Watch Smarter

Why Sports in Movies Always Look Fake

And how I, Tonya and Battle of the Sexes got it right.

Watch Smarter is Slate’s series that teaches you to spot hidden tropes in pop culture and beyond. Watch all episodes.

The pain. The grit. The suspense. It’s no wonder the movies love sports. But when it comes to actually portraying the match or performance on screen, movies often get it wrong. What separates a great dramatized display of athleticism from a terrible one?

In this episode of Watch Smarter, Slate’s series about hidden tropes in pop culture and beyond, we examine how certain movies like I, Tonya got it right—and the long, sad history of others that got it very wrong.