simply believe him; 2. Simply disbelieve him; 3. Ignore him 4. Pospone our decision.
Saying he should have been quiet (because he doesn't right away present proofs) can be THE silly thing here! :-)
What about demanding those proofs everytime someone says "India"?
"Antichrist" would only be fairly considered silly IF someone is going to check it AND it was found that he is untrue.
But that is something obvious,implicitly accepted, within his freedom and responsability and, all in all, very common. Surelly NOT something increasingly silly to risk per se.
Other types (hence frivolous) of silly acusations are themselves "unreasonable silly risks" and should rebounce to whoever produces them.

This kind of "moral dilemmas" are very interesting. Sometimes they can even be serious. For instance, when, in a court of law, you moraly must say something for your defense (or someone else's defense), but you cannot fulfil all the demands that the law will, then, enforce on you.

FairUseLaw's picture

The videos were wrongly taken down by youtube for "terms of use violation." This is a sad example of copyfraud, or the illegal misuse of copyright law to stifle legitimate fair use. The videos contained tiny clips of only a few seconds from each movie, and are the equivalent of scholarly quotations. They all definitely fall within the realm of "fair use." Shame on youtube for what amounts to illegal censorship. I hope FightLux reposts all the videos with a short message quoting fair use law:

"§ 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright."


Michael's picture

Really nice collection, too bad that youtube deleted it :(

hans's picture

Sorry for you all, inclusive Bob Basalla but my list
contains 3660 movies with 70 % coverage by
movie photo's, Screen captures and/or video´s.
Besides that a library with more than 300 tv series
screen captures. I was the biggest supplier of the side Schach im Kino, That costed a lot of time, but every week at least a new movie titel including chess scene is coming in.

Hans's picture

Three weeks ago I was writing that my list of chess movies contained 3660 titels. Now my list covers 3678 titels. Nobody seemed to be interested.

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