Must-Watch Drag Films: A Dragaholic’s Essential Guide, Part 1

Contributing Author: Star LaBranche

Enjoy part 1 of our Must-Watch Drag Films Essential Guide series! And don’t forget to check out part 2!

Pageant

Year: 2008
Category: Documentary

Synopsis:
This film follows several contestants, including RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 1 contestant Victoria “Porkchop” Parker, on their path to be crowned Miss Gay America. The documentary takes you from the queens’ homes to the talent, interview and evening gown section of the contest as well as the crowning. Each performer talks about what drag means to them, discusses the culture surrounding the art, as well as the struggles and triumphs of drag performers.

Choice moment:
Keep your eyes peeled for a dark-haired Alyssa Edwards, who is interviewed throughout the movie, during the show. And yes, they show her doing her makeup faces in the mirror!

Why it’s so great:
This is a rare glimpse into, not only the lives of the drag queens involved, but how this pageant functions, what the girls do to win and just how fierce the competition is every year.

Pair with:
Your favorite hardcore RuPaul’s Drag Race fan that can appreciate a man in a dress with a ventriloquism dummy lip syncing “Sisters”.


Hairspray

Year: Original 1988, Remake 2007
Category: Musical Comedy

Synopsis:
Set in 1962, Tracy Turnblad, an overweight high school student, auditions for the popular Corny Collins Show, which features teens that dance and perform to hit songs. Running into obstacles at every turn, Tracy, her parents, and her best friend Penny, navigate through racial segregations, first loves, forbidden romance, and the formidable Amber von Tussel to win a place in the Miss Teenage Hairspray pageant at the end of the film.

Drag isn’t a central theme to this musical, but the role of Tracy’s mother, Edna, is played in both movies by a man in drag. The original features the unforgettable Divine in the role while the remake casts John Travolta. Both men play Edna as an overbearing, insecure, but caring mother that wants the best for her unconventional daughter but isn’t sure how to help her obtain it.

Choice moment:
Edna and Tracy sing “Welcome to the ’60s” at the Hefty Hideaway.

Why it’s so great:
Hairspray ties in a lot of societal problems such as fat acceptance, racial tensions, and going against the grain while the music makes your toes tap.

Pair with:
A musical theatre friend that will know all of the songs by heart.


Mrs. Doubtfire

Year: 1993
Category: Comedy

Synopsis:
Daniel Hillard loses custody of his children while going through a devastating divorce with his wife. Unable to see his three kids, he dresses in drag to take on the personal of Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire, a British nanny with as much charm as she has experience. Throughout the film, Hillard has to deal with the reality of being unprepared for life on his own as well as facing facts that his ex-wife, Miranda, is moving on with a studly Pierce Brosnan. Chaos ensues and the comedy wraps up with a madcap dinner at a restaurant with Hillard playing both himself and Mrs. Doubtfire.

Choice moment:
Hillard sticking his face into a cake to disguise himself after losing his prosthetic Mrs. Doubtfire face. Honorable mention: Pierce Brosnan at the pool. Meow!

Why it’s so great:
This film is heartwarming, entertaining, and deals with difficult family issues in a way that children and adults can relate. It also shows drag outside of the night club and puts it in broad daylight.

Pair with:
Your family. This movie is fun for all ages!


Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Year: 2001
Category: Musical Drama

Synopsis:
Hedwig Schmidt, formerly Hansel, prior to a botched sex change operation, is an “internationally ignored” rock star that penned songs for A-lister Tommy Gnosis after discovering him and training him, only to have him leave her and take her material with him. Forced into obscurity, Hedwig travels with her band, the Angry Inch, performing at dive bars and cheesy family restaurants. She tells her audiences her complex and difficult life story as she navigates this miserable tour.

Choice moment:
“It’s a car wash, ladies and gentlemen!”

Why it’s so great:
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is not only an amazing selection of songs. It’s a strong story of love and self-acceptance. Everyone can find a message here to take away from Hedwig’s wild and weird life story.

Pair with:
Anyone who struggles with self-esteem and finding their place.


As You Like It

Year: 2006
Category: Shakespearean drama

Synopsis:
Based off of the play by Shakespeare, Kenneth Branagh set this version in 19th century Japan. Like many other of Shakespeare’s works, this film contains lots of drag. When you examine the play as it was originally intended, the drag just becomes even more confusing. In Shakespeare’s time, only men were allowed to be actors. So the women dressing in drag during the film would have been men dressing in drag as women to dress in drag as men. Are you still with me? As Jujubee pointed out in Season 2 of Drag Race, the word “drag” might have its origins in Shakespeare plays as an acronym for “Dressed Resembling A Girl”.

Choice moment:
Rosalind reading the horrible poetry that Orlando wrote to her.

Why it’s so great:
This is a chance to see drag away from gay culture and as a form of necessity due to oppressive rules that prevented women from even being present on stage. Also, it’s a part of literature and history.

Pair with:
Your favorite English major who can explain the all the references to you.

 

See what films made part 2 of the list >

If there’s a film you’d like to see in the next part, leave a comment below or tweet it to us at @DragaholicNews.