Though it is a series, each sequel is more In Name Only, rather than a real sequel. There are few recurring elements besides cheerleading competitions where hilarity usually ensues throughout the attitude-filled drama. No two movies contain the same characters or locations.
A major theme in the series is ethnicity and race. The writers/producers view race as very important, whereas the characters are nonchalant about it (except maybe the villain used as an outlet for the writers to express latent racism).
More mildly the casting of cheerleaders as the heroes is itself oddly subversive (and refreshing) given the nearly universal negative depiction of cheerleading in other High School Movies. The films are not beyond a little ribbing at the sport but are clearly sympathetic.
Brief synopses for each movie in the series:
Bring It On (2000)
The upper-class Toros cheerleading squad from Rancho Carne High School in San Diego has got spirit, spunk, sass, a token Asian, and a killer routine that's sure to land them the national championship trophy for the sixth year in a row. But for newly-elected team captain Torrance, the Toros' road to total cheer glory takes a shady turn when she discovers that the Toros' former cheer captain had STOLEN the perfectly-choreographed routines from the ghetto-fabulous Clovers, a hip-hop squad from East Compton, who are black. While the Toros scramble to come up with a new routine, the Clovers, led by squad captain Isis, have their own problems — coming up with enough money to cover their travel expenses to the championships. With time running out and the pressure mounting, both captains drive their squads to the point of exhaustion: Torrance, hell-bent on saving the Toros' reputation, and Isis, more determined than ever to see that the Clovers finally get the recognition that they deserve! Who will survive and what will be left of them? This installment is commonly thought to be the best for its refusal to name one squad as evil, and for an ending that deliberately does not fit the time-worn mold for the genre. As a theatrical production, it also had a higher budget than the others. It's currently considered a bit of a teen girls' classic chick flick and is standard sleepover/girls' night fare. Starred Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Gabrielle Union and an immediately pre-Buffy the Vampire Slayer Clare Kramer.
- Jan: Hey, ladies, wanna see my spirit stick?
Bring It On Again (2004)
Torrance is played by another actress, so she changes her name to another town in SoCal called Whittier. Whittier tries out for and joins her new college cheerleading squad to relive her high school glory days as head cheerleader. But when she and her best friend Isis — I mean Monica — are unable to stand being around the tyrannical and snobbish squad captain who's known as The Bomb Diggity. Whittier and Monica quit and vow to form their own cheerleading squad made up of college campus misfits and social outcasts for a competition to see which squad will represent the college for the national cheerleader championship and be lead by the new Bomb Diggity! Best known for being a blatant rip-off of the book Sweet Valley High #113: The Pom Pom Wars. This is also notable as the only film of the series to star nobody anyone's actually heard of (with all due respect to Bethany Joy Lenz... and, y'know... Felicia Day...).
- Whittier: Don't be all up in my Kool-Aid!
Bring It On: All or Nothing (2006)
Britney Allen (Hayden Panettiere, playing a cheerleader for the first but not the last time) is living the white cheerleader's dream. At the elite (meaning that there is only one non-white student, and that student knows martial arts because she's Asian) seaside campus of Pacific Vista High School, Britney is captain of the cheerleading squad and the envy of everyone at school — especially one overly-ambitious teammate. When Britney hears about a forthcoming audition for a top cheer squad to appear in Rihanna's upcoming television special, she is determined that her Pirates cheer squad will capture the coveted spot. But Britney's life turns catastrophic when her father's job takes her family to Crenshaw Heights, a darkly ethnic working-class neighborhood east of Los Angeles. At her new school, Britney is viewed with suspicion by most of the dark-skinned students, especially by Camille (Solange Knowles), the overly confident and acerbic black leader of the ethnic Crenshaw Heights Warriors cheerleading squad. No one is more surprised than Camille, however, when "white girl" Britney proves herself and secures a spot on the ethnic Warriors' ethnic cheer squad. The two other non-black students being a heterosexual cheerleader Latino beefcake love interest, as well as a Latina who speaks half of her dialogue in Spanish. Britney and her new teammates work feverishly to prepare the audition for Rihanna, incorporating some edgy new moves into their performance. Now the pressure is on, as the Warriors find themselves locked in a high-stakes cheer-off with Pacific Vista, Britney's old school! During the no-holds-barred fight to the finish, friendships, loyalties and talents are tested — but only one team can come out on top! This installment is renowned for being the most similar to Mean Girls. This entry is also notable for having two former Lizzie Spauldings in the cast (Hayden Panettiere and Marcy Rylan).
