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Everyone’s talking about ‘Challengers’ — specifically the last 10 minutes

Zendaya teased the shocking ending on Instagram, writing "if you know you know" over a still from the film.
/ Source: TODAY

Warning: This story contains spoilers for "Challengers."

The Zendaya-led tennis flick "Challengers" hit theaters April 26, and for better or for worse, social media is already abuzz with memes, reactions and plenty of opinions.

Since the release of the movie's first steamy trailer in June 2023, "Challengers," starring Zendaya, Josh O'Connor and Mike Faist, has been one of the most anticipated movies of 2024.

"Challengers" follows three tennis prodigies over more than 15 years, from when they meet as teens, to the movie's central match that sees former best friends Art (Faist) and Patrick (O'Connor) pitted against each other. Meanwhile, Tashi (Zendaya), now a tennis coach, watches her husband and ex-boyfriend face off.

Throughout the game, a series of flashbacks unveils the stakes of the game. Justin Kuritzkes, the screenwriter, tells the inspiration for the film came from asking himself what could make watching tennis even better.

His answer?

"If I could know exactly what was at stake for each player at every moment in the match," he says. "Somebody could be whispering in my ear, not just like, 'Oh, he's upset because he missed that serve,' but, 'Here's the real reason why he's upset. Here's why her face looks like that in the crowd.'"

His novel idea resulted in a critically-acclaimed "erotic tennis thriller" that people can't stop talking about.

Here's what fans are saying about "Challengers." Beware, spoilers are ahead.

‘Challengers’ is entering the love triangle Hall of Fame

The premise of "Challengers" seems understandable enough: Tennis royalty / married couple Tashi and Art are forced to confront former flame and friend Patrick on the court.

But as the film wears on, viewers learn that the lot is far from simple.

Each character is hurt and hurts others through their actions. For example, Art sowed the doubt that likely led to the fight between Tashi and Patrick before her career-ending injury; Patrick is spoiled, crass and brazenly flirts with his former best friend's wife; and Tashi cheats on Art not once, but (at least) twice.

Some fans have compared the trio to characters from "Succession," unlikeable and nearly unredeemable.

"My spoiler free review of #Challengers is that they’re definitely all villains in their own way & no one is completely in the right or wrong," one viewer wrote on X.

Some, however, were quick to declare which "team" they were on, taking to social media to outline which of the three main characters deserved the most support.

"Tashi did nothing wrong," one user on X wrote.

"i’m an art donaldson lover & apologist first, human second. i’ll protect him with all i have," another viewer wrote.

"i’m patrick zweig’s #1 defender already and if you have to say s--- about him you have to go through me first," one X user said.

One TikTok reviewer argued that the discourse over Patrick vs. Art specifically rivals famous fictional love triangles in pop culture, like Edward and Jacob from "Twilight."

"Challengers joins the love triangle movies that will divide the world," the poster wrote over the video. "I present to you: Team Patrick Zweig or Art Donaldson?"

Out of the theater, straight to the tennis court

Like "The Queen's Gambit" inspired viewers to start playing chess, some fans say after seeing "Challengers," they want to pick up a racket and hit the court.

"can’t stop thinking about Challengers tbh i need to play tennis like yesterday," one X user posted.

"need challengers to flop there’s only 4 tennis courts in all of humboldt park and they’re already always full. playing tennis cannot become a summer 2024 trend," another wrote.

Fans praise ‘Challengers’ aggressive, techno soundtrack

As the stakes of the tennis match increase in "Challengers," its soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross only heightened the feelings of suspense.

The fast-paced, energetic, electronic tunes resounded in theaters over slo-mo tennis scenes. Prior to "Challengers," the Nine Inch Nails duo notably scored 2010's "The Social Network" and 2020's "Soul," taking home the Academy Award for best original score both times.

Online, fans say the film's score makes them want to party.

"Challengers soundtrack better be playing at the clubs this summer I’m ready to DANCE," one viewer wrote.

"I need to hear the Challengers soundtrack at a club expeditiously," another wrote.

The Cut simply writes, "The 'Challengers Soundtrack Makes Me Feel Invincible."

Viewers call the last 10 minutes ‘exhilarating’

As the stakes of the match between Art and Patrick unfold over the film's 2 hours-and-11-minutes runtime, the secrets between the trio come to light and peak in the film's final act. The match's third set end at 6-6, forcing a tiebreak.

It's revealed that Tashi asked Patrick to throw the match so Art can win and regain his confidence ahead of the U.S. Open, but instead of laying off, Patrick lights a fire under Art by confessing from across the net that he and Tashi had slept together.

How, exactly?

Well, in a flashback, shortly after Patrick and Tashi start dating, a jealous Art asks if the couple had slept together. Playing coy, Patrick refuses to confirm or deny anything, but says if he makes a certain gesture (resting the tennis ball in the throat of the racket) during his next serve, the answer is yes.

Now, at the end of their match in present time, Patrick makes the gesture at Art, a moment that had audiences on the edge of their seat.

Zendaya teases the shocking moment on her Instagram story, writing "iykyk," or "if you know you know."
Zendaya teases the shocking moment on her Instagram story, writing "iykyk," or "if you know you know." Instagram

From there, the match instantly intensifies with Art momentarily getting over any hang-ups he had about wanting to retire. Patrick just grins, seemingly enjoying sparring with his old friend again.

Viewers have called the scene "exhilarating," and at one point, audiences watch the volley from the perspective of the tennis ball, ricocheting off each racket at a high speed.

In the end, Art draws closer and closer to the net, before finally jumping in the air to spike the ball before he tips over, passing the net and landing on top of Patrick. The friends share a tight hug as Tashi screams, "Come on," thrilled at the level of gameplay.

"the ending of Challengers is some of the most exhilarating cinema i’ve seen in a long time," one viewer wrote on X after.

"those tennis matches in challengers felt so f----- real like tell me why i was fully sat up in my seat watching like this," another person wrote, accompanied by a video of Taylor Swift watching the Chiefs.

But what does the ending mean?

Kuritzkes tells that the question of who won the match is "totally irrelevant."

The film ends when the trio is finally being honest with each other again — and when they finally just play "good tennis," he says.

“In many ways, this is a movie about people who can only really speak their hearts on the tennis court, through action, through playing,” he says. “There’s so many things that they want to say to each other, there’s so many things they want to understand about each other, or recognize about each other — that they can only really get to when they’re playing.”

“I think by the end for me, they’re playing all of a sudden,” he adds. “Art and Patrick are playing a real point, and somehow Tashi is playing, too. So the movie’s over.”