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“Challengers” Is a Sports Movie Like No Other

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Texas chapter.

If your Instagram feed is anything like mine, then you’ve been seeing snippets of Zendaya’s newest movie, Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers, for months now. Challengers was originally scheduled for release in August 2023 but was postponed due to writers’ and actors’ strikes. It was finally released on April 26, 2024, so let’s talk about it! (If you want to go into this movie knowing nothing, stop reading now. No big spoilers though.)

Challengers, for me, is the movie of the summer. It’s not your typical sports drama; it’s a complex web of tension, sports, and a love triangle that’s more than meets the eye. This isn’t just two guys vying for the same girl— there’s depth and meaning to all three sides. (And I have never cared more about a tennis game in my life.)

The movie is a showcase of exceptional acting. Zendaya, in her role as the once-promising-tennis-star-turned-coach, Tashi Duncan, is a revelation. She’s smart, stunning, and strategic, embodying the complexities of a female lead. It’s a refreshing change, for us and for her, to see her in a role that’s not the typical ‘good guy’. 

While Zendaya may be the big star name of the movie, her two male counterparts also excelled. Mike Faist as Art Donaldson and Josh O’Connor as Patrick Zweig are a stunning duo, and their journey from best friends to rivals is excruciating and brilliantly delivered. I have been a Mike Faist fan since he was in Newsies in 2012, but if you’re just discovering him, welcome to the club. He’s the next White Boy of the Month in my books.

A crucial part of this film is the flashback sequences. All three leads seem to transform from jaded adults to teenagers and back again in the blink of an eye. There is no clear “aging makeup”— their hair changes, which is predictable, but the performances— the voices, the gestures, the eyes— seal the deal in a way I have never seen before.

The New York Times has declared that eroticism has finally returned to Hollywood. After the recent string of Saltburn (which I review here), Poor Things, Anyone But You, and now Challengers, I’m inclined to agree. Challengers is certainly on the milder side of this list, but it may be a good stepping stone. 

Regardless of your thoughts on Saltburn, Zendaya, or tennis, you should give this one a go. (And if you’re seeing this while Challengers is still in theaters— go now. It’s worth it for the communal experience.)

Katie Randall is a first-year Radio-TV-Film major and Religious Studies minor in the Moody College Honors Program at UT Austin. She is interested in photography and small-scale video projects, and she enjoys writing about all things girlhood, movies, and music. In her spare time, she loves reading, listening to music, or crocheting.