Battle of the Sexes

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Not recommended under 14, parental guidance to 14 (lack of interest for young children, and themes and sexual references which make it more suited to older viewers)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Battle of the Sexes
  • a review of Battle of the Sexes completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 5 October 2017.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not recommended due to lack of interest for young children and themes and sexual references which make it more suited to older viewers.
Children aged 14 Parental guidance recommended due to themes and sexual references.
Viewers 15 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Battle of the Sexes
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes, sexual references and coarse language
Length: 121 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

In 1973, the world’s number one tennis champion, Billy Jean King (Emma Stone) is disgusted to learn that female players are only being offered one eighth of what the men will receive and she and friend Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman) decide to boycott the tournament and establish a female tennis circuit of their own. It is during this time that Billy Jean must confront her own feelings for the team’s hairdresser Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough) who is clearly in love with her despite the fact that Billy Jean’s devoted husband Larry (Austin Stowell) is waiting in the wings.

Meanwhile retired tennis champion Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), bored with the mundane and predictable life he shares with his wife Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue), comes up with a plan to put himself back in the spotlight again. Playing up his role as a self- proclaimed chauvinist pig, he gives the media much to talk about while trying to prove that men are simply better than women.

At first Billy Jean refuses to play Riggs but when the Australian champion Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee) endures a crushing defeat she feels she has no choice but to play Riggs to put him in his place and to prove, if nothing else, that women deserve the same respect as men. It is an epic battle – not just a game of tennis, but a fight for fairness and equality and the right to be who you truly are.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Gender inequality and sexism; homosexuality; infidelity; gambling addiction

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

Some verbal arguments

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

There is nothing in this film that is likely to scare children of any age

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Virginia Slims cigarettes are promoted throughout the film as that company funded the female tennis tour. Various female players are shown smoking throughout the film and the team’s manager openly encourages them to do so.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Billy Jean and the other female players talk about going on a sex strike in addition to their boycott of the pro tennis circuit. They talk about how much some of them would miss it.
  • In a scene pulsating with sexual tension Marilyn turns to Billy Jean and tells her that “it must be intoxicating being inside your skin.”
  • When Marilyn asks Billy Jean if she can kiss her she responds by saying that she has "only ever been with Larry.”

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Marilyn is seen wearing only panties as she goes from the bed to the bathroom.
  • There is a sex scene between Marilyn and Billy Jean in which they kiss passionately, take off their clothes (underpants remain on) and lie in bed together, breathing heavily and continuing to kiss and touch each other. Sex is implied but not shown.
  • Billy Jean says that whatever she feels for Marilyn she can’t act on. This resolve does not last long and she soon finds herself in Marilyn’s bed passionately kissing her again.
  • Marilyn and Billy Jean continue to sleep together in various hotels along the tour.
  • Bobby poses nude for a photo shoot, claiming that it is his third nude shoot of the day.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Frequent cigarette smoking
  • The women go out to a bar one night and everyone is drinking
  • Marilyn shares champagne with Billy Jean
  • Bobby takes frequent supplements before the final tennis match. They are promoted as vitamin or energy pills but their content is unclear.
  • One of Bobby Riggs’ slogans reads: “Whiskey, women and Riggs”

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including sexist language. Women are repeatedly referred to throughout the film in a very condescending manner:

  • Fairly regular use of words such as “damn,” “damn it,” “god damn,” “shit,” shut up” and “hell.” Women are also repeatedly referred to throughout the film in a very condescending manner.
  • Billy Jean’s manager asks Kruger why she is not welcome. “Is it because I am a Jew or because I am a woman?”
  • Bobby tells the media that the group of pretty girls surrounding him are going to come home with him and that they are going to do his laundry.
  • Bobby explains that he has nothing against women and that he “loves them in the bedroom and the kitchen,” and that all women should head back to the kitchen where they belong.

In a nutshell

Battle of the Sexes is based on a true story. It will appeal to mature audiences who can appreciate the humour and understand the significance of the events depicted in the film. It lacks interest for younger children and, due to themes and sexual references, is best suited to viewers 15 and over.

The main messages from this movie are to believe in yourself and the power of your dreams and to never back down even if half the world is telling you that you will never succeed.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • persistence, determination, hard work, team spirit and creativity.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as.

  • Putting others down and belittling the value of a person based on their gender, their culture or their religion. When half the world is denied equal rights and opportunities true progress is unattainable. Billy Jean proved to everyone that women are not a joke and they deserve the same respect as men.
  • The effects of gambling. Bobby was a gambler and while he initially won and continued to win, in the end his biggest gamble resulted in a crushing defeat of his personal beliefs and the loss of his family.
  • Infidelity. Billy Jean had an affair with Marilyn despite the fact that she was married at the time. The consequences of this are not clearly portrayed.