Recent research suggests that facial mimicry underlies accurate interpretation of subtle facial expressions. In three experiments, we manipulated mimicry and tested its role in judgments of the genuineness of true and false smiles. Experiment 1 used facial EMG to show that a new mouthguard technique for blocking mimicry modifies both the amount and the time course of facial reactions. In Experiments 2 and 3, participants rated true and false smiles either while wearing mouthguards or when allowed to freely mimic the smiles with or without additional distraction, namely holding a squeeze ball or wearing a finger-cuff heart rate monitor. Results showed that blocking mimicry compromised the decoding of true and false smiles such that they were judged as equally genuine. Together the experiments highlight the role of facial mimicry in judging subtle meanings of facial expressions.