Election

Movie review by
Kelly Kessler, Common Sense Media
Election Movie Poster Image
Dark '90s high school comedy has lots of sex, cursing.
  • R
  • 1999
  • 103 minutes
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Movie is a satire of high school life, told from several points of view. While a teacher who is very flawed expresses to an ambitious student the idea that there's a lot more to life than winning at all costs, this advice isn't taken to heart. The definition of "morals versus ethics" is a classroom discussion, and serves as an underlying theme. The antagonist is an obnoxious overachiever, but there's talk of how one of her motivations for succeeding is rooted in not having things handed to her, unlike (the way she sees it) the wealthier students of her school. All the main characters suffer the consequences of their negative behaviors, and there's a sense of the characters learning from their mistakes, or at least acknowledging that there were lessons learned. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Pretty much everyone in the film serves as a negative role model. Characters are driven to unethical acts by greed, jealousy, and lust. This film makes it difficult to divide characters into "good" and "bad." Even the "good" characters make choices that throw their status into question. 

Violence

Humorous skiing accident and bee sting incident. 

Sex

Inappropriate relationship between a teacher and student; when discussing the relationship, the teacher tells his friend about the wetness of her "p---y." Main character shown having sex with his wife (no nudity), with images of another woman as well as a student in the high school where he teaches moaning with pleasure while making sexual comments, including "f--k." Main character stares at the rear end and cleavage of a woman with whom he will have brief affair. Main character watches a porn movie in his basement -- a scene from it is shown in which a football player and cheerleader are heard having sex and seen (no nudity, close-up of the looks on their faces). Teen girl shown performing oral sex on a teen boy, no nudity but gestures and character voice-over confirm the act. Two teen girls kiss passionately in bed. Deliberate close-up of a penis shortly after revealed to be part of a mannequin in a museum of a Cro-Magnon man. 

Language

"F--k," "c--t," "s--t," "p---y," "bitch," "dyke." A student's catchphrase is "eat me." Talk of penis size. 

Consumerism

Coke and Pepsi placement.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink beer at parties. Teens and adults smoke cigarettes. Teen shown smoking marijuana in the school restroom. A mother gives her daughter a pill from her prescription medication bottle. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Election is a 1999 satirical comedy set in a Midwest high school and based on the novel by Tom Perrotta. Almost everyone in this dark comedy engages in extremely iffy behavior, including teachers who have very inappropriate relationships with students. Much of the comedy is rooted in the lack of self-awareness of these characters as they all engage in questionable behavior -- everything from statutory rape to extramarital affairs, from a teen girl giving a teen boy oral sex in his bedroom to the win-at-all-costs mindset, cheating by adults and students in a student council election, and drug and alcohol use among teens. The underlying theme is "morals vs ethics," and through the myriad faults of the characters and the consequences they suffer for these faults, the theme is explored. The movie also shows a closeted lesbian teen suffering her first heartbreak from a girl she thought she was in love with who tells her that she was just "experimenting." It includes frequent profanity, including "f--k" as well as "c--t" and the homophobic slur "dyke." Overall, this comedy is best for mature teens and older who are capable of seeing that the negative behavior on display is there to satirize what happens when those who are supposed to uphold the values they preach fail to do so when they think no one is watching. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byshayup April 9, 2008

Dark, but funny

Good movie, good acting and interesting concept of student vs teacher.
Adult Written byyuri13 October 11, 2014

ELECTION

Several sex scenes,uses of f*ck and c*nt,a scene of drug use.
Kid, 12 years old May 27, 2011

No way!

I think it would be a good film BUT I am twelve and I read a review and instantly changed the channel. I think the plot and film would of been good, don't... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byAppu200 June 24, 2016

Very adult

This is more like NC-17 due to the really strong pornographic sexual content.

What's the story?

After years of joyfully teaching high school, Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) -- every kid's favorite guy -- finds his professional and personal lives spinning out of control. After the school overachiever Tracey Flick (Reese Witherspoon) raises her hand one too many times, McAllister sets out to foil her plan to win the position of student council president. Challenged (at the behest of McAllister) by a clueless yet lovable jock (Chris Klein) and his antisocial lesbian sister (Jessica Campbell), Flick will stop at nothing to win her student council seat. Both teacher and success-craving student make suspect choices as the plot speeds toward an end that will decide the fates of its dueling leads.

Is it any good?

Quirky and dark, ELECTION is one in a line of comedies directed by Alexander Payne (Citizen Ruth [1996], About Schmidt [2004], and Sideways [2004]). Like his other contributions, this one combines fascinating character types, tragic life events, and dark humor to produce painfully poignant images of contemporary life. The film does a fine job of presenting high school through the jaded eyes of both teacher and student, while throwing in a selection of stereotypes for good measure.

A turning point in the careers of three of its main performers, Election transformed Broderick's career as he shed Ferris Bueller's sweater vest for the shirt and tie of the "man." Additionally, this film launched Witherspoon into A-list stardom and catapulted the career of Klein, whose portrayal of the lovable jock led to leading roles in such high-profile films as American Pie (1999) and American Pie 2 (2001) and We Were Soldiers (2002).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about issues relating to ethics. Throughout this movie, characters make unethical choices. Parents may want to ask their kids to identify those actions. They may also want to use this time to discuss issues related to school. Does this film remind teens of their own school experiences? Do they know people like the characters? What are politics like at their school?

  • This movie is based on a novel. What would be the challenges in adapting a book like this for film? How does the movie use multiple points of view to tell the story? 

  • What exactly does this movie satirize? How does the underlying theme of "morals vs. ethics" play into the serious intent of the comedy? 

Movie details

For kids who love school stories

Our editors recommend

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

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 and learning potential.

Learn how we rate