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Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Reviewed by on Sep 28, 2017
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Kidzworld saw the Emma Stone movie Battle of the Sexes. Is it a well-acted recreation of a tennis event that represented the 1960’s and ‘70’s battle for women’s rights? Check our movie review.

By: Lynn Barker

In Battle of the Sexes, It’s the early 1970’s and Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) is riding high as the women’s singles world-wide tennis champ. She has a great husband but rarely sees him due to being on tour. She is also denying her feelings for women. Hey, it’s the 1970’s and women’s rights are at the forefront, not who is “allowed” to love who. When older player Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), who has won his share of championships in the past, challenges Billie Jean to a match to prove that he, a guy, can beat any woman, Billie Jean, a fighter for equal rights and pay for women, can’t say no.

Gladys and Billie Jean fight for equal payGladys and Billie Jean fight for equal payCourtesy of Fox Searchlight

Champion for Women

Billie Jean King whose hubby is handsome Larry King (Austin Stowell), wins the 1972 U.S. Open championship and is furious when tennis promoter Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) announces a tournament offering way less pay for the women players than the men. A meeting with him reveals that he feels that women are way less exciting to watch etc. With publicist Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman) in her corner, Billie Jean pulls out of Jack’s tournament and says she will start one of her own.

Marilyn and Larry talk about Billie JeanMarilyn and Larry talk about Billie JeanCourtesy of Fox Searchlight

Billie Jean and Bobby talk after the matchBillie Jean and Bobby talk after the matchCourtesy of Fox Searchlight

Enter Bobby and Marilyn

Once a big men’s tennis champ but now working for wife Priscilla’s (Elizabeth Shue) dad, Bobby Riggs has a huge gambling problem that is threatening his marriage. He talks male supremacy and does crazy stunts for money. When his friends suggest he challenge Billie Jean King to a match, he does so. She thinks he’s crazy and refuses so he plays Australian tennis star Margaret Court whom he beats. Billie Jean and nine major female tennis stars form the WTA (Women’s Tennis Assn.) and get cigarette company Virginia Slims to sponsor it. Before a photo shoot, Billie Jean meets hairdresser Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough) who flirts with her and makes some moves. They start a secret affair.

Billie Jean meets hairdresser MarilynBillie Jean meets hairdresser MarilynCourtesy of Fox Searchlight

Leading to the Match

Bobby’s wife catches him gambling, is embarrassed by all his talk against women and the silly stunts he pulls and throws him out. Meanwhile, Billie Jean’s husband Larry figures out that she and Marilyn are a couple behind his back. He still helps Billie Jean ice her knees after a match but talks with Marilyn telling her “We are both sideshows. Don’t get between Billie and her game”. Marilyn leaves the tour and Billie decides to play Bobby to prove that women are equal if not superior at tennis.

Bobby begs his wife not to kick him outBobby begs his wife not to kick him outCourtesy of Fox Searchlight

The Battle of the Sexes

Billie trains almost 24/7 for the match. She is exhausted and confused about her personal life as well. Bobby continues with his crazy stunts and gets Billie onboard reluctantly, for some of them while taking an insane amount of vitamins and minerals. After all he is in his 50’s and Billie is 29. The other female players worry that Billie Jean can’t win. She has enormous pressure on her. Larry even gets Marilyn to come back to give Billie support, secretly of course. The match is played at the Houston Astrodome and it is amazing. At first it appears that Bobby might win but Billie creams him and the place goes wild! Afterwards Billie breaks down and cries alone in the locker room. Too much pressure!  

The Battle of the Sexes at the Houston AstrodomeThe Battle of the Sexes at the Houston AstrodomeCourtesy of Fox Searchlight


We are told that Bobby and his wife stayed together for many years, Billie is still great friends with Larry and she and her life partner Ilana are joint godmothers to his kids with his second wife.

Emma Stone with the Billie Jean at the 2017 US open in New YorkEmma with the Billie Jean at the 2017 US open in New YorkCourtesy of Fox Searchlight

Wrapping Up

Battle of the Sexes is exciting, sometimes funny and both Emma, as Billie Jean and Steve Carell as Bobby give wonderful performances! All the supporting actors are well-cast and great as well. Also, whether it’s Emma and Steve, their doubles or CGI playing the actual match, it’s exciting as heck to watch.

Billie Jean and WTA members watch Bobby beat MargaretBillie Jean and WTA members watch Bobby beat MargaretCourtesy of Fox Searchlight

Young people who have only heard or read about “Women’s Lib” or the fight for equality in the 1960’s and ‘70’s really need to see this film. The world wasn’t always as liberal as it is today. Back then, LGBTQ (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) people had to live lives that weren’t true to who they were. Many still feel they have to do so today of course but in Billie Jean’s era, such an admission ruined careers, broke up families etc. far more often.

Billie Jean and Bobby seal the match dealBillie Jean and Bobby seal the match dealCourtesy of Fox Searchlight

Women still fight for equal pay for equal jobs but it took pioneers like Billie Jean to bring attention to the problem and begin the fight for the money and respect.  Yes, this is a movie about tennis players and a male vs. female match that was a part of history but it is a lot more. You will be entertained while you take a closer look at a far more uptight time in which discrimination against women ran way more rampant. We can go four stars.

Battle of the Sexes Movie Rating:  4

Battle of the Sexes Movie PosterBattle of the Sexes Movie PosterCourtesy of Fox Searchlight

See Battle of the Sexes in theaters now!


Have Your Say

Do you feel that male and female sports figures should be given equal pay and respect? Are you an Emma Stone or Steve Carell fan? Lob over a comment below.