A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Many positive messages, including that anything is possible if you believe in yourself (and have love and support), we must help those who need us, and everyone deserves a chance to learn. Themes include empathy, humility, integrity, perseverance, and teamwork.
Positive Role Models
Phiona is strong, smart, loyal to her family and friends, and focused on what she needs to do to become a better chess player. She works hard helping her mother care for her younger siblings and selling maize to passing cars on the street. Robert works very hard for the kids in chess club, even taking some of them into his home. He turns down a good job because of his loyalty to them. Harriet is somewhat hard on her children, but she must keep them safe and fed on her own.
Violence & Scariness
A boy is run over by a motorcycle; here's no ambulance to call, and it's initially unclear whether he's alive. He later gets stitches with no pain killers, and he screams in pain. A toddler is almost washed away in a flash flood. The central family is homeless; they walk through a bad area at night and sleep on the street. Harriet grabs her children by the ears and drags them away. She threatens to hurt her daughter's boyfriend and destroy his motorcycle if he doesn't stay away from her. Robert recalls when his mother left him and came back, got sick and then died. Tense scene in which Harriet might be forced to compromise herself for money. Children are nervous and crying when they go to a chess tournament at a fancy school.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Phiona's sister is lured away from her family by a man. She gives the family money, but her mother doesn't want to take it because it was from the daughter's boyfriend. Mother says the girl is "sinning" herself. Sister is pregnant, and Phiona worries that it's a matter of time before the men come after her. Harriet flirts with a shop owner and she's propositioned (nothing comes of it).
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Some kids tell Phiona she smells like a pig. Kids are called slum children. "Oh my God."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adult characters drink and smoke briefly in a few scenes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Queen of Katwe is the inspiring true story of a girl from the slums of Uganda who becomes a chess champion. It has strong themes of empathy, humility, integrity, perseverance, and teamwork. But there are also many hard scenes that little kids might not understand -- or could be upset by -- making it best for tweens and up. A boy who's run over by a motorcycle gets stitches without painkillers, another child is almost swept away in a flash flood, and a teen girl is lured from her family by an untrustworthy man who promises her a better life. The central family is homeless and must sleep on the street, and some scenes include background drinking and smoking. But in the end this is a beautifully told, entertaining drama about a strong, smart, loyal girl that will give families a lot to talk about. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding), this inspiring drama manages to both capture the hardship of living in a Ugandan slum and work as a feel-good Disney movie. Nalwanga is subtle and powerful as Phiona, a girl who's just learning what's possible -- and also realizing how difficult it will be to rise above her circumstances. It's a movie about chess, but it's also about struggle, and the messages it's trying to send aren't subtle: You can do anything if you try and have love and support. But Queen of Katwe isn't just Phiona's story, and that's party of why it's so good. Her widowed mother, Harriet (Nyong'o), struggles to keep the family fed and sheltered while also keeping her dignity. And Oyelowo is lovely as the coach trying to keep the chess team going -- fighting to get funding and opportunities -- while at the same time feeling a responsibility to provide for his own family.
Families will have so much to talk about after watching this film. It doesn't "Disney-fy" the hardships of being poor in Uganda. There's a terrifying scene in which a boy is run over by a motorcycle and another when a toddler is almost swept away by a flood after rain drenches his roofless shelter. That kind of stuff makes the movie a bit too intense for younger elementary schoolers, but tweens and up should definitely see it. It's a hopeful glimpse into someone else's world that they might not know about. Phiona is a real person, and at the end of movie you get to see the people the actors portrayed and what's become of them since the end of the story -- an extra dash of inspiration.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.