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Why Is Zendaya’s ‘Challengers’ Rated R?

Luca Guadagnino’s new tennis romance Challengers with Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O’Connor is the year’s hottest movie.

Not only are its three leads impossibly charismatic in their own right, but the Italian director also frames and shoots this court-side love triangle in ways that are a little racier than your usual sports drama. The film is about tennis, alright, but it transforms into an inherently sensual and even sexual practice. What’s interesting, however, is that there isn’t a single sex scene in the film — but more on that later.

In Challengers, Zendaya plays Tashi, a tennis prodigy whose career is cut short by a devastating injury, forcing her to pivot towards training one of her college boyfriends, Faist’s Art Donaldson. When the couple decides to play a Challenger tour tournament to increase the man’s competitive confidence, they’re surprised to learn he’ll be facing off against his former best friend and Tashi’s former ex-boyfriend, O’Connor’s Patrick Zweig.

The movie is a fiery, competitive, and at times psychological romance-coded drama, that has delighted critics and will most likely delight audiences too as it takes over theater rooms across the world.

Challengers‘ R rating, explained

Josh O'Connor in 'Challengers'.
Image via Amazon MGM Studios

Films rated R are Restricted, meaning those under 17 should be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Challengers is rated R for “language throughout, some sexual content and graphic nudity.”

Although there are no sex scenes in the film, it does show genitalia and butts in non-sexual contexts, like in a locker room and a sauna. The characters use expletives recurrently, and there are quite a few steamy make-out sessions.

Although some are calling Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers the sexiest movie of the year, it’s relatively tame compared to other, more explicit productions. Most of the sexual tension is displayed in a tennis court, where characters stand many feet away from each other.

Challengers is now showing in theaters everywhere.

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