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Is 'Challengers' appropriate for kids? A guide for parents

The tennis-themed movie about a love triangle marks one of the most mature roles for Zendaya in her career thus far.

Warning: This story contains spoilers for “Challengers.”

Tweens and young teens clamoring to see the recently released "Challengers" may have parents wondering if the tennis-themed movie is more "Spider-Man" Zendaya or "Euphoria" Zendaya.

The steamy trailer hinting at a possible threesome scene between Zendaya's character, the tennis prodigy Tashi, and characters played by Mike Faist and Josh O'Connor makes it clear that it leans toward a more mature plotline.

"Challengers" features a love triangle between characters played by Josh O'Connor (left), Zendaya and Mike Faist.
"Challengers" features a love triangle between characters played by Josh O'Connor (left), Zendaya and Mike Faist. YouTube

The love triangle between the 27-year-old actor and her co-stars, who also play tennis players, is depicted from when her character is 18 until into her 30s, so there are teen themes that are intertwined with more adult topics.

So just how graphic does it get? Here's what parents should know.

What is "Challengers" rated?

The movie is rated R for "language throughout, some sexual content and graphic nudity."

There is plenty of swearing and adult conversations, but sexual situations are more insinuated than depicted.

What are some "Challengers" scenes parents should know about?

The scene that was teased in the trailer, in which the three characters are sitting on a bed together, does not turn into some "Wild Things"-level sex scene.

Tashi kisses Faist's character, Art, and then O'Connor's character, Patrick. Both of the men then kiss her neck before she lays back on the bed and watches them kiss each other. Then she breaks it up before anything more happens.

CHALLENGERS, from left: Mike Faist, Zendaya, Josh O'Connor, 2024.
This scene teased in the "Challengers" trailer may have parents wondering if the movie is appropriate for kids. ©MGM

Following that scene, Art is shown in his boxer shorts with an erection, which Patrick jokingly smacks.

O'Connor and Zendaya are in their underwear for another bedroom scene, but that's as far as it goes. Another scene depicts two characters laying down in the back seat of a car that appears to insinuate they just had sex, but none of that is shown.

The "graphic nudity" part of the R rating comes from scenes of full-frontal male nudity in shower scenes in a locker room that's shown in a non-sexual way.

There also are scenes with more adult-themed conversations, like talking about the first time the men masturbated and references to cheating in relationships.

Is "Challengers" appropriate for young children and teens?

Not particularly, despite not including any overt sex scenes. Even the writer of the film, Justin Kuritzkes, has dubbed it "an erotic tennis thriller."

Between the language, adult themes in the conversations and the male frontal nudity, the R rating is accurate. Common Sense Media, which independently reviews films for their age appropriateness, recommends that the movie is OK for children 15 and over.

If you've let your child watch "Euphoria," the HBO hit starring Zendaya that includes drug addiction struggles, crude language, violence and graphic sex scenes, "Challengers" is not nearly as intense.

But for younger Zendaya fans who grew up with her as a Disney star, a trip to see the sci-fi epic "Dune: Part Two" may be a better way to get their fix of the actor.