But I'm a Cheerleader Movie Poster Image

But I'm a Cheerleader

Gay love satire for mature older teens and up.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1999
  • Running Time: 85 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

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

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:July 10, 1999
DVD/Streaming release date:July 22, 2003
Cast:Cathy Moriarty, Clea Duvall, Natasha Lyonne, Ru Paul
Director:Jamie Babbitt
Run time:85 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:sexual situations and adult subject matter

This review of But I'm a Cheerleader was written by

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

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

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Saved! Movie Poster Image
    Begins as a satire, ends with a renewal of faith.
  • Kissing Jessica Stein Movie Poster Image
    Sweet comedy about when a girl meets girl.
  • Juno Movie Poster Image
    Brilliant teen-pregnancy comedy, but iffy for kids.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

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 were MUCH more sexually explicit. I bet if this had been about a straight couple, it would have received no more than 3 lips. I loved this movie. Unless you're a religious nut who believes that gays should be converted to straight, you will probably enjoy it too. It was pretty tasteful for a movie about teen sexuality, and I would feel comfortable letting fairly young teens/tweens watch it. A lot of the messages rang very true to life, but the humour keeps the movie from hitting too close to the nerve. The main character was pretty, smart, and Christian, and totally oblivious to her sexuality. This is so true for so many people, especially women! I think this movie rests close to my heart because I understand what it's like to spend decades of your life trying to hide or change or ignore who you are. The film helped me realise that you can't choose to be straight; if you're not straight, you can choose to be happy and honest, or you can choose to be miserable, deceptive, and lonely. This is a movie that all teens, especially those unsure of their sexuality, should really watch.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
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 with partial nudity. This is a positive and in many ways innocent film and encourages self-confidence, self-acceptance, honesty and compassion. It's fun to watch and eloquent in it's ability to somehow make light of a heavy issue of being young in a world that won't accept you. The movie is humorous, quirky and and independent -- a nice break from mind-numbing hollywood blockbusters that leave you feeling empty. In contrast, this film is fun and thought-provoking. If you are against homosexuality, or "afraid your child will turn gay", maybe you should watch the film and learn a little more about people who are different than you. It's deeply troubling that this movie had an NC17 rating while movies riddled with immature and inappropriate sexual behavior --like American Pie 2-- were rated PG-13. See "This Film is Not Rated" for more on the hypocrisy of the MPAA.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written bybiangel424 July 14, 2010
Sexuality is not wrong or theres got to be something wrong with me
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models