Quiet please: tennis on film

Comedy, suspense, one-upmanship – everything’s to play for when film characters take to the tennis court. With the Wimbledon finals approaching, here are some of our favourite tennis moments on film.

Samuel Wigley
Updated:

Strangers on a Train (1951)

Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is an amateur tennis star who toys with the idea of exchanging murders with a stranger on a train in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1951 thriller.

Pat and Mike (1952)

American tennis champs Don Budge, Gussie Moran and Alice Marble appear alongside sparring partners Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey in this sprightly sporting farce – one of the series of battle-of-the-sexes comedies that the pair made together. 

Les Vacances de M. Hulot (1953)

In Jacques Tati’s first appearance as the accident-prone Monsieur Hulot, the gangly French gent takes a holiday to the Brittany coast and invents the strangest serve in cinema history, using his tennis racquet like a fly swatter.

Gigi (1958)

Bon vivant Gaston (Louis Jourdan) and the carefree Gigi (Leslie Caron) enjoy a spot of tennis on the beach in Vincente Minnelli’s musical set in turn-of-the-20th-century Paris.

School for Scoundrels (1960)

Brushing up on his tennis skills is integral to Henry Palfrey’s (Ian Carmichael) education at the School of Lifemanship in this 1960 British comedy, in which Palfrey goes head to head with his humiliating rival Raymond Delauney (Terry-Thomas, above).

Blowup (1966)

In Michelangelo Antonioni’s swinging London drama Blowup, the photographer played by David Hemmings observes mimes playing tennis with no ball – perhaps the most mysterious tennis match in film.

Claire’s Knee (1970)

Claire’s knee (not least in tennis whites) prompts flutters of ardour for an intellectual holidaying in Lake Annecy in Éric Rohmer’s beguiling comedy of sexual morality.

Annie Hall (1977)

Comedian Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and kook Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) play mixed doubles on their first date in Allen’s Oscar-winning 1977 comedy.

Wimbledon (2004)

Surprisingly it took till 2004 before anyone used the Wimbledon championship as a backdrop for a romantic comedy. Richard Loncraine’s film teamed Paul Bettany as an English player on a downward turn with Kirsten Dunst as a rising US star.

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Noah Baumbach’s marital breakdown drama begins with Bernard and Joan Berkman (Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney) playing mixed doubles with their two sons.

Match Point (2005)

Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays retired tennis pro Chris Wilton, now an instructor at an upmarket club, in Woody Allen’s London-set thriller Match Point

A Good Year (2006)

Russell Crowe ends up soaked through during a destructive grudge match against a winemaker (Didier Bourdon) in Ridley Scott’s 2006 wine-country comedy.

Bridesmaids (2011)

Always a favourite scene for filmmakers wanting to provide a theatre for their characters’ rivalries and resentments, a doubles match turns aggro for Kristen Wiig and her fellow bridesmaids in Paul Feig’s wedding-planning comedy.

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