Will Smith, 53, is attracting significant Oscar buzz for his new biopic King Richard, coming Nov. 19 to theaters and HBO Max. Helmed by up-and-coming director Reinaldo Marcus Green, it’s the inspiring true story of Richard Williams, the father and coach of two of the most undeniably dominant athletes of all time: Venus and Serena Williams. Despite high-stakes drama on and off the court, Hollywood has served up surprisingly few movies about tennis — a far cry from the dozens (if not hundreds) of films about baseball, football, basketball and even hockey. From wacky indie comedies to real-life dramas, these nine tennis-themed films will make for an ace “doubles feature” with King Richard.
Battle of the Sexes (2017)
The plot: Little Miss Sunshine directors Jonathan Dayton (64) and Valerie Faris (63) made this underrated comedy about the real-life 1973 matchup between future feminist icon Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and avowed male chauvinist Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell, 59), who boasted that at age 55, he could beat any female tennis player. Though it was unfortunately a box office bomb, the film earned its two leads — who share almost the exact age difference as Riggs and King — Golden Globe nominations.
The ace: The film perfectly captures all the pomp and circumstance that surrounded the match, including the exchange of symbolic gifts: Riggs presented King with a giant Sugar Daddy; King gave him a little pig.
Match Point (2005)
The plot: If you come expecting one of Woody Allen’s urbane comedies, you’re in for a shock: This nasty, brutish thriller shares much more with Alfred Hitchcock than Annie Hall. Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is a social-climbing Irish tennis pro who works at a London club, where he befriends wealthy client Tom (Matthew Goode) and soon begins dating his sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer, 50). But things get messy when Chris starts a torrid affair with Tom’s American fiancée Nola (Scarlett Johansson). Lots of metaphors about tennis balls hitting nets and fate and luck ensue. Succession fans take note: Brian Cox, 75, appears as Tom and Chloe’s father.
The ace: The film is filled with references to Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
The plot: Paul Bettany, 50, channels his inner ’90s Hugh Grant in this cross-the-pond romantic comedy about two tennis players at very different points in their careers. Peter Colt is a has-been Brit who’s sunk from 11th to 119th in the rankings. Despite a wild-card spot at the title tennis tournament, he’s beginning to admit to himself that it might be time to retire and become a tennis pro at a posh club. Enter Lizzie Bradury (Kirsten Dunst), an on-the-rise American player whom he quickly falls for — much to the chagrin of her father and manager, Dennis (Sam Neill, 74), who believes a relationship will hurt her ascendant career. Will their love survive? It’s a rom-com, so take a wild guess.
The ace: Some scenes were shot between matches during the 2003 championships, marking the only time such a thing was ever allowed in Wimbledon history.
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