Clueless

Movie review by
Sarah Wenk, Common Sense Media
Clueless Movie Poster Image
Charming take on Jane Austen's Emma has sex, drugs.
  • PG-13
  • 1995
  • 97 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 86 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The messages are mixed, but themes include communication, empathy, and humility. Cher is absorbed with her looks, clothing, and position in her high school's social order. As such, she has a set of rules that parallel Jane Austen's Edwardian mores and restrictions. Getting high occasionally at a party is OK, but "it is quite another thing to be fried all day," for example. Teens drink at a party, but a drunk teen is shown vomiting in a pool. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cher remakes Tai, the new kid who dresses wrong, talks wrong, does too many drugs, and has too much sex. Cher espouses her philosophy throughout, demonstrating that though she's smart, she also is ignorant. Despite her own cluelessness, Cher does some good. She matches two lonely teachers romantically. And she comes to admire her more serious, "do-gooder" stepbrother, who influences her to question her selfishness and values. Characters quote Hamlet and Dickens and read books by Nietzsche and William Burroughs. Cher's father is extremely supportive and family-oriented though also brusque and rude. He yells when her grades are low, then beams with pride when she uses her powers to persuade a teacher to improve her grade instead of doing the required schoolwork.

Violence

A character gets mugged at gunpoint. 

Sex

Cher is ready to lose her virginity but doesn't realize the guy she targets is gay. Teens kiss. Sex is discussed and joked about. 

Language

Several instances of "s--t." "Penis," "balls," "boink-fest," and "crimson wave" (menstruation). "Retard." Sexual innuendo -- talk of crooked penises, and double entendre over the word "balls." "Crap." "A--hole." Kids from a different clique are called "loadies" because they dress slovenly and are assumed to be on drugs. Goatee is called "chin pubes." 

Consumerism

Materialism is a major theme. Jeep, Tiffany, Calvin Klein, Cartier, Coke, malls, and the Beverly Hills high-end shopping mecca, Rodeo Drive, are featured. Lead characters often shown carrying Starbucks cups. Advil label clearly shown. A student, in a mock "acceptance speech" for having the most tardies, "thanks" McDonald's and their Egg McMuffins. One of the characters sings along to the Mentos commercial jingle playing on television. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink and smoke marijuana ("doobies") at a party. They discuss other drugs (one mentions the beverage Coke and someone thinks she means cocaine). A pothead joins a 12-step program to get clean, is shown donating his bong to help flood victims. Drunk teen at a party vomits in a pool.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Clueless is a 1995 teen comedy in which Alicia Silverstone plays a materialistic Beverly Hills teen who learns to understand what's really important in life. It's an oh-so-'90s retelling of Jane Austen's Emma, but amidst the "as if!" and "What! Ever!" catchphrases and baggy clothing, there are some mixed messages about teen sex, underage drinking and drug use, and materialism. There's occasional mild profanity, but also use of the word "retard" in a pejorative way, as well as calling the grunge-skater clique "loadies." Some sexual innuendo: Talk of crooked penises, and double entendre over the word "balls." A goatee is called "chin pubes."  A teen is shown vomiting in a pool after drinking heavily. One of the "loadie" students is shown donating his bong to charity. A student walks to the window of the classroom as if he's going to jump out. There's also frequent consumerism: product placement of Mentos, Starbucks, and McDonald's, as well as a steady reference from Silverstone's character to the stores she likes at the mall and the fashion brands she likes best. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywhateverfloats September 14, 2009
Parent of a 11 and 13 year old Written byCindiCC February 21, 2013

Disagree with the critics

Watched it with our 11 year old but stopped it after high school party drug scene and vomiting in the pool. Really not appropriate for our 13 year old either. H... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old August 29, 2009

Great movie, but some sexual content.

I loved this movie! I watched it at age eleven with my mom and fell in love with this movie! But you should know that if you watch this movie, there's gonn... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old May 22, 2011

Fine if your stable

This is a VERY funny movie and although there is drugs, alcohol and sex Cher and her friend avoid the majority of it (taking the bad role model out of the quest... Continue reading

What's the story?

In CLUELESS, Cher (Alicia Silverstone) just can't keep herself out of other people's business. After one successful attempt at matchmaking, she decides to make over and set up the new girl in school, with disastrous results. Meanwhile, her own love life is rather confused, and it isn't until she starts being honest with herself that she sees what she really wants.

Is it any good?

This movie is loosely based on Jane Austen's Emma, and it does an excellent job of transferring the story to a contemporary context. It doesn't feel dated -- the direction is bright and fresh, and the performances are uniformly excellent. Silverstone is particularly good, managing to be charming, ditsy, and annoying all at once, and it's clear why this movie made her a star.

This film isn't appropriate for young kids -- it contains drinking, drug use, and implied sex -- but teens will love it. And it might even get them to read some Jane Austen.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Clueless' continued appeal. Is it still relevant? What makes it a classic for teens?

  • How is Cher less than honest with herself about her motivations for her "good deeds"? What other choices could she have made?

  •  Tai also is a character who is less than true to herself, and she pays a price. Was what she went through worth it?

  • Families also might want to look at Jane Austen's novel Emma and see how this adaptation reflects the original.

  • How do the characters in Clueless demonstrate communication, empathy, and humility? Why are those important character strengths?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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