- Jesse: Dude, I could kick the dude outta you!
Bring It On: In It to Win It (2007)
Southern California high school senior Mighty Whitey Carson (Ashley Benson) arrives at the all-important "Cheer Camp Nationals" determined to lead her multi-ethnic squad, the West High Sharks, to victory. But chic New Yorker Mighty Whitey Brooke and her multi-ethnic team, the East High Jets, are equally steadfast in their pursuit of the competition's coveted "Spirit Stick". As tension mounts between the two rival squads, Carson falls for fellow vaguely-non-white, heterosexual cheerleader Penn, not realizing he's a Jet. When Brooke discovers the budding romance, she raises the stakes by challenging Carson to a one-on-one cheer-off. A spectacular, West Side Story-type "cheer fighting" sequence turns uglier than expected and cheerleaders on both sides are wounded and unable to compete! Basically, Romeo and Juliet with cheercrips and cheerbloods! This installment is known for incorporating more portmanteau cheerwords than any of the previous Bring It On movies (and that includes Not Another Teen Movie).
- Sarah: This is a cheer-saster!Ruben: A cheer-tastrophe!Chelsea: A total cheer-clipse of the sun!Sarah: Not bad.Ruben: Good one.
Bring It On: Fight to the Finish (2009)
Same-old, same-old, except for once the primary character isn't white. Singer/actress Christina Milian stars as sassy Cuban-American cheer captain Lina Cruz, whose world is turned upside-down when her family moves from the urban streets of East Los Angeles to the sunny suburban beach town of Malibu. At her new school, Latina Lina clashes with bitchy Avery, the ultra-competitive all-star cheer captain. And though Avery may appear Latina due to her deep tan and dark brunette hair, she is in fact racist against Lina, but not as much as Avery's black best friend, Kayla, who can't open her mouth without pooping out racial slurs. Avery takes a special dislikin' to Lina for being a potentially dethroning cheerleader as well as race-mixing with Avery's super-cute brother Evan, who has an affinity for quirky hats. Lina's always been able to rise to the challenge, but can she create an all-star squad, beat Avery at the Spirit Championships and still keep her romance with Evan? This is notable as the only film in the series other than the original to have a soundtrack album released (and the only one to have any instrumental score cues included)... well, that's something.
- Avery: They're illegal cheer-migrants.
Bring It On: Worldwide #Cheersmack (2017)
A Bring It On for the social media generation. Cheer captain Destiny and her champion team the Rebels are called out by a mysterious team called The Truth (a nod to Anonymous) which leads to the team being challenged by other teams all over the world. Vain, egotistical Destiny, who values her online presence and the number of internet followers she has over anything else, can't stand the humiliation brought on by The Truth so she sets out to prove she's still the best. She starts out by recruiting a group of male street dancers that she conveniently meets after her first encounter with The Truth. Destiny's ego and her refusal to infuse anything new to her routines eventually lead to a clash with her best friend Willow. Can Destiny overcome her selfishness to win back her best friend, hook-up with cute male dancer/photographer Blake, and win the respect of cheerleaders all over the world? I think we all know the answer to that. Vivica A. Fox co-stars as an internet celebrity called Cheer Goddess.
- Destiny: Why can't I go back to my perfect cheer-lebrity existence when everything was about me?!
Bring the Tropes!:
- Adults Are Useless: Subverted. All of the high school cheerleading squads are shown to be autonomous, but they're comprised of members who are all either nearly adults or legally adults by the end of the films in which they appear.
- All Just a Dream: Every movie begins with the main character suffering a humiliating cheer-incident and then waking up to realize that it was a dream. Worldwide #Cheersmack breaks the tradition by having the humiliation at the beginning turn out to be real but lampshades it by having Destiny wish that it was all a dream. Eventually, Destiny does have a cheer-related nightmare later in the film.
- Artistic License Sports:
- The outfits are too revealing for high school cheer and the movie features cheer routines that are banned at high school level due to safety.
- This is eventually addressed in All or Nothing where a captain defends her use of an illegal move since the competition is a non-sanctioned music video contest.
