Match Point: 8 Memorable Tennis Movies

1:55 PM 9/22/2017

by Katherine Schaffstall

'Battle of the Sexes' and 'Borg/McEnroe' are just two of latest serves from Hollywood.

Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

With two tennis movies debuting at the recently concluded Toronto Film Festival (Battle of the Sexes and Borg/McEnroe) it seems the sport is having a moment in Hollywood.

The stars are already hitting the courts, and these new titles are far from the only films taking a swing at tennis-based storylines.

Hollywood has taken comedic and dramatic approaches, coming up with fictional takes and basing movies on true stories. 

Take a look back at eight tennis-themed films that serve great entertainment both on and off the court.

  • 'Players' (1979)

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Rising tennis star Chris (Dean Paul Martin) falls in love with Nicole (Ali MacGraw), an older woman, while competing in the Wimbledon championships. But Nicole's already engaged — to a millionaire she doesn't truly love. Nicole must choose if she wants to live a life full of love with Chris, or if she should stay with her fiance because of his financial stability. The film also features cameos from tennis players John McEnroe, Pancho Gonzalez, Guillermo Vilas and Ilie Nastase.

  • 'Nobody's Perfect' (1990)

    Screengrab

    College freshman Steve (Chad Lowe) is a member of the school’s tennis team. After falling in love with fellow student tennis player Shelly (Gail O’Grady), Steve becomes distracted and is kicked off of the men’s team. Determined to continue playing and to become closer with Shelly, Steve disguises himself as a girl to play on the women’s tennis team. His plan goes awry when Stephanie, his female alter ego, becomes roommates with the object of his affection.

  • 'The Break' (1995)

    Courtesy of Photofest

    Vincent Van Patten plays Nick Irons, a disgraced tennis player banned from the pros after hitting another athlete during a TV match. Nick agrees to coach Joel (Ben Jogensen), though the teen’s father (Martin Sheen) asks Nick to discourage his son’s hope of one day becoming a professional tennis player. While Nick plans to follow the father’s orders, the reappearance of an old flame (Rae Dawn Chong) inspires him to take Joel seriously as a student after he sees his pure determination and passion for the sport.

  • 'Wimbledon' (2004)

    Courtesy of Photofest

    The romantic comedy stars Kirsten Dunst as up-and-coming tennis player Lizzie Bradbury and Paul Bettany as privileged and unmotivated professional tennis player Peter Colt. After Peter earns a spot at the Wimbledon tournament as a wildcard competitor, he realizes that he is too old to continue playing tennis professionally. While at the tournament, Lizzie and Peter begin a relationship and fall in love. The relationship has a positive influence on his performance as a player, while her tennis talents begin to decline.

  • 'Match Point' (2005)

    Courtesy of Photofest

    The 2005 psychological thriller from Woody Allen tells the story of former tennis pro Chris (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). While working as an instructor at an upscale tennis club located in London, he befriends wealthy student Tom (Matthew Goode). After Chris begins a relationship with Tom’s sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer), he develops feelings for Tom’s fiancee Nola (Scarlett Johansson). In a desperate attempt to maintain his comfortable lifestyle with Chloe and his passionate relationship with Nola, Chris turns to murder. The film scored Allen an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay.

     

  • 'Break Point' (2014)

    Courtesy of Photofest

    The comedy stars Jeremy Sisto and David Walton as estranged brothers and former tennis partners. When Jimmy (Sisto) can’t find a partner to play in one last tennis tournament that can qualify the winning duo for the U.S. Open, he turns to Darren (Walton) for help. They know their days are numbered as tennis players, but the professional reunion might be enough to revive their relationship. 

  • 'Borg/McEnroe' (2017)

    Courtesy of TIFF

    The sports drama follows the famous rivalry between Swedish tennis player Bjorn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and American tennis star John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf). While competing at the 1980 Wimbledon Championships, the two players go head to head at the men’s singles tournament championship match. While promoting the film at the Toronto Film Festival, LaBeouf told the media that playing the athlete infamous for his outbursts was “quite cathartic.”

  • 'Battle of the Sexes' (2017)

    Courtesy of Telluride Film Festival

    The Fox Searchlight film directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris is based on the 1973 tennis match between Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) and Billie Jean King (Emma Stone). Riggs challenges all female tennis players to play against him in a televised match for a prize of $100,000. King accepts and they both have ulterior motives: Riggs is using the match as a way to be as relevant as he once was, while King’s goal is to close the large gender pay gap. Battle of the Sexes may be just a tennis movie on the surface, but it also deals with underlying social issues that were just beginning to be addressed at the time of the match.

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