Sports fans love good sports movies.
They love watching them.
Almost every major sport offers its share of great flicks. Basketball has Hoop Dreams and Blue Chips. Baseball has Bull Durham and The Bad News Bears. Football has Rudy and Remember the Titans. Soccer has Victory and Bend It Like Beckham. Golf has Caddyshack and Happy Gilmore. Hockey has Slapshot and Mystery, Alaska. Boxing has Rocky and Million Dollar Baby.
"Minor” sports and hobbies have also inspired great theater: The Karate Kid, The Wrestler, Rounders, Riding Giants, Invictus, Kingpin, Dodgeball, The Color of Money, Seabiscuit, Talladega Nights, Over the Top, and Blades of Glory. Heck, even hunting is represented by Sarah Palin and that poor caribou.
One sport, however, has yet to inspire a decent movie. Yes, tennis.
Tennis has proved so uninspiring to movie makers that Bleacher Report’s 100 Greatest Sports Movies of All Time doesn’t include one about the world’s favorite racket sport.
And rightfully so!
What's the greatest sports movie of all time?
To my knowledge there is only one “tennis” movie, Wimbledon, featuring Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany. One blogger writes, “It’s the best tennis movie I’ve ever seen.” Uh, that’s like me saying To Kill a Mockingbird is the best Harper Lee novel I’ve ever read. Wimbledon is billed as an endearing romantic comedy. Not quite. It’s about as endearing as Mike Tyson chewing on an ear.
Woody Allen’s Match Point is a philosophical thriller set against a tennis backdrop. It’s a good movie because Woody Allen makes good movies and Scarlett Johansson looks great in tennis (and all other) attire. But it’s not a tennis movie, just like Bon Voyage Charlie Brown isn’t a tennis movie despite that awesome scene where Snoopy and Woodstock face-off at Wimbledon.
And let’s not talk about Nobody’s Perfect, where that guy disguises himself as a female tennis player to get close to the girl of his dreams. I think "that guy" is Chad Lowe.
So where does that leave us? With a big fat void to fill. Below, then, are seven tennis movie suggestions that are sure to crack the Top 100 if picked up by DREAMWORKS.
1. Tennis Horror. A compilation of tennis' nightmare moments. I’m talking things like footage of Serena Williams threatening to choke that linesman to death and Rafael Nadal picking his butt, along with highlights of Chris Lewis in the 1983 Wimbledon final and Guillermo Coria melting down at the 2004 French. I guess you could throw in Monica Seles getting stabbed, but that kind of stuff should be left to Friday The 13th Part XXVII.
2. You Cannot be Serious? Highlights of John McEnroe insulting linesmen. This one could be interactive. Viewers vote on the best tirade and then practice on their friends in some type of pseudo tennis karaoke/screaming competition.
3. The Match: Federer vs. Nadal, 2008 Wimbledon Final. That’s it. Just put the match on a DVD, add a bit of commentary, and call it a tennis movie.
4. The Match: Isner vs. Mahut, 2010 Wimbledon First Round. Wait, that would be about nine hours too long.
5. Cruisers. Small-town Indiana tennis team makes the state finals. Can coach Dorman Hale (played by Gene Hackman) lead the Cruisers to victory with the hopes of an entire town riding on their rackets?
6. Unhappy Filmore. Aspiring hockey player Unhappy Filmore (played by Adam Sandler) turns to tennis to try to save his grandma's house. His weapon: a 250 mile per hour serve. His nemesis: tennis bad boy Shooter McMcEnroe (played by John McEnroe).
7. Teaching Lessons. Tennis pro Nicky Bolli (played by Michael C. Hall) gives lessons during the day and stalks serial killers at night. He offs his victims by either bashing in their brains with a Prince Hybrid Shark OS or choking them with Babolat Pro Hurricane string. Then he buries the bodies under his teaching court.
Hey, Scott, isn’t No. 5 a rip off of Hoosiers? And isn't No. 6 a rip off of Happy Gilmore? And isn't No. 7 a rip off of Dexter?
Of course, but I’m desperate here! Help me out with your great tennis movie ideas.
*Note: a John McEnroe-Steven Spielberg version of this essay can be read at SportsLetters.