- Missy's audition features the line, "Your school has no gymnastics team; this is a last resort." Except, as even the most casual USA gym fan can tell you, competitive gymnastics is coordinated almost exclusively through USAG, the sport's governing body, not schools. Those who do compete for a school's gymnastics team will, almost without exception, compete primarily for their gym, with the school team a nice side bonus. All of which means that, had Missy been even remotely competitive, Rancho Carne's lack of a gymnastics team would have been no hindrance at all to her gymnastics career.note
- The outfits are too revealing for high school cheer and the movie features cheer routines that are banned at high school level due to safety.
- Aerith and Bob: The Shipman siblings from the first movie are named Justin and Torrance.
- An Aesop: The first movie, in particular, "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, but how you play the game."
- Also, from the first movie: Invent your own routines instead of stealing others'.
- All-Cheering All the Time: A deleted scene from the original movie showed one character revising for the SATs by converting the answers into cheers to make them easier for her to memorise.
- All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Most notably Cliff from the first movie, but a lot of men across the franchise. This is the reasoning behind the bikini car wash as a fundraising effort in the first movie.
- Alpha Bitch: There's one or two on every cheer team.
- Amazon Brigade: Some of the cheerleading teams.
- Amusing Injuries: Carver's multiple fractures are played for laughs as much as they are for drama.
- Angry Dance: Angry cheering, but same principle: the showdown at the football game in the first movie.
- Angst: Torrance, about the stolen cheer routines, in the first movie and Whittier, about the politics of the cheer squad, in the second.
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Torrance's little brother.
- Bare Your Midriff: The uniforms in the first three movies, and the cheerleaders also do so out of uniform often in at least the first two.
- Betty and Veronica: Some of the brunette / blonde pairings.
- Between My Legs: During the roll call in part 3.
- Bilingual Bonus: The school in the first movie, Rancho Carne, literally translates to "Meat Farm."
- Black Best Friend: The second movie.
- Brainless Beauty: The villain.
- Buffy Speak: Literally in the case of the first movie (which featured two Buffy actress — Eliza Dushku and Clare Kramer, who was cast in the series immediately after the film was released).
- California University: The second movie.
- Call-Back: In the third movie, Britney's cheerleading squad briefly sings "Hey, Britney" to the tune of the "Mickey" song everyone danced to at the end of the first movie.
- The Cameo: Rihanna in the third movie, and Ashley Tisdale singing "He Said, She Said" on screen in the end credits for the fourth movie (which has her sister Jennifer in the cast). Toni Basil (the original singer of "Mickey") is one of the judges at the finals in the first movie.
- Camp: Some of the situations.
- Camp Gay: Les from the first movie.
- Captain Ethnic: Some of the cheer captains.
- Catfight: Happens in every movie.
- The Chew Toy: Especially in the second movie.
- Choreography Porn: So much as far as cheerleading is concerned, it even averts the Hollywood stereotype.
- Color-Coded Characters: Thanks to cheer-leading uniforms in school colors.
- Cute, but Cacophonic: Pretty much all the cheerleaders
- Dance of Romance: Especially the third movie
- Deadpan Snarker: Missy and Cliff are the chiefs of this.
- Disqualification-Induced Victory: The Toros don't score very well in the semi-finals (using a routine that's the exact duplicate of another squad's routine, which is normally grounds for disqualification) but because they're defending champions they get to go to the finals anyway.
- The Ditz: Several characters. A Torrance example is when she looks at Cliff's The Clash t-shirt and asks him "so, is that your band, or something?"
- Dream Intro: The film begins with Torrance and her cheerleading squad doing an awesome, boastful cheer in the school gym... then she's suddenly naked and humiliated in front of the crowd. She wakes up realizing it was just a bad dream.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Any time they train, especially in the first movie.
- Dumb Blonde: Played with in Worldwide #Cheersmack, Hannah is introduced as the typical dumb best friend, similar to Chelsea and Sierra in the previous films, but she's eventually revealed to be the villain and mastermind behind Truth
- Even Evil Has Standards: The resident two Alpha Bitch character from the first movie: Courtney and Whitney, expressly forbid any violence when the team is angry at Torrance.
- Expy: Missy is essentially another one of Eliza Dushku's characters had they not had a psychotic break.
- Fallen Princess: Torrance, Britany, and arguably Lina.
- Fanservice: Plenty of it, perhaps none moreso than the car wash fundraiser in the first movie.
