We Got Spirit, Yes We Do!
Super Bowl Sunday is almost here. For those who don’t care much about the actual football of it all, look to the sidelines for a slightly more elegant display of athleticism. In honor of the spirited squads who can be counted on to provide perfectly synchronized moral support, we’ve gathered a list of movies and TV shows that put the spotlight on the cheerleaders. So get fired up and check them out, ahead.
Bring It On (2000)
Roger Ebert once referred to Bring It On as “the Citizen Kane of cheerleader movies,” and no later offerings have had the spirit or the charm to challenge its status as the reigning cheer-tator of the genre. The now-iconic teen movie — the cast of which reunited for EW’s annual reunions issue last year — was a hit upon its release in 2000 and spawned no fewer than four direct-to-video sequels, none of which featured the original cast (though Hayden Panettiere, Ashley Benson, and Christina Milian each starred in one). Brrr! Is it cold in here?
But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)
Before she was Nicky Nichols on Orange Is the New Black, Natasha Lyonne played a lesbian cheerleader whose homophobic parents send her to a conversion therapy camp in this 1999 satire. (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t work.)
Sugar & Spice (2001)
Marley Shelton, James Marsden, Marla Sokoloff, and Mena Suvari star in this crime comedy, in which a group of cheerleaders join forces to rob a bank when their team captain gets pregnant (by the star quarterback, naturally) and needs money. Turns out cheerleading stunts are a skill you can take to the bank — literally.
Fired Up! (2009)
In Will Gluck’s high school comedy, two football players (Eric Christian Olsen and Nicholas D’Agosto), dreading the prospect of another summer at all-male football camp, get the bright idea to go to cheerleading camp instead, where they would be surrounded by hundreds of female cheerleaders. Once at camp, however, they discover that they actually like cheerleading — and that there’s more to it than girls in tiny outfits.
Man of the House (2005)
When five college cheerleaders witness a violent crime, a Texas Ranger (Tommy Lee Jones) goes undercover as a cheerleading coach and moves into a house with the girls to protect them during the investigation. Of course, the unlikely pairing pays off for both the curmudgeonly officer and the peppy girls in the end.
Gotta Kick It Up! (2002)
In one of her first roles, America Ferrera played a (mathematically challenged) member of a middle school cheer-style dance team in this empowering made-for-TV Disney Channel original movie. Si, se puede!
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Megan Fox stars in this Diablo Cody-penned black comedy horror film, in which a beautiful and popular cheerleader becomes possessed by a demon and begins viciously murdering boys at school. High school is hell, indeed.
Cheerleader Camp (1988)
Cheerleaders were getting violent onscreen decades before Jennifer’s Body came out. This cheesy 1988 teen slasher movie stars Betsy Russell as a cheerleader and Leif Garrett as her boyfriend who accompanies her to cheerleading camp, where a mysterious killer starts terrorizing the squad.
The Replacements (1999)
This Keanu Reeves flick is the rare football movie that pays enough attention to its cheerleaders to merit inclusion on this list. When an entire NFL team goes on strike, the organization hires a motley crew of replacement players — and cheerleaders. Unfortunately, they have a rough time finding girls with extensive cheer experience; luckily, they manage to track down a bunch of strippers to fill in.
Hayden Panettiere starred as Claire Bennet in the sci-fi drama series. Save the cheerleader, save the world.
The Cheerios, McKinley High School’s nationally ranked cheerleading squad coached by the indomitable Sue Sylvester, were often presented in contrast to the eternally dorky glee club, New Directions. No matter how much the two groups’ memberships overlapped, New Directions was positioned at the bottom of the school’s social food chain, while the Cheerios were firmly situated at the top of the pyramid.
This short-lived CW series starred Aly Michalka as a brainy college student who must join the cheerleading squad in order to secure her scholarship. Michalka’s fellow Disney Channel actress Ashley Tisdale also starred, as the Hellcats’ intense cheer captain.
Fab Five: The Texas Cheerleader Scandal (2008)
In this Lifetime movie inspired by a true story, Jenna Dewan stars as a cheerleading coach who tries to rein in five cheerleaders (one of whom is played by a pre-Pretty Little Liars Ashley Benson) whose status on the squad has enabled them to get away with bullying, underage drinking, and disregarding school rules.
The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993)
Holly Hunter stars in this stranger-than-fiction HBO film, based on the true story of Wanda Holloway, the alleged Texas cheerleader-murdering mom of the title. When Wanda’s daughter fails to make the cheerleading squad, Wanda hires a hitman (Beau Bridges) to take out her daughter’s friend who was chosen, as well as the girl’s mother.
A Friend to Die For (a.k.a. Death of a Cheerleader) (1994)
This creepy made-for-TV movie tells the true story of Bernadette Protti, a shy but jealous high school student who murdered Kirsten Costas, a popular cheerleader whom Protti admired and tried to befriend. Kellie Martin stars as the Protti character, while Tori Spelling plays the cheerleader.