by Jessica Marshall
You don’t have to be court-side at Flushing Meadows to get in on the action at the U.S. Open. While you’re watching the biggest stars in the sport of tennis from the comfort of your own home stadium seating, you can also watch some of your favorite movie stars volley and backhand their way to cinematic tennis glory.
While great movies that give the sport of tennis center court are few and far between, there are several that score big. Here are a few, in tennis terms, that make game, set and match.
Serve: “Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Pro”
Steve Stiffler Seann William Scott adds another sporting notch to his belt as a former-tennis-pro-cum-school-janitor who finds his calling as a coach and takes a ragtag group of high-schoolers all the way to the state championships. If you’ve never heard of this film, it’s most likely because it went straight to video. But that doesn’t mean it’s not full of slapstick action on the court a la “Bad News Bears.”
Ace: “Strangers on a Train”
Classic Hitchcock. A film about mystery, murder, intrigue, suspense…and tennis. Yes, tennis. Hitchcock loved sticking tennis references into his films. In this Oscar-nominated 1951 film, a tennis star stuck in a bad marriage meets a psychotic stranger on a train who presents him with the scenario for a perfect murder. The chance meeting tailspins from scenario to reality, sucking the innocent and unwitting pro into a scandal that frames him for the murder of his wife. The whirlwind climaxes in what is perhaps the most chilling tennis scene ever filmed, followed by one wild ride on a carousel.
What happens when you pair a washed-up tennis star with an up-and-coming phenom? Love! Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst star in this 2004 rom-com about love at the world’s most famous tennis competition. The sport doesn’t take a backseat to the make-out sessions though. You could actually learn something about playing the game by watching this film, as it’s full of intense tennis matches.
Deuce: “Nobody’s Perfect”
A young Chad Lowe stars in this 1990 rom-com, playing a college student whose tennis scholarship is threatened when he falls madly in love with one of the school’s female tennis players. Naturally, his solution to this problem is to masquerade as a woman and pair up with his would-be lover for a game of doubles, in the hopes of winning her heart (and the game, of course). Kind of like “Tootsie” meets “Ladybugs,” except with racquets and tennis skirts.
Match Point: “Match Point”
Woody Allen serves up a tale of passion, greed and high society in this 2005 thriller about a washed up tennis pro (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who complicates his charmed life and social standing when he gets involved in a steamy affair with his future brother-in-law’s girlfriend (Scarlett Johansson). Tennis isn’t really the point of this film, nor does it play a huge role, but in the end, it all comes down to that crucial match point.
Extra point: “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”
OK, so this is not a film. But the sketch “Sam Peckinpah’s Salad Days,” featured in the third season (1971) of the award-winning show by the famous British comedy troupe, is worth its weight in cinematic gold. In an attempt to satirize the excessively violent filmmaking style of director Sam Peckinpah (“Straw Dogs”) and the idyllic stage musical “Salad Days,” the gang poses as young socialites frolicking in a park. When one suggests an innocent game of tennis (“Anyone for tennis?”), the scene quickly escalates into one of hilarious, over-the-top bloodshed and horror that leaves the viewer no choice but to laugh hysterically. The mere suggestion of a game of tennis will never be the same.
Did we miss any of your favorite tennis-themed films? Tell us in the comments and on Twitter!