- Fish out of Water: Missy starts out as one when she gets on the squad, and is more than a little weirded out by the atmosphere of the cheer tournaments when she first attends one.
- Britney in All or Nothing and Lina in Fight to the Finish.
- Five-Man Band: These are usually the main cheerleaders from each time.
- Five-Token Band: Isis and her team.
- Follow the Leader: Every movie.
- Friendship Moment: At the beginning and end of every movie.
- Fun T-Shirt: Missy wears one of a Buddhist monkey that says over the chest area Rub here for good luck. Also counts as Getting Crap Past the Radar.
- Girl Posse: Each cheerleading squad.
- Go-Karting with Bowser: The Toros and Clovers are rivals during the actual movie, but they perform together during the credits.
- Graceful Loser: Torrance and her teammate come second at the cheerleading championships at the end of the first film, but they're pleased because the winning streak they had before that was built on several years of stealing routines from another squad.
- HeelFace Turn: In All or Nothing.
- Hey, You!: In the first film, Torrance and Justin only give each other a hard time when they're on screen together, never addressing each other by name.
- High School: In every movie but the second one.
- Hopeless Auditionees: The first movie's audition sequence.
- Informed Ability: Sparky's routine in the first movie which consisted of little more than air-humping and spirit fingers (alongside a few lifts that the cheerleaders should have been able to do already.) Considering he's a con-artist, that might have been the point, but it doesn't explain how he got his reputation as a great choreographer or how he was popular enough to pawn the same crappy routine all up and down the California coast.
- In with the In Crowd: The third movie.
- Incoming Ham: Sparky Polastri's introduction.
- Jerkass Has a Point: It's true that the Toros did not come up with the routines, but Courtney is correct when she says the team still put in the hours and effort to learn the routines, and they still had to be technically proficient to win five years in a row.
- Jiggle Show: Every movie features lots of this.
- Jive Turkey: The black cheerleaders in part 3.
- Lean and Mean: the teams after training.
- Lucky Translation: In the first movie, Torrance says "You know, mothers have killed to get their daughters on squads", to which Mrs Shipman replies with "that mother didn't kill anybody. She hired a hit man." The Japanese language allowed for a pun that expressed Mrs Shipman's attitude much more clearly and succinctly:Torrance: Aren't you jiman (proud) [to have a cheerleader for a daughter]?Mrs Shipman: I'm not jiman, I'm gaman (enduring it).
- Makeover Montage: The new squad in the second.
- Market-Based Title: In France they're the American Girls movies, and in Germany it's the Girls United series.
- Mouthy Kid: with a good heart, though. In the first movie, Torrance Shipman was kinda the big mouth of all of the girls, and she was quite bossy at times. Kirsten Dunst might have channeled her inner New Jersey girl, being she was born in NJ, for this. Torrance had a big mouth when she wanted to put one in their place, when she wanted to tell someone new people trying out off, when she told her boyfriend who was sleeping with another girl off. Hell she almost started a fight with Missy cause of her big mouth, although justifiably so. One scene also has her telling her father, "Do the right thing, dad," because she was trying to get him to sponsor the Compton Clovers, to which her father reacts confused, as if he's wondering if she bossed him around. Also she isn't very lovey duvey either, which is not unlike Kirsten Dunst either to not be. Though not being lovey duvey doesn't at all make a girl a bitch. Kirsten Dunst is known to be a very warm girl, when you get to know her. Same is true about her character.
- The Musical: Bring It On: The Musical debuted on Broadway in 2012.
- Must Have Caffeine:Kirresha: What's the matter with her?Leti: I think it's caffeine withdrawal. Coffee's like crack to white people.
- Naked People Are Funny: In the first film Torrance has a nightmare where during a cheerleading performance in front of the whole school she suddenly becomes completely naked and must resort to using her pom-poms to cover herself up while the entire school laughs at her — and admires her at the same time while she endures a Naked Freak-Out. Good thing for her it was only a nightmare.
- Nightmare Sequence: At the beginning of each movie.
- Worldwide #Cheersmack breaks the convention and moves the nightmare sequence to the middle of the movie.
- Pac-Man Fever: The first movie had Torrance's brother playing Twisted Metal 3, and it looks to avert this trope, as it shows him playing on a PS1, with appropriate sound effects, until he makes another gay joke about her cheerleader boyfriend, where she responds by ripping out his controller so hard it pops the machine open, revealing nothing inside.
