In a word:  Struggles

This is an entertaining, well-done movie about personal struggles within two sports stars who lived under the public eye. Folks who’ve been around a while, will remember the much ballyhooed tennis match between the dominant, 29-year-old female star of 1973, and the over-the-hill once-great Bobby Riggs, 55 year-old, who challenged Billie Jean King to a one-on-one match to prove a great man would always beat a great woman on the court.

     There was much more playing out in this docudrama than a mere tennis match, although the fact remains that the event topped the charts as the most watched sports even (then) in history.

     At play was the rise of women’s plight for equality in a time when male professionals earned ten times the dollars than did women, and it appeared their demands were falling on deaf ears until Billie Jean King came along to stand up to the establishment. 

     Once a major tennis star of the 1950’s, Bobby Riggs struggled with being a notorious gambling addict, not to mention an egomaniac who, knowing of the friction between women and men in tennis, concocted an idea to prove women’s tennis would never have the draw power to fans, as do men. He also raised $100,000 as a cash prize to the winner, big bucks in those days. Resistant at first, Ms. King finally acquiesced to the challenge, determined to win, not for a winner-take-all pay check, but to advance the recognition that women athletes deserved.

     It was during this time, that Billie Jean King unexpectedly struggled with her own sexuality, being a married woman who found herself drawn to another woman. While this was an important part of the Billie Jean King’s life story, however I thought the director gave it far too much emphasis during the first half of the picture.

     Regardless, the climax would have brought any cheering stadium to their feet, as Billie Jean King rose to the occasion and set the stage for due recognition in professional women’s tennis that men athletes have always enjoyed. Her efforts, along with many other women stars of that period, ultimately led to the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) where stand-outs like Martina Navratilova, Stefi Graf and Serena Williams rose to dominate the sport.

     Emma Stone is superb as Billie Jean King, as is Steve Carell portraying Riggs. I doubt this will be nominated for any Oscars (unless Emma Stone is recognized) but it’s a good true-life story about real struggles in real people.

     Very good movie, I give it 8.0

Click here: Battle of the Sexes (2017) – IMDb

     For a more detailed history of the rivalry, and other tennis sex rivalries, click:

Click here: Battle of the Sexes (tennis) – Wikipedia


  1. Bill October 7, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

    Sounds like a real snorer. I’ll pass

  2. bob james October 7, 2017 at 7:22 pm #

    Thank you for your thoughtful review Marshall. I remember this “Battle of the Sexes” very well. I played a lot of tennis back then.

    First of all, Bobby Riggs, was a 55 year old heterosexual male, way over the hill for a professional tennis player. Billie Jean King was a 29 year old recently out-of-the-closet lesbian at the top of her game. Anyone who seriously thought this was a defining match between a man and a woman is a naive fool. It was strictly show business. If Bobby and Billie Jean could have played when both were the same age and at the top of their respective games, Riggs would have humiliated her and she knows it.

    Can Carmelita Jeter, the current fastest female runner in the world beat a 55 year old male former world champion sprinter? She probably could. But put her up against Usain Bolt, the current world’s fastest male sprinter and she wouldn’t have a chance.

    I had no interest in the Bobby Riggs vs Billie Jean King side show back then, and in spite of your review, I have even less interest in it now. Not likely I will buy a ticket.

  3. Don G. October 7, 2017 at 9:30 pm #

    It was a serious match. He was 55 and she was 29, not what I would call a meaningful competition! It was entertaining, but proved nothing. A good male college tennis player could beat the very best pro female tennis player. Women cannot play power tennis at the same level as men. It is not without reason they each have their own leagues. I didn’t watch that ridiculous match and won’t watch the movie.

  4. Paul K Rigsbee October 8, 2017 at 1:16 pm #

    I am surprised at the attention to history in Mr. Frank’s commentary and in the subsequent responses by others. Stating that Riggs was a major tennis start of the 1950s is true BUT that is only b/c of WWII which disallowed Riggs to continue his professional tennis career which began in 1941. As a 21-year-old amateur in 1939, Riggs won Wimbledon, the U.S. National Championships (now U.S. Open), and was runner-up at the French Championships.He was one of the few players in history to win “the triple” in the same year (1939) at Wimbledon – Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles.People forget that he challenged Margaret Court, 30 years old and the top female player in the world at the time, to a match on May 13 1973, Mother’s Day, in Ramona, California. Riggs used his drop shots and lobs to keep an unprepared Court off balance and won easily; a 6–2, 6–1 victory in less than an hour. This feat landed him on the cover of both Sports Illustrated and Time magazine which called the match the “Mother’s Day Massacre”. It was after this match that Billie Jean King accepted the same challenge which they played on September 20th of the same year. By her own admission, King admitted to watching the tapes of the Riggs-Court match so as not to fall into the same trap. Clearly she did not, winning resoundingly in straight sets. Thanks for the review Mr. Frank! I was going to see the film before I read your commentary and am now more interested than before.

  5. Eileen October 9, 2017 at 6:01 pm #

    Thanks for the info. I like movies that are entertaining, and this sounds like one of them.

  6. Bill October 10, 2017 at 8:26 am #

    A great event in American history. We are a silly country for sure.