Custom edit using the official poster of Challengers with stills of the film featuring Zendaya, Mike Faist and Josh O'Connor | Agents of Fandom

‘Challengers’ Is Unapologetically the Sexiest Movie of the Year

Guadagnino’s latest flick makes even the simple things seductive.

After putting on a stunning performance in the highest-grossing movie of 2024 thus far, Dune: Part Two, Zendaya is back for what is arguably her most titillating role yet. She stars opposite Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor in Luca Guadagnino‘s Challengers, a film that manages to strike the perfect balance of a sports drama and a romantic thriller. It’s still early, but Challengers has a good chance to be remembered as one of the best movies of the year.

Whatever preconceived notions you may have about how this movie will draw you in and tug at the strings of desire that lurk deep inside all of us, leave them at the door. Challengers finds a way to be sexy in the simplest of tasks, whether that’s eating lunch in a college dining hall, or arguing in an old, run-down parking lot. Guadagnino works true movie magic with two hours of subverting expectations, shocking reveals, and moments that will have you watching through your fingers, not out of fear, but pure, sensual anxiety.

‘Challengers’ Is More Than Just a Tennis Movie or Love Story

close-up of Zendaya leaning back on a bed wearing a pink hoodie in Challengers | Agents of Fandom
No marketing material can prepare audiences for this scene in Challengers. Image Credit: Amazon MGM.

The Challengers trailers give a pretty good idea as to what this film is about on the surface, but it’s so much deeper than anything alluded to in prior promotion. This story is intense, and at times, it’s unclear who is the right person to root for and who’s the scumbag. Justin Kuritzkes penned an elaborate script that often sees its characters doing exactly what you don’t want them to do. Challengers is gripping from start to finish; even when the stakes are lower at the beginning of the film, it’s impossible not to be both terrified and excited for what’s coming.

The actual playing of tennis in a movie has never been more thrilling than it is in Challengers. Each match feels visceral and pulse-pounding, with the camera work cranking up the immersion to maximum levels. The camera alternates between focusing on one or both of the players, the ball, the net, the crowd, and more. The direction of the matches is simply brilliant, even those who don’t care to watch tennis at home will be blown away by the choreography and editing of each scene — and there’s a lot of tennis in this movie.

However, the real MVP of Challengers is the original score from composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. It feels as if these two melded with Guadagnino to form one entity that works in perfect collaboration between scene and music. The same score that drives the ferocity and elegance of the tennis matches is used to highlight the tension in the film’s most scintillating moments. It’s artisan-level work to have something as minute as a dinner conversation feel so exhilarating.

Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O’Connor Are All Superstars

Zendaya sitting on a bed with Mike Faist on the left and Josh O'Connor on the right | Agents of Fandom
The chemistry between these three stars is electric each time they share the screen in Challengers. Image Credit: Amazon MGM.

Guadagnino left it up to his three stars Zendaya, Faist, and O’Connor to deliver in the film’s biggest moments, and all three do exactly that. This trio makes up for nearly all of Challengers‘ screen time — everyone else is basically just an extra. All three prove to be more than up to the challenge of commanding the screen, each giving performances that will be remembered in the upper echelon of their long and successful careers.

Zendaya is otherworldly; contrasting her performances in Dune: Part Two and Challengers clearly displays her range. Tashi is a complicated character, forced to live through others after her dreams were ripped away from her. Zendaya portrays this complexity with power and intrigue — it’s impossible to nail down exactly how Tashi is feeling in any situation, but she’s always the one in control, even during times of uncertainty.

Both Faist and O’Connor are also phenomenal in their roles as Art Donaldson and Patrick Zweig, respectively. Tashi is constantly being torn between the two, and they are each immensely lovable but also dangerously flawed. They both do a sensational job playing off one another but also leaning into each other at times as lifelong best friends. This is a complex and layered story that desperately needs strong performances to bring it to life, and all three stars deliver with style and force.

‘Challengers’ Deserves Some Love During the 2025 Awards Season

Mike Faist and Zendaya sitting at a table having lunch in Challengers | Agents of Fandom
It always seems like Tashi has more rapport with whomever she’s not currently involved with in Challengers, a testament to the trio’s electric chemistry. Image Credit: Amazon MGM.

If Challengers doesn’t make any noise at the 2025 Academy Awards, it will either have been an unbelievable year for movies or an inexcusable Oscar snub. If nothing else, the editing, performances, and score all deserve recognition in some form. Whether you’re a fan of sports movies, romance stories, or intense thrillers, Challengers has the diversity to satisfy all.

Challengers is now playing in theaters everywhere. Follow the Agents of Fandom socials for all the latest entertainment news and reviews.

'Challengers' Review

'Challengers' Review
5 5 0 1
5.0 rating
Total Score

The Good

  • Every scene with a tennis match is riveting.
  • The score is used perfectly throughout the film.
  • Zendaya, Faist, and O'Connor are all brilliant for two hours straight.

The Bad

  • Things move a bit slow in the beginning compared to how thrilling the final act is.
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