There are a number of songs, films, and other cultural artefacts that use or reference this term, but I can't figure out if it has some kind of idiomatic meaning. Any ideas?

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    Did you, perhaps, hear this from the song "Night Moves," by Bob Seger?
    – user50519
    Jun 24, 2014 at 6:55
  • One idiomatic meaning is the movement of railway rolling stock overnight so it's in the right place for the following morning. But I doubt that's relevant to popular culture.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jun 24, 2014 at 7:24
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    @ Emrakul -- 'Night Moves' is: a 1976 Bob Seger song, a 2013 film about environmental protest, a 1975 film about an unsolved murder, the title of half a dozen TV episodes, a porn site, and a film production company. There's also 'Knight Moves, a 1992 film where Christopher Lambert plays a chess player. I'm not sure if any of these have a common theme.
    – Logan
    Jun 24, 2014 at 8:42

3 Answers 3


The literal meaning is obviously moves that are made at night, as in the lyrics of Bob Seger's song of that name, the specific kind of moves there being sexual ones. But the earliest of the cultural references (listed by Wikipedia) is the 1975 film with that title, and it's reasonable therefore to assume that this is the origin of the phrase in popular culture. In that film, the title is clearly a pun on 'knight moves', since the central character is interested in chess. The knight in that game is the only piece that is capable of jumping over another, so a 'knight move' might be understood metaphorically as some action that is on a different level to those made by other players; or alternately, as one that goes round corners when all others must travel in straight lines, since that is also a characteristic of the chess knight.


Another possible meaning is from the military's habit of moving positions under the cover of night. During my own military career it was a necessarily common (although loathed) training exercise to move to a new position during the night. These exercises were frequently also literally called "night moves".


The way a night moves on the chess board. There's a 1992 movie called night moves where the killer draws a chess board over the map of the city. He takes an old game that was played at a tournament and he kills whereever the knight landed in that game.

  • The question mentions "a number of songs, films, and other cultural artefacts that use or reference this term". Your answer points to a single instance of the use of the term, and one that is, itself, a play on the earlier uses of the term. It would have been more useful if it had included the results of more research and specific references to source materials.
    – user193445
    Sep 22, 2016 at 2:54

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