Battle of the Sexes – Starring Steve Carrell, Emma Stone – Disney+ – 2017 – 2h 2min – Dir. Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris – 12A
A true story based on the 1973 match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, Battle of the Sexes follows the two players as they struggle with the media attention and their own personal problems. King fights misogyny in the sports industry, as well as struggling with her sexuality, whilst Riggs gambles his legacy, desperate to revive his past glories (such as winning tennis and not losing at tennis, those sorts of glories). The match on which the story is based would be watched worldwide by over 90 million people – 90 million more than tuned in to watch my short-lived reality TV show: Frog Versus Intercontinental Ballistic Missile – remaining to this day one of the most watched televised sporting events in history. The film takes place in a time when women in sport was something of a new subject, the FA only lifting the ban on women’s football in 1971 and the Chimp Wrangling Association lifting their ban on women only two years later. As tennis films go, it’s one of the better ones. Which is a bit like being the tallest person in a room full of babies.
Borg Vs McEnroe – Starring Shia LeBeouf – Disney+ – 2017 – 1h 48min – Dir. Janus Metz Pedersen – 15
Another tennis film set before the release of Tony Banks’ Bankstatement (1989), Borg vs McEnroe is yet another true story following a hotly-anticipated match between an older champion and a young challenger. Like our first film it was released in 2017 and can be viewed on Disney+. However, unlike Battle of the Sexes, this one is between two blokes, so it’s completely different. Also, Borg vs McEnroe is set in 1980, which isn’t when the other one was set. That’s not all there is to say about this film, though, just read what some reviewers on Google had to say about it. One said I give it four stars not five because they’re wasn’t enough actual tennis played (that’s what they typed, don’t shoot the messenger). And of course, who can forget what reviewer Sorrab Singha wrote on Google (which two people found helpful, apparently): It is much more than Tennis, it is emotions at their best. Need I say more?
Citizen Ashe – Starring Johnnie Ashe – 2021 – 1h 35min – Dir. Rex Miller, Sam Pollard
A documentary following the sporting life of Arthur Ashe, intertwined with his work in human rights activism and the civil rights movement, Citizen Ashe was released to high praise in 2021. Unfortunately there’s nowhere clear to stream it, so good luck with that (sorry). In 1968 Ashe became the first African-American to win the US Open, and following the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy he began his time in political activism. Ashe would go on to win the Australian Open and Wimbledon in Singles, and the Australian and French Opens in Doubles. By the time of his death by AIDS-related pneumonia in 1993 he had 76 Singles titles. On a slightly lighter note, Ashe adopted a daughter in 1986 whom he named Camera (which is true, google it). He had intentions of adopting more children – Hatstand, Tripod, Deck Chair, Steering Wheel, and Paperwork Shredder – but there was a problem with the paperwork after one of the kids shredded it all. Police are still investigating which of the children it was.
Return of the Jedi – Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher – Disney+ – 1983 – 2h 11min – Dir. Richard Marquand – U
Finishing up our three-month retrospective on the original Star Wars trilogy (and included in the Wimbledon edition solely because of the word Return in the title), the fourth and final film on our list is Return of the Jedi. Centring on the relationship between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, introducing a second Death Star, Jabba the Hutt, Emperor Palpatine, and the Ewoks, Return is the sort of awkward middle child of the original trilogy (despite being third). It lacks the adventure of the first film, or the depth and darkness of the second, substituting the quality of the first two for toy sales. It’s more of a children’s film than its predecessors, and is by no means the best of its trilogy, however it does have its redeeming features. The dynamic between Luke and Vader is compelling, climaxing in an incredible morality play in the throne room of the Death Star. The battle sequences are enjoyable, and the whole film is memorable from front to back. Though inferior to the films that came before it (but certainly not to the ones that came after), Return of the Jedi is still a fantastic film that blows most third-entries out of the water. Oh, and just to maintain the tennis theme, Yoda looks a bit like a tennis ball. If you squint, that is. And look the other way. And look at a tennis ball, instead.