Two or four opponents facing each other racquet in hand, sending the ball to one side and the other of a net: a lot of filmmakers have used the sport’s dramatic or humorous drive in their films. Proof by ten.
Strangers on a Train (1951)
A tennis champion meets a stranger on a train who offers him a deal: he will kill his wife if in exchange he kills his own father to get the inheritance. Despite his refusal, his wife is found murdered shortly after... A classic Hitchcock movie released in 1951, the tennis scenes were filmed at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, where the US Open was taking place until the 1970s…
Monsieur Hulot’s holiday (1953)
Early 50s: Jacques Tati staged himself as a tourist came on the seaside for a holiday. The vacationer will shake up the lives of the quiet seaside town by multiplying unintentional blunders and pranks. A great burlesque film with an unforgettable tennis game where Monsieur Hulot proves to be particularly comfortable while serving...
The last Emperor (1987)
This masterpiece of Bernardo Bertolucci relates the life of Puyi, the last emperor of China from his accession to the throne at only 3 years old in 1908, to the end of his life as an anonymous gardener at the Beijing Botanical Park almost sixty years later. A flamboyant and romantic biography, marked by some unforgettable scenes, including this tennis game in the Forbidden City where the emperor, dressed for the occasion in a Western style, sees his match interrupted by the army came to arrest him. Too bad, he seemed in great need of the lessons by Peter O'Toole to perfect his forehand...
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
There is no point lying, this 1987 movie has not aged well despite a XXL cast: Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer, Cher and Veronica Cartwright directed by George Miller (Mad Max series), no less. This comedy is meant to be hilarious but with a Nicholson hamming it up and dated special effects, hard to concentrate until the closing credits. We could save, however, this quite interesting and rhythmic match with an uncontrollable yellow ball.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
The film that revealed Wes Anderson to the general public still remains one of his best. Amongst the cast of characters presented by the hipsters' darling, is Richie Tenenbaum, a depressive tennis player and rejected lover who cannot bring himself to cut his beard and let go of his headband, giving him a false air of Björn Borg. A minimalist but unforgettable interpretation by Luke Wilson.
The only film here truly dedicated to the world of tennis. An anonymous player played by Paul Bettany, falls in love with a star of the WTA (Kirsten Dunst) and sees his performances climb to the point of becoming Wimbledon's biggest attraction. A rom-com without pretension but which nevertheless features John McEnroe and Chris Evert as guest stars in the role of TV consultants.
Match point (2005)
Woody Allen had already filmed tennis in 1977 with Annie Hall, he did it again in 2005 with Match Point, a remarkable film about morality, greed, desire, money and luck. Themes with which the mischievous director is playing, only using tennis as an underlying theme to his story. The highlight, a static shot as simple than beautiful with a small ball that flows from one end to the other of the net, while the narrator expresses his views on the great existential questions of life.
The Squid and the Whale (2005)
The introduction of this dramatic comedy by Noah Baumbach is perhaps the best that has been done about tennis adapted for the silver screen: a family is playing a doubles match, an excuse for the parents for dirty tricks and cheap shots in front of their helpless children and accomplices (one of them is played by Jesse Eisenberg). Divorce seems inevitable and will serve as frame for the course of events. All family tensions are there on that tennis court during a match, which is anything but friendly.
A good year (2006)
Here’s a film that is a misnomer: 2006 will indeed be a very bad year for director Ridley Scott, forced to admit the flop of this overused romance in which Russell Crowe plays the role of an English businessman who get outs in the vineyards of Provence. Almost two hours of clichés, including this Franco-British match on natural clay between Didier Bourdon aka René Lacoste and Russell Crow, aka Fred Perry. Inevitably, it hits hard.
When it was released, the film was presented as the female version of The Hangover, which is quite a compliment. And we have to admit that this trashy comedy turns out to be quite enjoyable with a lot of very good scenes. This particular confrontation racquet in hand, where all shots are allowed, especially those where the yellow ball directly hits the opponent! A little reminder of Jennifer Capriati against Lindsay Davenport.