Mainstream audiences may think of drag queens solely in comedic terms, but a closer look at the top 5 movies in which they play a central role reveals another side to them.
While some characters certainly have been used to provide moments of pantomime-like humour, they also have been mouthpieces for wisdom and examples of bravery, ingenuity, and tenacity.
La Cage Aux Folles (1978)
Based on Jean Poiret’s 1973 play of the same name, the 1978 film version of La Cage Aux Folles starring Ugo Tognazzi and Michel Serrault is something of a comedy of errors. It tells the story of a Saint-Tropez-based couple, Renato and Albin, who own a nightclub in which Albin’s drag character is star of the show.
The couple’s lives are thrown into upheaval when Renato’s son Laurent brings his fiancée Andrea and her conservative parents to meet them.
The Adventures Of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert (1994)
The 1994 Australian film, The Adventures Of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, stars Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and Terence Stamp as two drag queens and a transgender woman. The trio buy an old bus, paint it lavender, and make a road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs. If that had happened in real life, it could have led to online betting offers that possible could have matched some of the best available.
Along the way, they meet individuals who welcome them and those who subject them to homophobic abuse. The comedy-drama film won Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, and others.
Paris Is Burning (1990)
The 1990 American documentary directed by Jennie Livingston, Paris Is Burning, offers a fascinating glimpse into the African-American and Latino gay and transgender communities involved in the drag ball scene in late 1980s New York City. Although the film focuses on the vibrant culture of the balls, it does not shy away from subjects such as AIDS, homophobia, poverty, racism, sex work, and violence.
Funny, poignant, and at times deeply moving, the film was selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the United States National Film Registry in 2016.
To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)
Starring Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo, To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar follows the adventures of three drag queens who plan to drive from New York City to Hollywood in a Cadillac. The car breaks down in a small town, and the trio needs to pull out all the stops in their attempt to charm the locals.
Swayze was nominated for the Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, and Leguizamo for Best Supporting Actor at the 1996 Golden Globe Awards.
Kinky Boots (2005)
Based on a true story, the 2005 British-American comedy-drama Kinky Boots stars Joel Edgerton and Chiwetel Ejiofor. It tells the story of Charlie, the young, conservative owner of a shoe factory in Britain, and Lola, a drag queen.
Faced with closure, Charlie needs a plan to save his business. The truth being stranger than fiction, Charlie and Lola team up, and the factory starts producing fancy footwear for drag queens.