Culture

The 7 best films about tennis to watch now

By Clare McInerney

Photo: Courtesy of Neon

Loving Wimbledon? Allow us to serve you a bank of other tennis-themed gems straight out of Hollywood to cue up for movie night

There's a certain something about watching tennis on screen: the perfunctory 'thwacks', the hush of the crowd with each rally, the intense close-ups of players with brows furrowed in acute concentration.

So it's no wonder the centuries-old racquet sport has become a favourite subject matter for the world's greatest filmmakers. Whether accurate retellings of some of the most legendary matches or personalities or sizzling romps playing out on the crisp white court lines, no one can deny tennis's truly cinematic quality.

Read on for our round-up of Vogue Scandinavia's top seven tennis flicks.

1

Match Point (2005)

Released almost 20 years ago with critical acclaim, Woody Allen’s Match Point centres around an ultimately fateful affair between Scarlett Johansson’s American Nola and Jonathan Rhys Meyer’s troubled Irish-born tennis instructor Chris. It will lure you in with its prim tennis whites and pitches of lemonade and will have you staying for the operatic soundtrack and unnerving suspense.

2

King Richard (2021)

In tennis, Serena and Venus Williams need no introduction, but not many know the story of their father and coach, Richard Williams. With the Williams sisters themselves backing the film as executive producers and Will Smith starring in the role of Richard, this is a sporting biopic that doesn't shy away from themes of classism and bias that can bubble under the surface of elite tennis.

3

Wimbledon (2004)

Just like Bend It Like Beckham, but for tennis. This lighthearted early aughts delight sees Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst playing tennis pros – Dunst as a sassy American star on the rise and Bettany as a fading British talent. Romance ensues, playing against the backdrop of its titular tournament, with well-choreographed on-court scenes littered throughout.

4

Challengers (2024)

Responsible for this year's almighty resurgence of tennis in popular culture – and popularity in general – Challengers is the latest stylish endeavour from director Luca Guadagnino. Fast-paced, potent and layered, it tracks three tennis prodigies through their interwoven highs and lows. With the Jonathan Anderson-designed costuming and Zendaya's well-documented premiere method dressing, this is a film with sturdy fashion credentials, too.

5

Borg vs McEnroe (2017)

Described as the meeting of 'fire and ice', the 1980 Wimbledon final saw the fiery, tantrum-prone American John McEnroe come head-to-head with the cool-headed Swedish star Björn Borg in a match that has gone down in history as one of the most entertaining. So much so, the gut-wrenching tie-breaker scenario between the two remained cinematic fodder for Danish director Janus Metz almost 40 years later with Borg vs McEnroe. Shia LaBeouf shines in his portrayal of McEnroe amongst another otherwise Nordic cast, stating he was excited to work with Scandinavian directors on the film as "they make better movies".

6

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Not a film about tennis per se, but Richie Tenenbaum endures as a fictional tennis icon. Outfitted in 1970s Fila, the youngest Tenenbaum is a complex character navigating the heartache and complexity of life as a fallen sports star. While there are just a few scenes of his former on-court glory as 'The Baumer', his tennis style is a mainstay throughout the film – complete with wristbands and a signature terry-towelling headband.

7

Strangers on a Train (1951)

This noir thriller is a Hitchcock classic that is so influential it's actually referenced in Challengers. The scene in which the camera zooms in on Zendaya amongst game spectators is a homage to the same from Strangers on a Train, which director Guadagnino describes as "the greatest tennis match seen on-screen". Both films share their theme of entanglement, too, as a psychotic male encounters a tennis player on a train journey – with murderous ploys ensuing.