7 Best Ping Pong Movies of All Time
When many people think of the best ping pong movies of all time, visions of Forrest Gump come to mind as he sets out for Olympic Gold. However, as with most movies that feature this game, there is little more than five minutes of actual ping pong.
The truth is, movies and ping pong are rarely spoken about in the same conversation and most people simply do not regard ping pong as being an exciting sport to watch. If you play ping pong regularly, you might think otherwise and this is certainly true for those who grow up with an absolute passion for this fast moving sport.
In this article, we consider some of the best ping pong movies of all time.
7 Best Ping Pong Movies of All Time
1. Top Spin
Top Spin is a movie style documentary that follows a trio of ping pong players from America in their quest to qualify for the Olympic Games. It’s very much one of the most under-appreciated sports in the world but Top Spin takes the viewer on a journey which demonstrates the immense commitment and courage needed to succeed at competitive ping pong. On the other hand, this is also a coming of age movie as the main characters are Lily Zhang (15), Ariel Hsing (16) and Michael Landers (17).
Now, before you go expecting a family-type atmosphere, you should know that competitive ping pong is anything but friendly. It’s a fast and incredibly furious sport that requires these players to undergo an intense training regime with lots of racket movement, violent hits on the table and funny sounds made by players. Although the girls are friends, you can feel the extreme rivalry between them. As if that’s not enough, these players must also continue to keep up with friends and navigate the school curriculum, while remaining focused on the other side of their double life!
Top Spin is a colorful portrayal of what it takes to succeed at competitive ping pong. It showcases the personalities of each player really well and demonstrates the great pressure being placed on the parents of these youngsters. You will even find icons such as Warren Buffet and Bill Gates making an appearance in the movie. As the movie moves toward China, we also gain insight into the intense focus that society in China places upon ping pong. That is to say, every building, park and recreational areas seems to have a table and a lineup of youngsters waiting to play.
Verdict – Top Spin is a fantastic insight into competitive ping pong and the dedication of those young Americans who take aim at the Olympics. The movie also manages to avoid cliches and helps educate the masses about what is still an underappreciated sport. And you never know, it might even leave you browsing the best and latest ping pong paddle reviews, table covers, tennis shoes or cleaning products or paddles cases!
2. Ping Pong (2002)
Ping Pong was released rather quietly back in 2002 but this magical celebration of ping pong is now a firm favourite for regular players in particular. The movie follows the relationship of two males through the lens of competitive ping pong. Given how the movie is based on a popular comic book in Japan, it’s unsurprising that Ping Pong takes quite an extreme and exciting view of one of the most popular sports in Japan.
Now, in case you might be wondering; how exciting can ping pong really be? Ping Pong is a game changer that should even excite those who have no interest in the game.
In the beginning, the movie follows these boys as they play their favourite game with wooden paddles in between school lessons. While one of the boys (Peco) is reliant on a tireless work ethic, his friend (Smile) is a natural talent with little time for practice. However, after a humiliating loss to another player, both boys are encouraged to think about their game and whether they really have what it takes to succeed in competition.
Ping Pong is also a movie about friendship just as much as rivalry. It explores the interplay between these boys and the great loyalty they have for one another. When it comes to philosophy, we also gain insight and the filmmaking techniques are fantastic. For instance, some of the slow motion shots are exquisite and the same can be said about the use of CGI when the tech was needed to portray or capture certain shots.
Verdict – Ping Pong is an emotional and pure story that tugs hard on the heart strings. It’s a spiritual and philosophical look at competitive ping pong but also one that manages to capture the very human side of the players involved. It’s also an exciting movie to watch and with impressive visceral touches, this is arguably one of the best ping pong movies ever made – and yes, that’s quite a daring but accurate description!
3. The King of Ping Pong
The King of Pong follows a somewhat chubby teenager in Sweden who becomes obsessed with playing ping pong. While “Rille” is certainly interested in the game for other reasons, this obsession is also an escape from the many problems in his life.
The movie follows Rille as he succeeds at competitive ping pong against younger players but then transitions into scenes from his life and problems away from the game.
For instance, Rille is bullied and ping pong is a means through which he can escape. What’s more, his father is an abusive alcoholic that often risks the safety of his children. However, the story shifts when Rille overhears some unsettling words between his mother and a mystery character and this makes life anything but easy on the youngster.
Rille’s brother is also a main character in the story and the movie follows the turbulent relationship between them. But all considered, The King of Pong is a story about a regular boy in a regular town who sees the beauty in “the only pure game left on earth”.
