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How 2017 changed the game for female athletes on the big screen

Emma Stone in
Emma Stone in "Battle of the Sexes."

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With three big movies out this year chronicling the lives and careers of female athletes (Molly’s Game, Battle of the Sexes, & I, Tonya), we reflect on both traditional and unorthodox portrayals of women in sports films.

Movies centering around a particular sport or athlete generally involve themes of perseverance, physical strength and hard-earned wins, but most of the time the characters in these films are men. Google “Best sports films” and prepare to find a constant rotation of “Rocky,” “The Mighty Ducks,” “Rudy,” “Raging Bull,” “Chariots of Fire,” and the list goes on, so for 2017 to release not one, but three highly acclaimed feature films focusing on female athletes is a notable change in Hollywood pace.

Guest host Alex Cohen and the FilmWeek critics are joined by UCLA’s Film, Television and Digital Media department chair Kathleen McHugh to discuss the shift, where it originated from and how it’s affected the content of future films.


Kathleen McHugh, chair of the Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media and professor of English at UCLA

Amy Nicholson, film critic for KPCC and host of The Canon podcast; she tweets @TheAmyNicholson

Andy Klein, KPCC film critic

Wade Major, film critic for KPCC and