Challengers parents guide

Challengers Parent Guide

There's not much romance in this romantic drama, but there's plenty of angst, profanity and sexual content.

Overall C-

Theaters: A former tennis prodigy turned coach tries to jolt her husband out of his losing streak by putting him in a match with his former best friend and her ex-boyfriend.

Release date April 26, 2024

Violence B
Sexual Content D+
Profanity D
Substance Use C-

Why is Challengers rated R? The MPAA rated Challengers R for language throughout, some sexual content and graphic nudity.

Run Time: 131 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Teenage tennis phenom Tashi Duncan (Zendaya) is holding forth to two besotted male athletes about their sport. Tennis, she insists, is not about hitting a ball with a racket. Tennis is a relationship where two people, however briefly, develop a perfect understanding of each other and how they are going to play. She may or may not have described the essence of the sport, but the tortured relationship between the three of them will play out on and off the court for the next 13 years.

Art Donaldson (Mike Faist) and Patrick Zweig (Josh O’Connor), friends since their early teens, are buzzing with excitement over earning slots in the US Open Juniors. They have maintained a friendly rivalry on the court, but that rivalry sours when they both fall for Tashi. Tashi isn’t in love with either of them – she doesn’t want the complications – but eventually she sleeps with one, marries the other; coaches one, and is professionally pursued by the other. Finally, the complex mix of love, lust, hate, and jealousy erupts at center court during a pivotal match…

Romantic triangles are a common plot element in romantic films but Challengers adds a twist to the familiar formula. In this case, the attraction goes in all three directions. Tashi is physically attracted to Art and Patrick; Patrick and Art want to bed Tashi, and the two men have a definite homoerotic pull to each other. In one of the most unexpected moments of the film, Tashi is sitting on a bed, being kissed by both men, only to duck down and leave the men passionately kissing each other. This doesn’t slow down their pursuit of Tashi, but it adds a wrinkle to the plot that never works itself out.

Also unusual for a romantic drama is the chilliness that emanates from the female lead. Tashi’s only passion in life is tennis; she uses the men for sex and her coaching career, but we never get the sense that they have room in her heart. If it’s passion you’re looking for, you’ll find it in Art and Patrick’s relationship. Whether in their exuberant friendship, physical attraction, or bitter hatred, they certainly have strong feelings for one another. In fact, I actually wonder if the film’s ambiguous ending is a hint that the two rivals are going to end up together, leaving Tashi icily alone.

Challengers is an unsatisfactory romantic flick. The characters are usually unlikeable, the ending is unsatisfying, and the negative content is higher than usual for the genre. Sexual content includes the aforementioned threesome on a bed (fully clothed), a very passionate make-out scene with Tashi in high cut underwear and a translucent bra, a frank discussion of teen boys masturbating, and an adulterous interlude (without graphic detail). Add in 50 sexual expletives, some smoking, and possibly underage drinking, and the film’s R-rating is well deserved.

Even if you’re prepared to remain courtside for the negative content, I’ll warn you about the movie’s annoying soundtrack and faulty editing that often leaves dialogue difficult to hear. The movie’s pacing is also problematic, with an excruciatingly long runtime that drags past two hours. The acting is usually good – Josh O’Connor blazes with intensity throughout the film – but that’s not enough to win this overlong, disappointing match.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino. Starring Zendaya, Mike Faist, Josh O'Connor. Running time: 131 minutes. Theatrical release April 26, 2024. Updated

Rating & Content Info

Why is Challengers rated R? Challengers is rated R by the MPAA for language throughout, some sexual content and graphic nudity.

Violence: A woman slaps a man across the face. A person spits on someone’s face. Angry athletes smash tennis rackets into the ground, destroying them. An athlete screams in pain when injured.
Sexual Content: A woman and two men sit on a bed as the men kiss her passionately, and then wind up kissing each other. A man slaps another man over his briefs, hitting his erect penis. There are frequent scenes of men and women kissing, sometimes with visible tongues. A man and woman make out on a bed; he is shirtless and she is wearing high cut underwear and a see through bra. Men discuss teenage experiences with masturbation. A married woman kisses a man passionately and is then seen in what is obviously a post-coital moment. Scenes in a locker room and a sauna show men with rear and full frontal nudity. A homeless man picks up women online so he can have a warm place to sleep at night.
Profanity: The script contains over 50 sexual expletives, a half dozen scatological curses, and three terms of deity. Slang terms for male and female genitals are used a couple of times.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Main characters are seen smoking cigarettes. Adults drink alcohol in social situations and in bars. In one scene young people drink beer; they might be underage depending on the legal drinking age in the state.

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Challengers Parents' Guide

Do you think love enters into any of these relationships? Does Tashi love either of the men? Do either of them truly love her? What do you think is at the basis of their relationships? What do each of them want the most? How do you think Tashi’s career-ending injury influences her relationships with Art and Patrick? How does it influence the rest of her life?

Home Video

Related home video titles:

Tennis both builds and strains family relationships in King Richard, the story of Richard Williams and his determined quest to turn his daughters, Venus and Serena, into tennis champions.

Romantic triangles are a staple of film plots. In One True Love, Emma has recently become engaged to Sam, only to learn that the husband she believed to be dead is actually alive. Now she must choose which man she wants to be with forever. Reaching for her dream of performing on Broadway, Barlow has finally landed a spot in a new show. In High Strung Free Dance, she will also choose between handsome choreographer Zander and talented pianist Charlie. Brooklynsees an Irish woman torn between the young man she just married in America, and a charming man in her hometown. A woman must choose between the man everyone believes she’s engaged to and the one she loves – his brother – in While You Were Sleeping. Jane Austen’s Persuasionhas enough relationship triangles for a geometry textbook. Anne Elliot must choose between her eligible cousin, young Mr. Elliot and her past love, Captain Wentworth. And Captain Wentworth must decide if he wants energetic Louisa Musgrove or the woman who broke his heart years ago. Cyrano sees the titular character besotted with fair Roxanne, but writing romantic letters to her on behalf of another man.