Author: Kevin James, Last Updated: 09th Mar, 2023
The Best Ping Pong Movies of All Time
"For some reason, ping-pong came very natural to me, so I started playing it all the time. I played ping-pong even when I didn't have anyone to play ping-pong with."
These immortal words from Forrest Gump changed my life for good.
I was 9 when I first watched the movie, and from then on, my life has all been about Ping Pong. Although I could never play professionally, I did get close, but most importantly; it gave me a purpose, a direction which I longed for.
But hey, that's just me!
If you're in the same boat and are looking for some Ping Pong inspiration, I have rounded up 9 of the best Ping Pong movies of all time.
You might notice there not many American movies on the list. Well, that's because Hollywood is busy chasing baseball, soccer, or basketball dreams, and unfortunately, Ping Pong is still isn't mainstream in the states.
So get some popcorn, put on your jammies, and binge-watch these awesome movies!
#1 AS ONE
Set around the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships in Japan, "As One" tells the tale of the first-ever post-war Unified Korean sports team which won the gold medal.
Following a North-South Summit, it was announced that for the first time, North and South Korean table tennis teams would compete as a single team and participate in the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan. This was more of a symbolic unifier to diffuse tensions between the two nations.
Once bitter rivals, Jung-hwa and Bun-hui are paired together and must settle their differences to stand any chance. As they train for 46 days, game-by-game, the two find a budding friendship. But as the finals versus the Chinese team looms, the Koreans' unity is threatened from another direction.
They must rise to the occasion, fight against all the odds and work as a team to take down the formidable Chinese national team.
#2 TOP SPIN
Directed by Mina. T. Son, and Sara Newens, Top Spin is a documentary that showcases the quest and struggle of three teenagers to make it into the US Olympic team.
Starring Ariel Hsing (16 yrs), Michael Landers (17 yrs), and Lily Zhang 15 (yrs), the film debuted on November 15th, 2014, and was widely acclaimed. The story highlights the challenges faced by the young bunch in one of the most under-rated and niche sports in America.
The young cadets must undergo hours and hours of training all-year-round to have any chance for the Olympic dream. Hsing's father commits full time to being her coach, while Zhang relies on non-family members for her coaching. The girls are both friends and rivals, with Hsing usually getting the best of their head to head matchups.
Landers, on the other hand, faced some adversity along his journey, to say the least. He moves to China for his training, but the exhaustive and competitive nature of the sport takes its toll, and he finally travels back to New York. He goes on to become the face of Spin - a ping pong theme sports bar and fully embraces his newfound fame. TV appearances along with having his face on every Kellogg's Corn Flakes box, the teenager uses his fifteen minutes of fame to bask in what would for certain be a failed career in ping pong.
It is important to note that the filmmakers Newens and Son use the players to highlight contrasting styles, fast-paced volleys vs. choppers, and show that not all the kids featured, go on to the Olympics.
#3 FORREST GUMP
Although Forrest Gump isn't purely a Ping Pong movie but rather how anyone with a desire and will can achieve the epitome of success.
The story revolves around Forrest Gump - a slow-witted Alabama man with a heart of gold who unknowingly, at times hilariously, ends up witnessing and influencing several defining historical events.
Released in July of 1994, the motion picture is one of the greatest movies of all time. Earning Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Tom Hanks).
From running a successful shrimp company to running across America, Mr. Gump did whatever his heart felt right.
The film features how while recovering from a war injury, Forrest Gump finds a Ping Pong table in the hospital yard and picks the game and goes on to represent America in the World Championships.
A must watch for anyone looking for an extra dose of inspiration.
#4 PING-PONG (2002)
Released in July 2002, this movie follows the friendship between two high school table tennis players, "Peco" (Hoshino) and "Smile" (Tsukimoto). Peco's personality can best be described as passionate, charismatic, brash, and he is determined to go professional. Smile's character is an introvert, who's quiet, nerdy, nature, frustrates teammates and coaches alike, especially since table tennis is just a game to him.
The journey of the two friends takes them down different paths. Peco suffers a few crushing defeats, and with sage advice and training from his mentor Tamura, finds his way back to "Smile" in the finals of the tournament.
#5 PING PONG SUMMER
Rad Miracle (yes that's his name in the movie), is a 13-year-old boy who loves rap and ping pong. Rad goes on vacation with his family to Ocean City, Maryland, an annual family trip, and goes through many experiences for the first time.
Among those first time experiences were; his first crush, racism, and gaining a new best friend in his next-door neighbor. Once again, the sport of table tennis is secondary to the message being sent by Director and Writer Michael Tully.
Despite being a nerdy kid, ping pong brought Rad happiness, and an escape from the constant turmoil and strife, that is his "normal" life.
#6 THE KING OF PING PONG
This Swedish film was released in January of 2008 and focuses on a dysfunctional family, mainly Rille, a chubby teenager who loves to play table tennis. The ping pong paddle serves as Rille's escape from his life of dealing with being bullied and his younger sibling.
While achieving moderate success against the younger competition, this film takes the audience beyond the table, introducing Rille's father, a drunk, and a man who puts his children's lives at risk consistently.
Dealing with rumors about who his biological father really is, Rille overhears a conversation between his mother and Gunnar, a man seemingly who is always around his mother.
Not accepting anything but the truth, Rille demands to know the answer once and for all but finds out that sometimes the truth hurts.
#7 PING-PONG (NEVER TOO OLD FOR GOLD)
Directed by Anson Hartford and Hugh Hartford, this documentary follows the lives of eight pensioners from all over the globe while they train over 80s table tennis championships in Inner Mongolia.
With a combined age of 703 years, each player has their own reason to live and fight. Each story is heart-felt and mostly a comedy; however, the stories of two people, in particular, pull on the emotions. Inge, 89, used ping pong to fight off dementia, and discharge herself from the very dementia ward she checked herself in to. Terry, 81, with only a week to live, trains and fights his way towards the gold.
An inspirational movie highlighting that age is just a number, and all that matters is where your belief lies!
#8 BALLS OF FURY
This comedy film surrounds around the life of a kid named Randy Daytona, who competes in the Summer Olympics in the sport of, you guessed it - Ping Pong.
Daytona suffers a significant injury, making him no longer able to compete, which also gets his father murdered as he was involved with a loan shark Feng (Christopher Walken).
Years later, after meeting FBI agent Rodriguez (George Lopez), Daytona is convinced to get involved in an attempt to arrest Feng for running guns. Daytona agrees solely on the premise that he can flush out Feng by playing in this tournament, restore his name as a table-tennis legend, and avenge his father's murder.
The result is a train wreck of comical genius and a fun-filled roller coaster ride.
#9 PING PONG PLAYA
A good, clean comedy that uses table tennis to crack jokes at the Chinese-American community. The film follows Christopher "C-dub" Wang, who has unrealistic aspirations of reaching the NBA; however, fate leads him to help defend the family's Golden Cock Ping Pong title instead.
C-dub is a slacker and an all-around disappointment to his family. He finds himself spending time playing ball against little kids and bouncing from meaningless jobs to meaningless jobs.
C-dub quickly finds himself taking over for his mother, in caring for the family business. He must use his mother's teachings, to compete in table tennis, and to keep the business alive.
Did I miss anything? Which ones are your favorites? Please let me know in the comments section below.