- Panty Shot: Bloomer shots, actually but guaranteed. In Again, Whittier strips down to sports bra and panties.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Every single movie.
- Pom-Pom Girl: The whole series is based around pom squad competitions.
- Power Walk: When the teams strut forth toward the cheer contests.
- Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: "Bring It On!"
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Any time a black person compliments a white person, especially Britney.
- Sassy Black Woman: All of them, but subverted in part 4.
- Second Place Is for Losers: Subverted in at least the first movie.
- Second Year Protagonist: Subverted in the first film. Torrance is a senior in high school, and it's implied that everybody else on both the Toros and the Clovers is, too, but Torrance's mom lampshades the fact that her course load and the amount of focus they put into cheerleading say otherwise.
- Self-Deprecation: Sort of — when Camille complains "(Britney) thinks she's all that," one of her fellow cheerleaders points out "Name one cheerleader who doesn't."
- Show Some Leg: Cheerleader outfits are very leggy by default, but most of the girls in the movies are also found of short shorts and miniskirts anyways.
- Shout-Out: Missy is sporting Faith's tattoo, which she promptly rubs off when told ink is strictly forbidden.
- And again, when the Clovers confront Missy and Torrance, one of them asks, "Can we just beat these Buffys down?" When they decide not to fight them, another Clover says, "You just got touched by an Angel."
- Or Touched by an Angel.
- In the first movie, Missy gives a Shout-Out to West Side Story when she says they might have to have a rumble. Hilarious in Hindsight given the plot of In It to Win It.
- Speaking of In It to Win It, Star-Crossed Lovers Carson and Penn have a balcony scene.
- In It to Win It is the only film to be set at a cheer camp. So naturally the writers peppered the film with Friday the 13th references (which also takes place at a camp). The opening nightmare scene features a mascot wearing a hockey mask and the rival camp's owner's last name is Voorhees.
- Slapstick: Many of the falls.
- The Spartan Way: Many of the training sequences.
- Spell My Name with an "S": According to the end credits of Bring It On: All Or Nothing, Hayden Panetierre plays Britney.note
- Spoiler Cover: For Worldwide #Cheersmack, the revelation that Dumb Blonde Hannah is actually the villain is spoiled when you see that she's prominently displayed on the cover art as Destiny's rival complete with a different uniform.
- Sudden Musical Ending: The first film ends with "Mickey", the second, with "Hit Me With Your Best Shot".
- Surfer Dude: The love interest in part 4.
- Theme Tune Roll Call: Only Theme Cheer Roll Call in part 2.
- Those Two Girls: Courtney and Whitney from the first movie.
- Token Minority: Subverted both racially and sexually.
- Too Much Information: In the first movie, the following exchange occurs when Missy intercepts her brother Cliff as he's visiting the cheer squad's car wash fundraiser and sticks her breasts in his face:
- Took a Level in Badass: Part 2's alternate cheer team.
- Training from Hell: In the leadup to Nationals in the first movie, Torrance requires that her squad practices constantly. Justified in the sense that they had to create and perfect a routine in three weeks, but still quite harsh.
- Not really. Disciplining yourself makes perfection, which Torrance epitomized.
- Valley Girl: Exemplified by the cheer that Torrance encourages Missy to perform: "Awesome, oh wow, like totally freak me out, I mean, right on! The Toros sure are number one!" And immediately snarked right back by Missy in the same sing-songy voice that Torrance gave her: "I transferred from Los Angeles! Your school has no gymnastics team! This is a last resort!"
- Villain with Good Publicity: The Bomb Diggity from part 2.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: In the first movie, at the Cheerleading Competition, a nervous cheerleader vomits all over her own coach. The Director's Commentary explains that at Cheerleading Competitions, you will see cheerleaders vomiting because they are so nervous.
- Whole Plot Reference: The fourth movie is West Side Story with cheerleading squads instead of gangs.
- Who Wears Short Shorts?: Nearly all of the female cheerleaders at one point or another. Especially in the third installment.
- You Are a Credit to Your Race: Some of the more racist compliments delivered throughout the series.
- Not really in the first one. It seemed more like they were mad about the stolen routine rather than anything else. Racism is only mildly hinted in one scene — the girl's speech about how Torrance's life is "based on one big lie." Otherwise, she offers her a chance to prove herself, instead of giving up in pity.