Verdict – The King of Pong is shot using sterile imagery that really makes the cinematography stand out. It’s an interesting and inspiring story that touches the heart, while using a simple game to demonstrate the many complications we encounter in life.
4. Ping Pong Summer
Ping Pong Summer is a coming of age story with the odd inclusion of questionable language. It follows a young boy named Rad (13) who has a love of break dancing and rap, amongst the usual interests that teenage boys might have at that age. During a vacation to his family holiday home, Rad meets a boy named Teddy who introduces him to a place called “the Fun Hub” where a ping pong table and Pac-man take center stage.
As with most coming of age stories, Rad falls for his dream girl but then also gets bullied by two of the local rich kids. But then there’s the ping pong and this is where Rad manages to face his demons (the bullies) and find himself at the center of attention at the Fun Hub. It’s less about portraying ping pong in real life and more about showcasing the power of determination and courage in the face of adversity.
At the same time, Ping Pong Summer is also less about ping pong and more about coming of age. It’s also set in the 1980s and features the most wonderful lineup of nostalgic clothing, quotes and music throughout. In many ways, this theme is what really makes the move stand out but that’s not to say there’s no ping pong…because there is plenty of that too!
Verdict – Ping Pong Summer is a coming of age movie that happens to use ping pong as a tool to demonstrate the power of courage and determination. You can expect colorful characters and clothing at every turn and an easy watch at the very least.
5. Ping Pong (2012)
Ping Pong from 2012 is not to be confused with the movie we talked about earlier on this list. Following eight players, each one over the age of eighty, this movie is a heartwarming story that speaks so much about the power of the human spirit.
More specifically, Les Darcy is 89 years of age and determined to travel to China and win a prestigious ping pong tournament for the over 80s. While age might not be on his side, Les has already won seven world championships and still lifting weights every day.
And Les is just one of many inspiring characters that you will find throughout this brilliant movie. For instance, Dorothy de Low is 100 years of age and up against a Texan by the name of Lisa Moldich who is no less than 85 years old. Each player also comes from a different country and the commitment of these individuals toward training for competitive ping pong is astounding.
Verdict – Ping Ping is a tale of persistence and one that really drives home the expression that “age is just a number”. Even without any interest in the game, this is also an inspiring account of what’s really possible when the mind and heart is in motion.
6. Balls of Fury
Balls of Fury is a comedy in which Randy Daytona, a ping pong champion in his youth. The movie follows this part of his life to the Summer Olympics but then moves forward to the present where Randy is working against his will in a ping pong act in Vegas.
Some time later, Randy gets injured and his father is murdered in a linked chain of events. After linking up with the FBI, Randy sets out to track down and help arrest the man responsible for this murder who just so happens to be a major crime boss.
But how might he help do this?
Daytona agrees to play in a major ping pong tournament in a bid to catch the mobster and restore his name as a legend of ping pong. Along the way, you can expect some lowbrow comedy, decent ping pong scenes and a smattering of language in between.
Verdict – The truth is, Balls of Fury is a “leave your brain at home” movie and one that focuses on rather cheesy comedy as opposed to storytelling. It certainly won’t be for everyone but as far as the best ping pong movies are concerned – it’s up there!
7. Ping Pong Playa
Ping Pong Playa is a movie that follows a Chinese- American basketball player who turns to ping pong to make the bigtime. Christopher Wang wears all the right urban gear and language that makes youngsters cool nowadays but finds himself living in the shadow of his older brother who is a ping pong champion. What’s more, he works a job that he hates and decides to rise to the occasion when a rival ping pong player threatens the livelihood of his family who own and operate a ping pong store.
At this point in the movie, “C-dub” starts taking life and ping pong more seriously and enters the National Golden Cock Tournament when his brother is unable to attend. Even though C-dub is not an accomplished player, he sets out to fool the masses and try to win against all the odds. Ping Pong Playa also doubles down on jokes about the Chinese-American community but there’s nothing offensive in here – only jest and fun!
Verdict – Everyone loves a good underdog story and Ping Pong Playa is an amusing comedy that leaves you rooting for C-dub. In many ways, you might consider this movie as the “Karate Kid” of the best ping pong movies. It’s also a low budget movie so probably best not to expect anything major in terms of filming or script writing. However, it’s a surprisingly good movie and a kid-friendly comedy with a nice sense of charm.
And that’s our list for the best pong pong movies of all time. What’s your favorite and what have we missed or forgotten? Let us know in the comments!
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