But I'm a Cheerleader

Movie review by
Heather Boerner, Common Sense Media
But I'm a Cheerleader Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Gay love satire for mature older teens and up.
  • R
  • 1999
  • 85 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 22 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Messages of tolerance and acceptance run throughout, though these messages are communicated through satire. Pokes fun at anti-gay reform groups.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Exaggerated gender stereotypes are part of the movie's comedy and satire. The central characters are generally positive, even if they break rules and misbehave.


The teens participate in an anti-gay rally. Graham throws a bottle at one boy.


Gay sexual relationships, including kissing, making out, and one sex scene where nothing much is visible.


Characters curse frequently.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Megan's love interest is always smoking and the whole group sneaks out, gets fake IDs, and drinks at a bar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that But I'm a Cheerleader depicts teenage gays and lesbians in their first sexual experiences. There's kissing and making out by boys with boys and girls with girls. There's also implied masturbation and one sex scene (handled discretely -- you don't see anything). Teens go to a gay bar called the "C--ksucker." Parents reject their children for their sexual orientation and the teens must find a place to live when they fail to become straight. There's also some cursing, smoking, and drinking.

Wondering if But I'm a Cheerleader is OK for your kids?

Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 9-year-old Written byrachel4missions January 24, 2011

NOT as much sex as CSM states. Lovely, funny movie.

Oh, come on, CSM! I think it's very offensive that you gave it 5 lips for sexual activity. I've seen you give considerably fewer lips to movies that... Continue reading
Adult Written byjunction8 March 9, 2012

Wonderful coming-of-age movie!

This is a great coming-of-age movie with positive messages for teens. The film contains issues of sexuality and romance between teens, with one scene of kissing... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byStaceytheNerd September 21, 2014

Satire is my life

This is a fantastic movie - as long as you/your child understands the point of satire. Like, the parents are horrible role models and the main character's... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bybiangel424 July 14, 2010
Sexuality is not wrong or theres got to be something wrong with me

What's the story?

In BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER, Megan (Natasha Lyonne) is an innocent. As she says, "I'm not perverted! I go to church, I get good grades... I'm a cheerleader!" But her parents and friends suspect she has an "unnatural" attraction toward other girls. Their proof? She's vegetarian, she listens to Melissa Etheridge, she has pictures of girls in her locker, and she hates kissing her boyfriend. They whisk her off to True Directions, a campy version of real-life ex-gay ministries, to straighten her out. Surrounded by fey boys and some tough girls, Megan realizes she's attracted to girls and starts a relationship with one of the girls (Clea DuVall). Meanwhile, True Directions instructors Mike (de-dragged RuPaul) and Mary (Cathy Moriarty), try to bring them back into the heterosexual fold with instruction on proper gender roles and talk therapy.

Is it any good?

But I'm a Cheerleader is a satire, and as such, is over-the-top. Girls aren't just girls -- they wear pink and live in sickeningly pink bedrooms. Boys aren't just boys -- they all should learn how to fix cars and play sports. And they definitely shouldn't be gay. But behind all the camp, this is a love story between two girls. It's the classic girl meets girl, girl loses girl, girl tries to get girl back.

But the obvious creepiness of True Directions gets tiring. Director Jamie Babbitt doesn't trust you to understand their icky tactics. Instead, she has Mary "planting" plastic flowers and everyone wearing ridiculously gender-specific colors (pink and blue, natch). In the end, if you can get past the preaching and the campiness, what you have is a love story and a lesson for teens about being true to who you really are -- no matter how strong the pressure is to be otherwise.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their feelings about homosexuality and efforts to change gay kids' sexual orientation. What do you think about homophobia and discrimination faced by gay and lesbian teens? How have cultural opinions toward gay people changed over time?

  • Talk about gender roles and stereotypes. Teens: Do you feel the pressure to conform to specific gender standards?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedies

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate