Emma Stone and Steve Carell in Battle of the Sexes (TIFF)

Thank God for feminism and the million awkward conversations it kicked off. And for the world it helped create: a place where women vote, earn money, and talk back to smug, nasty people who try to drag them down. Two very different films look back at feminism in its fresh and exciting 1970s heyday, when a force pushed women to excel in the world and freed them to satisfy long-denied desires.

Retro pop culture and big-money sports pump up Battle of the Sexes. Breezy and fun, it’s easily one of 2017’s best mainstream movies. The film re-creates the moment in 1973 when aging ham-and-egger circuit player and male chauvinist Bobby Riggs challenges women’s tennis champion Billie Jean King to an exhibition match, a showdown where he aims to prove that women can’t handle the pressure against a man. Riggs’s timing is perfect. King seizes on the dare knowing that victory will boost her mission to create a women’s tennis circuit tennis on an equal footing with the men’s—and prove women can win, too.

Battle gets off to a speedy start, cutting back and forth between the hype surrounding the match and Riggs’s and King’s complicated personal lives. Fast-talking Bobby (Steve Carell, rendering Riggs a little too sweet but super energetic and watchable) loves his straitlaced Junior League wife (Elizabeth Shue), but he can’t resist the gambling tables or the TV spotlight. Billie Jean (Emma Stone) has her hands full, fighting to get the women’s tournament off the ground, wrangling with smarmy tennis executives, and struggling for slams on the court. Though Billie Jean has a supportive husband, she also has something to hide: a new attraction to the cutie-pie stylist who does her hair (Andrea Riseborough).

Co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris handle the two women’s affair with a sympathetic yet matter-of-fact touch that fuels the entire movie. The script runs on humor, poking lighthearted fun at the curmudgeons and sexists who stand in King’s way. At the same time, it makes you admire the champion’s grit. Emma Stone plays both tough and vulnerable as a woman who may not know who she is yet but knows damn well what she wants. Well-cast secondary roles filled out by Allan Cumming, Natalie Morales, and a wisecracking Sarah Silverman help buoy the story and make women’s liberation a ragtag team effort.

Those of a certain age know the outcome of the match that, for all its silliness, helped to open up the closed world of professional sports. With its modest, straight-talking heroine and her glib, cocky challenger, this new twist pits two distinctly American types against each other in good-natured but deadly serious combat. Their face-off will actually make you feel good to be an American—these days, an unexpected and welcome bonus.

Marie Leuenberger in The Divine Order (Daniel Ammann)

The Divine Order’s opening credits clatter with American rock and roll, a sign that wild and woolly rebellion is coming to cuckoo-clock Switzerland. It’s 1974 in a tiny mountain village, but it feels and looks more like 1949. Hausfrau Nora (Marie Leuenberger) cycles through her days in dowdy clothes, keeping her house clean and food on the table for her hunky but conservative husband Hans (Max Simonischek), their two sons, and Hans’s thoroughly unpleasant father.

Not exactly a feminist, Nora will witness some nasty events close to home that open her eyes to women’s powerlessness. A groovier haircut and a few daring alliances with some local renegades and, before you know it, Nora will be part of the movement demanding the women’s vote in Switzerland, a right not granted until 1971.

Director and screenwriter Petra Volpe does a good job conveying the narrowness of small-town life, a cozy but suffocating environment where everybody expects a woman to hold her tongue and know her place. Like Battle of the Sexes, the film relies on a village of characters to get a liberation movement rolling. Nora’s new acquaintance with a tart older woman and a free-spirited Italian propel her to a place where she can stand up for her rights. She’ll also discover new sexual possibilities at a racy consciousness-raising session, a gathering played both for laughs and awkward poignancy. Order’s emotional pendulum swings in a more genuine direction when Nora makes her first attempt at public speaking before a jeering, hostile audience.

The Divine Order reflects the boundaries of its setting a little too loyally, and its triumphs fall more comfortably into place than they probably should. But along with Battle of the Sexes, it’s a timely reminder that on the tennis court or around the kitchen sink, feminism started as a bold, high-stakes affair with worthy goals and real winners. As we move into the next, more ambiguous phases, the victories are worth savoring even now.