Life & Culture

Five Seminal Tennis Moments in Cult Cinema

With Wimbledon underway, Raven Smith recalls five of the best tennis scenes in film

Wimbledon has begun and while the papers are going ba-na-nas over whatever Kate Middleton is wearing, I have decided to talk about the best tennis scenes in film.

Annie Hall

First up, Annie Hall. This is the scene where Woody meets Annie, and I think there must have been a mix-up at the dry cleaners because everybody’s shorts are a size too small. In the 70s you could get away with anything which, in a way, I guess Woody did…

The Witches of Eastwick

This clip is a bit of a weird watch in isolation. Actually, the whole film is kind of mental. It’s sort of like Mean Girls, only with magic. Wait that’s The Craft. The Witches of Eastwick has a fantastic ensemble cast, with Jack Nicholson playing the devil (his Default Acting Character). But, tennis aside, this scene is really about hair. Nicholson has the sexiest receding hairline in the history of civilisation; Susan Sarandon has back-combed AF ginger locks, which are legendary; and Cher’s hair is Cher’s hair in everything she’s ever done (bar the dead straight white wig she wore in the late 90s). In this scene, the hair and make-up team appear to have given up on Cher’s hair completely and just thrown on a couple of neon scrunchies, presumably from the other side of the room. Michelle Pheiffer’s hair, on the other hand, is perfect – she’s never had a bad hair day.

The Royal Tenenbaums

In this scene, tennis prodigy Richie Tennebaum chokes on court, takes off both shoes and one sock and bursts into tears because he’s in love with his adopted sister and he’s gutted she’s just married the neurologist, Raleigh St. Clair. (Well, we’ve all been there haven’t we?) On a side note, I was actually thinking about how savvy Gwyneth Paltrow is this week: The Royal Tenenbaums, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Se7en, Great Expectations... And yet she got her Oscar for Shakepeare in Love. WTF? That’s an absolute car crash of a film, and far less believable than Toy Story.

Strangers on a Train

Creating suspense in the afternoon is a very difficult thing to pull off. And I think it’s because of this that very few horror films are set at lunchtime. Imagine Freddy Kruger scoffing a quinoa salad in Pret or the clown from It queuing for his Boots meal deal. Not scary. Jack Nicholson at the Overlook Hotel waiting for a deliveroo? Also not scary. Luckily, Hitchcock knows what he’s doing. It’s sooo good when the guy in the crowd is staring while all the other people watch the ball. If you want attention at fashion week THIS is what you need to do as the models walk past.


I want “my plastic surgeon doesn’t want me doing any activity where balls fly at my nose” tattooed on the back of my neck. I don’t know about you but the PE kit at my school was quite strict so this scene lacks any sort of realism for me. Cher is literally in a vest over a t-shirt, which doesn’t even look comfy. According to Wikipedia, Cher Horowitz is “a well-intentioned but somewhat superficial girl who is attractive, popular and extremely wealthy” and I think that’s how I’d like to be remembered when I die. I think often about her purple clogs because the experience of breaking in new shoes is universal.

Raven Smith is a London-based creative director and the former commissioning director of Nowness. He is’s columnist, writing about life and culture.