Challengers Movie Director Confirms What We All Suspected About the Ending

By Klein Felt Posted:
Zendaya yelling in Challengers movie

Challengers director Luca Guadagnino confirmed fans' suspicions about the film's dramatic ending. 

Starring Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O'Connor as a trio of tennis players stuck in a steamy love triangle across a decade and change, Guadagnino's latest blockbuster has been embraced by audiences worldwide (read more about Challengers' glowing reviews here). 

While much of the film focuses on Faist's Art Donaldson and O'Connor's Patrick Zweig fighting for the desire of Zendaya's Tashi Duncan, it all culminates in a stylish, Shakespearean showdown on the tennis court that should settle Art and Partick's differences once and for all. 

Challengers Director Breaks Down the Movie's Ending

Challengers, Zendaya
Amazon MGM Studios

Following some audience confusion coming out of theaters, Challengers director Luca Guadagnino revealed his thoughts on the film's shocking ending. 

As the Zendaya-led tennis drama ends, Faist's Art Donaldson and O'Connor's Patrick Zweig take it to the tennis court. With everything on the line, Patrick cryptically reveals to Art he had slept with his wife Tashi Duncan (played by Zendaya) the night before. 

The pair go back and forth in one final sequence of quick tennis swings, coming closer together with each ensuing ball bounce. Art and Patrick eventually get close enough for Art to come over the net for one final slam, landing in the arms of Partick and causing the up-to-this-point pretty disconnected Tashi to let out a guttural, "Let's go!"

Many believed Art and Patrick's coming together was a symbol of their friendship healing, with Tashi's instinctual outburst being her expression of finally seeing the fire in their eyes and getting some quote-on-quote good tennis. 

Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Guadagnino confirmed these suspicions, remarking that in the movie's conclusion Art and Patrick are "acting out [the last] 13 years" of their complicated relationship:

"They are acting out for 13 years the possibility of going back to that hotel room to find again that beautiful moment of burgeoning desires and innocence."

He added that, in those final moments, Art and Patrick get back to "the way they were there," with the movie's central love triangle "[finding] itself sitting in the same place, but now on the court:"

"And at the same time, to feel at ease with one another, the way they were there. So, throughout the entire arc, that's what they're trying to do. And finally, with the rivalry at that heightened level, the triangle finally found itself sitting in the same place, but now on the court."

"I needed to get this very, very visually amped up," the Challengers director said, doing so that the viewer "understand[s] how much it meant for them" to be back together:

"I needed to get this very, very visually amped up and really immersed for the audience to understand how much it meant for them not to win over the other, but to be back together, all of them."

Star Josh O'Connor echoed this sentiment, saying it was not about anyone getting the girl and running off into the sunset.

The actor revealed as a part of the movie's press tour, in the end, the movie was about getting to a place where, "despite the messiest way of navigating themselves there," Patrick, Art, and Tashi are all satisfied (via @ncrmalpeople on X, formerly Twitter):

"For Patrick, it's also finding that feeling of flow when he was playing tennis with Art as a youngster, or watching Tashi play tennis as a youngster. And in the end, despite the messiest way of navigating themselves there, Patrick realizes in the moment that he has got both of them there, forgets everyone else in the stadium, and is like, 'I know exactly how to get him [Art] into a place that will satisfy me, him, and her. And let's just have that."

This ambiguity in the Challengers finale was something that goes back to the script being written. 

Writer Justin Kuritzkes previously told Vanity Fair there was some pressure to "clarify [the ending], or declare a winner," but he insisted that once "all of [the character's] cards are on the table...the movie is over:"

"There was a lot of discussion about the open-endedness of the final moment in the movie. Throughout different points in the process, there was pressure to clarify it, or declare a winner, or to let the audience know what ends up happening to these people. I was always pretty militant about the fact that, for me, once all of their cards are on the table, once nobody has anything left unsaid, the movie is over."

Why Challengers' Ending Works

While some may leave Challengers wanting to know who ended up with Tashi and won the final match, it turns out that the movie was never about that. 

Heading into the final tennis match, it certainly looks like Luca Guadagnino's steamy tennis romance is heading toward a winner being declared and either Art or Patrick riding off into the sunset. 

However, as Guadagnino explained, this was not a love story between two people but one that involved all three parties equally. 

That is why this ambiguous ending is so satisfying. 

This was not a love story between Tashi and Art or Tashi and Patrick but rather one between the two tennis pros vying for Tashi's love. 

Art and Patrick get the 'romantic' (if one wants to call it that) happy ending. They regain their deep and incredibly personal friendship after it was derailed nearly a decade before. 

And Zendaya's tennis-obsessed Tashi gets everything she wants, finally seeing the two friends spar at their peak of powers and play what she deems as 'good tennis.' 

No, it is not the traditional final embrace cementing a romance one would expect in a film like this, but it serves the same purpose. 

As Art comes tumbling down into Patrick and is held by his former duos partner, their relationship is healed. 

Challengers is now playing in theaters. 

Read more about Challengers on The Direct:

Challengers Movie Poster Controversy Explained

Challengers Movie Streaming: When Will It Release Online?

Zendaya Teases Sensuality of Her New Movie Challengers

Zendaya Reveals She'll Play a Villain In Upcoming Movie

- In This Article: Challengers
Release Date
April 26, 2024
Mike Faist
- About The Author: Klein Felt
Klein Felt is a Senior Editor at The Direct. Joining the website back in 2020, he helped jumpstart video game content on The Direct. Klein plays a vital role as a part of the site's content team, demonstrating expertise in all things PlayStation, Marvel, and the greater entertainment industry.